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.
Thanks to Netflix’s advanced screeners I’m currently binge-watching in a vacuum, and I’ll be incredibly curious to see how fans respond to the start of this season. To me the show has gotten infinitely more enjoyable since the Punisher’s capture and Elektra’s debut, but it’s possible Punisher fans will enjoy those first four episodes more than I did. Either way, I think we probably needed to spend some time in the Punisher’s gritty, vengeful world in order to lay the groundwork for the rest of the season. But, man oh man, am I glad Elektra is here to lighten the mood.
“Regrets Only” is a fantastic episode that weaves together a whole bunch of different threads and reveals that this season is far more cohesive than I initially gave it credit for. It’s half legal drama, half spy thriller with some fascinating character development thrown in for good measure. The Punisher-centric opening arc explored the working class criminals who rule Hell’s Kitchen on a street level. This new Elektra arc is interested in the elite criminals who rule the city from above.
Most importantly, “Regrets Only” finally finds a satisfying way to weave the legal side of the show into its superhero raison d’êtr. Though Nelson & Murdock ostensibly helped take down Wilson Fisk last year, Daredevil mostly used its law office setting to provide fodder for Foggy/Karen sidequests that never really felt all that important. Having Nelson & Murdock decide to represent the Punisher—actually, let’s call him Frank Castle now that he’s done punishing—is a move that seems incredibly obvious in retrospect, but which I genuinely did not see coming. I particularly love that Matt is the one who pushes Foggy to take the case, both because he doesn’t believe Frank should face the death penalty and because he has a personal investment in defending vigilante justice. It’s great to see Daredevil finally remember that its protagonist is a lawyer as well as a superhero.
Unfortunately, Elektra’s sudden reappearance in his life is keeping Matt from fully focusing on his client. Though he feigns reluctance, it’s clear Matt just can’t quit his former flame. And quite right too—Élodie Yung is perhaps even more captivating here than she was in “Kinbaku.” Elektra is funny, flippant, confident and utterly magnetic, so it’s not too much of a surprise that she’s able to talk Matt into playing James Bond at a fancy Roxxon event in order to steal a ledger that proves the company is up to no good.
It’s a classic spy caper full of fancy outfits, hidden doors, and last minute improvisations, but Daredevil puts its own spin on those old espionage standbys—like the way Matt continually uses his blindness to trick people into thinking he isn’t a threat.
The zippy energy of Matt and Elektra’s Roxxon break-in contrasts nicely with the more grounded, emotional Frank Castle half of the episode. Karen is a fantastic foil for Frank, bringing out the humanity behind his rough-and-tumble act. And it’s nice to see her tenacity tied to something other than an investigative subplot for once. She’s the only member of Nelson & Murdock who’s both brave enough to step over the red tape separating Frank’s hospital bed from visitors and empathetic enough to break down his emotional barriers too.
Karen slowly realizes that Frank coped with his family’s death by repressing his memories of them—he hasn’t even been back to his house since the day they died. There’s a specificity to that characterization that helps separate Frank from any of the dozens (hundreds?) of brooding male antiheroes that have come before him. For his part, Bernthal is equally believable as the grieving father, the apologetic client (the way he politely called Karen “ma’am” broke my heart), and the pissed off criminal determined to make D.A. Reyes suffer in court.
There’s so much more I want to say about this episode, but I think it’s time to move on. After all, we’ve got a trial of the century to get to!
Standout moment: I loved Elektra pragmatically ripping her dress and the whole silhouetted fight that followed, but I’m going to give my standout moment to Matt’s genuine pride upon learning that Brett got promoted to Detective.
Burning question: If it’s not weapons, drugs, or people, what is the Roxxon company encrypting in that ledger? Also, since he reveals he isn’t part of the Yakuza, who is Hirochi actually working for? (Okay, admittedly, the comics have given me a pretty solid guess about that last one.)
Excitement to start next episode: 10/10