Matt Murdock “Daredevil” and Frank Castle “The Punisher” in Daredevil

Daredevil has a trend of changing the timeframe of an episode to fit its needs. Certain installments seem to depict the gang over the course of weeks, while some over the course of just a few hours on a very, very long night. Last year’s “Cut Man” put this to excellent use, with an injured Matt in enemy territory and on the run, and here we find him in a similar predicament; chained up and forced butting heads with The Punisher.

There were other things going on too. Cool things too, for the most part. Karen continued being that person who sticks her nose in every place that it doesn’t belong but needs to be, going after the DA’s assistant who isn’t so good at pretending to be as terrible as she is. His plausible deniability in handing her The Punisher files was cool, and seemed to be an instant of “I don’t agree with you but you’re not exactly wrong” kind of deal. The photos of the gruesome murders just goes to show that The Punisher doesn’t toy around. The interesting bit came in that last shot, as she opened a file labeled “F. Castle” which revealed an X-ray of a skull with a bullet wound in it. Is this saying that The Punisher has brain damage? That perhaps he was injured too in the attack that killed his family (if that is the origin we’re going with here) or is it something else altogether? We dunno yet. What I find most interesting is that the file is even there in the first place. Does the DA office KNOW that Frank Castle is The Punisher, and just give him a blind eye, as was hinted that some cops do in the previous episode? It’s either that, or perhaps they think the attack on Frank’s family was the cause of The Punisher, and that he managed to survive. This hardly fits the M.O., but I could see it being the reasoning.

After running to find a bloodstain where Daredevil and The Punisher crashed from that cliffhanger, Foggy was on a mission to figure out what happened to Matt. For the most part, it didn’t really come up with much. Foggy’s had some excellent material to work with so far, his meeting with the biker gang, the legal throwdown with the DA, and now here in hunting down the Night Nurse, Claire Temple. But not much has come from it really. He met Claire, and they bonded over knowing Matt, and he stopped those two dumbasses from shanking one another. It was a great character moment, and it shows that sometimes you don’t need to wear a mask to be a hero, but it’s not something that will affect the rest of the world. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but while Karen is out finding the important evidence and moving the plot forward, Foggy seems to have dicked around three nights in a row. It was great to see Claire back, and her hinting at Luke Cage means she will likely play a larger role in that series.

Frank Castle "The Punisher" in Daredevil
The world is chaos, and sometimes bad things happen to good people. The Punisher just wants to do some real bad to some real bad people.

Now that we’re done talking about those losers: the focus here was squarely on Daredevil and The Punisher. Having already had some excellent physical confrontation, it came down to a battle of philosophy here as the two vigilantes came to know one another. Frank choosing not only to not kill Daredevil, but to not even take his mask off demonstrates the code that Frank lives by. He was inspired to action not by the success of the Daredevil like many thought, but by the failures. Evoking Breaking Bad once again and equating the Daredevil to a half measure shows the natural progression and escalation of what happens when you take justice into your own hands. What is “too far?” What truly makes the two of them any different? That Matt breaks bones and puts bad guys into comas, leaving them for dead and it’s fine because “They’re bad” but Frank can’t do the same? That even though he’s a killer, it’s only when he’s certain it’s someone that has no light left inside of them. He acknowledges that he’s one of these people he punishes, that he’s deserving of death just as much as they are.

This philosophical argument climaxed in a scene lifted straight out of the Marvel Knights line of comic books. Daredevil has a gun and a choice: the only way to stop The Punisher from killing Grotto is to shoot him in the head. To kill him. In the end someone has to die. Nothing demonstrates the inner workings of Frank’s mind more than describing that choice as “the choice I make every time I pull the trigger.” In the comics, Matt did pull the trigger on Frank; only to find that while there was one bullet in the gun, it’s firing pin was removed. He would have killed. Here, he goes for the hidden third option: shoot the chains holding him and try to break free. It wasn’t enough to save Grotto’s life, but it proved Matt’s determination to save lives in any way that he could. That he’s not one tough choice from becoming a Punisher himself.

And even THEN, we had a kickass fight sequence lasting I don’t even know how many goddamn minutes I kind of lost track. Knowing the praise the showrunners received for the legendary Oldboy-esque hallway fight sequence in S1E2, they knew they had to go bigger. Having the gun still taped into his hand and the chain flailing from his other, Matt made creative use of these handicaps in combat by using the chain as a lash and pistol-whipping his opponents. That staircase fight may have been just one cut like the hallway fight, but it didn’t seem like it to me. There were plenty of cheat spots for them to mix it up, and considering the shot went on for minutes I wouldn’t necessarily blame them either. It did teeter on the end of dragging, but it was a fitting conclusion to one of Matt’s longest nights. I half expected Matt to be a goner at the end of the fight, and for the elevator door open and for Frank to save his life by killing the rest of the goons. Show that despite everything, they are still fighting the same fight and begin an uneasy alliance. This didn’t happen. Seeing what state Frank is in after that, and how exactly Matt’s going to explain away these bruises remains to be seen.

For my review of the previous episode of Daredevil, “Dogs to a Gunfight,” click here.

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