Critique : Daredevil Season 2

I think Arthur Chu is very eloquent at expressing my misgivings about how Marvel treats Asians (and all WoC) in the MCU.

Arthur Chu

ARTHUR CHU

MORE THAN A STEREOTYPE

04.01.16 1:08 AM ET

Not Your Asian Ninja: How the Marvel Cinematic Universe Keeps Failing Asian-Americans

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/04/01/not-your-asian-ninja-how-the-marvel-cinematic-universe-keeps-failing-asian-americans.html?via=newsletter&source=Culturebeast

 

 

 

Daredevil Season Two : Episodes 5-8

 

Kinbaku:

This episode is very  Elektra heavy, as it chronicles how the two of them met, and why she left him the first time. I tried really, really hard to like this character and finally concluded that she’s not meant to be likable. Let me be blunt here: Elektra is an asshole. She’s everything I hate in a female character and she even displayed a couple of new qualities I detested.

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Anyway Matt, who evinces about as much personality as a hedgehog, in the flashback scenes, is totally smitten with her because she’s a risk taker, who loves danger. I don’t mean jaywalking, or sticking a fork in the toaster  type danger.  I’m talking about stealing cars and beating each other up as foreplay danger. The two of them have less chemistry than Matt and Karen though, no matter how much heavy breathing she and Matt  engage in. (And Elektra does that  breathless talking thing, a lot!) Don’t get me wrong, Elodi Young, as Elektra, is abso-tively gorgeous and her martial arts moves are adequate, but I hate the character. I’m not sure if its the acting, or the horrible dialogue, though. Elodi acts like she’s in a series that’s waaay sexier than the one in which she’s currently starring.

Anyway most of the episode is spent in flashback, as we see Elektra and Matt meet, fight, steal cars, make love, and then the deal-breaker for Matt, breaking into the house of the mobster, (now in hiding), who ordered the death of his father, so Matt can torture and kill him. Matt’s perfectly willing to vandalize the man’s house and beat him up, but killing is going too far, and he declines her invitation to commit murder. Elektra promptly walks out on him. No, really! She acts extremely gleeful about him killing a man, looks completely unhinged while encouraging him to do it, and when he says no to her, she just walks out of the scene.

Ah yeah, incidentally, I’m not impressed by love scenes where the characters grope each other like rabid hamsters. I think that type of acting is meant to convey how they just cant keep their hands off each other, and are in some kind of “people heat”, but I mostly find that kind of shit deeply annoying. (A better love scene would be Richonne’s first, from The Walking Dead.)

I thought, surely, there was a way they could have made Elektra look less batshit, but the writers decided not to go that route, I guess, in favor of making her seem like a version of “My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”!

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(Otoh: The fight scene where Elektra and Matt meet-cute is still  a thousand times better than the movie version, between Affleck and Garner.)

Back in the present day, there’s some shady business dealings she wants to hire Matt to help her with that involve the Roxxon Oil Corporation and the Yakuza. Once again, Matt has to tell her “no”, but he is willing to spy on her to find out her true reason for coming to NY. There’s some computer hacking involved, and when her business partners discover her involvement, they hire thugs to visit her apartment, where she and Matt are waiting to kick their ass. Matt is there because Elektra has been spying on him too and knowing about his nigh-time activities as Daredevil, stole his suit.

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Oh, yeah. Karen and Matt go out on one of the most awkward dates ever. Awkward and gaudy. This scene hurt my eyeballs.

 

Regrets Only:

This episode is mostly about some courtroom type stuff involving Frank Castle, and Matt and Elektra breaking into a building owned by the Yakuza to steal a book. Every step of the way Matt could make different choices but doesn’t. He is seemingly unable to stay away from Elektra and her exciting world of physical danger, even though he keeps saying he wants nothing to do with her.

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Karen develops a rapport wit Frank Castle as his trial begins. Reyes, the DA, wants the death penalty but Murdock and Assoc. decide they will represent Frank in court, and perhaps they can unearth exactly what’s wrong with Frank, why his family was killed and what Reyes has to do with any of it. Karen visits Frank’s home. He hasn’t visited his home since his family died.

Matt interrupts his court case to run off with Elektra and  attend a party, break into a vault and steal a book. So not only is he keeping his Daredevil life a secret from Karen, he’s keeping Elektra a secret too. This is not going to end well. Foggy is mortified at having to take on Reyes, by himself, and for the second time they fight about Matt’s extracurricular activities. This appears to be a theme this season. Apparently, Foggy has had enough of this shit.

 

Semper Fidelis:

Things come to a head when Matt reveals his night-time activities with Elektra is what’s distracting him from his court case. Foggy and Karen let him have it about his irresponsible behavior, and their relationships  become strained. As  Matt neglects his duties in The Punisher court case,  Foggy ends up having to do all the work, including the opening statements, which he hadn’t planned.

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Matt and Elektra are still running around getting into fights with the Yakuza. These fight scenes were a lot of fun and definitely reminded me of scenes from the books, where Matt fights against dozens of  ninja assailants. But for some reason I couldn’t enjoy them too much because these scenes are interspersed with scenes of Foggy, hard at work, trying to save Frank Castle from life imprisonment.  I kept thinking about all the work Matt was neglecting because he prefers  beating  people up at night. Ah yeah, Elektra is in there somewhere, and she gets wounded.

Incidentally, a lot of the fight scenes are filmed in so much darkness that I have no clue about  Elektra’s fighting style.  I’m used to watching Matt fight and Charlie Cox is always spectacular, but couldn’t get a clear picture of what Elodi Young was doing and hence don’t really remember how she fights. Sadly, the most memorable thing about her is her looks.

I have no idea exactly what Elektra and Matt are trying to accomplish in their endless fighting with the Yakuza, either, as its somewhat murky. Its hard for me to really care about the fight scenes because I’m not entirely sure what all the fighting is about beyond simply fighting. What do the two of them stand for?

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I also don’t like Elektra because she  is a distraction from his day to day life, and Foggy rightfully calls him on it. I also suspect she has ulterior motives beyond the reasons she states for showing up in NY and enlisting Matt’s aid. She doesn’t need Matt’s help to do any of the things they’ve been doing, and why now?

If you pay close attention, you can see that Daredevil is a distinct personality, that is mostly separate from Matt Murdock, the lawyer, but you can also see elements of Daredevil’s personality bleeding into Matt’s everyday life. Wonderful acting on Charlie Cox’s part here.

 

Guilty as Sin:

So all is revealed as Matt and Elektra are attacked by ninjas, Elektra is wounded by a poisoned sword, and then saved by Stick, Matt’s teacher and mentor. It turns out that Elektra does have ulterior motives for getting Matt into all these endless fight scenes. She works for Stick and has been assessing Matt’s preparedness to join in Stick’s ongoing war against The Hand.

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Matt emphatically states that she and Stick are insane and he’s not joining their little war. He  and Stick argue, and Matt kicks Stick out of his home, but not before Karen has a chance to stop by and catch Elektra recuperating in Matt’s bed. Welp! I saw that coming!

Matt does agree to take Elektra back if she leaves Stick alone. Elektra goes to Stick and tells him she’s leaving him for Matt. Before they can go through with any of their plans, they’re attacked by an assassin, who is little more than a child. Matt stops just short of killing him, but Elektra, impulsively slits the boy’s  throat, while a horrified Matt watches.  The first time they had a falling out it was because Matt wouldn’t kill. Til now, he’s been in control of their relationship, and encouraging her not to kill in their many fights. This time their falling out will be because Matt won’t accept her killing people.

He really is a stickler about that sort of thing, even though it strikes me as a bit hypocritical. Beating the crap out of people, breaking their bodies, terrorizing and torturing  them for information, is all okay, but he has to draw the line at killing, because life is precious, or something.

Yeah, okay Matt. But it would be nice if he could draw the line at committing violence. This isn’t  arguing about self defense. Going out and violently inserting himself into situations is something he chooses to do, outside the law, every night. And he thinks it’s okay to do these things  because nobody’s dead by his hand.

Yet.

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Murdock and Associates lose their court case when Frank takes the stand and purposely blows his own defense. Frank continues to be a puzzle to me. Every time Foggy and Karen try to mount a defense for him, he either deliberately blows it, or refuses to abide by it. Its like he wants to go to prison. I suppose I could see that. After all, he won’t have to look so hard to find the  bad guys and he can beat up as many as he wants.

Foggy blames Matt for their courtroom loss, and Karen ain’t too happy with him, either. Frank goes to jail, where he is led to a meeting with The Kingpin. (Its nice to see D’onofrio again being his usual excellent self.)

So, we’re a little over halfway through the season and things are moving apace. There are some parts of the narrative I really just don’t find very interesting. Or rather, they’re not as interesting as I thought they’d be. One of those plot lines is the one about The Hand. I liked the fight scenes well enough. They’re very exciting but I didn’t care very much about them because they just seem like fight scenes added to have action and with no particular meaning.

But maybe that is the point, to show Matt engaging in pointless action for action’s sake. Nothing gets resolved, no one’s  life is saved, he and Elektra aren’t fighting FOR any philosophy. His fight scenes with her are essentially meaningless, so maybe that means his  relationship with her is essentially meaningless, too. The fighting didn’t become interesting until Stick showed up (or maybe I was just excited to see Scott Glenn).

I’m bored with the Frank Castle/ DA Reyes intrigue, probably because much of it consists of Karen reading, and rustling  papers, or sitting and writing notes, although I like the dynamic that was created between her and Frank. She doesn’t let him bully her and stands her ground with him when he tries to push her away, and I like that. She’s determined to help him. She’s also dealing with the emotional aftermath of killing Wilson Fisk’s Majordomo last season, after he had her kidnapped, and I’m glad the show hasn’t forgotten what happened the previous season.

I’ve developed an amazing respect for Foggy, and Eldon Henson, the actor who plays him. Foggy is a much better lawyer than he thinks he is. I also  like that he’s pushing  Matt to make a decision about what he wants do with his life. Does Matt want to abide by the law, or be a vigilante, like Frank? Foggy’s argument is that Matt cannot serve two masters, or rather, serve one master, badly.

We’ll see how this all plays out in the last five episodes.

 

 

Daredevil Season Two: Episodes 1-4

This recap is for episodes 1-4 of season two of Daredevil, titled, in order: Bang; Dogs to a Gunfight; New York’s Finest; and Penny and Dime.

Season Two of Daredevil is probably one of the hottest tickets in town right now. You can find reviews of it everywhere. I don’t normally review things that everyone else is reviewing. I do on occasion, because I watch these shows too, but I like to find those shows that no one is paying a whole lot of attention to, or shows that people might not have access too, like the ones on PlayStation, Netflix, or certain movie channels.

So, yes, I have been watching the new season of Daredevil. I don’t want to do a play by play recap but I will list some highlights of the first four episodes.

Mostly of the first episodes are devoted to the The Punisher storyline. I know some of the ladies who read my blog don’t necessarily read comic books, and have no idea who The Punisher is, so some background may be in order. The Punisher is a guy named Frank Castle, who has decided to kill as many criminal organizations and people as physically possible, and that’s a hell of a lot.

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Its the cliche movie plot about a guy who loses his wife and daughter and  decides to take revenge on the men he thinks are responsible. As a general rule, he avoids killing innocents, but he is not above a certain amount of carelessness in killing them too. It’s your typical “fridging” of women in order  to spur one man to kill more men.

Frank, is excellently played by Jon Bernthal. I fell in love with him as Shane in The Walking Dead. Yeah, Shane was an asshole, but I loved the actor anyway. Here, he’s playing another asshole, but he’s an understandable one, kind of. The benefit of a story that takes five hours is that you can spend an entire episode just getting to know one character, as they get a chance to espouse their philosophy.

The creators of Daredevil are extremely good at fleshing out their villains. They did it with Kingpin last season, Killgrave in Jessica Jones, and they do the same thing for humanizing Frank in this show. You still don’t like the villains overmuch, but at least their motives can be understood. They’re not one-dimensional, mustache twirling, laughers, impressed by their evilness.

There’s an amount of professional lawyerly intrigue going on between Foggy, Karen and a corrupt DA named Reyes, which I didn’t follow nearly as closely as I followed the fight scenes. Foggy gets some of the best lines in the series, when he goes toe to toe with Reyes, who tries to sweat him about keeping one of their clients, who is the only man to survive one of The Punisher’s assaults.

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Daredevil spends most of the first half of the season investigating who is massacreing all the local gangs, including the Irish mafia, and a local biker gang, from whom they just got their latest client, who wishes to go straight now. Daredevil has also been attacking gangs in the city but he doesn’t kill them, and he and Frank are in competition. Matt objects to the killings because, like a good Catholic boy, he believes everyone deserves a chance for redemption, including his new client.

The first couple of times he and Frank meet, it’s a draw, but Matt gets shot, which results in a brief bout of deafness later in his apartment. The show is giving us some idea of just how incredibly important Matt’s sense of hearing is for connecting him to the world. He is completely unable to do anything but sit in one spot, and hope his hearing comes back, which it eventually does. This was fascinating to watch actually. Our senses connect us to the world. If they’re lost, or become unreliable, how do we even know anything at all? He’s certainly not going to be able to fight crime while deaf and blind.

We have seen a tougher, more ruthless, Matt Murdock in these opening episodes. Again, Charlie Cox, while very pleasant as Matt, saves most of his energy for being Daredevil. He and Foggy argue about vigilantism at the top of the show,as Foggy urges him to stop. Karen still doesn’t know what’s going on, but she’s not stupid, and can see that something is happening. Matt may be blind but there’s only so many times blind people can fall down stairs, or bump into things, is her reasoning.

The survivor of Frank’s attack on the bikers is in the hospital but Frank won’t let it go. He hunts him down and tries to kill him, putting Karen’s life and the lives of the nurses, doctors and patients in jeopardy, as he shoots up the hospital. Karen manages to speed away with her client in tow. We get some brief Night Nurse action between Foggy and Claire, as he questions her about Matt’s whereabouts, after his kidnapping by Frank.  We don’t get to see nearly enough of her, but maybe there’s more in the next few episodes.

When DA Reyes crafts a plan to draw Frank into a trap, (using the survivor from his attack on the bikers),  to capture him in an effort to further her career, Foggy objects. Daredevil catches up with Frank during the trap. They both get shot by snipers during a fight on a rooftop. I loved this fight,but then I’m a sucker for rainy fight scenes. I don’t know why. I liked all the fight scenes, though. They’re not as good as the fight scenes from first season but only because some of the novelty is gone. The fights themselves are as wild and messy as they always were, especially one of the first scenes Matt has with the biker gang, in some constricting hallways, which seems to last forever.

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The Punisher spirits Matt away to another rooftop and ties him up. They have a long philosophical conversation about killing people. Matt, as a lawyer, insists that criminals should be brought to justice, unaware that some people could see what he’s doing as being self serving,  because who are these criminals going to call on to help them in court. Thats right! Pro bono lawyers, like himself. Of course, since Matt has redeemed more than a few lost souls this way, he firmly believes in it. He’s had experiences with criminals that Frank hasn’t had and that’s what informs his opinion of them as just people.

Frank’s philosophy is that there is no redemption for such creatures, they are evil, and should all die. After all, killing them will absolutely insure they will never commit another crime. This is sort of the same argument that is had in the DC Graphic Novel Kingdom Come storyline. (If you haven’t read it, you should check it out for the artwork alone, as it’s gorgeous.) This is also part of the argument from Jessica Jones series when the characters discuss killing Killgrave. Maybe this will be a theme throughout Netflix’s Marvel Universe.

At one point Frank tries to get Matt to kill his one client. He gives him a loaded gun and tells Matt that if Matt doesn’t shoot him, he will. This doesn’t work for me for two reasons. Frank had to have known, after their discussion, that Matt wouldn’t shoot anyone, including him, otherwise why give him a loaded weapon. Matt shoots himself free and attacks but Frank gets away.

Frank gets captured in the park by the family members of the Irish mafia he attacked at the top of the show. He also stole their money, which is primarily what they seem to be interested in, rather than familial revenge. But stealing their money was just a ruse to draw them to him. It’s booby trapped to blow them up.

They kidnap him and take him to their, I don’t want to say lair, but that is what it looks like. He tells them where their money is, after some amount of torture, including threatening a dog he’d rescued from them earlier. There’s people dying all over this show but I’m deeply concerned about the dog. I don’t like to watch animals get killed, but people are fine, I guess.

Matt swoops in to rescue Frank after learning his whereabouts and the two of them team up to take out Frank’s kidnappers, which was a lot of fun to watch. I don’t like it when my favorite superheroes beat each other up in the comic books. (That won’t stop me from watching the new Captain America movie, though.) I much prefer it when they team up on the bad guys. Although this doesn’t change Frank’s philosophy, their team up is, for me, an indication that Frank, at least, respects Matt’s position. (Remember what I wrote before, about fights between competing philosophies, and whoever wins is the person whose philosophy is most correct.)

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Matt, and a severely injured Frank, retire to a cemetery. Frank talks about his dead daughter, a lot. We feel for the guy even though he is a murderer several times over. It’s okay, Matt has enough compassion for both of them as Frank gets taken away by the police. I loved their little team up during the last scene and hope to see more of it later. Jon Bernthal  tore it up as Frank Castle. I’m not calling him Punisher yet, because he’s still kind of new at this and hasn’t become that yet.

There’s some romantic shenanigans as Karen puts the movies on Matt, letting him know she’s interested. I know their eventual storyline from the books, so I’m not worried that Elektra, who shows up in the last second of episode four, is going to be a problem for their relationship in the future.

I think the next four episode are going to be exciting for me as The Hand story line is introduced. Not that I don’t like Elektra, or didn’t enjoy these first episodes,  but I’m less interested in her and The Punisher, than The Hand.

Full disclosure, I was mostly interested in the fight scenes. I didn’t pay close attention to most of the lawyerly intrigue between Karen, Foggy and Reyes. I like to read mysteries but am uninterested in watching  detective work on TV shows, for some reason. I expect to be even more distracted by the fighting, as the series continues, and Stick, Matt’s mentor from season one, makes his entrance.

 

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