Daredevil: Season 2, Episode 13 - "A Cold Day in Hell's Kitchen"
Daredevil's season finale sets up some interesting stories, but fails to resolve any of them.
DaredevilCast: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Jon Bernthal, Elodie Yung, Stephen Rider, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D'Onofrio
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 13 - "A Cold Day in Hell's Kitchen"
As Daredevil's season finale, "A Cold Day in Hell’s Kitchen" does a good job in advancing several stories and character development. Unfortunately, it fails at resolving any of them.
Everything about this season felt like a setup for either next season or a spinoff. Nothing was fully resolved; nothing was fully explained. I'm not talking about stories that leave some mystery to ponder, or stories that are so complex that they can’t be tied up with a neat little bow. No, I'm talking about a story that was fractured, with main characters hardly interacting with each other at all, and plot points that were constantly brought up and then dropped. This kind of storytelling made it really hard to care about the finale, which wasn't so much a finale as it was a stepping stone for a story that was never finished.
The Hand plot was the most egregious part of this season. Little of what they did or said made any sense. Let's start with the Black Sky. Do we know what this is yet, or what it does? No. We only know that it's a weapon that brings about great destruction, and it's something worshipped by the Hand, and yet nothing Elektra (Elodie Yung) has done so far makes it seem like she's any different from a highly skilled ninja with a penchant for killing. Also, there’s apparently more than one Black Sky, because we saw one of them last season. Exactly why it's so imperative that the ninjas capture Elektra is never fully explained. Perhaps the Black Sky is activated once they resurrect her, which they were doing when they put her body in the sarcophagus. Even so, that story isn't a part of this season.
Another reason why this season felt so unbalanced was because there was no clear villain for Daredevil (Charlie Cox) to battle against. At first, there was the Punisher (Jon Bernthal), but he was quickly dismissed as a villain, instead becoming more of an anti-hero. Then there was Elektra, but she also quickly became Daredevil's ally. Finally, there was the Hand, which wasn't introduced until much later in the season, and only became a true foe after Stick (Scott Glenn) had to sit down and tell Matt the story. By having the whole mystic and ancient battle be explained in an exposition scene instead of being shown throughout the season to be a threat to the city made it even harder to care about.
For that matter, why were they in New York City anyway? Daredevil has consistently talked about how much he loves his city, how he’s so tied to its inhabitants. His nickname is "Devil of Hell’s Kitchen", for crying out loud. Yet the main villain he was fighting this season had no ties at all to the city. Stick kept saying that the Hand has big plans for the city; we never saw a sign that this was true. So they dug a big hole in the city, which was never explained. So they kidnapped some people in the city for their blood sarcophagus, and killed anyone who got in their way. They could've done that in any city in the world; why New York? Nothing about this story had any kind of real or personal connection to the city that Daredevil claims to love so much.
If you argue that Nobu (Peter Shinkoda) was the real main villain of the season, that also makes little sense. He only shows up for the last few episodes, he shows no motivation for anything besides killing Daredevil to capture Elektra (again, for some unknown reason). Indeed, if Nobu really was the main villain, why did Stick kill him off in a brief scene that was played for laughs? Hardly a climactic fight worthy of a season finale.
Now, regarding Matt's character development this season. After watching the finale, I get the sense that Matt has quickly gotten over his policy of not killing criminals, because he had absolutely no problem with both Elektra and Frank killing ninjas right in front of him, and expressed no moral quandaries when he threw Nobu off of the building.
What exactly made him change his mind on something he so strongly believed in the entire season? It's very unclear. Was it Elektra? Did his love for her make him more lenient of killing criminals, especially after that one ninja sliced her belly? Possibly. Even then, it's a pretty huge turnaround to happen so quickly, and with little discussion afterwards. In any case, I suppose it's a good thing that he’s okay with killing certain criminals now, as he was bordering on hypocritical and illogical for a long period of time.
Matt also revealed some pretty big character changes that seemingly came out of nowhere when making plans with Elektra. He told her that she was able to bring out a part of him that no one else could, and that without her, he didn't feel alive. This is a huge difference in opinion from earlier in the season, when he told Elektra to leave town because he knew she was a psycho killer. Their relationship reveals an interesting dynamic: she makes the vigilantism more fun for him, and he makes her think more about morality. I’m not sure Matt's getting the better deal here. One thing's for sure: Matt felt better when he was with her because their relationship was built on total honesty. Elektra points this out to him when she says, "You don't let anyone in."
With that, Matt finally learns that he needs to get in touch with humanity once more. I'm not sure what it says about Matt that it was Elektra who finally got through to him, and not Foggy (Elden Henson), his supposed best friend. With Foggy looking like he'll be joining another law firm in the future, a reconciliation between the two friends seems unlikely.
Either way, Matt realizes that he needs to be honest with the people he cares about, and so he finally reveals to Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) his identity as the masked vigilante. I think this is a great plot development, and will lead to many great stories in future seasons, but only if they don’t revisit a Matt and Karen romance. I think Karen was completely right to dump Matt as soon as she realized she couldn’t be with someone who had a habit of lying. Just because Matt came clean now (at his ex-girlfriend’s behest) shouldn’t mean that they can be a functional couple. Besides that, Matt and Karen have zero romantic chemistry between them, as evidenced by their painfully awkward and brief courtship.
This season, as I’ve stated before, would’ve benefited much more from a focused storyline comparing Daredevil and the Punisher. The first few episodes certainly pointed to an interesting discussion about vigilante justice and the right to dole out punishment outside the law. Unfortunately, these questions were dropped quickly in favor of mysticism, which had no moral nuance to it at all. This was a flat end to an incoherent season, but there were glimmers of greatness that still make me excited for the future spinoff shows that await us.
Nobu's "Your city belongs to no one. And she belongs to us!" made me cringe.
The Jeri Hogarth (Carrie Ann Moss) cameo was wonderful, and is making me itch for the future Defenders show.
The scene when Frank visits his old house was the only scene this episode that carried any kind of emotional resonance. Well done, Bernthal.
"What is it to be a hero? Look in the mirror and you’ll know." Karen's article was a bit corny, and didn't feel relevant at all to the finale.
Elektra did, in the end, become more than a one-dimensional character. Her continuous struggle to accept herself while everyone around her was telling her to suppress her nature was interesting and somewhat compelling. Her death provided a little bit of closure to her storyline, at least.