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Television

Daredevil: Season 2, Episode 11 - ".380"

Elena Zhang

Daredevil’s main characters are at a crossroads, and it may just be the villains who persuade our heroes to do good.


Daredevil

Cast: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Jon Bernthal, Elodie Yung, Stephen Rider, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D'Onofrio
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 11 - ".380"
Network: Netflix
Amazon

This episode was all over the place in terms of story and character, but perhaps the chaos is intentional. Daredevil’s main characters are at a crossroads, and it may just be the villains who persuade our heroes to do good.

Although Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) may be a lot of great things, romantic love advisor is not one of them. I'm desperately hoping that the writers intended his take on love and the "wisdom" he imparts to Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) to sound a little psychotic, and not at all like a healthy viewpoint on what relationships should be. I understand where he's coming from: he misses his family so much that he would gladly take all the hardships that came with love along with the good. The way he explained it to Karen, though, sounded more like a rationale that you often hear from abuse victims: that getting hurt by someone's better than having no one at all.

It’s also worrying that this scene was intended to act as evidence of Karen's love for Matt (Charlie Cox), which I don’t buy at all. Their relationship hardly had any time to get off the ground before it quickly crashed and burned from all the lies Matt kept feeding Karen. Attraction, sure, but "true love"? I get the feeling that unfortunately, Matt and Karen's relationship is a victim of bad writing and lack of chemistry, and so the writers are forced to tell the audience that they are in love, instead of showing it. If Karen takes Frank’s advice to heart, it would be to the detriment of all the character growth she’s been through this season. She was right to cut out Matt from her personal life. The trust just wasn't there. She's been all the better for it, demonstrating strength, tenacity, and determination that would be suppressed had she been saddled with a love story.

In any case, this was the one Frank and Karen scene that felt forced and miscalculated among a host of wonderful interactions. They play so well off of one another. Their interaction is emotionally complex, because while Karen's visibly horrified by the violence Frank perpetuates and believes his actions are criminal, she feels the justice in his behavior. In this way, Karen is the stand-in for the viewers, because I'm betting a lot of us feel the same mixture of fascination and disgust whenever we see the Punisher in action.

Frank's so convincing in his quest that he even sways Daredevil to his side, if only for a moment. It was quite surprising to hear Matt admit that his own methods weren't working, and that he wanted to try Frank’s way of justice, particularly after Matt had been hammering his "no-killing" code down everyone’s throats time and time again. His momentary lapse in morality makes sense, given how confused and lost Matt is at this juncture. Everything Matt's been striving for is beginning to unravel, and he doesn’t know where to turn. He’s lost all sense of self.

Fortunately for Matt, Frank believes in the morality of Daredevil, and saves Matt from crossing over to his side and becoming a broken vigilante like himself. Frank knows he's fighting a losing war. He knows his war on crime will never end, that no amount of punishment will ever bring him the peace he craves, but the war is all he has left in the world. Matt hasn’t gotten to that point of desperation yet, although he is quickly heading in that direction. His gradual isolation from humanity is pushing him into the darkness, and ironically, it's the people who are already mired in darkness who are trying to keep Matt in the light. Both Frank and Elektra (Elodie Yung) have already crossed the line, but they recognize the good in Matt, and know that it's something worth saving, and that it isn't too late.

Unfortunately, besides serving as an opposing dark force to Daredevil’s light, Elektra doesn’t really have much of a purpose on this show. This is made all the more apparent by this episode’s head-scratching "cliffhanger". Elektra's about to face off and possibly kill Stick (Scott Glenn), and Stick's henchman rush to tell Matt the news. Is Matt supposed to care? Are we? For that matter, why should we care at all about any of the ninja nonsense that’s been plaguing this otherwise fantastic season? Daredevil made a grave error in thinking that viewers would be emotionally invested in the warring factions of faceless, mystical Asian gangs. The showrunners should’ve gotten rid of this subplot and focused on the complex villains that we really care about, or given the ninjas the same care and attention that they’ve given Fisk (Vincent D'Onfrio) and Castle, instead of relegating them to one-dimensional stereotypes.

Other Thoughts:

As pointless as Elektra’s character is, it was really cool to see her with her trademark weapons from the comics.

Matt demanding to know what Karen’s holding back from him is exactly why their relationship doesn’t, and shouldn’t, work. Matt likes his secrets too much, and he loves to play the martyr.

Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) is a woman of principles, who refuses to be pushed around by corrupt individuals, and we love her for it.

I'm intrigued by this opportunity Marci (Amy Rutberg) has in mind for Foggy (Elden Henson). Hopefully, it'll give Foggy something to do besides continuously serving as Matt’s emotional punching bag.

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