Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E08 - 'Guilty As Sin'

I think that my main issue with Matt and Elektra's plot-line over the past couple of episodes is the fact that the audience already knows more than they seem to. It was, for example, already clearly indicated that they weren't really dealing with the Yakuza, despite what Matt may have still believed - and, it was also fairly obvious that this whole story-line would become much more interesting once we were finally able to move beyond this 'red herring'.

With Matt and Elektra's investigation just seeming to move a little too slowly over the past couple of episodes, it came as something of a relief to see this episode go out of its way to bring their side of the story up to the same level as the much more interesting trial of Frank Castle - with new developments on that front coming fairly rapidly as the season's eighth episode opens. With Matt and Elektra still trying to process the mystery of the massive pit that they discovered at the end of the last episode, its not long until they find themselves under attack by its guards - highly trained warriors who are so silent that Matt has trouble hearing them. Even their heart-beats are difficult for Matt to trace - leaving him with little other option but to focus on the sound of their weapons. These are actual ninjas who, obviously and intentional, bring to mind Matt's encounter with Nobu in the first season.

Also, as a little side-note here, I definitely appreciated these little details allowed them to exploit a unique flaw in Matt's abilities, to the extent that they are actually a genuine threat to him. With Matt's other sense being so heightened, its actually fairly easy to forget that he is supposed to have any sort of 'disability' - so, the idea of these highly-trained ninja warriors being dangerous to him in a way that they simply aren't to Elektra makes things especially interesting.

While it seems, at first, as though Matt and Elektra might be able to gain the upper hand, Elektra is soon seriously wounded when she is distracted by Matt's insistence that she doesn't kill anyone. With Elektra down, and Matt obviously outnumbered, their situations is starting to look fairly grim - until Stick, the mysterious figure who trained Matt as a child, makes a surprising appearance. From there, we have a tense and excitement chase through the streets of Hell's Kitchen, as a swarm of ninja pursue a fleeing car - and, it becomes very clear that we have suddenly moved into much more outlandish territory.

Elektra has been poisoned, though - and, it is only after some quick, and extremely unpleasant, treatment from Stick that she shows any sign of recovering. And, it is only then that Stick reveals anything of what is going on to Matt - bringing up to speed on his secret war against the mysterious group known as 'the Hand', as well as letting Matt know that Elektra actually works for him and that she always has.

The trial of Frank Castle, meanwhile, continues to be the source of some genuinely compelling court-room drama, as Foggy struggles to get things back on track on his own. With the support of key witness, and finally Frank himself, Foggy's plan is to convince the jury that Frank is suffering from a unique mental condition - and, that he deserves help, rather than simple imprisonment. Things seem to be going rather well on that front, also - at least, until the Punisher derails things once again, with an angry outburst, declaring his lack of remorse, that promptly sees him convicted.

Frank Castle's trial remains as engaging as it has always been in this episode - with Jon Bernthal still proving to be very impressive, and very well-cast, in the role. That entire sequence, in which he loudly declared himself to be 'the Punisher' in front of a stunned court-room before being dragged out, was an especially exciting moment. Though, it wasn't quite as interesting as the revelations regarding exactly why he would choose to derail his own trial.

Also, with Stick making a sudden reappearance, and with the whole 'Yakuza' red herring finally abandoned, Matt and Elektra's side of the story was finally able to receive the boost that it needed. Stick's single-episode appearance was one of the first season's most significant high-lights, so it is definitely great to see him return, here - and, Scott Glenn is once again able to add a very entertaining element to the series in his time on-screen. Stick is a character who manages to be both genuinely intimidating and not particularly likable, while still being the source of his own brand of sardonic humour, at the same time - it makes for a very interesting mix, and Scott Glenn plays it very well. The casual way in which he lets Karen into Matt's home, so that she would have the opportunity to see Matt and Elektra together, was a particularly interesting example of this.

Most importantly, though, the new information that Stick is able to reveal about the Hand and the Chaste, as well as his and Elektra's own role in the secret war between the two, significantly raised the stakes for Matt. It also, not coincidentally, gave the audience a clear idea of what is obviously going to be the true focus for the rest of the season.

Elektra herself, meanwhile, also had a very interesting arc throughout this episode - as she recovered from her near-death experience and briefly flirted with the possibility of abandoning Stick's methods and siding with Matt, only to fall back into her old ways by the episode's end. Elodie Yung has been very impressive in this increasingly complex role, so far - and, that continues here. The element of genuine vulnerability that we are able to see in her, and her clear desire to be 'good' (even if it is only for Matt's sake) is compelling - and, it gives her inevitably slide backward by the episode's end a genuine touch of tragedy.

As great as each of these distinct story-lines is, though, I do have to wonder how and when they are going to merge - or, if it is even necessary for them to do so. The Punisher's trial, and the personal war that led him to this point, feels so very different to the supernatural elements suggested by the presence of the Hand that I just can't imagine them crossing paths - but, maybe Daredevil will be able to surprise me, by the end of the season. Either way, I am still very interesting in seeing how all of this plays out.

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