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.
Like “The Man In The Box,” “.380” rearranges the board to set up the season’s final showdown(s). But while that previous episode balanced its moving pieces really well, “.380” feels just a little overstuffed. On the other hand, this is also an episode in which everyone says “fuck it” and goes off to get shit done, which is a sentiment I very much appreciate.
After surviving a harrowing ninja attack (one of my favorite fight sequences of the season, by the way), Claire is disgusted to learn the hospital administration is accepting hush money to cover-up what really happened. So she quits her job in protest, which is a good character beat that hopefully doesn’t mean Rosario Dawson is off the show for the rest of the season.
Karen, meanwhile, lies to the police about the fact that Frank showed up at her apartment because she knows they’ll never see him as anything other than a monster. Much as Daredevil used Elektra and Karen as two symbols for Matt, the show is now using Matt and Frank as two symbols for Karen (although not in the same romantic context). Matt is the more objectively moral of the two, but he hurt Karen emotionally with his constant secrecy. Frank may be a killer, but at least he doesn’t lie about it. Karen throws her lot in with Frank, assuming physical danger is better than emotional pain. But it’s a decision she starts to second guess once she gets a firsthand look at the brutal carnage he leaves in his wake.
During Daredevil’s opening four-episode arc, I was critical of Punisher’s overly familiar tragic motivation. It’s not that I wanted the show to rewrite his comic book origin story, but I wanted Daredevil to put a more original spin on the material. And that’s exactly what’s happened over the latter two-thirds of the season in a way that all came together for me in “.380.”
Frank is a father. Even more so than being a killer, his fatherhood is his biggest defining trait. When he speaks about his family it’s almost always in relation to his kids, not his wife (although she finally gets a shout-out in this episode). Though his children are gone, his natural paternal instincts remain. (Remember how he adopted that dog after killing the Irish? Total dad move.) The reason he picked up on Karen’s feeling for Matt is because he was protectively watching over her during the trial. He’s well aware that after using Karen as bait, they might never see each other again, so he uses their diner conversation to share some fatherly wisdom he’s learned the hard way: Don’t take those you love for granted. Love and pain are inseparable, but that doesn’t mean love isn’t worth that pain.
Frank even takes on a fatherly role with Daredevil of all people. When Matt reveals that he’s thinking about compromising his morals and killing Blacksmith, Frank puts his foot down just like any good father would. That’s a line he won’t let his one-time adversary cross, and Frank pushes Daredevil into the water rather than let him become an accessory to his act of ship-exploding carnage. That unique fatherhood angle—coupled with Jon Berthnal’s consistently stellar performance—has slowly elevated the Punisher from a stock archetype into the complex three-dimensional character who steals the show in “.380.”
Elsewhere, the episode focuses on the search for Blacksmith—the drug lord responsible for the death of Frank’s family (at least in a roundabout way)—and Madame Gao makes a welcome return to point Matt in the right direction.
Meanwhile the final character to decide enough is enough is Elektra, who shows up to confront Stick about that time he sent someone to murder her. That should be a totally calm conversation, I’m sure.
Standout moment: The Gao scene and the Karen/Frank stuff is all fantastic, but I want to highlight the Matt/Karen argument, which is wonderfully written and acted. Oh and I gasped when Claire got thrown out a window.
Marvel Cinematic Universe connections: I might officially be too sleepy to catch all these so let me know what I missed in the comments!
Burning question: The obvious question: Who is Blacksmith? My money’s on Hirochi, which would neatly tie The Hand into the Frank Castle storyline.
Excitement to start next episode: 9/10