Daredevil’s big trial scene for ‘The People vs. Frank Castle’ is one of the defining moments of this season. There’s no shortage of action-packed fight scenes, as Matt Murdock has to fight for his life on a regular basis. But this fight is just as important to him and his friends, as the outcome will determine whether they still have a firm. It’s up to Matt to save the day. And he fails.
Foggy and Karen, to their credit, do try their best. Despite Frank’s misgivings, they do go for something like a PTSD-insanity plea, going with a very real post-war condition called Sympathetic Storming. They also bring in Colonel Schoonover, Frank’s former commanding officer, to talk about Frank. It paints roughly the same picture of the man we’ve seen – Frank gunned down an entire enemy ambush in order to protect his fellow soldiers. And despite DA Reyes’ attacks, and the hatred of Frank from the public, the case seems to be going flawlessly. The only thing is, Matt isn’t there for any of that.
Matt ends up wrapped further into Elektra’s life than he may have wanted, as his former mentor and trainer Stick comes back to Hell’s Kitchen. As it turns out, it’s not the Yakuza Matt, and Elektra are fighting – it’s a group called The Hand, the classic Daredevil ninja enemies from the comics. Stick also reveals he’s been fighting The Hand ever since he was a boy, and that Elektra is actually his agent. While Stick commands the two of them to be his soldiers, Matt and Elektra both refuse, instead preferring each other’s company. It’s a beautiful moment as Matt and Elektra rest together, Elektra telling Matt “There’s a light inside you. I tried to snuff it out in college. I’m so lucky I failed.” It’s hard to imagine what could ruin such a lovely moment.
As it turns out, what ruins it is Karen coming in to find Matt in bed with another woman. And the next night, when the two are ambushed, Matt (technically) watches Elektra slit the throat of a teenage assassin right in front of him, asking “Do you still want me?”
What this episode does so well is put Matt through the ringer in both of his lives. Matt believes he can ditch out on his friends and coworkers because his work fighting The Hand with Elektra trumps everything else. He tries to save Frank when he makes his closing remarks, but unbeknownst to him; Frank’s made a deal with the prison guards who work for Matt’s old enemy Wilson Fisk, aka The Kingpin. But all Foggy and Karen see is an irresponsible friend of theirs, who leaves them when they need him the most. And Matt believes he can help Elektra simply by getting her out of Stick’s control, but as it turns out, being a killer is ingrained in Elektra’s every movement. Elektra even interferes with the case, ruining the medical examiner’s testimony, and making Foggy even more infuriated at Matt. As Karen puts it to Matt, “You’re right. This city needs heroes. But you’re not one of them.” And that’s the real killer line. Because in Matt’s eyes, he is the city’s only true hero.
The reason these failures are so huge to Matt is because when he defends them, he’s defending himself. Both The Punisher and Elektra are entities of justice that go the one extra step Daredevil refuses to cross – killing your enemies. The court room gives Matt the same room for argument about heroes he got with Frank in Episode 3 – only this time; Frank’s the one in chains. Matt can’t catch a break because he’s willing to risk everything to continue being Daredevil, but he won’t become a killer and lose his moral high ground. In a way, he’s just as selfish as Stick, putting himself front and center in the narrative, fighting all his wars as an unknown martyr. And Matt certainly is a good fighter. But in this episode of Daredevil, all the kick-flips in the world can’t stop his companions from being who they are – or save himself from who he is.