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Hell’s Kitchen gets punished in Daredevil’s bloody season premiere

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It’s the height of summer in Hell’s Kitchen, and while Daredevil’s neighborhood may be in the middle of a heat wave, there’s a storm on the horizon quickly approaching to turn Matt Murdock’s life upside down. “Bang” begins Daredevil’s second season with positivity; following its big victory against Wilson Fisk, Nelson & Murdock has become a major legal force in Hell’s Kitchen, and although it may not have any money, the firm is doing good work for the people in its community. Foggy, Matt, and Karen are happy, and if Foggy had his way, their current situation would remain the status quo for as long as possible.

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Unfortunately for Foggy, there’s a fourth party slowly wearing away at the group from within: Daredevil. Matt drifts further away from his friends as he devotes himself more heavily to his role as “The Devil Of Hell’s Kitchen,” which becomes a pretty big issue as Matt and Karen’s romantic attraction intensifies. Their attraction to each other is becoming stronger, but Matt keeping his vigilante identity a secret from Karen means that no matter how close they get, there will always be a wall between them. Foggy recognizes the damage Daredevil is doing to Matt’s personal relationships and expresses his frustration in his first scene of the season, but Matt believes that the good he’s doing makes up for any of the negative consequences of his double life.

“Bang” takes an interesting approach to introducing Daredevil at the start of the episode, showing him whittling down a group of thieves by snatching them off the street and beating them up off screen. Keeping him out of frame for the majority of the sequence heightens the sense of mystery around the hero, putting the audience in the mindset of the thieves who are trying to escape a hidden threat that can strike at any moment. Director Phil Abraham and cinematographer Martin Ahlgren do strong work creating a sense of frantic urgency in this opening sequence with a quick-moving camera that only pauses when Daredevil attacks, and they also use this chase to establish the Hell’s Kitchen setting with a rapid trip through its streets.

The early scenes in “Bang” do a lot to create a distinct impression of the environment, starting with the slow pan that provides a rooftop view before taking it down to the streets by cutting to the thieves. After that, the Hell’s Kitchen tour continues at a more leisurely pace as Foggy and Matt chat on the way to work, and this succession of scenes makes for a smooth entryway to the season by drawing the audience into the setting. The episode begins with an energetic sequence that grabs attention, but then the pace slows down to ease the viewer into the season’s more substantial narrative material, creating a relaxed atmosphere that heightens the impact when everything goes to shit.

As I mentioned many times in my reviews of the first season, Daredevil is not a subtle show, and that’s still the case with season 2. The first full shot of Daredevil is in a small church where he’s cornered the last thief, and for the final shot before the opening credits, the camera pans up past a glowing neon cross to show Daredevil watching from the roof. The creative team places Matt’s faith at the forefront of his character with these visual choices, and while ending the chase in a church is on-the-nose and overly convenient, drawing those direct connections with imagery rather than dialogue makes it easier to accept the bluntness of the thematic content. That final moment before the opening credits also provides the most refreshing visual of the entire episode when Matt cracks a smile underneath his mask, adding a much-needed element of joy to the show’s superhero action.

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For a show about a superpowered blind man that dresses up like the devil to fight crime, Daredevil sure does take itself seriously, and viewers should appreciate the moments of levity in this episode because they become fewer and further between as the season progresses.These more jovial moments reinforce the personal relationships between Matt, Foggy, and Karen by showing them enjoying each other’s company, and the actors’ performances are more engaging because they’re not too heavily weighed down by bleak material. Writers Marcos Ramirez and Douglas Petrie (who also serve as the new showrunners following Steven S. DeKnight’s departure) make a wise decision to incorporate lighter elements at the start to set a point of contrast for the darkness to come, because once The Punisher shows up, the tone takes a dramatic turn that doesn’t allow for much humor.

A vigilante mass murderer with a military-grade arsenal, The Punisher is a terrifying character, and this episode treats him like the killer in a horror movie, albeit one who acts with the force of a small army. He doesn’t actually show up on screen for his first scene in this episode, mowing down a gang of Irish mobsters in a hurricane of bullets fired by an unknown, unseen assailant. His attacks are so devastating that the cops and criminals of Hell’s Kitchen believe them to be the actions of a larger organization rather than a single man, and the episode succeeds at making Frank Castle a larger-than-life figure by keeping him in the shadows while other characters reiterate his extremely high threat level.

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Frank Castle isn’t a man in this episode, but a force of nature, the first phase of the aforementioned storm that will batter Hell’s Kitchen this season. This idea is emphasized in the scene where Foggy and Matt investigate the Irish bloodbath after being approached by its sole survivor, and the strong winds that surround Foggy, Matt, and Sergeant Mahoney indicate the rapidly changing climate of the neighborhood now that the Punisher is loose. There’s no attempt to humanize Frank Castle in this episode, and the writers are very focused on making him as scary as possible, starting with the Irish shootout, then continuing with the scene where Daredevil discovers Mexican cartel members dangling from meat hooks.

There’s nothing heroic about what the Punisher is doing, and when he finally shows up on screen, it’s to shoot up a hospital. Jon Bernthal has a cold, emotionless disposition that gives Frank’s actions an almost robotic quality, which works well for the script’s characterization of Frank as a killing machine. He might be killing criminals, but he’s just as much a menace to Hell’s Kitchen as his victims, terrorizing innocent people as he pursues his vigilante mission. The entire scene with Frank in the hospital is focused on fear, which makes it feel especially like a horror movie as Karen and Grotto rush to escape a silent, ruthless killer.

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“Bang” ends with the first meeting of Daredevil and the Punisher as they engage in a rousing rooftop fight, reminding the audience that one of the best things about this series is its action sequences. The two men are equally matched in terms of fighting prowess, and Philip J. Silvera’s choreography reveals that Frank Castle is just as proficient with his body as he is with his guns. The sequence isn’t especially flashy, instead highlighting the raw power of the two opponents and setting them up as foils for each other by drawing similarities between them in the choreography.

There’s a connective thread between them in their proclivity for violence, but that thread is cut in the final moment of the episode when Punisher reveals a key difference between the two men, pulling out the gun in his ankle holster and emptying a round directly into Daredevil’s helmet, sending him tumbling off the roof’s ledge as the episode cuts to black. With one bullet and one word, “Bang,” the Punisher begins the descent of Matt Murdock, and he’ll only fall further and further as the season continues.

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Stray observation

  • I appreciate the small bits of humor in the opening chase, like the cooks kicking one of the thieves that runs into their kitchen and the moment when Daredevil calmly bashes a thief’s head into a windshield before telling the stunned driver to call 911.
  • Why doesn’t Matt smell Grotto’s blood? You could make the argument that the stench of Josie’s covers it up, but I find that hard to believe when Matt is sitting across the table from him. In general, I don’t buy the scene with Grotto in Josie’s, mostly because I don’t believe Grotto as a man who just watched his entire gang get slaughtered.
  • Turk is back for a short scene in this episode and he’s delightful. More Turk!
  • I’m not sure how I feel about the moment with the Irish jig ringtone playing after Punisher’s massacre. On the one hand, I like how the cheerful music contrasts with the bloody brutality on screen, but on the other, it’s very trite.
  • The water is contaminated at Josie’s and the mojitos are just beer with mint in them. It sounds like a horrible bar, but it’s probably super cheap.
  • The Dogs Of Hell bouncer pats Foggy down but doesn’t check his bag. He is horrible at his job.
  • “Do I look capable of making healthy life choices?”
  • “Can you imagine Nelson and Murdock on the dance floor?” Please god let this happen at some point.
  • “It’s gonna take weeks to process this shit! And where’s this asshole’s hand?” I would like more of this ornery detective. He’s fun.
  • “You hear that? He called me ‘friend.’”
  • “It’s not underwear, Foggy. Underwear is comfortable.”
  • Matt: “Be careful!” Foggy: “You don’t get to say that!”
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