Saturday, 26 March 2016

Review - 'Daredevil', S02E10 - 'The Man in the Box'

After so many genuinely tense and exciting episodes, it feels like a bit of a shame to come to an episode that slows things down as much as this one does – especially with the end of the season drawing so close. Coming at this point in the season, an episode such as this one simply feels like too abrupt a break in the momentum that the previous episodes have managed to build up. At the same time, though, I suppose I can understand why it might have felt necessary – after all, with such a rapid stream of revelations and new developments, giving the characters (as well as the audience) a bit of breathing room to properly process everything that has happened is actually quite useful. Of course, that doesn't really change the fact that this is might be one of the slowest paced episodes of the season.

Picking up shortly after the previous episode ended, Detective Brett Mahoney (Royce Johnson), who has been something of a reluctant ally throughout the series, finds himself further drawn into a 'Commisioner Gordon' style role toward Daredevil as he finds himself in the same basement that Matt discovered in the previous episode. Heeding Matt's warnings that the Hand's victims might still be in dangers, Mahoney agrees to have them sent to Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson), the only person Matt is certain can be trusted. Claire, naturally, isn't too happy to be drawn back into Daredevil's world – though, just as naturally, she is entirely committed to seeing that her new patients are taken care of.

Claire Temple did, of course, briefly appear earlier in the season, but it is not until this episode that we have any real focus on her – and, that we have any effort to address the lingering tension between her and Matt. Rosario Dawson seems to slip easily back into her role as the world-weary voice of reason, here – with Claire making a very genuine (if, ultimately, futile) effort to convince Matt not to abandon the people that he cares about. This wouldn't be the first time that I found myself wishing that Claire Temple could have a larger, and more important, role to play – and, I'm sure it wont be the last.

With the Hand's victims safe (at least, for the moment), Matt soon learns of another complication – the apparent escape of Frank Castle. With Wilson Fisk making arrangements to set Frank loose on Hell's Kitchen in the previous episode, it seems as though the Punisher might be waging his one-man war, once again – this time, it seems, targeting the one behind the sting operation that went bad, District Attorney Samantha Reyes (Michelle Hurd). Believing herself to be targeted, Reyes reaches out to Matt, Foggy, and Karen – hoping that the know something which might help located the Punisher, while also finally confessing her role in both the sting operations and the cover-up, afterwards. Just as they seem to be coming to some sort of agreement, though, the meeting is attacked – Foggy is wounded, and Reyes is killed.

The most likely culprit was, of course, Frank Castle, himself – yet, Karen wasn't convinced. Neither, I would assume, were most of the audience. Honestly, I don't think we were ever truly meant to assume that it was Frank Castle behind the attack, here. The fact that we didn't actually see Frank opening fire, at this point in the season, felt too obvious (and, also, there were innocent people in that office when the shooter opened fire on Reyes). So, when the Punisher did eventually make an appearance later in the episode, just in time to save Karen from another attack, it felt more like a confirmation of what most of the audience would have already known.

I think that, alone with the slower pace, my main issue with this episode was how disjointed it all started to feel. Not only was the episode mostly taken up by long (if, admittedly, still very compelling) conversations, but there were also scenes inserted, here, that seemed to break the momentum of the episode even further.

The brief, face-to-face, meeting between Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk, for example, was a fantastic moment for the episode – but, ultimately, the scene felt as though it was more concerned with laying the foundation for an eventual third season of Daredevil than it was with pushing forward any of the current plot-lines. It was obviously important (as well as a great moment for both Charlie Cox and Vincent D'Onofrio) – but, it felt like a scene that could have been left until later.

Elektra also made a brief appearance, here – clearly set on leaving the country, after being pushed away by Matt once more, only to find herself under attack by an assassin who had, seemingly, been sent after her by Stick. The action sequence that resulted from this brief sub-plot was very entertaining, sure (and, the fact that it all resulted in Elektra finally acquiring her signature weapons was every bit the 'crowd-pleaser' it was clearly intended to be) – but, the two separate scenes that made up this sub-plot still felt out of place. Once again, it felt like a sequence that would have benefited from being placed elsewhere.

Overall, this was one of those episodes you sometimes get with season-long arcs – one that was clearly intended to be more transitional, in nature. It was the sort of episode that was more concerned with moving characters around, and placing them where they need to be for what is to come, rather than telling its own story. It's not necessarily a bad thing – but, it doesn't always make for the most compelling viewing. And, there was still plenty to enjoy about this episode, also – so, it was far from a failure.

Still, all of the pieces are where the show's creators want them to be, now. Matt, Foggy, and Claire are at the hospital – which is about to be attacked by the Hand. Karen and Frank are together – and, also under attack. Everything is in place for the next episode to deliver some fantastic action, as it leads us toward the season's rapidly approaching climax.

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