With all of that build-up to the Hand's attack on the hospital, at the end of the previous episode, it was actually a little disappointing to see it play out in a somewhat underwhelming action sequence, here. I can understand, of course, that this wasn't ever intended to exist on the same level as the more pivotal sequences – but, the staging of the scene and the choreography of the action both just seemed to be a little off. Claire's willingness to take on highly trained ninjas, alongside Matt, was another great little character defining moment for her, though – and, Matt's desperate leap from a window in order to save her, after she had been shoved out, was pretty great.
Another, more significant, disappointment for me, though, came with Foggy's complete absence from the scene. With the way that things had been set up in the last episode, I had assumed that this episode would be Foggy's chance to finally see, for himself, exactly what it is that Matt does when he is in costume (since, unless I am mistaken, he never actually has). The fact that he didn't actually appear until after the Hand's attack, and with no idea what had actually happened, felt like a wasted opportunity, to me – especially since he hasn't had all that much to do, lately.
Of course, the explanation for the brevity of this action sequence was straight-forward enough – it wasn't actually an attack. The Hand's victims, it seems, aren't actually victims at all – but, rather, willing participants in whatever bizarre purpose the hand has planned for them (or, at least, they are firmly under the Hand's control). We had learnt, previously, that the blood that had been drained from each of them had been replaced with unknown toxins – with these toxins allowed to incubate inside them. And, now, with each of them seeming quite willing to go back, the Hand is able to continue with whatever it is that they have planned. We still don't know what the Hand's ultimate goal might be, of course – but, so far, this whole sub-plot has managed to be genuinely disturbing, so I imagine that the eventual end-point will prove to be much the same.
Once we get past all of this, though, the rest of the episode shifts its focus back to the season's other continuing story-line – Frank and Karen's efforts to track down the elusive figure known as the 'Blacksmith'. Fearing the inevitable violence that will result if Frank is allowed to continue with his mission, though, Matt feels compelled to try to track down the Blacksmith, himself – following a trial that eventually leads him to the Blacksmith's main competition in the drug trade, Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho), who is still clearly very active, despite giving the impression of having left the country at the end of the first season. Much like with Wilson Fisk, Madame Gao is another character who I was expecting to see again, at some point – and, it was definitely interesting to have her make an appearance, here.
Frank and Karen, meanwhile, have another of their increasingly odd bonding moments at a diner. Honestly, the Punisher giving Karen relationship advice, here, would have to go down as one of the most surprising moments of the season, so far – yet, with Jon Bernthal giving another great performance as he delved into Frank Castle's personal tragedy once again, it proved to be a genuinely great moment between them. But, of course, the moment didn't last long – as a pair of thugs working for the Blacksmith soon tracked them down, and the situation turned violent. This, too, proved to be a great character moment for each of them, though – as, Karen found herself confronted, and horrified, by the ease with which Frank Castle slips back into the role of the Punisher.
While all of this is taking place, we also have the gradual build-up toward a seemingly inevitable confrontation between Elektra and Stick. Unfortunately, while this sub-plot does sound fascinating, on paper, in practise it seems to suffer from a lack of any real focus. There simply hasn't been enough screen-time devoted to exploring the dynamic between Stick and Elektra for this escalating conflict to have any real dramatic tension. And, to make matters worse, I am still finding myself a bit confused about why it has even happened, in the first place. Sure, Elektra did choose Matt over Stick (and, her rejection of Stick did get rather tense) – but, Stick has always struck me as being too pragmatic to want to have someone as valuable as Elektra killed over something like that. Hopefully, the next episode will bring more revelations on that front – because, as it is, I just don't feel very invested in their conflict.