Week of March 19, 2023:

Dogs to a Gunfight (Daredevil s2 e2) released March 18, 2016 (where to watch)
New York's Finest (Daredevil s2 e3) released March 18, 2016
Scott Hardie | May 7, 2023

Dogs to a Gunfight: Here's another strong episode, built on a series of betrayals large and small, all understandable due to the clear writing: Matt Murdock betrays Foggy Nelson by immediately resuming his dangerous vigilantism; Brett Mahoney lies to and betrays his witness Grotto, who then betrays the Irish mob to save himself; Blake Tower subtly betrays Samanha Reyes by disseminating information about the Punisher, who then betrays the pawn shop clerk with whom he established an understanding about illegality; and Reyes betrays both Grotto and Nelson & Murdock by lying about the true nature of her sting operation. I found it fascinating to watch the moral gray zones being explored here. The one character not involved in a betrayal is Melvin Potter the armorer, which is good because I'd be broken-hearted to see that happen to the big lug.

How great is it that this show interrogates the actions of its heroes? Karen Page asks if they made the Punisher possible by putting away Fisk the way that they did. She even asks if she's responsible for the misery that she keeps suffering by getting involved when she shouldn't. Comic books and their fans have debated questions like this for decades, and I find it commendable that this show asks questions like this in a world of shows like Agent Carter and AOS that don't seem to think that deeply.

Michelle Hurd is a good actress whose work I've admired for years, so I'm glad to see this show giving her more to do as Reyes than Jessica Jones did. Speaking of that other series, Mahoney claims that Detective Clemons (R.I.P.) used to say, "treat witnesses like mushrooms, feed them shit and keep them in the dark." That does not sound like something that Clemons would have said, but I appreciate the bit of cross-series continuity.

I have no idea how Foggy helped Matt walk home in full costume on the sidewalks of New York City in daylight without being seen. That's just too much of a stretch. (8/10)

Discussion topic: Is Foggy right that Matt owes it to himself to slow down on the crime-fighting when he suffers a serious injury, or is Matt right that he must keep going because he's in a unique position to stop violence that the police can't? I think it's Foggy who makes the better argument, but it's an interesting dilemma to ponder. (On that subject, I don't buy Matt's argument that cops can't stop the Punisher because he'll just mow through them with ammunition. Does he not realize that cops can escalate to S.W.A.T. teams, federal agencies, and even the National Guard to contain a situation like this? Has he never been past one star in Grand Theft Auto?)

New York's Finest: I'm of two minds about the rooftop debate that fuels the A-plot in this hour. I love that this show chose the Punisher to be the season 2 antagonist, because the philosophical difference between him and Daredevil is perfectly suited to a further exploration of some ideas from season 1. The Punisher plays like a dark mirror version of Matt from a world where Matt justified murder to himself and killed Wilson Fisk, and now the better Daredevil has to defend his moral position to that man, which is just a terrific premise. Their debate gets to the very heart of the series in the same way that Matt's conversations with Father Lantom did in the first season.

Unfortunately, their debate is just poorly written, which is hard to accept. It's inspired by a famous comic book issue, at times lifting dialogue verbatim from the source, so I don't know where to assign blame. Matt's attempts to draw information out of his abductor are weak and phony, neither man ever actually tries to understand the other's point of view despite each of them clearly wanting to do so, and neither man makes a convincing case for his own position. Matt is a trial lawyer who argues for a living, but his weak-ass logic amounts to "even an evil man has a tiny chance of doing a good thing someday, but not if he's dead." Seriously? I oppose the death penalty (for the real criminal justice system and for fictional vigilantes alike), and even I would argue that you can safely ignore unlikely hypotheticals when considering what to do with a man who is likely to continue doing very harmful things. If I were Matt, I'd have argued that the Punisher will sooner or later take an innocent life: When he shot up that Irish bar full of mobsters a few episodes ago, what if one of them was an undercover cop or federal agent? What if one of them had brought his wife or kid into the building and told them to wait in the back, and the armor-piercing bullets had gone through the wall? What if Frank had simply gotten the wrong address, and shot up a bachelor party at Sean's Irish Bar instead of the mobster gathering at Irish Sean's Bar a block away? No amount of research and preparation can fully eliminate possibilities like that. And for the other side, the Punisher keeps arguing that his way is efficient and effective ("I hit them and they stay down!"), but that's not relevant; I think Matt would agree that killing is a very effective way to fight crime, just not a moral one. Plus, in addition to all of this flimsy reasoning, the dialogue is just flat and uninspired. Where's the poetry of some of the previous conversations with Father Lantom? Where's the wit of the scenes with Fisk and Madame Gao? Even allowing for the Punisher's breviloquence, this is not the writers' best work for sure.

Luckily, I like the rest here enough that it redeems the episode. The hospital scene initially feels like merely an excuse to get Claire Temple back onto the show, until Foggy outdoes himself by de-escalating the crisis; it's easy to forget that he's actually a pretty good talker. Similarly, Karen's manipulation of Tower to get the restricted files depends on a careful read of his feelings about his jerk of a boss, and is very satisfying. I haven't seen this in years, so I forget where they're going with the cranial bullet hole in the Punisher's x-ray and Daredevil's claim that he's mentally ill, but I hope that the show is not going to try to let the character off the hook for his actions; it should do better. (Speaking of that scene, what's with Tower saying last episode that "we don't know his name, but we're calling him the Punisher based on a psych profile" and then in this episode, just a few hours later in time, handing Karen an x-ray with the name Frank Castle clearly visible in the corner? Was that a deliberate lie or a goof by the writers?) I like Matt's dream about the Catholic orphanage, which is a nice recall back to his past. And then there's the absolutely spectacular final battle, the show's biggest action sequence yet and further proof that this show is determined to push itself on a technical level. There are plenty of visible cheats (swish pans, CGI, and Texas switches), but I for one didn't care, because the work that was real and visible was quite impressive, and because it's such a propulsive and thrilling sequence. I love how this show keeps challenging itself. (8/10)

I'm really curious to know what anyone else thinks of the episode's main debate, but given that I've already revealed that I think the show kind of flubbed it, I'll ask a different question instead: What is the deal with the empty gun? When the big hallway battle is about to start, Matt tries to fire the gun, finds it empty, and laughs to himself. There are conflicting interpretations, and I'm curious what you make of the meaning of that moment. I don't know what it's intended to say, but I assume that it's not meant as a reveal that the Punisher was tricking Matt with an empty gun, since he definitely fired one bullet to break free of the chains.

Erik Bates | July 23, 2023

Punisher flat-out told him that it was a gun with a single bullet in it, so maybe he was chuckling that he actually was telling the truth?

That fight scene in the stairwell was amazing. Some of the best choreographed fighting and camera work I've seen in a long time. This show does seem to do pretty well with fight scenes, I'll give them that.

I'm loving this season of the show. I don't know why I gave up on it years ago. It's phenomenal.

All I thought of when I saw the x-ray was the punisher's trademark skull logo.

I'm trying to get back into watching more episodes and commenting on them right away. Let's see if I can catch up before too long!

Erik Bates | July 23, 2023

Random thought:

I know Matt can smell, hear, etc. in ways that lets him know what's happening around him. I didn't know it also worked on finding the down button on an elevator, and selecting the correct floor number once on it.

Scott Hardie | July 24, 2023

Good point about the single bullet in the gun. That could explain it. Or, perhaps Matt is laughing that he was able to trick the bikers with an empty gun, and now he's giving up the ruse and gets to fight them hand-to-hand? It's interesting that the moment lends itself to so many different plausible interpretations.

I hear you about falling behind. Kelly and I are mostly caught up on viewing, but I'm way behind on writing and I'm trying to catch up. I'd say it's been a busy summer, but aren't they all? When I started this project, I assumed that anyone might fall behind and trail the weekly conversation, and they'd still attract comments when they did have something to say later, and I think that's fine, even if it's me who's behind. We'll all just continue at our own speeds.

You mentioned the elevator buttons, which amuses me. Most elevators have Braille numbers next to the buttons, but Matt's gloves would normally be too thick for anyone to read Braille though them. I trust that his powers are sensitive enough to make it work somehow. :-D

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