“The Dark at the End of the Tunnel” should have us geared up and raring to go for the finale. Instead, nonsensical plot twists leave us scratching our heads, wondering why we should care about anyone besides Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) at this point.
We finally learn the truth about Elektra (Elodie Yung) and the Black Sky; they’re one and the same. Through various flashbacks, Elektra’s backstory is fleshed out a bit more, which does add a bit more depth to her character, but not by very much. It turns out that she’s always had this fire in her: an uncontrollable urge to kill. As her mentor, Stick (Scott Glenn) advised her to play pretend and learn to tame the fire for as long as possible, knowing that one day The Hand would come for her and reveal her destiny. Their relationship is sweet, and Lily Chee does a fantastic job at playing the young Elektra.
As for the Black Sky reveal, however, it does little to interest me. We still don’t know any details about what the weapon actually does, or why and how it will bring about destruction. We’ve been told over and over that the Black Sky is dangerous, powerful, and inspires worship from the Hand, but from all we can see, Elektra’s simply a great martial arts fighter with a knack for killing. So really, the fact that she’s some great mystical weapon doesn’t really do anything for the narrative. At this point, it’s simply used as a plot device to force Elektra to choose between being a killer and being a hero. Even then, there’s hardly any weight behind it, because Elektra has constantly been presented with this choice. It appears that she has currently declined her great destiny of being evil, but who knows when the fickle Elektra might change her mind?
For that matter, I hardly see killing Stick as the point of no return for Elektra’s soul. She’s already killed countless men in her life. Killing one more, even someone she has affection for, is just par for the course. I don’t see it damaging her any more than she’s already been damaged.
All this to say, that while this episode serves to make Elektra a little more interesting, there really is no incentive for the audience to emotionally invest in her character. That would be fine, except for the fact that much of the screen time this season was devoted solely to her story.
Frank Castle, on the other hand, reminds us again of why we loved Daredevil in the first place. Unlike the mystical war between the two groups of ninjas, Frank’s story is actually tied to the city that Daredevil (Charlie Cox) has sworn to protect, that Daredevil calls his home. Frank’s story reveals the slow, endemic corruption that can take over good men, reveals how that corruption creeps into your soul, infecting your whole life and the lives around you.
Frank and Karen’s (Deborah Ann Woll) constantly-evolving relationship is one of the best things to come out of this season, and this episode marks a definitive turning point in their tenuous friendship. Karen’s always known that Frank’s murderous actions were wrong, but she’s always been able to look past it and see his human side, the part of him that was grieving for his family, and the part of him that deserved justice. But, I also think Karen mistakenly believed that at a certain point, Frank’s humanity would eventually overcome his need to kill. Her heartbreak was palpable and affecting when she realized that being the Punisher had already consumed him, and there was no coming out of it.
Out of every relationship we’ve seen on this show so far, this is the one I believe in and care about the most, and that has everything to do with the emotional honesty their relationship was founded upon. If Daredevil is going to continue to sell Matt and Karen as true love, it would be a real shame, because besides a lack of chemistry, Matt and Karen’s attraction to each other is only skin-deep.
If there was one thing I didn’t particularly care for in this plot, it would be the fact that Colonel Schoonover (Clancy Brown) turned out to be the Blacksmith. While it makes sense that the people who were trying to frame Frank were from the military, having the Blacksmith be Frank’s old mentor who just happened to be the one who got his family killed is too much of a coincidence, and doesn’t add that much to the overall narrative. In fact, if the Blacksmith turned out to be a complete stranger, it might have been even more of a tragic story, highlighting the effects of a criminal activity on the innocent bystanders who share the same city.
Lastly, having the episode end on Nobu’s (Peter Shinkoda) ominous line, “Daredevil must die”, makes it seem like we are supposed to be filled with suspense and excitement for the season finale. But hasn’t Nobu been trying to kill Daredevil all this time by constantly sending ninjas after him? His threat hardly comes as a surprise, let alone a hook to keep us on the edge of our seats. Even more than that, it implies that Daredevil’s big fight in the finale will be wrapped up in the mystical Hand storyline, instead of bringing our main superhero into the only story that actually has emotional resonance to it: the struggle for the soul of the Punisher and the people of Hell’s Kitchen.
Once again, Foggy (Elden Henson) is all but forgotten on this show. It’s wonderful to see him develop his confidence and maturity, but sidelining Foggy has really taken away a big part of the heart of the show. Again, that may be the point, but Matt’s callousness is going to need more than one more episode to resolve itself.
Daredevil’s inability to track the ninjas makes little sense within the context of the superhero universe. Yes, the ninjas were able to quiet their heartbeats (probably by being a re-animated zombie), but Daredevil was able to sense whether a cargo car was empty or not, so this kind of seems illogical.