Welcome to The A.V. Club’s Daredevil binge-watch. From Friday, March 18 through Sunday, March 20, A.V. Club contributor Caroline will be watching and reviewing every episode of Netflix’s returning superhero series. Though she’s working straight through the season, she’ll be taking some breaks, too, posting five reviews on Friday, four reviews on Saturday, and four reviews on Sunday. You can follow along and comment on the whole season on the binge-watching hub page or chime in on individual episode reviews. For those watching the show at a more moderate pace, reviews by Oliver Sava will run daily starting Tuesday, March 22.
At least I have a better sense of what Daredevil was trying to do with “Guilty As Sin.” The episode was meant to officially introduce The Hand as an overarching threat and give Matt and Elektra a reason to split up. While I don’t think it did either of those things particularly well, its missteps thankfully don’t carry over into “Seven Minutes In Heaven.” Elektra immediately feels like herself again, which is a welcome relief. But after learning that his girlfriend has enjoyed killing people since she was 12 years old, Matt decides it’s time that they consciously uncouple. Weirdly, he takes an “agree to disagree” approach about the whole murder thing—evidence that Daredevil doesn’t fully realize how brutal her “Guilty As Sin” slaughter actually was.
Much like the Punisher, Elektra drops out of the picture (at least temporarily) after a four-episode arc, leaving a new ruthless force in her place. This mini-arc structure is a massive improvement on Daredevil’s first season, which unfolded without much variation. Season two, however, knows just when to shake things up.
And this time around it’s a very familiar face doing the shaking. By far the most compelling parts of “Seven Minutes In Heaven” center on Wilson Fisk and his increasingly successful attempts to become the prison’s Queen Bee. This storyline is fantastic from start to finish—particularly the opening 10-minute flashback in which we watch Fisk build up his prison support system (and gain a new Wesley in the process). But there’s only room for one kingpin in this prison and a man named Dutton has already claimed the throne. So Fisk decides to reach out to Frank Castle in hopes of getting the Punisher to do his dirty work for him.
Seeing Frank and Fisk together emphasizes just how different Daredevil’s two foes are. Though Fisk is the more elegant speaker, Frank holds his own in their conversations—cutting through the kingpin’s manipulative bullshit. And for his part Fisk comes to respect Frank’s Terminator-like abilities, deciding to help the Punisher escape after Fisk’s initial attempts to have him killed fail. I’ll leave it to Oliver Sava’s longer reviews to parse all the fantastic character dynamics at play here, but suffice it to say the prison stuff is really top notch.
And that includes Frank’s brutal cellblock slaughter. I’ve been critical of how Daredevil has used violence this season, which might make it seem like I just don’t like violent TV shows. But this Punisher showdown (yet another hallway fight!) is a great example of Daredevil using violence purposefully. The sequence drives home the idea that Frank truly is a merciless, animalistic killer. Whatever sympathy we’ve been feeling towards him during his sweet interactions with Karen is called into question as we watch him wipe out a whole cellblock of inmates with ruthless efficiency. The fight splits the difference between glorifying violence and emphasizing its horror—resulting in a sequence that’s equally beautiful and terrifying.
The rest of the episode can’t quite live up to the prison stuff (which is perfectly understandable), but it keeps the wheels churning. Nelson & Murdock shuts down its doors after a heartbreaking confrontation between Matt and Foggy. So Karen spends her newfound free time working with Ellison at the New York Bulletin to uncover more secrets about the carousel shoot-out that killed Frank’s family. (It turns out it was a sting gone wrong, which left an undercover cop dead.)
Meanwhile, Matt’s solo investigation into The Hand leads him to a creepy basement where people are being used as blood bags, Fury Road-style. Oh and it turns out Nobu didn’t ride shiny and chrome into Valhalla. Instead he’s been protecting a big urn that may or may not be “black sky.” So, yeah, I guess Stick wasn’t kidding about that whole immortality thing.
Standout moment: “Next time I see you, only one of us walks away.” “Yes, of course, I’m counting on it.” Fisk and Frank 4ever!!!
Marvel Cinematic Universe connections: Ben Urich’s old office features a cover story about the battle of New York in The Avengers and one about a “Harlem terror” that might be related to the upcoming Luke Cage series. (UPDATE: Commenters have reminded me that the battle at the end of The Incredible Hulk takes place in Harlem and is probably what the headline is referencing.)
Burning question: Are we meant to believe Karen was driving the car that crashed in the “mysterious accident” that killed her 16-year-old brother?
Excitement to start next episode: 8/10