I ran out of time, and wanted to get this up before the premiere of Defenders. So, for the time being, no pictures. Will add them later. And, I didn’t proofread it either so I hope it’s legible.
As I mentioned in my review of episode six, I decided to tackle the tail end of season two of Daredevil in a single post rather than one episode at a time. This not only saves a bit of time and space, but it also actually makes it easier to talk about the bigger picture and the broader strokes. As you can see below, I’ve divided this post into various relationships, simply because I think that’s a good way of actually analyzing what’s going on. There are certainly big events happening that lie far beyond individual lives, but the story is just as much about the various players happening to each other.
Before going on, I should add that season two remains difficult for me to watch, though much less so these days compared to a year ago. It is an amazing twelve plus hours of television, but is also really took an emotional toll on me and is one of the big reasons I had to take a break from all things Daredevil for a long time. Over the course of the season, several of the characters end up disappointing both their friends and, to a great extent, themselves. In many ways, this makes for very compelling and lifelike drama, but there are few heroes standing. Ironically, Elektra is the one who most obviously manages to to redeem herself at the end, though Matt is taking steps to do the same by “coming out” to Karen.
At the same time, I have to commend the creators for daring to take the characters in these different directions, and showing their uglier sides too. Hopefully, by showing all of them what doesn’t work in season two, they can be brought back together again, with a more mature understanding of themselves, in season three.
Matt and Foggy
It’s clearly evident at the start of the season that Matt and Foggy still have unresolved issues to address and a questionable willingness to actually address them. For Matt, being Daredevil is something that he enjoys and feels compelled to do, whereas Foggy doesn’t yet understand Matt’s position. Foggy’s reluctance to accept Matt’s choices, meanwhile, is probably both selfish and selfless. Foggy misses the simpler times when there was “just” Matt, and no Daredevil. At the same time, he is genuinely (and legitimately) concerned for his friend’s safety. When we see him yelling at Matt in episode two, after finding him passed out on a roof top, I understand Foggy’s frustration when Matt completely fails to acknowledge the severity of the situation. Compare this to a parent who loses their child at the park. Their priority when reunited is to hug the child in relief and thank whatever higher power they believe in that everything is okay. The second is to firmly tell that same kid that they must never walk off again. I’m not saying that Matt is a child, or that the comparison is perfect, merely that intense worry often turns into anger once the danger is over. Would it have served their friendship better for Foggy to express himself differently? Certainly, but people tend to say a lot of stupid things when they’re hurt or worried.
And the hurt continues throughout the season. Foggy is actually a lot nicer to Matt than I would have been at the end of episode six, considering he just had the entire Frank Castle situation dumped in his lap while Matt went off with Elektra. But, things start to go downhill from here. Much of this is Matt’s fault. Had he been honest about Elektra being the new client, much of what happens next would have turned out very differently. Instead, Foggy is faced with, once again, learning too late that he’s been deceived, as Elektra sabotages their case. Which in turn is not actually Matt’s fault. At this point, Foggy doesn’t want to hear it, and says things that he shouldn’t have. Matt is desperate to explain what’s going on, but is faced with the fact that his past actions have eroded whatever trust in him that Foggy had left. Step by step, these two begin a spiral of hurt, miscommunication and a stubborn unwillingness to see the other person’s point of view.
One of the most poignant scenes of the season, in terms of Matt and Foggy’s relationship, is when they officially decide to break up (around episode nine, as I recall). Foggy comes to ask for a temporary break-up of Nelson & Murdock, and Matt decides to make it permanent, catching Foggy completely off guard. This is also where Matt makes it clear that Foggy’s friend and “the vigilante” are the same person, and that he’s tired of “apologizing for who he is.” I think this is a very important statement for Matt to make, and a necessary one if they’re ever going to form a relationship of true and mutual acceptance. However, Matt’s resolve here is not what it seems, as is evident from the hurt he’s obviously feeling when Foggy leaves and his eyes start tearing up.
One thing to remember about Matt, and this has major consequences for how things turn out, is that he’s got a lot of baggage when it comes to forming attachments to other people. After his father died, he had no one until Stick showed up.
Stick then turns around and leaves when Matt tries to express his emotions (with the ice cream wrapper bracelet). And before he leaves, he makes sure that Matt is told to not let other people get too close. So, when Matt feels rejected by Foggy and Karen (more on that below), it reinforces Stick’s “programming.” There is a pull and push between Matt’s exciting exploits with Elektra on the one hand, and his civilian life on the other, where he’s beginning to feel that his friends don’t want him and are better off without him. If it weren’t for the fact that this part of his life pretty much implodes, the pull of Elektra, while still obviously there, might not have been as strong.
When we get further along, we’re beginning to see more of a truce between Matt and Foggy. Matt is redeemed somewhat in Foggy’s eyes when they learn of Frank’s escape, and Matt’s suspicions that someone “got to” Frank and caused him to have a meltdown on the witness stand, are validated. Foggy also offers some helpful practical advice near the end when Matt is looking for the tunnels where the Hand might be hiding out. Is this the beginning of Foggy actually accepting Matt’s “other side”? If he can’t make him abandon his vigilante activities, he can at least do something to help. In the end though, they do go their separate ways professionally and that’s another string tying Matt to his civilian life severed.
Matt and Karen
The big irony of Matt and Karen is that they actually have a lot in common, mostly things the other person doesn’t know about because they’re not being honest with each other. Not only does Karen have secrets of her own, she also shares Matt’s tendency to chase danger. It is interesting to see that Matt treats Karen almost the same way Foggy treats Matt when it comes to danger and risk taking. This makes Matt a total hypocrite, in my mind. True, Matt is obviously better able to protect himself against most dangers, but it’s not as if he’s invincible, as evidenced by his many injuries. He feels that these risks are worth taking, but seems completely unable to take in the fact that Karen obviously feels the same way about what she does. One theory, though a rather sad one, is that Matt may actually have a tragically low sense of his own worth.
Matt is a hypocrite in more ways than one, however, in his interactions with Karen (especially when compared with how willing he is to forgive Elektra’s murderous side). In episode seven, the two meet to prepare for Frank’s trial and end up having a conversation about what Frank does. Matt reacts with something akin to disgust when the differences between Karen’s morals and his own on this topic become evident. Which, with his secretly being a vigilante, feels extremely harsh. And while he may like to pretend that his “no kill” methods are beyond reproach, we can be sure he’s given more than one guy permanent brain damage at this point. Maybe it’s simply the case that Matt reacts so strongly because Karen is unwittingly sniffing around those parts of him that he’s ashamed of. Few things get to us more than when people bring our attention to weaknesses or inconsistencies that we know to be true, and Matt’s reaction to Karen might be a result of his trying to distance himself from the shadier aspects of his night job.
Karen, like Foggy, will go on to distance herself from Matt over the tail end of the season, and in so doing further underscores Matt’s existing programming, which tells him that it’s a bad idea to have people in your life that you care about, and that you may not really be worthy of their love. Many have pointed out that Karen overreacts to finding Elektra in Matt’s apartment, and I would agree. Especially with Stick being there which would indicate that this is something other than an affair with some strange woman. And, when Karen tells Matt that he’s no hero, after the Castle case falls apart, your heart aches for poor Matt. On the other hand, in Karen’s defense, she still doesn’t know about Daredevil. She strongly suspects that something big is being hidden from her, and that Matt (and, by extension, Foggy) is not forthcoming on this matter, and that Matt is not emotionally available to her in the same way that she is to him. Combine this with seeing the effect that his no-shows in court has on Foggy, and it’s easier to understand how she might read the whole situation with Matt and Elektra the wrong way. And, she may not even suspect an affair, just that this further proves that something big is up with Matt that he obviously prioritizes over everything else going on in their lives. That would be enough to piss her off, though her unwillingness to really listen to what Matt has to say is not admirable.
Matt and Elektra
I think Elodie Yung nails Elektra and gives us the most interesting take on the character I’ve ever seen. However, she still comes across to me as a bit of a mix between original Elektra and the version of the character we saw in the Man Without Fear mini-series from the 90s where she comes across as much darker. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there was definitely a difference in the dynamics between Matt and Elektra in her original appearance (innocent college student lost to the dark side after her father’s death), and her MWOF appearance (where she’s this borderline psychopathic vixen right from the get go). In the latter case, Matt’s relationship with Elektra feels almost primal. Elektra plays with him, he chases her, there’s passion, and exuberance. This relationship is similar to the one on the show, intense and passionate, but that also means that it makes more sense as that big and exciting college fling, than as a healthy adult relationship. In fact, in MWOF, Elektra simply vanishes, and they don’t meet again.
Much of the narrative of Matt and Elektra’s relationship hinges on this notion that they have so much in common, and I don’t think this makes perfect sense given this particular version of Elektra and their in-story history. There’s a false equivalency between what Matt does, and what Elektra does (even more so when you take into account why they do what they do), that seems even more jarring when you take into account how harshly Matt judges Karen’s take on the Punisher. The fact that they both like “extreme sports” certainly unites them, but there’s more to their respective escapades than that. Another part of the appeal for Matt, which I can certainly emphasize with, is that Elektra knows the whole truth about him, and accepts him. Foggy knows the truth, but doesn’t fully accept everything that comes with it. Karen doesn’t know, but probably would be more accepting (it may be too little, too late considering the way she finds out at the end of the season, but we don’t know that yet). In this sense, Elektra fulfills Matt’s need to be understood and validated, and even cheers him on. In the context of Matt’s civilian life imploding, it’s not hard to understand his “good riddance” attitude. Why not sail off into the sunset with Elektra? He’s already lost everything. And she makes him feel good.
But, the problem remains: Matt probably does get a kick out of the amount of hurt he brings to his “victims,” which means that Daredevil, to him, isn’t just about physical freedom and thrill seeking, or justice. But, he also does value his morality. He definitely has a dark streak, the “devil inside,” and Elektra likes that part of him and encourages it. But unlike Elektra, Matt doesn’t want to give that side of him free reins. At the end of the day, he does draw the line at killing. And he tries to keep himself on an even shorter leash than that. We should not view this as him denying some important inner truth whenever he exercises restraint. Seriously, the difference between a grown person in civilized society and a two-year-old is that the former doesn’t impulsively do whatever their lower instincts tell them to do. Matt’s sense of right and wrong is important to him, and absolutely central to who he is as a character. In this sense, he and Elektra are complete opposites, at least initially. Elektra actually enjoys killing, she’s manipulative, and aloof.
Thankfully, Elektra does go through some interesting changes. She finds her “inner light,” and recognizes that it was that side of him that she loved in Matt. I’m not sure this makes perfect sense, or is enough of a reason for Matt to love her the way he apparently (supposedly?) does. Remember, the story itself has to lead us to this destination, it shouldn’t be enough to say that, “Oh, but this is what happens in the comics.” On a personal level, one thing that does make sense from the perspective of how people usually work, is that he believes he can save her, and falls in love (again) with this idea of her. And I’m not saying Elektra is all bad at the end – she’s not – but it’s Matt’s idea of who she can be that compels her to change.
This in itself is an interesting contrast when you compare Karen and Elektra. In many ways, Elektra can carry her own in ways that Karen can’t, but Elektra needs Matt more (whether she realizes this or not) in ways that appeal to Matt. Karen doesn’t want Matt to save her (and not knowing about Daredevil doesn’t matter much, Matt is still an authority figure in Karen’s live for much of the show). His role when it comes to Elektra is much more clear. Aside from letting him indulge his Daredevil side, Elektra also brings out the side in Matt that wants to do good. This still doesn’t play out for me perfectly, and there’s still something about the Matt-Elektra dynamic that doesn’t sit right with me, but it makes more sense now than it did the first three times I watched this show. I just hope that the Matt and Elektra storyline will be over after Defenders. In the comics, she has always been this enigmatic presence that pops in and out of his life at irregular intervals, not a steady love interest (beyond their college years and her first death).
Matt and Claire
Matt and Claire don’t see a lot of each other in season two, compared to season one. I’m including their relationship here though, because her scene with Matt up on the roof of the hospital, before the ninjas show up, is one of my favorites. Mostly due to the fact that she echoes my own sentiment when it comes to how Matt chooses to distance himself from the people he claims to want to protect. I guess we need to remember that this takes place after he’s gone to see Fisk in prison (a scene that really needs its own discussion, but I’m seriously running out of time before the Defenders airs), where Matt is both still really hurt over being misunderstood, and, at the same time, very much aware of what a target he’s put on the people in his life that he still very much cares about.
What Claire does, though, is point out his arrogance in putting himself above everyone else. She invites him to not let the hero get in the way of also just being a human being, a friend. But Matt refuses to go to see and Foggy. He’s not at that point yet. One thing I hope to see in season three is what Born Again did so well in the comics, which is to make Matt appreciate his civilian life. Disbarred, and away from his friends, Matt starts to completely spiral out of control due to the Kingpin’s machinations. This is another reason I’m a bit ill at ease with Cox’s comments (see my previous post). Cutting the “blind lawyer” out of his life and going full Daredevil, if you will, has historically not been a great choice for Matt. He needs his balance. I hope he realizes that on screen as well.
Karen and Frank
On the one hand, I really do like Karen and Frank’s budding relationship and look forward to seeing it on screen in The Punisher, later this fall. On the other hand, I think there is a tendency to milk the “similarities” between the characters for much more than they’re worth, in ways that are in some ways analogous to what’s happening with Matt and Elektra. Yes, Karen has killed (at least) one person, but with Wesley, we know it was self-defense. And yes, Karen finds ways to personally relate to Frank’s “war” and feels sympathy for what happened to his family. But, unless Karen has actually taken a machine gun to a house full of mobsters, it becomes a bit of a stretch to overstate how much they actually have in common.
I also have to question Frank’s speech regarding how the only people who can really hurt you are the ones you love. This may be true, but that doesn’t mean that it’s healthy or desirable for a loved one to make you feel like shit on any sort of regular basis. If Matt has hurt Karen, it’s not simply because she loves him. It could be because things happened between them where none of them were at their best. Not a big deal, but I’m not sure I’d recommend that Frank pursue a second career writing advice columns for the Bulletin (hey, it’s supposedly easy to get a job there.)
I do like that Karen goes off and does her own thing though, and this kind of goes for Foggy too. Matt is such an overwhelming presence, that maybe everyone is better off just finding themselves before they’re ready to patch things up again.
After Monday, I just ran out of time this week, or else this post would have been at least twenty-five percent longer. And, it would have had pictures (I’ll add them later). As is, we’re just over nine hours away from Defenders, and I’m at a work conference, and in dire need of sleep.
Tomorrow, I won’t be able to start watching Defenders until about 12PM ET, which is still a lot sooner than a lot of people, but I expect to finish some time after midnight my time and get it all in before bed. Needless to say, I’ll stay off Twitter and Facebook. If you want to comment here and talk Daredevil, though (no Defenders spoilers!), I’m all ears.