Television

Daredevil: Season 2, Episode 5 - "Kinbaku"

Elena Zhang

Daredevil's relationships with women highlight his identity crisis at the expense of their own characterization.


Daredevil

Cast: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Jon Bernthal, Elodie Yung, Stephen Rider, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D'Onofrio
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 5 - "Kinbaku"
Network: Netflix
Airdate: 2016-03-18
Amazon

This episode was mostly about getting to know Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung), and I’m not sure I liked what I saw. That may or may not be the point, but an unlikeable love interest is certainly not going to do Daredevil any favors.

When we first meet Elektra, she comes off as just another poor little rich girl stereotype. Even with all the money and power she could ever want, her life, in all its spoiled splendor, was boring. Along comes Matt (Charlie Cox), a man who immediately sees right through her seductress veneer and recognizes how dissatisfied she is with life. Right away, their courtship is eye-roll inducing. Did she really think she was that hard to figure out?

Anyway, they proceed to steal cars and break into buildings together (because apparently those things are more fun than eating fancy food at parties), when Elektra discovers Matt's fighting abilities. Suddenly their attraction to each other increases ten-fold, and soon they find themselves discussing marriage and how they're the only ones who truly know each other.

At this point, everything about Matt and Elektra's relationship seems tenuous at best. Matt really knows her because he recognized that she was a bored socialite? Elektra really knows Matt because she discovered his heightened senses? They love each other because their dates consist of breaking and entering? Perhaps there was more to it than that, but the episode ran through their backstory so quickly that this is all the viewers get to see, and it doesn’t hold much water. In order to make us more invested in their relationship, and in Elektra as a character, I think a more drawn-out history could have been beneficial.

Yet, all of this changes when Elektra brings Matt the gift of vengeance in the form of Roscoe Sweeney (Kevin Nagle), the man responsible for Matt's father’s death. As Matt pummels Sweeney's face into a bloody pulp, we see Elektra getting positively turned on by the brutality of it all. I'm guessing this is what the episode title is alluding to, given the fact that "Kinbaku" refers to the beauty of bondage. So in the end, Elektra turns out to be more than just a woman with a rich girl complex -- she's also slightly psychotic. She's in love with the darkness inside of Matt, and I suspect that figuring out he moonlights as Daredevil was reason enough to rekindle their relationship. Yung does a fine job in imbuing Elektra with sexuality and danger. It's just too bad that the character itself relies on paper-thin complexity.

On the other hand, we have Karen (Deborah Ann Woll). Karen’s proving herself to be a fascinating character in her own right. Her doggedness at pursuing the truth about Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) is admirable, and the guilt and trauma she expresses over killing Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore) is subtle, but important. I’ve had the complaint that Karen and Matt’s relationship seemed too one-sided before. But now, we see that Karen is also keeping secrets from Matt (both her Castle investigation and her murder of Wesley). Their relationship doesn't bode well if neither of them can trust each other enough to communicate honestly.

It was definitely interesting to see the two relationships so starkly contrasted against one another. Whereas Matt's fling with Elektra was passionate and violent, his date with Karen was sweet and chaste. Both women highlight the two sides of Matt: the good and pure person he wants to be, and the violent devil he tries to suppress.

As intriguing as Matt’s identity crisis is, I wish it didn't have to come at the expense of the female characters on this show. It's disappointing that the women are mostly used as props for Matt’s emotional journey. After having complex, flawed, and nuanced characterizations of women on Jessica Jones, it's a shame that the same concept of well-written women can’t also be applied to Daredevil. Perhaps it's more Elektra than Karen, as Karen is gradually coming into her own storyline, but to a certain extent, they’re both the angel and the devil sitting on Matt’s shoulders, and because of that they feel like more like caricatures than real human beings.

Speaking of complex characters, I was really missing The Punisher this week. Although, given Karen’s relentless prodding into cover up of his file, I’m certain he'll turn up again soon. It's a little puzzling as to why the show decided to capture Frank Castle so early in the season, and what the purpose of introducing Elektra will serve. Frank was already making Matt confront his no-killing policy in a compelling way, accomplishing the difficult task of accruing viewer sympathy while still being a viable foe to Daredevil. Now, Elektra's doing the same thing, albeit much less successfully. Her presence is obviously going to open up old wounds and force Matt to examine the darkness within. But, why do we need Elektra when we already have Frank?

Other Thoughts:

We now have a little more insight into Frank’s backstory. It looks like his family died as a result of gang-on-gang violence at the carousel. Did anyone else scratch their heads as to why Karen, a lawyer, is spearheading this investigation? I mean, isn’t this the kind of thing journalists are supposed to do?

Matt and Elektra's sparring-turned-sex scene was incredibly cheesy. The slow-motion, dramatic hair flipping and the inexplicable choice to take their shirts off but leave their pants on left me scratching my head.

The scene when Matt blissfully leaves Karen at her apartment and suddenly walks into a city of crime was extremely well-done.

It looks like Reyes' (Michelle Hurd) big plan is to target every New York vigilante, including Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter). With every Jessica Jones reference, I’m getting more and more excited for The Defenders. Who doesn’t want to see Foggy (Elden Henson) going toe-to-toe with Jeri Hogarth (Carrie Ann Moss)?

6

The 10 Best Indie Pop Albums of 2009

Indie pop in 2009 was about all young energy and autumnal melancholy, about the rush you feel when you first hear an exciting new band, and the bittersweet feeling you get when your favorite band calls it quits.

Music
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2018 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.