I’m pretty confident New York’s Finest is going to be the episode of Season 2 everyone is going to be talking about by the time it’s all wrapped up. That stairwell scene. Trying to top Cut Man‘s brilliantly staged hallway fight sequence figured to be unlikely. It was the second episode of the first season and it remained the most buzzed about moment, but now it’s got some competition if not outright successor for series’ best fight scene.
There was so much more to love about this episode beyond that epic finale. The main storyline saw Punisher and Daredevil trading their fists to fight with words and ideals. Taking a cue from Garth Ennis’ The Choice story line [which you can read here Punisher: Welcome Back, Frank] the vigilantes had a heated debate with Daredevil chained to a smokestack as Punisher prepared for his next hit.
Jon Bernthal was one of those inspired casting decisions that seemed almost too good to be true. He was a rare choice where as soon as he was announced there didn’t even seem to be a viable runner-up: this was The Punisher. And in his first dialogue heavy episode, Bernthal showed exactly why he’s fully on his way to providing the definitive live-action version of The Punisher. From jabbing at Daredevil about running around in boy’s pajamas to being a half measure that allows the crooks of Hell’s Kitchen to get back up and cause more pain, Punisher showed a casual disdain for Daredevil’s actions. More importantly though, he wanted to prove to Daredevil that his approach was dead wrong.
For his part, Daredevil wasn’t about to concede and he probed and prodded to get Punisher to reveal more than his first name of Frank. The comic story was excellent, but having an extended time for the verbal sparring made this sequence even more tense. Matt’s knack for persuasive arguments wasn’t working on The Punisher though and he knocked him out. That’s one way to end a debate…
With the Punisher trap officially a disaster, D.A. Reyes was looking for a scapegoat and had Nelson & Murdoch in her sights. Karen tried to appeal to Reyes’ aide, Blake Tower (Stephen Rider), and he obliged by handing over their files on The Punisher. Karen could use some good news after Grotto decided he was better on his own than trusting Karen and the D.A. again.
Worried again that Matt was laid up on a hospital gurney or worse the morgue, Foggy went searching area hospitals starting with Metro-General where Matt’s ex Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) was working another crazy shift. The emergency room scene was amusing in seeing the havoc Punisher is creating with Hell’s Kitchen’s criminal population. Foggy’s speech to calm down rival gang members was a bit heavy-handed, but it was a minor quibble.
Matt awakens to find his right arm unrestrained with his hand taped to a gun. Frank is offering him one chance to take him down before he ends another worthless life and brings out Grotto. While Matt suggests there’s some sliver of hope that every criminal can be redeemed, Frank thinks otherwise and has Grotto confess to pulling off a hit and killing the victim’s wife as well. Even then, Matt wasn’t willing to take down Frank to stop him from killing Grotto. Instead, he shoots the chain and goes after Frank. Too late for Grotto and Frank uses the distraction to ignite the Dogs of Hell’s motorcycles. Daredevil knocks Frank out, but now he has to contend with the Dogs.
This sequence completely delivered. Beaten down from his battle with The Punisher and only having one free hand (darn duct tape), Daredevil improvised using the gun as a club and a chain to lend an assist. The result was a gorgeous and intricately laid out fight sequence that showcased Daredevil’s improved fighting skills and his own savagery. While Daredevil tamed the dogs, The Punisher escaped no doubt planning his next move.
Karen meanwhile made an important discovery. The man they know as The Punisher was originally Frank Castle. And according to his skull X-Ray, a clever bit of foreshadowing, Castle was shot in the head. Can anything stop Hell’s Kitchen’s new nightmare?
Rating: 9.8 out of 10