Thursday, October 06, 2016

Daredevil S02 E02: Dogs to a Gunfight

In this season's first episode of "Daredevil," we were introduced to Grotto, the Dogs of Hell, and the Punisher, and it wasn't bad. We were left with quite a cliffhanger with Daredevil appearing to be shot by the Punisher and falling from a rooftop, but first I wanted to say a few words about the Dogs of Hell motorcycle club, who meet their demise at the hands of the Punisher late in this episode.

Did they seem familiar? Well, it's not what you're thinking, they're not from the comics... they're from the Marvel Television Universe, specifically the one outside Netflix. The Dogs of Hell, Nevada branch at least, first appeared in the "Yes Men" episode of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." They were the slaves of Lorelei when Asgard's Lady Sif came to Earth to retrieve the sorcerous super-villainess. One could hope the New York branch isn't quite as dumb, but one would be wrong.

The pre-credits scene opens on the aftermath of the still-as-yet-unnamed Punisher's rampage through Metro General Hospital. Metro General has been a centerpiece of the Marvel Netfilx Universe so far, and this sequence is proof positive that Claire Temple, Night Nurse, does in fact have days off. Elden Henson shows his acting chops once again here searching rooftops for his friend Matt, and oh, the panic and fear when he finds him.

Like I predicted, Daredevil's not dead, just shot in the head. That is one strong cowl Melvin Potter built for him back in season one. I love the bromance/friendship between Matt and Foggy as seen here, brothers, spouses, lovers, they are all of them, and it's beautiful. Henson is at his best here, both caring for and chastising his friend at once.

Here also is the determination that the as-yet-unnamed Punisher is something different, something dangerous, a beast unlike what Daredevil has faced before. They see it each from their own perspective, their own angle on what this monster could do to their lives. I like this.

Karen and Foggy, while Matt is on forced 'sick leave,' are at the police station trying to get Grotto, wonderfully played by McCaleb Burnett, into witness protection. Officer Mahoney, Foggy's pseudo contact from last season, while namedropping Detective Clemons from "Jessica Jones," tells them the police know who this one-man army is, and he's bad news. Not like Daredevil at all, he makes people think twice about the whole hero/vigilante thing.

In the witness protection process, Foggy and Karen come up against a new adversary, but a familiar face. Michelle Hurd plays District Attorney Samantha Reyes who previously and briefly clashed with Jeri Hogarth and Jessica Jones in the last episode of her series. Foggy stands up to her like a champ - he is on fire this episode - and easily would make that Hogarth serpent take notice.

The next scene shows us for the first time close up the man Reyes' associate says is called 'the Punisher.' At a pawn shop he buys a police monitor to pick up encrypted codes, an illegal if fair purchase, but when the slimy clerk tries to up-sell the Punisher a little girl, he gets a bit upset with an aluminum baseball bat. I get his motivation, but his methods are what put the Punisher in the villain book for me.

Meanwhile at home, Matt is learning that getting shot in the head has seriously messed up not only his radar sense, but also his hearing. Eventually it comes back, but by then he has a visit from Karen to deal with. She relays what they've learned of the Punisher and offers her thoughts, that without Daredevil opening the door to this vigilante game, there wouldn't be men like the Punisher.

Next stop is the workshop of the aforementioned Melvin Potter, who in the comics is the Daredevil villain, the Gladiator. I so desperately want to see him as Gladiator, one of my fave DD foes, but I do like the dynamic as established here in the Netflix series. Like a blue collar Alfred Pennyworth, Potter is DD's armorer and weapons master. We rarely see superhero/civilian relationships like this that aren't master/servant or hero worship driven, and I'd like to see more. And yes, even he is surprised Matt survived being shot in the head. He'll do his best to repair the cowl, but it should be replaced. Some not so subtle foreshadowing there methinks.

One thing that television and film adaptations of comics usually fail at is showing how certain powers work. This series is one of the exceptions. Last season we got a great description of how DD's radar sense works in "World on Fire," but here as civilian Matt tracks the Punisher from the Irish bar last episode all the way to his lair, we see it in action. No dialogue, no explanation, but perfect execution.

In the midst of a trap set by Reyes to capture the Punisher, with Grotto as bait, Daredevil gets his rematch with the killer. Not only do we get an idea how smart the Punisher is, but we also get to see DD's new billy club in action as he ricochets it like Captain America's shield. It's a 'rain' fight beneath a water tower riddled with bullets for a great effect. As expected, the cowl is not great protection when the Punisher cracks him in the head with his own billy club.

As the police close in, Daredevil's radar sense begins to fail and the Punisher moves in to finish him off. When the cops get there, they're both gone. Fade to black, cue credits.

I said last time I had great reservations about this season of "Daredevil" featuring the Punisher and the as-yet-unseen Elektra, but if this exceptional episode is any indication, this is going to rock. I really loved this one.

Next: New York's Finest!

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