Friday, 25 March 2016

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E09 - 'Seven Minutes in Heaven'

While I had no real way of knowing, for certain, whether Wilson Fisk would make an appearance in this season of Daredevil, I can honestly say that I would have been pretty disappointed if he hadn't. He is, quite simply, much too important a character (and, Vincent D'Onofrio did too good a job of playing him) to be set aside for an entire season. Because of this, the previous episode's reveal that it was actually Wilson Fisk behind Frank Castle's unexpected decision to derail his own trial (all so that the two men would have an opportunity to meet, face-to-face) was definitely a welcome one.

Before we return to that moment in this episode, though, we are first given the opportunity to see how this meeting came about from Fisk's perspective – in a very entertaining sequence beginning shortly after his arrest, and ending just before reaching out to the Punisher. It is, also, in this sequence that we begin to see Fisk take some more, fairly significant, steps toward truly becoming 'the Kingpin', as he progresses from simply trying to keep his head down to building up his own network of contacts as he works against Dutton (William Forsythe), the man who fancies himself as the true 'kingpin' of the prison.

It was all very interesting – and, Vincent D'Onofrio quickly proved to be just as compelling a presence, in the role of Wilson Fisk, as he ever was throughout the first season. Fisk is also, clearly, just as complex a figure as he has always been, too. He sis still, clearly, very much in love with Vanessa – and, is motivated by a very genuine desire to see her again. Also, his early efforts to build a loyal support network within the prison take the form of very calculated acts of kindness – even including making arrangements to pay the rent for the elderly grandmother of a pair of inmates who go on to become his new bodyguards.

Then, there were the scenes between Wilson Fisk and Frank Castle – as Fisk attempted to convince Frank to agree to what he clearly presented as a mutually beneficial arrangement. Dutton, it seems, may have actually been involved in the three-way shoot-out that cost Frank's family their lives – and, Fisk was willing to make arrangements for Frank to have some time alone with him, on the condition that Dutton doesn't survive the encounter. Sure, you could argue that it was a bit too contrived a coincidence that the man who is currently causing so much trouble for Wilson Fisk was also involved in the deaths of the Punisher's family – but, as a catalyst to momentarily bring these two, very different, characters together, it worked quite well.

But, of course, the deal wasn't quite as straight-forward as Fisk made it out to be – as, after having his chance to question (and kill) Dutton, Frank finds himself trapped with a corridor full of angry prison inmates as Fisk attempts to arrange his own death. From here, we have the Punisher's own version of the first season's classic 'corridor fight' – a brutal and, naturally, very bloody action sequence that provides yet another example of the stark difference between these two vigilantes. It may have lacked something of the style of Daredevil's own action sequences, but it was still very impressive (although, the Punisher's preference for brutal efficiency, and his willingness to kill, does mean that the sequence might test the resolve of the more squeamish members of the audience).

While Wilson Fisk and Frank Castle could have easily carried the entire episode on their own, there was also quite a bit more going on, here. While Frank had the opportunity to question Dutton in prison, Karen was also still pushing ahead with her efforts to uncover what really happened on the day that Frank's family were murdered. With both characters coming at the issue from very different angles (traditional investigation for Karen, and torture for Frank), it was very interesting to see them both uncover the same information. The idea that the police were involved and, perhaps, indirectly responsible for that meeting turning violent certainly adds an interesting new layer of complexity, also.

Matt, meanwhile, soon comes to realise that that he might have been wrong about Elektra, after all – as he is forced the uncomfortable fact that she seems to genuinely enjoy killing. It might seem a bit sudden for Matt to, essentially, push Elektra away the very next day after convincing her to stay with him – but, I suppose having her kill a young man, who had already been subdued, right in front of him, then confessing to have killed for the first time at twelve years old (and, enjoyed the experience), is really all the explanation that is required. Admittedly, Elektra's fairly sudden shift does make her behaviour in the previous episode seem especially out-of-character, for her – though, I suppose that can be attributed to her near-death experience.

Later, Matt also goes out of his way to push Foggy further away, when he admits that it might be for the best to officially shut down their small firm – continuing his efforts to isolate himself from the people that he cares about, in an obviously misguided effort to protect them (I say 'obviously' because this seems to be a common phase for all super-heroes – and, it always ends with the character in question admitting that they were wrong. Though, who knows? Maybe Daredevil will take things in a different direction).

Now firmly on his own, Matt sets out to follow the trial of clues left by the Hand – eventually finding his way down into a truly disturbing basement, where innocent victims are being drained of their blood for some unknown (though, clearly unnatural) purpose. Even more surprising, though, is the fact that Matt soon finds himself under attack by a very familiar figure. Nobu (Peter Shinkoda) may have been left horrible scars from his previous encounter with Matt, back in the first season – but, he is still clearly alive and well, now.

Obviously, with the way that Matt scoffed at Stick's claims that the Hand had discovered the secret of immortality, it was probably inevitable that Matt would come face-to-face with clear proof. Also, with Nobu providing what would have had to be Matt's most significant physical challenge in the first season (not to mention that Nobu's association with the Hand was fairly obvious to anyone familiar with the comics), it does feel very fitting that he would be the one allowed to return. Nobu was a fascinating figure in the first season of Daredevil – and, while his role in this episode is brief, I am looking forward to what he can add to the remainder of the second season.

It feels strange to have to admit that a plot-line as fascinating as Matt's efforts to stop a secret order of ninjas would be the weakest aspect of this episode – but, then, that would only be by comparison. Wilson Fisk and Frank Castle are the true high-lights of this episode, and the time that they spent on-screen, together, was fantastic. Karen, meanwhile, seems to have found herself a new career in the field of investigative journalism – and, her continued efforts to uncover the truth have given her a clear focus, and purpose, that she did seem to lack throughout the first season. Matt's plot-line, by contrast, seems to have suffered a little by receiving too little focus in an episode that had quite a bit of ground to cover – though, I'm sure that the balance will shift back in his favour as the season nears its end.

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