Review: ‘Daredevil’ Season 2 – Episode 13 ‘A Cold Day in Hell’s Kitchen’ [Spoilers]

Many critics have said Daredevil Season 2 is to The Dark Knight, what Season 1 is to Batman Begins. I would agree with that assessment, but would argue that the latter is the better piece in both scenarios. Season 2, like The Dark Knight, does a lot of things better than it’s predecessor, but often it’s main character gets lost amidst everything it’s throwing into the melting pot.

This episodes features another stunning fight scenes as Elektra and Daredevil face off with Nobu and The Hand on a rooftop, with some unexpected back up from everyone’s favourite serial killer; The Punisher. No other show or property compares to Daredevil when it comes to it’s action scenes, but this season used them as a crutch. Flashy martial arts came at the expense of character development in the latter half of the season, leading to characters being underwritten. Indeed, between battles Matt Murdock would seem to flip on his moral code or ignore the actions of his compatriots without an indication of a change in his character on a fundamental level. His development this season lead him to abandon his girlfriend, best friend and his law firm in order to become a full-time vigilante. I’m not sure to what extent the season earned Matt’s dissent into assholery. He admits to loving Elektra because she is the only one who understands why he needs Daredevil; the side of him that yearns for action, but it felt forced. Matt is continuously horrified by her love of killing, but he doesn’t seem to mind by the end of the season and arguably loves her for it. Daredevil has often been the author of his own misfortunes through his unwillingness to open up to others. Maybe it’s best that he pushed Foggy out of his life, Matt Murdock is a dangerous man to be around.Many writers fall into the Batman trap, by failing to realise he has a great supporting cast capable of picking him up, but the best Daredevil stories are about him overcoming his darker side and returning from the brink. Matt is now firmly on the path towards “Born Again” and I’d imagine Season 3 will focus on the rebuilding of relationships.

Elektra’s death at the hand (pardon the pun) of Nubu was a bold choice to say the least. Most of the season hinted at her sticking around for at least another season, but her final conversation about running away with Matt made it clear that she was not long for this world. Daredevil is a character full of despair and catholic guilt, so of course he needs another death on his conscience. Her demise was in many ways an inevitability given the character’s history in the comics. Indeed, one of the most iconic Daredevil comics of all time is Issue 181 which featured her death at the hands of Bullseye. Visually speaking, Elektra’s end matches that of the comics as she is impaled with her own sai. She originally only appeared for a bare 13 issues, so Elektra dying quickly after her introduction is part of the character’s history, but there is still something inherently problematic about a female character dying in such a manner. Her death isn’t her own, in so much as it is in furtherance of Matt’s character development. This episode attempts to solve that by having Elektra claim her noble death as her one truly “good” act. It does lead to the tremendous exchange between the two where Matt confirms that being “good” is always painful, demonstrating the frustration and restraint his moral code places on him, but again, it isn’t her agency that is being validated, but rather Matt’s principles. Elektra is destined to return, but her death within the show was premature and didn’t do anything to dispel the women in refrigerators trope.
Structurally, this season became a bit of a mess in it’s latter half. The Punisher story-line, the most interesting part of the season, detracted from the mysticism and mystery of The Hand. Just as we seemed to be getting resolution on one side, we were pulled away to deal with the other. It would be one thing if they were significantly interlinked, but they weren’t. Madame Gao (who I am still convinced is Crane Mother), a character we know to be linked to Iron Fist’s mystical side of the universe, is brought back not to give us information on The Hand, but on the location of Blacksmith. This smacks of a show that didn’t know if it was returning for a third season and attempted to solve for that by shoe-horning in all the ideas from their brainstorming session. This could have been easily resolved by having the properly separating the story arcs and allowing each of them to have the appropriate breathing space. The Punisher could have still been lurking in the background during The Hand stuff, we could have still gotten the wonderful prison episode with Fisk, but without having that distract us from Elektra and Matt’s relationship.

Daredevil, despite it’s commitment to realism, had the courage to introduce the martial arts mysticism into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but not enough confidence in it’s vision to allow it to become our sole focus or to significantly develop it. We have characters who return from the dead, but it’s brushed off as if it’s nothing. Indeed, Stick says that explanations of who, what and why are irrelevant; The Hand is a threat to Hell’s Kitchen and that’s all we need to know. I don’t buy it.  Matt attempts to brush off the Black Sky revelation as if it’s nothing, but cultist propaganda and thus doesn’t matter. You can’t have this big reveal without telling us why it matters. If it’s important enough that two ancient orders are fighting over it, then its important to the audience. We are still clueless as to what a Black Sky actually is and why we should care other than because the show tells us too. If it is just nonsense, then we deserve to know that too. The exhumation of Elektra’s body by The Hand only for her to be placed in that mysterious sarcophagus shows that this story-line is far from over. Indeed, I may be proven wrong if the death of Elektra was all part of The Hand’s plan and part of the Black Sky legacy, but I may be giving the writers too much credit. The Defenders series may turn out to revolve around Black Sky and Elektra’s return as the leader of The Hand, but the promise of a potential pay-off later does not give Daredevil a pass for failing to make us care in the present. It’s surprising apt that Frank Castle complains about “half-measures” early on in the season because that is what The Hand’s’ story-line amounts to. When all is said and done, we are left feeling incomplete and that is problematic.

640It’s unclear why The Punisher shows up in the climatic battle with the Hand, but it does offer us the opportunity to see that lovely skull vest we’ve been clamoring for all season. It’s also poetic, if albeit foreseeable, that the inspiration for adopting such a symbol was the x-ray of Frank’s own skull. A headline found in The Punisher’s home reads “Frank Castle Dead” and proudly displays that x-ray. In that moment, we are told in no uncertain terms Frank Castle is dead, with The Punisher being all that remains. Frank Castle is a tragic figure, if not an admirable one, and this season was at its best when it centered around his story-line.

That is not to say that the season was bad, far from it, rather it made interesting choices that might contribute to the wider narrative, but ultimately damage the show in the now. Much of the season felt like The Punisher show co-starring Daredevil with a weird ninja side-plot thrown in for good measure. There have been moments of great writing in the season’s latter half, but character was sacrificed in favour of spectacle. Season 2 badly needed a central villain to ground it and push it forward. Nobu’s return could have helped solve that problem, but he turns out to be little more than a final boss fight as opposed to a substantial antagonist. This season wasn’t about a clash between good and evil, but rather how one begins to understand their conception of the good and what it means to be a hero. Elektra and The Punisher presented different views of justice that challenged the very core of Matt’s moral code, but his story takes a backseat. As Karen’s article highlights, each is the hero of their own story and no one has a monopoly on morality in this world. This review may seem overly critical, but it is only because I enjoyed this season so much that these flaws become so blinding.We finally got a comic accurate version of Daredevil’s billy club, courtesy of Melvin Potter with grappling hook, nunchuku and everything. We saw our first example of Daredevil swinging from rooftop to rooftop, so I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t get a hint of the Daredevil-Spiderman friendship in future installments of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The show closed on a fantastic cliffhanger as Matt hands Karen his cowl and reveals himself to be Daredevil; The Man Without Fear. Season 3, if and when it happens, needs to focus on Matt again and it can’t come soon enough.

Stay tuned to Monkeys Fighting Robots for more Daredevil coverage, opinion and theories including our Top 5 Predictions for Season 3.

Gary Moloney
Gary Moloney
Some would say that he is a mine of information, too bad most of it is useless. You can read his own comic work over on garymoloney.tumblr.com. Follow him on Twitter @m_gearoid.

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