An evil clan of immortal ninja bent on world domination isn’t an antagonist that lends itself to rich emotional storytelling, but I still hoped that Daredevil season 2 would find a way to make The Hand compelling. That hope is quickly starting to fade as “.380” brings The Hand back to the forefront and does no work to add any dimension to it. The Hand is there to give Daredevil something to hit in increasingly generic fights and fuck up Claire’s professional life, but the writers clearly have no intention in going any deeper with this new enemy, which ultimately makes The Hand boring to watch.

Arthur Chu wrote an excellent piece for The Daily Beast detailing how Daredevil’s Asian stereotyping is indicative of a larger problem with Asian representation in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (warning: it contains spoilers for what happens with Elektra in the final two episodes), and the writers’ reliance on easy stereotypes is a big reason why The Hands fails to intrigue. It also makes the clan extremely out of place in a show that has, up to this point, primarily explored more grounded issues within a fantastic superhero world, and without anything to ground The Hand, it remains distanced from the rest of the story.

“.380” does begin to explore how The Hand’s actions have ramifications on real people when Claire and her boss deal with the fallout from the ninja assault on the hospital, but writer Mark Verheiden has difficulty navigating the intersection of fantasy and reality. There’s something fishy going on with the hospital administrators, who are going out of their way to cover up recent events after receiving a hefty anonymous donation, but it would be more feasible if that cover-up didn’t involve an undead ninja. I’ve written a lot about shortcuts on this series, and the anonymous donation is another one, quickly reinforcing how far The Hand’s reach goes and giving Claire something to fight against.

It would be hard to show how a hospital realistically deals with a ninja attack, so instead the script bypasses that obstacle via an easier route that makes the hospital administrators one-dimensional villains driven by greed. Claire gets to be a hero when she speaks out against the powers that be despite the guarantee that she will lose her job, but rushing through all these story beats prevents the script from capturing the reality of this situation for Claire. She just lost a friend and learned that her bosses are keeping quiet about zombie ninjas, and despite Rosario Dawson’s attempts to bring emotional weight to this arc, she’s limited by the constraints of the script.

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Over on The Punisher front, Karen is now working directly with Frank Castle as he tries to track down the Blacksmith, and this season has done strong work building to this alliance and making it believable. Karen admits that she doesn’t like Frank and thinks he should be in jail, but she also appreciates that he’s the only man in her life that doesn’t lie to her. It’s a complex relationship, and I’m starting to understand why the Kastle ship has become a thing among some Daredevil fans. There are a lot of layers to their dynamic, and while I personally think it’s foolish for Karen to become so emotionally attached to a mass murderer, I can understand what has driven Karen to form this bond with Frank.

Frank has his flaws, but he doesn’t try to hide them from Karen. He opens up to her in a way that Matt doesn’t, and I believe Karen takes pride in being Frank Castle’s confidant. She’s come to know the man behind The Punisher, and she feels for this wounded person desperate for the love that was taken from him. There are different sides to Frank’s character, and having moments like the diner scene where Frank gives Karen relationship advice does a lot to make him a fully formed character.

Frank may show some softness during that conversation, but he turns hard again when trouble comes his way and he switches back into Punisher mode, taking out some of Blacksmith’s goons when they ambush him in the restaurant. Information from those goons leads Frank to a ship transporting a massive amount of heroin for Blacksmith, where he encounters Daredevil for some more fighting followed by more discussion of the personal consequences of killing. Daredevil wants to team up with the Punisher to stop Blacksmith, and he’s willing to do it Frank’s way this one time, but Frank reiterates that once that line is crossed, there’s no going back.

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Considering what we know about Frank, this warning comes across as disingenuous, and after their rooftop conversation in “New York’s Finest” (also written by Verheiden), I would have assumed that Frank would willingly accept any help from Daredevil without advising caution. Frank is on the warpath, and when he finally gains the ally he’s wanted, he starts to warn him about the danger of this road. It doesn’t make much sense, and if this warning is the result of a change in perspective for Frank, the show needs to make that change more pronounced.

Elektra continues to feel like an afterthought, popping up in the last act of this episode to set up next episode’s confrontation between her and Stick. It’s all very serious, and the humor that made Stick a fun character in his past appearances has been replaced by grim severity as he steps into a villainous role. Given the weakness of the material concerning The Hand, this episode’s cliffhanger does little to pique my excitement for the next chapter, but perhaps Elektra and Stick’s conversation will provide the emotional substance that The Hand story desperately needs.

Stray observations

  • Foggy has had very little to do since getting shot in the shoulder, but his story gets some forward motion when Marci visits him at the hospital and teases some future job prospects for him. We know Marci is working for Jeri Hogarth’s law firm from Jessica Jones, could Foggy be jumping Netflix shows?
  • Madame Gao returns to Daredevil in “.380,” but she’s become a huge stereotype in her time away. Daredevil finds her painting a cherry blossom tree and drinking tea in the basement of a Chinatown dry cleaner, and it’s a shameful way to bring back one of the most fascinating characters of season 1.
  • Why does Karen show up at the dock with the police? Is she a rookie cop now, too?
  • “Not in my city!” The words “my city” are the bane of urban superhero stories.
  • “Do you guys always serve bullshit here or is it just her?”

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