The People Vs. Matt Murdock

This post covers Daredevil Season 2: Episode 7 (“Semper Fidelis”) and Episode 8 (“Guilty as Sin”) and is extremely spoilery for those episodes. Find more Daredevil episode recaps here.

THE STORY SO FAR: The Punisher shot up a bunch of criminals; Daredevil got him captured and arrested, then volunteered to be his defense lawyer (he wears many hats) in the trial of the century. Foggy wants to bring down the corrupt District Attorney, Karen wants to help the Punisher find some kind of justice, and Matt’s destructive ex-girlfriend Elektra has turned up, and we don’t know she’s a super ninja assassin, but she totally seems to have the skill-set of a super ninja assassin.

 

Episode 7: Semper Fidelis

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It’s not often that a popular TV show dedicates an entire episode to what a raging hypocrite its titular character is.

(An alternative title for this post was: An Assassin Ate Matt Murdock’s Homework.)

Foggy, Matt, and Karen struggle to figure out how to defend the indefensible, i.e., the People Vs. Frank Castle. Foggy thinks their only chance (short of an insanity plea which is unlikely to be helpful) is to go the PTSD route, playing on Frank’s military service.

Karen is dubious, and she’s right: Frank completely shuts down that option when she speaks to him, declaring that it’s insulting to his fellow soldiers to claim he has PTSD from Iraq when that’s totally not what broke him.

No one seems to consider claiming PTSD for the murder of his family at this stage, though they circle around this event as the catalyst and trigger of his actions. Is PTSD as a legal claim so thoroughly associated with military service that they can’t refer to it when discussing civilian trauma? Seems like an odd distinction.

Frank and Karen’s conversation leads her to a possible crack in the DA’s case—the medical examiner who will be appearing for the prosecution is the same person who signed (and falsified) the death certificates of Frank’s wife and children.

When Foggy loses confidence, Karen pulls him through it with an impassioned off the cuff speech that makes me think she should maybe be Frank’s defense lawyer instead.

Matt is supposed to be working on his opening address for the first day of the trial, but he gets pulled away by Elektra and spends the whole night on her elaborate violent subplot, tracking down a vile dude with amazing translation skills to work on their ledger.

Daredevil is playing the hired muscle role, and he’s doing it a little too well—sure, we know this translator is a terrible person because of the racist and misogynist treatment he was handing out to the prostitutes in his apartment earlier, but Matt actually comes close to pushing the guy out a window. Too close.

After investigating the Yakuza’s secret importation of… dirt? A giant carriage of dirt? Huh, that’s weird, we’ll come back to that. Anyway, Elektra and Daredevil end up in an elaborate fight scene against a bunch of Yakuza, which they both enjoy far too much.

Elektra takes some damage—a knife wound across the back of her neck—which means that she and Matt get to spend some intimate scenes of him sewing her up, and then the two of them showing off their scars to each other—old familiar ones as well as the ones they have acquired since they last met.

It’s all very sensual for a guy who’s supposedly in the early days of a romance with someone else. I’m pretty sure for these two, putting stitches in each other is the equivalent of third base.

Of course Matt was so busy with Elektra, that he entirely failed to do his homework write his opening remarks for the trial, not to mention set an alarm clock.

At the courtroom, when Matt doesn’t turn up in time, Foggy has to pull it together to make the opening remarks himself—after a fumbling start he does a pretty good job of it, hitting the important emotional notes that they want the jury to consider.

Afterwards, Matt throws himself on Foggy’s mercy, promises faithfully to do better, and takes on the responsibility of cross-examining the dodgy medical examiner tomorrow, while Foggy prepares for literally everything else.

Somehow Matt turns his prep into his second date with Karen, and their cozy evening turns into a philosophical debate about vigilantism. After her previous backslide, Karen feeling generally pretty positive about vigilante action including the work of Daredevil—to the point where her belief that justice has to sometimes happen outside the system means that the idea of law school is unappealing.

Matt himself, while he claims to support Daredevil, cannot justify his actions in a conversation as himself—he’s not lying as part of the cover story, he genuinely believes in the justice system AND the justice of God when he’s not being Daredevil, which means—well. He has to compartmentalise a lot.

Karen’s lack of faith in the legal system makes a lot of sense considering (a) the trial they are currently involved in and the likelihood that the DA is corrupt, (b) the horrendous experience she went through back when they first met, after she was framed for murder, (c) all that Wilson Fisk business, and (d) possibly some other meaningful backstory that they have not yet expanded upon, come on, guys, it’s time we heard Karen’s origin story and why she identifies so personally with Frank Castle’s tragedy. What was she running away from when she came to New York? Telllllll us.

Matt is taken aback that Karen is on Team Sometimes The Bad Guys Have To Die—I think after spending so much time around Elektra he’s used to thinking of Karen as the quiet, nice one, but she’s seen some dark stuff, and it has affected her.

He kicks Karen out for being too feisty and not meeting his own current moral standards (I’m sorry, but it’s true) only to discover that Elektra has been eavesdropping, which is also against Matt’s moral standards, so he kicks her out too. Women, huh? Can’t live with them, can’t justify your complex and contradictory system of beliefs to them.

This time, he does his trial prep. Which Elektra literally refers to as his homework, because she is sassy.

The second day of the trial is a disaster in a whole different way, and this one’s Matt’s fault too. He has barely started his carefully prepared take-down of the medical examiner when the doctor starts shaking and confessing all over the place. The judge clears the trial room of everyone but the lawyers, and they hear the doctor’s confession that yes, he faked the death certificates of Frank Castle’s family (to claim each of them died from a single bullet wound, and not the horrendous massacre they actually suffered) and one other man who died of multiple bullet wounds.

I am assuming that one other man is going to turn out to be super important. Take note!

This is the easiest cross-examination that Matt has ever run, right up to the point where the medical examiner admits that he is telling them all this because a scary lady visited him last night (uh-oh), tied him up (UH-OH) and terrified him into confessing (OH ELEKTRA HONEY NO).

So that’s inadmissible, then.

Matt, shaken up by all this, gets Foggy alone in the gents and confesses that the scary lady who ruined their witness was in fact his ex-girlfriend. Elektra, you know, the one who messed him up so bad he nearly failed a year of law school? Also, she’s a terrifying ninja not just a glamorous debutante and diplomat’s daughter but quite dangerous and by the way she’s the mysterious paying client, and she’s the reason Matt has been AWOL lately and… Yakuza?

Foggy loses his shit at this point, and fair enough too. He gives Matt the lecture that we’ve all been yelling in our own heads for the last several episodes. In particular, he points out how Matt has been desperately trying to have it both ways, serving the law during the day and defying it by night. Foggy doesn’t care about any of Matt’s excuses, all he knows is that he has let him down badly.

He’s also, incidentally, pretty furious Matt let Elektra back into his life at all after last time, and suggests that Matt explain her to Karen. I love that Foggy is angry on behalf of Karen, even though Matt is his BFF. Foggy is a good friend.

Matt’s second lecture of the day comes from Karen, who is just as furious at him, though she is working off a fraction of the information Foggy has—in fact, Matt blows off any explanation to her whatsoever, leading her to rightfully point out that he’s treating her like a secretary when she’s actually done more work on the case than he has.

Matt demands she choose whether she wants to be treated as a workmate or a girlfriend, and ends up telling her nothing, because he’s in a hurry to go yell at Elektra.

Oh Karen, you deserve better. Did you notice that this is the first time either of you have attempted to define your relationship-in-progress in terms of boyfriend and girlfriend, and that he used it as ammunition in a fight? I noticed.

The third lecture of the day comes from Elektra, who manages to get in some snipes despite having caused all this havoc—when Matt confronts her about destroying the witness’ testimony with her “help,” she pretty much laughs at him, pointing out that she has been following his rules: when the legal methods don’t work by day, he is happy enough to indulge in illegal methods by night.

Yep, when even the ninja assassin is calling you out on your hypocrisy, it’s time to re-examine your life choices, Matt Murdock. Though, he doesn’t know about the assassin part yet. (It’s coming.)

Because examining his life choices is something Matt only likes to do when he has spare time to torture himself with guilt, he postpones that to investigate the Yakuza again, and doesn’t argue especially hard when Elektra comes along for the ride.

They discover the secret that the Yakuza are hiding on the land formerly controlled by Wilson Fisk: a hole. A really big, really deep hole.

Yep, that’s where the dirt was from.

 

Episode 8—Guilty as Sin

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More courtroom shenanigans, which go a lot more smoothly for Nelson and Murdock (and Page) now that Foggy has banned Matt from the case. The defence team have two fantastic witnesses: Dr Lee, who specialises in the kind of head wound and Extreme Emotional Distress that they believe Frank Castle is suffering from (meaning that he is trapped in the constant state of witnessing his family’s murder); and Colonel Ray Schoonover (Clancy Brown).

The Colonel give a truly epic speech as a character witness to Frank’s military service, and how he earned his secret black ops medal. He is particularly cutting about the foolish officer who refused to listen to Frank’s advice and lost an arm (but not his life) because of his pride—then takes great enjoyment in admitting to being that foolish officer, when the DA tries to catch him out on not being an eye witness to Frank’s heroism.

Sadly he does not give any Highlander quotes or shout “GRODD” at the camera at any point but this is still a really enjoyable use of Clancy Brown.

Meanwhile, Matt is busy fighting ninjas with Elektra, back at the mysterious giant hole in the ground. Is anyone else getting flashbacks to Torchwood: Miracle Day?

Elektra is badly wounded with a poisoned blade (boo, I refuse to believe that Matt is in better condition for this kind of fight than she is), and as Matt struggles to fight off the rest of the ninjas alone, they are unexpectedly rescued… BY STICK.

For those of you who didn’t bother to catch up with Season 1 of Daredevil before plunging into Season 2 (that’s none of you I hope!), Stick is the cranky evil blind old Yoda dude who taught baby Matt how to fight with everything except his eyesight, and treated him with physical and mental abuse in order to toughen him up for some vague “war” he never really explained.

Last time we saw Stick, he had beaten Matt half to death and left him surrounded by broken glass in his own apartment. Okay, Elektra isn’t the only reason Matt has trust issues around loved ones…

Rather than take the gasping, suffering, bleeding, dying Elektra to a hospital, Stick directs them back to Matt’s place, because he can totally fix this.

On a side note, I kind of love Stick’s stoic chauffeur and I hope everyone writes lots of fanfic about all the weird things he’s witnessed in the course of this job.

Stick does that terrifying thing where a character mixes a bunch of kitchen ingredients including baking soda and toilet cleaner to produce a magical anecdote for the poison (don’t do this at home, kids, the Poisons and Toxins information hotline is your friend). He then bandages Elektra loosely with some of Matt’s expensive silk sheets and it’s all good.

I knew the joke was coming with the cup of tea Stick demanded in the midst of all the ingredients, but it was still pretty great when he drank it.

We finally get some of the real story behind Stick’s secret war—it’s all pretty yawnworthy, with ancient warriors and the magical ability to stop death (is the hole a Lazarus Pit? I thought that was a Batman thing), but the important thing from Matt’s point of view is the revelation that Elektra is in Stick’s employ. He trained her, just as he trained Matt.

(Which of course begs the question Matt will ask later: was Elektra already working for Stick the first time she blazed into his life and almost destroyed it? Was he a mission? To which the answer is, yes, obviously. Because who else would send a glamorous woman with awesome fight club skills to distract him enough to make him flunk law school and maybe get over that whole anti-killing agenda? Of course it was Stick.)

Matt is determined to get Elektra free of Stick’s influence, and pull her over to the light side, pretty much promising that the two of them can be together forever if she agrees.

MATT DID YOU FORGET THAT YOU TOLD KAREN SHE WAS YOUR GIRLFRIEND YESTERDAY?

Foggy gets Karen to convince Frank to take the stand personally, to tell his story. They are well aware that this might be a case they can’t win at all, but both of them are highly invested in (a) their firm not looking like idiots and (b) Frank getting a sentence they can all live with.

Karen is angry that Foggy is insistent that Matt should question Frank on the stand—she points out in the strongest possible terms that Matt has been a complete flake for all of this, while Foggy has been brilliant, and he always puts himself down in comparison to Matt.

I love that, even though Karen is hot for Matt, she is very aware of his failings, and is very protective of Foggy. Karen is a great friend.

Foggy, however, sticks to his guns, so Karen goes to collect Matt.

Stick, being the complete and utter troll that he is, politely ushers Karen directly through the apartment into Matt’s bedroom, where a wan Elektra is still in his bed, and the two are speaking very intimately.

This is my favourite thing that Stick has ever done.

Karen is furious but refuses to let Matt explain it away—which is good because he’d only be lying to her, sure he hasn’t actually had sex with Elektra recently as her presence in his bed implies, but he can’t exactly claim faithfulness right now. She updates him on the case and leaves.

Foggy hasn’t forgiven Matt either, and makes it clear to him in the courtroom the next day that he pulled him in only because he thinks that he is just crazy enough to get into Frank Castle’s head in a way no one else can. He’s probably also counting on the Daredevil secret skills.

In fact, Matt’s super hearing comes in handy when he hears a police officer whisper something mysterious to Frank, but he doesn’t put it together until later.

Frank is unhelpful on the stand. Matt tries to save the situation by ditching all the directions from Foggy, apparently treating Frank as a hostile witness, but mostly addressing the jury about how vigilantes and other superhero types are what the city needs.

I guess he did prepare some opening remarks after all, because that was the place for this speech, Matt!

Frank then throws a massive wobbly, sabotaging all attempts at defending his actions, and making it very clear to everyone that he is nothing more than a psychotic killer who will repeat his crimes at any opportunity.

Matt realises that someone has got to Frank (duh), but Foggy is still angry at him for going off book (and all the other things to be angry about). When Matt tries to talk to Karen, she dumps him, because she is over being blatantly lied to, a lot.

Note that the three main theories she has as to his behaviour so far include alcoholism, a fight club, and a harem of (presumably violent) lovers—so she hasn’t figured out the Daredevil thing, then. Somehow at this point, I don’t think it would help.

I normally really like Matt and Karen and Foggy as a unit of friendship and I have been at least partially invested in Matt and Karen having their sweet little romance, but I am SO glad she has the self respect to cut him off now, rather than continue to trust and believe in him when he is offering her so little in return.

I’m also really glad that Matt is just as if not more culpable than Elektra in everything that happened—sure, she manipulated him, but he was at least partly aware she was doing that, and he still chose her over his friends, knowing everything that was at stake. Matt, you have a lot to make up for.

Instead, he goes back to Elektra (of course), they throw out Stick (who is pretty smug about how badly they’ll cope without him) and are promptly attacked by a really excellent ninja. Just as Matt realises that the warrior he is facing is just a teenager, Elektra slashes the kid’s throat and stands over him in a bloodstained shirt, admitting the last truth to Matt about who—or what—she really is.

I wasn’t surprised at Frank’s actions in court—there was always a chance he would sabotage himself, and the sinister police officer was pretty obviously pushing him in that direction. But the big question is—what on earth could the DA have found to bribe him with to make him give up on telling his story in public?

As the sinister police officer led the Punisher through the prison, the obvious answer occurred to me—they have to have promised him the ringleader behind his family’s murder, right? That is literally the only thing that he wants out of life. So… is he going to be roomies with the guy or something? Get the opportunity to beat him to a pulp?

I was completely blindsided by the twist at the end—the person I hadn’t actually expected to see ever again in this show.

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The Punisher sabotaged his own defence at his trial because Wilson Fisk asked him to.

DRAMATIC CHORDS!

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 reviewson 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.

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