Prisoner: Cell Block Daredevil

This post covers Daredevil Season 2: Episode 9 (Seven Minutes in Heaven) and Episode 10 (The Man in the Box) and is extremely spoilery for those episodes. Find more Daredevil episode recaps here.

THE STORY SO FAR: Matt Murdock has wrecked his love life, his closest friendships, the most important trial his law firm has even taken on, his law firm, and now his world is infested with ninjas. So many ninjas. Seriously, his life makes Jessica Jones look like a well-adjusted member of society. Pretty much the only positive thing he has achieved this season was getting the Punisher arrested. At least he has that to keep him warm at nights…

 

EPISODE 9: Seven Minutes in Heaven

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Vincent D’Onofrio dominates this episode, returning as the terrifying and compelling Wilson Fisk. The cold open of the episode tells the story of his time in prison thus far, from a new inmate to a powerful man shoring up his position by investing what’s left of his money in securing a gang of protectors.

Dutton is the man to beat, the self-proclaimed “Kingpin” of the prison. As soon as he said that title aloud, I muttered, “Oh, he’s taking that off you, mate.”

Kingpin, of course, is Fisk’s supervillain name in the comics. They didn’t include that in Season 1, probably because it sounds a bit silly.

By the time we catch up to the cliffhanger scene from the end of last episode, where Frank Castle is ushered to meet Fisk, he has risen to become a man of great power within the prison, but he hasn’t yet supplanted Dutton as The Man. Which is where the Punisher comes in…

Fisk informs Frank that Dutton is the man responsible for the Carousel Massacre—it was his heroin business that was behind the fight that broke out. Frank knows an attempt to use him like a weapon when he hears it, but he is eventually convinced to go along with the plan.

The most fascinating thing about the interactions between these two men is how small and vulnerable Frank looks in Fisk’s presence. This whole season has built up Frank as a powerhouse and lethal weapon, but Fisk pretty much has to narrow his eyes and stand a little taller to make everyone around him look like a punching bag waiting to happen.

Over at Matt’s apartment, our hero (ha) lies in a surreal state of paralysis as Elektra de-poisons him, then calls in a company of silent but effective scene cleaners to remove the body of the teen ninja she killed, and to scrub away all the blood and other evidence. When it’s done, she talks to him about her history as a highly effective assassin (she killed her first person at the age of twelve) and he gives her a Very Final Break Up speech.

Later, Foggy goes to have it out with Matt. Foggy is still angry and thinks they need time apart for the sake of their friendship as well as their partnership, hoping that Matt will take this time to get his act together, but he is shocked and devastated when Matt puts on his most robotic “I have no feelings” face and declares it’s time for them to go their separate ways. He’s choosing Daredevil over Nelson & Murdock, self-sacrificing snowflake that he is.

My personal rule for relationship issues is that the person who gives an ultimatum is always the asshole in the scenario—so I’m blaming Matt for this one. Foggy is crushed. He has to return to the office to break it to Karen that, no matter how exciting the new twist on her favourite conspiracy is, they don’t have a case—and they are shortly to no longer have a law firm.

Nelson and Murdock is finished.

Presumably, Foggy spends the rest of the episode listening to country music on his breakup playlist and sniffling into a tub of ice cream. I’m only half-joking about that! The Matt-Foggy friendship is the core relationship of the show, and it’s gutting to see Matt throw it away, as part of his ongoing campaign to Not Allow Himself Nice Things.

Matt spends the rest of the episode in pure Daredevil mode (though I choose to believe he also has a sad country music playlist running through his head regardless), investigating the mysterious ninja group the Hand. He follows the trail of the mob accountant Stan Gibson, whose son is being held hostage by the Yakuza/Hand, only to find the son caged with a bunch of other miserable, malnourished prisoners—guarded by a scary ninja warrior who… looks a lot like Nobu, one of the boss-level bad guys who totally died last season.

Huh. That thing Stick was saying recently about the ancient war and warriors coming back to life. That might be relevant here.

Karen’s response to being ditched by Nelson and Murdock is actually a creative and positive development for her character. She goes back to the office of the New York Bulletin to share her conspiracy theory with Mitchell Ellison, AKA Ben Urich’s editor and only other friend. Mitchell, tempted though he is to keep using Karen’s research skills for his own stories, suggests she try her hand at being an investigative journalist.

I’m so excited by this! Investigative journalism fits in brilliantly with Karen’s narrative arc so far, including her friendship and work with Ben back in Season 1, her dedication to justice on either side of the law, her natural skepticism about the goodness of humanity, and her tenacious, mystery-solving skills.

The scene in which Mitchell ushers her into Ben’s untouched-since-his death office is emotional and perfect, especially when Karen finds a file on herself left on his desk and realises that Ben knew her deep dark secret ALL ALONG.

This is huge. And raises the possibility that we’ll actually find out Karen’s story this season. There’s a clue in the headline—MYSTERY ACCIDENT CAUSES TEEN FATALITY—and Karen starts crying at the discovery that Ben (and Mitchell) don’t think less of her for the past she’s been hiding.

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Then she sucks it up and gets on with her new career, because Karen is great.

Back at the prison, we see the balance in power shift as the guards and police bribed by Fisk escort Frank Castle to the private corridor occupied by Dutton and his most loyal supporters. This is where the title comes in—Frank has seven minutes in a locked corridor (with only Dutton’s cell door open) to achieve his goal. I’m presuming that seven minutes is not going to include any making out.

As it turns out, while he has no qualms about murdering Dutton’s offsider instantly, Frank does take the time to talk out the issue with Dutton, learning what he can about why the massacre happened… and the truth finally comes out, that the whole thing was a bungled sting operation run by the Feds to catch a mysterious drug lord called the Blacksmith. This matches with the info that Karen has independently been acquiring—that the missing body from the crime scene photos was an undercover cop.

Frank still shivs Dutton in the stomach.

Now that Frank has done the work that Fisk wanted him for, he is disposable—Fisk’s men won’t let him out of the secure corridor, and they release the other internal cell doors, which means that he has to fight every single prisoner in there in order to survive. It’s a bloodbath.

This is one of the most intense and nasty of the violent scenes in Daredevil thus far, not least because of the flat, emotionless state of Frank. There is a difference to these deaths, which he causes almost mechanically, one after another, because he is not doing this for his mission or with any degree of anger or personal stake—he treats it as a dull chore that must be endured.

Finally, soaked in blood and slightly battered from the riot police, the Punisher is delivered back to Fisk. They fight, and Fisk dominates him easily, which is hardly surprising since Frank looks like someone’s steak dinner right now.

Fisk arranges for Frank to leave the prison discreetly, which makes a whole lot of sense. Next time they meet, one of them won’t survive, but for now—well, would you want the Punisher in the same prison if you were Top Dog?

Or, as Fisk gloats to a not-dead-but-barely-alive Dutton in the hospital bed, if you were a Kingpin.

 

EPISODE 10: The Man in the Box

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If Matt Murdock came into a crazy large amount of money, you just know he would invest it in a secret superhero hospital, because he is the only person who recognises the need for such a service. Well, him and Hawkeye.

With the help of Detective Sergeant Brett, who has got extra sassy since his promotion, Daredevil arranges for the prisoners of the Hand to be smuggled to the hospital and hidden in an abandoned wing where Claire and her fellow doctors and nurses can treat them while reducing the likelihood everyone will be murdered by ninjas.

In between all the drama and healthcare, Matt and Claire manage a couple of intimate and thoughtful conversations which mainly consist of him being dense and her calling him on various aspects of his bullshit.

The first of these chats is interrupted when he gets word that the Punisher has escaped.

The next day, Karen, Foggy, and Matt—all horribly awkward with each other—are summoned to a private meeting with Evil District Attorney Samantha Reyes, to discuss the issue of the Punisher. It’s clear from the start that this is not going to be like all their other interactions. Casual Reyes is dressed in her college hoodie instead of a power suit, and she is visibly rattled. She starts throwing down truth bombs like they are going out of style:

1. Yes, the park carousel massacre was her fault—she not only greenlit the sting operation to nab the Blacksmith, but it was her call not to evacuate the park of civilians.

2. Yes, that means that she was at least partly culpable for the death of Frank Castle’s family.

3. Reyes took part in a government cover up to hide the nature of the sting operation, including having pictures doctored to hide the dead body of the undercover cop.

4. After a copy of the x-ray of Frank Castle’s brain with a bullet in it was found in Reyes’ young daughter’s backpack, she believes that the Punisher is now after her daughter, which is why she’s being all honest now.

Foggy and Matt are unimpressed, and not particularly keen to share privileged information no matter how desperate Reyes has become. It’s the first thing they’ve agreed on in ages. Karen attempts to convince Reyes that threatening her daughter is totally not the Punisher’s MO, but everyone dismisses what she has to say. (This will be a running theme of the episode: no one actually tells Karen she’s being too girly and emotional about Frank but many of them imply that while ignoring her logical analysis of his character and murder habits.)

Once Reyes has imparted all plot-relevant information, a hail of bullets shatters the window, killing her instantly. Matt gets Karen down out of the line of fire; Tower makes a convenient leap behind some furniture (I’m watching you, dude, you’ve been a little too helpful and polite at times in this season), and Foggy is shot.

This is not a drill. FOGGY IS SHOT.

He’s basically fine, it’s a shoulder wound, but still.

You would think a near death experience like this would bring our darling trio back to being friends again, but instead they manage to awkward their way out of any kind of squishy reunion. Things are even weird with Foggy and Karen now.

Speaking of weird, no one listens to Karen as she continues to point out the things that are out of character for Frank Castle—like shooting a bunch more bullets than he had to into the DA’s office, shooting a civilian by accident, etc. Even Mitchell, the pet newspaper editor who previously had a whole bagful of attagirls for Karen, suggests gently that she might be overreacting and/or remembering wrong.

Because apparently no one in this story has been paying attention to the Punisher’s psyche at all?

Mitchell’s concerns are veering somewhere between patriarchal bullshit (which Karen calls him on) and actual suspicious gaslighting (I don’t know what to think! Please don’t make him be a bad guy, she needs to have at least one man in her life she can trust). Mitchell sends Karen with two police officers to collect the files she needs from her apartment, and she puts up with the protection detail but is cranky about it.

Within two minutes of her being in her apartment, the two shifty police officers have mysteriously vanished, and Frank Castle himself sidles in to tell Karen what she had pretty much figured out for herself: he didn’t kill District Attorney Reyes.

Of course, Karen isn’t completely dense, and holds a gun on him while he talks to her—but then her own windows get shot up by their Mysterious Gunman (proving that it’s not Frank, and making it look extra suspicious that Mitchell sent her into this situation).

I’m still coming to terms with the fact that Karen’s new BFF is the Punisher and that totally makes sense because he is more honest with her than either Matt or Foggy.

Matt puts together that Fisk is in the same cell block that the Punisher escaped from, and goes to confront him. As Matt Murdock, blind lawyer who was responsible for Fisk’s incarceration in the first place. The scene between them is electric, right up to the point that Matt lets his smug show by implying he can have an effect on whether or not Fisk will ever be reunited with his beloved Vanessa. At which point, Fisk lets loose, beating Matt badly because of course, Matt can’t use his powers openly, and the guards aren’t going to stop Fisk doing anything he wants, and in case we forgot, Matt was barely able to hold his own against Fisk’s intense violent streak when he was Daredevil. Also, Matt is blind.

Oh and while all this was going on, he managed to reveal that Foggy is his weakness and he doesn’t want Fisk to hurt him. Nice one, Matt.

Matt is feeling battered and emotionally fragile after his confrontation with Fisk, and deals with this by lurking around the hospital like a creeper to protect the rescued prisoners from any unexpected ninja attacks. And also to eavesdrop on Foggy’s TV watching habits, because he’s too damn proud to go say hi. Matt’s so busy “looking for ninjas” (cough, brooding in leather) on the rooftop that he lets his guard down and lets Claire in under his feelings.

Matt tells Claire all about Nobu being alive instead of dead and Claire nods politely about this but really she’s much more invested in Matt not being a jerk to Foggy even though she refuses to remember his name. Matt is very invested in continuing to be a jerk to Foggy because he doesn’t think he deserves a love that pure needs to be fresh for the fight.

Claire kinda thinks he’s a dumbass, which is why we love Claire. I hope that the Fearless Defenders series will include Malcolm from Jessica Jones setting up a combined therapy/medical treatment office with Claire where the two of them can be sarcastic life coaches to superheroes while mending their boo-boos and emotional traumas.

There’s a tiny tacked-on subplot about Elektra waiting at a bar at a private airfield who flirts half-heartedly with a dashing man in a fancy suit who ends up trying to kill her. Turns out that Stick sent him. According to the Stick Book of Etiquette, a flirtatious assassin is the appropriate gift for any occasion.

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Back at the hospital, Matt’s paranoia about ninjas finally pays off as a whole bunch of them scale the walls. Does it count as a cliffhanger if they’re travelling upwards?

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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