And, in what seems to be the typical fashion for Marvel + Netflix series, they start the season off with a ‘Bang’.
Some spoilers ahead. Okay, well SUPER SPOILERS.
The first episode goes much towards setting up audiences on the new ‘normal’ after the climactic events of Season 1. With the King Pin serving time in correction, Daredevil spends his nights purveying the rooftops honing in on the more serious end of the petty crime spectrum.
The first scene opens on the rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen, Amongst the haze of the cityscape at the witching hour, the cacophony of a city filled with hate, fear and horror, fades instantly at the sound of gunshots. A starter pistol for Daredevil to unleash his brand of justice.
As it turns out, thieves love to rob. Ski-masks. With metal cases. Presumably the only cases that are used to hold anything of value. At this point we only get glimpses of them being taken down by the Marvel Knight Daredevil. The last criminal holds a young Latina hostage and drags her into a church. Of all places. And in the black out induced by the lovely addition to Daredevil’s arsenal, the convolute cane, Daredevil stands revealed to the criminal element. In a church, albeit. The kinda church you’d see as a cross between Catholicism and Santa Muerte. Fitting in a sense.
This is the new ‘normal’. No sense of real dread, anger or fear coming from Matt Murdock. Only duty. His relationship with Foggy has settled on some mutual ground. In the scene where the two walk towards their office, Foggy is more concerned with the safety of Matt Murdock and the continuation of the good work being done at their law firm, and sees Matt’s extra hour activities as the vigilante Daredevil as a high-risk threat to this new normalcy.
But as the episode progresses, we see something is on the horizon. Potentially an Extinction Level Event. And it involves new players unbeknownst to the vigilante who has been purging the criminal element night after night. Someone’s slacking.
Daredevil also now becomes aware that his actions’ consequences; however good-intended has consequences that are adverse to his idealistic goals. From the void he created from taking Wilson Fisk aka Kingpin out of the criminal equation, to a new ‘paramilitary-type of organisation’ taking root in Hell’s Kitchen, something ugly is seething under the surface as new players vie for control of the city. And purely out of narrative progression and entertainment value, we would bare witness to one of these potential new players being obliterated in front of our eyes- the Irish Mob. And to think St. Paddy’s day was just yesterday.
With the void created in part by Daredevil taking out Fisk, and now with the Russians and Yakuza gone, the Irish had a meet to consolidate their power and control over Hell’s Kitchen. This friendly meet of Irish Mobsters, which was going to end with some Godfather internally-dispensed justice (you know, I knew it was you Fredo-type of whacking), gets rudely interrupted by a bullet. Quite a few, actually. The scene was not that dramatic or of great impetus, sadly. But the aftermath was undeniable. The Punisher, yet to be seen at this point, was, the invisible, yet very present right hand of a vengeful god. A god that is fond of high-carbine weaponry.
There is only one severely injured survivor in the Irish Mob massacre, Grotto, who then meets Murdock and Foggy for legal council: safe passage and witness protection from whoever killed the Irish Mob in exchange for testimony.
The episode also cast a bit of light of the embryonic metamorphosis of both Foggy and Karen Page. Karen, in a friendly game of pool, seems to be growing quite fond of Matt Murdock, something he senses straight away with that acute perception of his, and furthermore, after season one had Page guilt-wrought over her killing Wilson Fisk’s assistant and the heavy silence that came with, Karen seems to have come to terms with misdirects and dishonesty in falsifying information to get injured-Grotto into intensive care at the Emergency room.
As for Foggy, he risks life and limb entering a club run by the Dogs Of Hell biker gang to get information from a Smitty about the new player in town to help Matt in his vigilante efforts. If it were not for Foggy’s quick slick talking, he would have been gutted in an alleyway. Instead, Foggy gets information that Smitty, and members of the biker club were cut down during a caper.
The same time Daredevil enters an abattoir that had criminals hanging from meat hooks. It was here realisation set in for Daredevil that the military group he was looking for is all but one man. The Punisher.
Just from these scenes, The Punisher is painted as the stuff of fables. But things become concrete as a heightened, deliberate, vessel of contained chaos walks down the hospital corridor where Karen and Grotto are. Haphazardly covering a sawn-off that protrudes from under the skirt of his coat. This by far has been the most gratifying scene in this episode. The police, bystanders… all annoyances between Frank Castle and killing Grotto.
The rooftop first meeting also felt a bit quick to the punch and not as impactful as one would hope. But as expected, Daredevil had some fancy footwork and manoeuvring to offset The Punisher, but in the end The Punisher just hit harder. Possibly as fight scenes were meant to feel as naturalistic as possible; the avoidance of cutting to close-ups at points of ‘close-calls’ in the fight took a little of the sting out of portraying The Punisher as a formidable opponent. However, these close-calls are what saved this first meeting of the Marvel Knights. Being in close-quarters combat was something one would expect to frazzle a guy like The Punisher who lives by the gun; not enough time or range to aim and shoot. But by no means equates to Castle not being good with the hands. Hell, he’s damn near brutal.
Sorry Daredevil, even with the fancy melée combat, being shot point blank by The Punisher does not bode well in the end. Matt fall’s off the roof. Hopefully into a garbage bin. God knows we don’t need an excuse to see Night Nurse again.
As for a first episode, it delivers. Not as much foreboding as one would like, especially seeing the build-up of expectations that made Vincent D’Onofrio‘s Wilson Fisk such a fan-favourite. Fisk was made into a boogey-man before he was portrayed to us live in the flesh over several episodes. One like The Punsiher can’t achieve the same mythos in one episode, especially when Daredevil is hearing of this ‘new player’ in Hell’s Kitchen for the first time.
The episode did not entirely have as much ‘bang’ either, as I felt some scenes could have brought out some of that intensity within confrontations, particularly with The Punisher; as we need to be brutally convinced that this guy is by no means good for Murdock or Hell’s Kitchen. Don’t get me wrong, the Hospital scene went a long way in doing that, as well as the Irish mob scene in some respect. In any case it is a very nice warm up to bring us back into Hell’s Kitchen.