This post covers Daredevil Season 2: Episode 5 (“Kinbaku”) and Episode 6 (“Regrets Only”) and is extremely spoilery for those episodes. Find more Daredevil episode recaps here.
THE STORY SO FAR: Thanks to Daredevil (who gave the credit to the NYPD), the murderous vigilante the Punisher has finally been arrested after his violent rampage against three of the city’s organised crime communities. Matt and Karen are close to getting their act together romantically, but because Matt Murdock is not allowed to be happy even for ten minutes, the dangerous and mysterious Elektra has dropped back into his life…
Episode 5: Kinbaku
Aww, flashbacks and angst, just what I was hoping for.
I adore the fact that they have to change very little about Foggy to make the boys look younger—they just give Matt Murdock a dorkier hairstyle and boom! It’s ten years ago.
We flit between the present day and the heady extended anecdote of baby Matt’s turbulent romance with baby Elektra, who appeared to be a glamorous young debutante who got her kicks from sparring and petty crime, but was gradually revealed (to the audience as well as Matt) to be a highly dangerous woman with a lust for death and destruction.
In the present, Elektra attempts to hire Matt for a lucrative gig as her rent-a-lawyer while she deals with some of her late father’s portfolio of shares in Roxxon, the most sinister corporate giant in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Matt refuses, angry about her returning so suddenly to his life and expecting him to trot along with her plans. As we learn from the flashbacks, following Elektra didn’t work out so well for him in the past…
But then an unexpected banking deposit makes Matt realise that Elektra won’t take no for an answer. He spies on her meeting from outside the building, (seriously, Agents of SHIELD so need to recruit him, he should look into that if he ever gets desperate to pay the rent) and witnesses her allowing a bunch of Japanese businessmen to patronise her, while she drops a bug into their building that sends their electronics haywire.
Back in flashback city, baby Matt and baby Elektra’s wild fling of stolen cars, break-and-enters, and slow motion sex in an abandoned boxing ring leads him to reveal more to her than he has to anyone about his past, his father, and—through their sparring—his abilities. It’s fascinating to see a Matt Murdock who isn’t holding back about who he is and what he can do, and it’s easy to understand the appeal of Elektra’s devil-may-care attitude to this younger version of him.
But this episode isn’t just about Matt’s romance with Elektra—it’s also about Karen. She struggles to convince Foggy and Matt that they should dig deeper into the Punisher’s history, in light of the way that the media (with a lot of push from District Attorney Reyes) is covering the story, with a lot of important details missing. Foggy and Matt are both invested in drawing a line under the Punisher and getting on with their lives—and when she realises they won’t support her in her latest crusade, she goes rogue, chasing up leads with one of Ben Urich’s old newspaper pals.
After calling Assistant District Attorney Tower’s bluff about whether District Attorney Reyes has the power to destroy their little law firm, Foggy discovers they are losing clients! He meets up with Marcy, his corporate legal shark of an on-again-off-again ex, for a subpar martini.
I adore Marcy. I love how she savages her way to the pointy end of every conversation—she understands Foggy’s mixed feelings about Matt and Karen maybe being a thing, and she is gleefully victorious when he finally admits he got in touch for a professional consult rather than old pals catching up. Also, bonus Jessica Jones callback, and hilarious Daredevil mime!
Karen discovers that Frank’s military service and medal is not a matter of public record which suggests black ops of some kind; she also figures out that the reason Frank’s family’s deaths were under-reported is because they were casualties of a gang warfare in a park—a mass shooting involving, you guessed it, the Irish, the Mexican cartel, and the Dogs of War.
When she and Matt meet for a desperately awkward first date at a fancy restaurant, they’re both holding back so much—Karen about spending her day up to her eyes in dusty newspaper files, Matt about the reappearance of his crazy violent ex, as well as the usual “Matt pretends to be traditionally blind” tricks. With so many secrets between them, the date nearly crashes and burns in the first ten minutes.
Compare the stilted awkwardness and secrets between the usually relaxed Matt and Karen to the scenes in which baby Matt and baby Elektra break into a mansion and trash the kitchen together—it’s heartbreaking to see him having so much fun, showing off his abilities, and not keeping any secrets. What happened to this man, to destroy his ability to trust people he cares about?
Oh, right. Elektra happened.
It turns out that the mansion does not belong to one of her rich Daddy’s friends, but to the mobster (now living under an assumed name) who ordered the death of Matt’s own father, Battlin’ Jack Murdock.
Elektra has trussed the man up as a gift for her boyfriend, fully expecting Matt to kill him, to confirm he has the same burning darkness inside him that she does. Matt is partly tempted but mostly horrified.
Why do all his new friends keep wanting to make him kill people? No wonder he was so annoyed about the Punisher.
Kinbaku, incidentally, is the art of Japanese rope bondage, beautifully on display here with this gift-wrapped mobster. Elektra put a lot of effort into her work, and is just as offended by Matt’s rejection of her present as he is offended by the idea of killing for her amusement.
Back in the present day, Matt and Karen’s date is salvaged when they get over themselves and move it to a more fun (and cheap) location. We get a glimpse at Karen’s own backstory (she’s definitely running away from something she’s not willing to talk about yet), and it winds up with kissing and happiness, though Matt knows enough about his own terrible luck with romance to not risk “coming up for coffee”.
Straight after leaving Karen, he goes to Elektra, so we were back to yelling ‘noooooo’ at the screen. Thank goodness, he doesn’t hook up with her. But while he’s trying to figure out her deal, the Yakuza (AKA those patronising Japanese businessmen) attack her building.
Turns out Elektra isn’t just a bored rich girl with a kink for violence. She has a red ninja costume, she knows more about what’s going on with the organised crime in this city than Matt does, and… oh, yes. Here’s a Daredevil costume, which she collected ahead of time for his convenience.
She knows all his secrets, then. And right now, she expects him to fight at her side.
Episode 6: Regrets Only
This season has been very Daredevil heavy so far, and the opening scene in which Elektra and Daredevil (both in full costume) take down the invading Yakuza suggests more of the same.
Elektra, by the way, thinks it’s hilarious that Matt assumed (with everyone else) that the Yakuza had fled the area after the whole Wilson Fisk business. That’s not how organised crime works, Matthew!
As ever in this show, the choreography is used to develop characterisation as well as plot—Matt might resist being on Elektra’s side, but they fight together with a fluid shared elegance that might as well be a sex scene.
He’s still coming to terms with the fact that Elektra figured out his secret—once again, she laughs at him because she saw the news footage of Daredevil, as well as the news footage of Matt himself after Murdock & Nelson took down Fisk, and she knows him well enough to recognise him despite the mask.
Elektra mocking Matt is my favourite thing about her character. Hardened, amoral killer she might be, and I wouldn’t say I liked her (I’m completely okay with not liking her, because having female characters on screen who aren’t presented to be super likeable is rare and precious), but I do enjoy her sense of humour.
She reminds me a lot of Marcy, actually. OMG, does that mean Elektra (rather than Karen) is Foggy’s type? I want to see that double date.
In any case, Elektra does for Daredevil what Foggy does for Matt—keeps him from disappearing inside his own grim monotone of angst by teasing him wherever possible.
Back at the office, Frank Castle’s public defender (Fargo from Eureka!) tries to get her to sign a bogus statement. He is obviously in District Attorney Reyes’ pocket, and Karen refuses to play ball.
After Season 1 revolving so completely around Wilson Fisk, I think it’s great that they’re not trying to do the same thing this time around—the Punisher and Elektra might be antagonists as well as catalysts, but it looks like Reyes is actually the closest thing we have a to a Big Bad, which makes it more explicit early on that the solution is going to (probably) involve the law as much as it involves punching people.
When Matt hears that Reyes is hoping to tie the Punisher’s actions in New York to a couple of Dogs of War deaths in Delaware (allowing her to arrange extradition and the death penalty) he joins Karen in arguing they should take Frank’s case, despite the fact that it will almost certainly destroy their firm.
Matt and Karen arguing on the same side of Law and Right and Justice is the equivalent of Daredevil and Elektra fighting in perfect symphony. Oh, Karen. I am totally on Team Matt-Is-Probably-Bad-For-Karen, though I like her so much I also want her to have whatever she wants. (I am also on Team Elektra-Is-Bad-For-Matt, so basically this show is all about the anti-shipping for me)
Foggy, after a feeble attempt to cut Karen out of the decision-making process (everyone is judging you for that one, Fog), accepts that he is outvoted. Nelson & Murdock head to the hospital, where they manage to convince the newly-promoted Detective Sergeant Brett to let them see the restrained Frank Castle and convince him to ditch the public defender for them.
Despite District Attorney Reyes’ attempts to stop them, Matt makes his case to Frank—though it’s an increasingly desperate Karen, holding a stolen picture of Frank’s family, who pushes him over the edge.
I have to believe that Frank knows Matt is Daredevil. Apart from the fact that he hears Matt talking to him before he sees him, he must (like Elektra) have a good enough awareness of people that the lack of a mask shouldn’t throw him. He recognises Karen and he only really saw her as a swish of blonde hair running away from him the night he was trying to kill Grotto.
Matt promptly ditches his team because Elektra has called him to heel. She dangles the possibility that they can steal a ledger that will provide secret information of the criminal activities of Roxxon and its association with the Yakuza, which is her way of tricking him into participating in a James Bond themed date night.
While Matt and Elektra have far too much fun foiling the bad guys while wearing beautiful evening wear, Foggy is left to handle the arraignment, and Karen is left to handle Frank Castle.
The scenes between Karen and Frank are deeply emotionally affecting—she is devastated by the tragedy of his family, which she is taking very personally. He, in turn, has been struggling to remember the life that he lost—and when he learns she has been in his house (which he never returned to after his family’s deaths), he pumps her for information, dragging every detail out of her about every scrap of normality she saw there.
It’s as if he needs Karen’s observations in order to access the memories of his loved ones and their home. Is his memory loss because of the old bullet wound in his skull, or recent events? In any case, he has imprinted on her hard, and barely acknowledges the existence of anyone else.
Foggy cuts the deal of his career, knowing that Frank is going to plead guilty. He manages to convince Reyes to drop the death penalty, and two of the three consecutive life sentences she was going for. He can’t get protective custody, though, which means Frank will go into an ordinary jail, probably surrounded by criminals with a grudge against him, but Frank is okay with that.
It’s all good, until Frank changes his mind during the arraignment and pleads NOT GUILTY, freaking everyone out.
Is it because he wants the real story to be revealed, the one that the District Attorney is trying so hard to bury? Or is it so he can continue to see Karen and use her to recall memories of his family in happier times? Either way, it’s a steaming pile of trouble, and the Punisher has just dropped Nelson and Murdock right into it.
The Trial of the Century starts next week, their tiny law firm is at the heart of the chaos, and Foggy is furious at Matt for not being there while all this went down.
He wouldn’t be any happier if he knew what (or rather, who) has been distracting Matt. Though I’m sure Elektra wouldn’t continue to deliberately distract him from his very important court case in the week to come, while modelling a variety of glamorous designer outfits in dark red fabrics. Would she?
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.