This post covers Daredevil Season 2: Episode 11 (“.380”) and Episode 12 (“The Dark at The End of the Tunnel”) and is extremely spoilery. Find more Daredevil episode recaps here.
THE STORY SO FAR: Thanks to a grand collaboration involving the Punisher’s violent shooting sprees, Matt’s stalky superpowers, Foggy’s legal know-how, and Karen’s newly-embraced investigative reporting skills, the gang have uncovered a massive conspiracy surrounding the District Attorney’s office and a drug lord called the Blacksmith, not to mention a completely different centuries-old immortality conspiracy involving Matt’s old backstabby mentor Stick, Matt’s homicidal assassin ex-girlfriend Elektra, and a whole lot of ninjas belonging to a group called the Hand.
These are special ninjas, by the way, who can keep their heartbeat silent and thus Daredevil can only hear them by the swishing of their swords. You’d think if this was an important premise of the show then they would have done some sound editing so those of us mere mortals watching couldn’t actually hear their feet running around the place. But okay, willing suspension, magical silent ninjas.
Episode 11: .380
At the hospital, the ninjas attack, and Daredevil isn’t able to stop them stealing back their pet prisoners from Claire’s secret treatment wing. One of the nurses is brutally stabbed and killed during the onslaught.
Claire personally kills one of the ninjas, knocking him out a window (with a hospital drip stand?)—she is promptly thrown out a window by a different ninja, but Daredevil saves her by jumping out the same window and falling faster than she does. Claire notes that he is looking pretty shaky:
“That candle that you’re burning at both ends? Sooner or later it’s going to fizzle out.”
Much later, as the hospital staff recover and begin to autopsy Claire’s victim, they are shocked to discover that he already has scars from autopsy incisions on his body. Huh.
Karen is at the police station most of the night, being questioned about the shooting at her apartment. She does not confirm their assumption that the Punisher was responsible, but she has also stopped insisting that he is innocent.
She is eventually released to go home with police protection (because that worked out so well last time) and is accosted on the pavement by Matt who has heard about what happened and figured he hasn’t been overly paternalistic to her since their breakup, so now’s a good time for that?
Karen tells him to leave her alone several times but he is determined to protect her, leading her to finally snap that she is not his to protect. She does tell him privately that the Punisher did not try to kill her or the District Attorney—that he saved her. Matt Does Not Approve that she is lying to the police (let me pause to laugh bitterly in his face). Karen takes her police detail, drops her mic and leaves him behind.
I am so into Karen’s narrative arc this season. Just say no to intrusive exes getting all up in your business, Karen!
The police in Hell’s Kitchen need some kind of primer on what constitutes a protective detail! Last episode, the two watching Karen ditched her shortly before she was shot at; this new pair escort her at her apartment and leave straight away, allowing her to sneak down to the underground car park where her pal Frank is officially living in her car.
Frank + Karen’s car = OTP
The Punisher’s enjoyment of the dorky music on her cassette tapes is kind of disturbing and wonderful. Karen, justify your ownership of this music to the mass murderer! This is your life now.
Karen and Frank go on the weirdest coffee date ever, at a diner where the waitress only pours an inch of coffee at a time (so as to maximise the number of times she can come to their table), and no one looks twice at Frank’s face full of All The Bruises In The World.
They are clearly bonding as they put the pieces of the mystery together. The .380 of the title refers to the gun Karen held on him back in the apartment—Frank can tell a lot about a person by the gun they choose, and it has given him a new respect for her and how she handles herself.
He even finds time to advise her on her love life—with hilariously terrible advice. I don’t know if they intended for him to give a powerful speech glorifying unhappy/abusive relationships, but that is totally how this comes across. Still, it’s sweet that he cares.
Frank Castle’s Guide to a Happy Marriage:
“People that can hurt you, the ones that can really hurt you, are the ones that are close enough to do it. People that get inside you and tear you apart, and make you feel like you’re never gonna recover. Shit. I’d chop my arm off right here, in this restaurant, just to feel that one more time for my wife. My old lady, she didn’t just break my heart. She’d rip it out, she’d tear it apart, she’d step on that shit, feed it to a dog. She was ruthless. She brought the pain. But she’ll never hurt me again…”
To remind the audience (and Karen) that Frank’s adorableness notwithstanding, he’s still a pretty awful dude, the diner is attacked (this isn’t a coincidence, he set this up as a trap with Karen in the window as bait) and Frank has to go into full Punisher mode, creating yet another horrific bloodbath. Karen is shocked and sickened by this reminder of who and what he is, and Frank takes the opportunity to push her away.
Speaking of shocked and sickened, Claire is disgusted when she discovers that the hospital is planning an elaborate cover up of the attack and the death of her friend (not to mention the whole twice-dead ninja). She has reached the limit of what she can tolerate, and gives the Board a good telling off before handing in her notice.
The timing is such that Claire leaves the hospital at the same time as Foggy (who has not done much in this episode other than rest up, watch TV, and enjoy a not-quite-conjugal visit from the excellent Marci who hints that his legal career might not be in tatters after all—the Castle trial was a disaster, but Foggy came out of it looking pretty great).
Matt has been doing his own investigating of the drug trade and other dubious moral goings on in the city beyond Hell’s Kitchen—in Chinatown, he tracks Madame Gao, who was one of the stand out supporting villains of Season 1, and is no less awesome now.
The Punisher and Daredevil’s two plots collide on the ship belonging to the Blacksmith. Frank thinks he’s found his white whale, with a random bearded man confessing he is the Blacksmith, but Matt thinks it’s not that easy (he’s right). Meanwhile, Matt lets slip that he is losing faith in his own moral line and starting to identify more with the Punisher’s life choices—like blowing up the boat regardless of whether the Blacksmith is on board.
BOOM! Karen arrives in time to witness the latest massacre.
Back to Stick, because he still hasn’t skipped town, and is now devoting his attention to his sword and whetstone. (Is Stick the real Blacksmith? It’s got to be someone we know.) After his offsiders report that Jacques failed to assassinate Elektra (duh, he was obviously out of his depth), he sends them out in the the chill night air and Elektra promptly attacks them both in their car.
Her swordwork is surprisingly sloppy, as they stay alive long enough to make the blood-spurting, badly-steering drive to Matt Murdock’s street and warn him that Elektra has found Stick and is probably going to kill him.
I’m… not sure why they think adding Matt to the mix is going to help? I’m not sure why Matt should care that Elektra and Stick are going to try to kill each other… oh wait, it’s a chance to tell both of them how terrible their life choices are, while ignoring the implicit irony.
Carry on, then.
Episode 12: The Dark at the End of the Tunnel
When I first heard that this season of Daredevil would feature Elektra AND the Punisher I thought it was too much—remember those Batman movies in the ’90s when they insisted on including two supervillain origin stories per movie and it got all cluttered and weird?
It’s worked very well, though, mostly because Elektra and the Punisher both work as reflections of Daredevil and his issues—they’re so similar in some ways (though different in others) that their individual plotlines juxtapose nicely without ever really crossing paths.
It probably helps that the Punisher is pretty much Karen’s sidekick, while Elektra reserves all her attention for Matt. Foggy doesn’t get his own supervillain, unless you count Marci.
Maybe we should count Marci.
Karen, who got to see the big boat explosion last episode, stares sadly at the damaged ship while the police and emergency people haul out the bodies. No sign of Frank—Brett assures her that the Punisher is totally dead now, no doubt.
There’s no body. So um. It has already been established that Brett hasn’t had a lot of sleep lately, let’s not judge him too hard for this one.
My favourite thing about this scene is the part where Brett says he has busted the officers he gave Karen as “protective detail” down to traffic cops, and she feels super guilty about it.
Speaking of super guilty, Karen heads back to the New York Bulletin to pack up her stuff and quit, because if the Punisher and the Blacksmith and the District Attorney are all dead (one out of three isn’t bad) then there’s no story.
Mitchell the Enabling Editor talks her out of quitting, eating and sleeping (goddamn it, Mitchell, let her make at least one healthy choice today) by pushing her towards finding out what her Frank Castle Is A Real Person story may now have morphed into—a profile, an obituary maybe, instead of an exposé.
Karen sucks it up and goes to hunt up more sources. Instead of getting some sleep.
Seriously, Mitchell, I hope you’re planning to pay her at some point. Karen being paid for her intense work ethic would be a nice change around here.
Karen calls on Colonel Schoonover, who was so supportive of Frank during the trial, to get some good quotes on what a stand up guy he was before everything went to hell. If possible, the Colonel is even more sweet and positive than he was during the trial. Which is… uh oh. A bit suspicious. Maybe he’s not playing against type after all.
The final piece slots into place when Karen recognises one of the young soldiers in the Colonel’s photo wall as one of the victims of the boat explosion. The boat explosion full of men working for the Blacksmith…
GET OUT OF THERE, SCOOBY!
To her credit, Karen pulls out all her best nodding and smiling survival skills to avoid suspicion, but it’s too late. The Colonel (THE BLACKSMITH?) draws a gun on her, and makes her drive him out of the house to a secluded spot.
In one of the cutest touches yet seen in this show, Karen’s car blares music from a cassette when she starts it—the same cassette Frank liked, that she pulled out of the tape deck in embarrassment. It’s her secret BFF’s way of letting her know he’s around, and he was in her car recently.
She does not react to it, but she knows.
Since we’re all waiting for Frank to unfold from the back seat at the worst/best possible moment, it’s actually a bit of a surprise when he t-bones the car with another vehicle instead—on the Colonel’s side, of course.
When Karen recovers consciousness, she follows the trail of dragged-body blood to a secluded secret gun base in the woods—just in time to fail to talk Frank out of getting a bunch of emotional closure with his ratbag former CEO. Effective soldiers don’t allow the bad guys to monologue, so Frank doesn’t mess around with torture and just shoots the guy.
Karen runs away, finally (really, this time?) accepting that she and Frank don’t have quite as much in common as she thought. Frank stays behind, checking out the secret stash of guns, ammo and tac gear, his trigger finger twitching. Origin story unlocked, time to level up for the sequel…
While all of this is going on, Elektra has her own face off against a traitorous former boss—because the theme of this episode is being disappointed in your paternal mentor, and wanting to kill the heck out of them.
We get to see a series of flashbacks (angstbacks!) around Elektra’s childhood training, the darkness and violence within her, and how she learned to harness her inner assassin with Stick’s help… he never stops seeing her as a dangerous object but still loves her in his own way. After murdering one of his partners to keep Elektra safe, he finally places her with the loving, wealthy diplomatic Natchios family to hide her from her own destiny.
In the present day, Daredevil stands between Elektra and Stick, trying desperately to pretend he’s the most interesting person in his own show. (It’s not working for him.) He argues that she doesn’t really want to kill, which suggests a gross misreading of the situation, because Elektra is furious at Stick right now, and feeling especially homicidal.
Unfortunately/luckily for everyone, it’s cloudy with a chance of ninjas. They come, they beat everyone up (silently, ha!), and they kidnap Stick, leaving Elektra and Daredevil twiddling their thumbs.
Matt drops into the office, to check out his braille maps and figure out how the ninjas keep disappearing so effectively on him. Foggy comes in to clear out his office and they’re awkward at each other for a while, each trying to make the other one admit he regrets breaking up the band.
Foggy is coping with their break up more healthily than Matt is. He even manages to provide some useful advice about hidden tunnels under the city, thanks to his complex network of eccentric relatives with obsessive hobbies.
Matt, you need Foggy in your life. We all know it. Get over yourself.
Now, I’m not a fan of Stick as a character. But that doesn’t mean I want to watch him being brutally tortured for what felt like a quarter of this episode’s running time. STOP IT, SHOW, I GET IT.
Matt and Elektra have a showdown with Nobu and the ninjas in the secret tunnels. Nobu reveals that the mysterious mythological weapon Black Sky which the Hand have worshiped all this time, is actually Elektra.
Elektra is totally into this.
Matt disapproves strongly that Elektra now has a ninja army who will obey her every whim, so he ruins it for her by appealing to her conscience. Apparently she has one! She rescues Stick and runs for it while Matt fights off everyone else.
Note: Stick tells Matt he is proud of him in this episode. With a hug. There is no way this isn’t suspicious behaviour, and or telegraphing that one of them is going to die soon. On the other hand… Matt really needed that hug.
In other news—Elektra has been trained her whole life to destroy a mythical weapon that is actually herself. That’s sick and disturbing even by Stick’s usual standards of destructive relationships.
With no more big questions hanging over our heads, we have a season finale to get to. See you on the other side!
Tansy Rayner Roberts is a Marvel Comics tragic, and a Hugo Award winning blogger and podcaster. You can hear her novelette “Fake Geek Girl” at the Sheep Might Fly podcast, and she writes comics reviews on her own blog. You can find TansyRR on Twitter and Tumblr, sign up for her Author Newsletter, and listen to her on Galactic Suburbia or the Verity! Doctor Who podcast.