The Great Daredevil Season 2 Binge Is Here, and I’m Reviewing Every Episode. Head Here to Keep Up.
Which One Is “The Dark at the End of the Tunnel”?: The one where Clancy Brown turns out to be playing the normal Clancy Brown character, Elektra is actually worshiped by The Hand and our heroes and anti-heroes generally come to terms with their mentors or kill them in the process. Also, Karen and (the obviously not dead) Punisher’s friendship is over as is Matt and Foggy’s legal partnership.
1. Maybe the Problem Is Me – The Comic Book-ification of Daredevil Season 2
In my review of the season 2 premiere I said I’d never read a Daredevil, Elektra or Punisher comic book before. That’s not true anymore. After not knowing what to do with “The Dark at the End of the Tunnel”‘s reveal that Elektra is The Hand’s Black Sky, i.e., their “greatest living weapon,” I pulled up Marvel Unlimited to answer the obvious question: is that how it is in the comics? Prior to this season, all I knew of Elektra’s comic book history is (SPOILER ALERT FROM 1982) fans are still mad at Frank Miller for the way he killed her. I didn’t know he brought her back less than a year later.
This MU page:
Originally published in 1983, “Elektra Lives Again” (Daredevil #190) jumped out at me because it’s the first comic in MU’s Elektra spotlight to mention The Hand in the plot description. Oddly though, the biggest thing I learned from reading #190, at least as it pertains to Daredevil season two, is that Grotto, i.e., the low level mobster whose funeral was only attended by the three-person staff of Nelson & Murdock, is an actual comic book character. Huh. Didn’t see that coming. In #190, he’s a comically ineffectual thug caught up in a subplot involving a failed power play by members of Kingpin’s crime empire.
That occupies maybe 4 pages of the story. The rest is about Elektra, and her back story in #190 isn’t quite the same as what we saw in “The Dark at the End of the Tunnel.” She did train with Stick, and he did reject her but for different reason. She then joined The Hand to gather inside intel she could use to win back Stick’s favor, but when she died The Hand decided to ressurect her to be their secret weapon.
In #190, the resurrection ceremony is interrupted by Daredevil and Stone, Stick’s former associate (because everyone knows sticks and stones may break people’s bones). The mere sight of Elektra’s corpse causes Dardevil to fall to his knees and openly weep over her body, hilariously annoying Stone since he could really use more help fighting off the Hand ninjas. However, Daredevil’s emotional display somehow purifies Elektra’s soul. In the end, Stone steals away with Elektra’s body and completes the resurrection process, bringing her back not as a Hand weapon but as his potential replacement.
And then nothing. Elektra doesn’t show up again in the comics for another 10 years. The only Frank Miller-penned direct follow-up to #190‘s resurrection story is in a graphic novel where Daredevil dreams about encountering Elektra again.
This trip to the land of the comics didn’t really answer what I wanted to know about Elektra, but it did confirm a suspicion I’ve had for a while, specifically that if you’re someone who reads Daredevil comics The Hand showing up in season two must seem completely normal. It’s not a “Where in the world did this come from?” plot development but instead “Why did it take them so long to get to this?”. From the looks of it, The Hand and their supernatural abilities pop up in Daredevil comics quite frequently.
The real reason I sought this out is because by the end of “The Dark at the End of the Tunnel” I began to wonder if maybe there’s nothing wrong with Daredevil’s second season, as I’d argued in my last review. Maybe the problem is me. Maybe all of this gels together perfectly if you’re someone who actually knows their Daredevil, Elektra and Punisher comics. In that case, the season hasn’t been about expanding the show’s universe but instead ticking off familiar boxes for any live action adaptation of Elektra and Punisher. The trick for the producers is choosing what parts to adapt and what parts to create on their own, and the treat for the hardcore fans is getting to notice the difference. That’s certainly how the Arrow universe has worked from the get-go, delighting anyone who seriously knows their Batman and Green Arrow lore.
That’s not really how I can experience Daredevil season two. If Nobu closing out an episode by looking into the camera and declaring “Dardevil must die” is a recreation of some famous comic book moment the reference is lost on me. I can’t note the alterations made to Elektra and Punisher’s origin stories. I can simply assess what’s being presented to me and judge how it fits into the universe established in Daredevil’s first season, and at this point Elektra and Punisher, Elektra especially, have greatly contributed to the gradual comic book-ification of this show’s universe.
That’s not to suggest season 1 was completely independent of its source material. After all, what could be more comic book-like than a young kid tragically losing a parent, receiving a special power through a random accident and growing up to fight crime? Now in season 2 an international league of assassins are resurrecting soldiers, turning teens into science experiments and worshiping a woman who was stolen from them as a child and trained by a blind man but remains their greatest weapon in their war on…something.
It all tangentially relates to Hell’s Kitchen because, for whatever reason, The Hand is basing some of its operations in the neighborhood. However, it just doesn’t feel like it totally belongs on this show. At least Punisher’s war time conspiracy and battle against “Blacksmith” is ultimately a story of violence, drugs and corruption, dang near a Daredevil BINGO on anyone’s scorecard.
2. The Episode for all You Mentors Out There
Clancy Brown honed Frank Castle into The Punisher. His thank you? A bullet through the head.
Stick trained Elektra and whisked her away to a life of luxury when his colleagues wished to kill her. His reward? She repeatedly tries to assassinate him.
Stick trained Matt and became his unintentional father figure. Third time’s a charm! Matt rewards Stick’s efforts by saving him from The Hand and Elektra.
Of course, there are extenuating circumstances. Clancy Brown tried to kill the Punisher first, and the same goes for Stick with Elektra. However, this was clearly an episode about our heroes reckoning with their makers, illuminating who they’ve become by fully revealing who made them. The scales obviously tipped toward Elektra since she received multiple flashbacks whereas Punisher simply exchanged sparse dialogue with his former mentor before killing him.
Elektra and Frank’s respective resolutions to their paternal conflicts provided a potential closing argument to their arcs this season. Elektra finally understands who she really is and why she is so driven to kill, but she chooses to be better (or at least not to kill Stick and be co-opted by Hand). Punisher, meanwhile, will have no redemption. Clancy Brown’s conveniently stocked woodshed has officially provided Frank with the supplies and armor he needs to officially become the Punisher as we popularly picture him.
3. Aww. Stick Hugged Matt and Told Him He’s Proud of Him
4. Can’t Clancy Brown Play a Nice Guy for a Change?
Because of his years of typecasting, I greet every Clancy Brown film or TV performance with a certain set of expectations, namely “So he’s the bad guy, huh.” It was refreshing when Sleepy Hollow actually made him the town’s upstanding sheriff (and then he got beheaded, but, still, totally nice guy). As such, it was more interesting to me on Daredevil to think of him as the helpful General he appeared to be even though on paper that wouldn’t seem like an overly interesting character. However, the moment Karen went to his house to land more quotes for her profile of Frank you knew he would turn into the standard Clancy Brown character and try to kill her. That’s not a criticism of performance or writing, more a reflection on the plot lines a show unintentionally telegraph through typecasting.
5. Please. No More Finger Torture.
You are one tough sonofabitch, Stick. I would have cracked before they ever even got that dang, um, stick near my first finger tip. I can’t be the only one who seriously winced during that torture scene.
Bonus: Someone Should Take The Punisher to an Open Mic Night at the Improv
Clancy Brown said Frank Castle used to do great impressions, but he framed it in such a way that we are to think he’s actually referring to the way Frank became his best student and imitated his ruthlessness like no other. However, it caused me to imagine John Bernthal’s Punisher as a stand-up comedian whose impressions all sound the same and terrify you to your very core.
Better yet, he could do impressions of the noises made by all the people he’s killed. Sample dialogue: “There was this one guy. Real scumbag. Knocked off a liquor store, you know. I hate that [nervous audience laughter]. I tracked him down. Lives in a real nice apartment, you know. Paid for with the hard-earned money this piece of shit stole from the normal people of Hell’s Kitchen [alarmed audience noise]. My people! So I shot him in the leg, you know, and he let out this real pathetic squeal [Frank makes a noise he thinks is a high-pitched squeal, but instead it’s a gutteral growl] I tortured him to find out which mob boss he was working for. Then I shot him in his worthless head. It made this loud splat sound [again, the noise Frank makes is a gutteral growl]. His name was Brett, the piece of shit [one guy in the audience starts a slow clap; nobody joins in].”
On to the season finale: “A Cold Day in Hell’s Kitchen”