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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Tensions explode as Daredevil begins the trial of Frank Castle

Illustration for article titled Tensions explode as Daredevil begins the trial of Frank Castle
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At the end of “Semper Fidelis,” Daredevil throws a flashlight into a giant hole seemingly being dug by the Yakuza, and waits to hear the moment of impact when the object finally hits the bottom. He stands there with Elektra, staring down into the pit’s darkness as seconds pass, and they’re still waiting when the episode cuts to black. It’s a fitting final moment for a chapter focused on Matt’s rapid personal and professional descent, which is accelerated by Elektra’s enabling of his Daredevil addiction. Matt is falling fast, and as he looks into that abyss, it becomes glaringly clear that the bottom is even further than he could have expected.

Matt Murdock has been a horrible friend and coworker for most of this season, and “Semper Fidelis” highlights all the ways Matt is letting Foggy and Karen down. As Nelson & Murdock tackles the biggest trial of its career, Matt gets more involved in Elektra’s mission to shut down the Yakuza, and there aren’t enough hours in the day for Matt to do both of these things effectively. Foggy, who didn’t want to take Frank Castle’s case in the first place, has to deliver the opening statement Matt is supposed to give, but can’t because he overslept after a night of tracking and fighting the Yakuza with his new partner. Elektra is also responsible for the loss of the witness who is Nelson & Murdock’s best chance at scoring a mistrial in Frank’s case, and her interference in the trial forces Matt to come clean to Foggy about Elektra’s return.

All of the tension between Foggy and Matt finally blows up in “Semper Fidelis,” and Foggy gives his best friend and legal partner the verbal lashing he deserves. “Stop acting like these things just happen to you!” Foggy shouts. “No one’s making you go out all hours of the night fighting bad guys and nobody makes you lie to your friends, over and over again!” Elden Henson has really grown into the role of Foggy over the course of this series, and he’s done excellent work this season capturing Foggy’s increasing frustration and anger toward Matt. Foggy wants to live a normal life, but that’s never going to happen if he continues to partner with Matt Murdock, who is putting their lives and careers in jeopardy by running around the city beating people up in a devil costume.

Charlie Cox does a good job playing a person who thinks he’s doing the right thing and isn’t aware of how he’s hurting the people around him, which makes it even easier to side with Foggy in this conflict. Matt has been extremely selfish, and Foggy shouldn’t feel obligated to keep working with him when all signs indicate that Matt is only going to get worse. It doesn’t matter if the Yakuza are back; fighting the Yakuza isn’t Matt’s job, and his extracurricular activities can’t be justified when they’re pulling him away from the work that Karen and Foggy need him to do so that they can earn a livelihood. Like any destructive addiction, Daredevil ultimately takes precedence over the other duties in Matt’s life, and his vigilante lifestyle ends up delivering major blows to his personal and professional relationships by the end of this episode. He might be to saving the city by hunting the Yakuza, but it’s starting to look like losing Foggy and Karen is the cost of victory for Daredevil.

This series doesn’t take full advantage of its potential as a legal drama, so it’s always exciting when the show makes a rare trip to a courtroom. One of the best things about “Semper Fidelis” is that it delves into the legal process and the challenges Nelson & Murdock face with Frank’s case, and these plot points are engaging and help ground the plot in reality. The legal process also introduces opportunities for character development, like when Frank refuses to accept a PTSD defense because it’s an insult to people who are actually suffering from PTSD. In the courtroom, Frank’s reaction to Foggy’s opening statement highlights his general disdain for the legal system, and Frank scoffs at how Foggy frames his story to gain maximum sympathy without detailing the actual truth of Frank’s experience and mindset.

Luke Kalteux’s script for “Semper Fidelis” addresses many of my concerns about the Punisher plot thus far, particularly in regards to Karen’s reasons for supporting Frank Castle so intensely. In a heated conversation with Matt about The Punisher, Daredevil, and vigilantes in general—another conversation in which Matt is an asshole by not telling Karen his secret identity—Karen breaks down why she sees merit in what Frank does, and much of her opinion is rooted in her past experience with Daredevil saving her life. When the law fails people like Karen and Frank, what will protect them?


Matt counters by saying this doesn’t give someone the right to kill, and Karen agrees with that, but she also understands why Frank was compelled to seek vengeance. “Right or wrong, you can’t deny that it works,” Karen says, but right or wrong is a pretty important distinction when it comes to the taking of a life. This conversation explicitly mentions Karen’s first encounter with Daredevil, but there’s another moment in Karen’s past that is left unsaid, a moment that plays a big part in her morally ambivalent stance. We mustn’t forget that Karen Page is a killer, and she’s using Frank as a way to work through her own guilt about taking Wesley’s life at the end of last season, justifying her own actions by justifying Frank’s.

Karen is keeping her own secret from Matt, but Wesley’s murder doesn’t have as direct an impact on their relationship as Matt’s secret life as Daredevil. Yes, Wesley’s murder has left a distinct mark on Karen’s personality so it does influence the way she interacts with Matt, but it’s lingering over every conversation like Matt’s Daredevil secret. Karen’s support of vigilante justice gives Matt an opening to reveal this part of himself to her, but I believe there’s a part of Matt that gets off on the thrill of having a double life, complete with a sexy lady on the side. Having a secret identity is exciting, but as Matt learns in this episode, it’s impossible to keep those two worlds completely separate. Eventually something’s got to give, and Matt Murdock’s suffering will only increase as he falls deeper down the Daredevil hole.


Stray observations

  • “Semper Fidelis” begins with potential jurors giving their opinions on Frank Castle, and while I find it strange that these opinions are almost completely divided along gender lines (women are pro-Frank, men are anti-Frank), I appreciate the attention given to the community’s reactions to The Punisher’s actions.
  • The fight scenes feel especially wiry in this episode, and I’d rather have more force in the choreography and filming than spectacular, but less powerful wire stunts.
  • Thank you Luke Kalteaux for writing a scene revolving around Elektra pointing out the scars on Matt’s buff shirtless body.
  • Would Karen still want Matt to represent Frank if she learned he was Daredevil? Maybe would she recognize the huge conflict of interest there?
  • I really like the quick Elektra moment where she takes a sip from the wine Matt and Karen were drinking and comments on how cheap it is. She’s so nonchalantly arrogant.
  • “I can’t tell any of you apart, but I guarantee I know all your tongues better than you do.” I’m only spotlighting this line because of how bad it is.
  • Daredevil: “Find better business partners.” Elektra: “And kill your decorator.”
  • “You don’t treat me like I’m just your secretary. I’ve done more work on this case than you have!”