Even if this season was only the first four episodes I would feel completely satisfied and ready to declare it the best season of any Marvel show.
The first quartet have been so rich in content and filler free that it’s felt like the season is winding down instead of just getting underway. Considering the rinse, wash, repeat loop Jessica Jones kept finding itself in, the Daredevil creative team appears much more informed and better prepared in making every episode count.
Just because The Punisher/Daredevil conflict could have been the focus all season, eventually it would have reached the point of diminishing returns so the writers wisely concluded it — for now.
We’ve seen/heard Punisher’s origin so many times now that there seemingly was no fresh way to approach that horrific circumstance. Heck, The Punisher movie starring Thomas Jane raised the stakes by having the entire Castle clan killed at a family reunion. But simply having Frank share with ‘Red’ about his time in the war and joyous reunion with his family before they’re killed the next day lent a greater sense of tragedy to Frank Castle’s death and The Punisher’s birth.
Jon Bernthal’s delivery made this telling of the origin heart-wrenching. As great as he was during the debate sequence in New York’s Finest, Bernthal provided an even better performance here cementing his status as the MVP of the season’s first quarter. Bernthal is knocking out this career-defining role with every episode and at this point, you’ve gotta believe Netflix/Marvel TV are frantically working on lining up the full order for a Punisher series.
Secret identities actually are very important in the underbelly of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That’s slightly ironic considering Iron Man’s surprise ending made them seem passe. But as this episode reinforced when bad people know a hero’s identity, they can catch them unsuspecting at any moment.
The Irish gang were looking for payback and after terrorizing the neighborhood searching for information, found Frank’s place. At the same time, Karen was doing her own digging into Castle. Thanks to a hospital orderly, she learned after getting shot in the head, he was given a Do Not Resuscitate status, but refused to die. That further adds to the growing legend of The Punisher. I wasn’t sure what insight Karen hoped to gain from breaking into the Castle household. Frank left his home exactly the way it was right down to his children’s rooms.
Casting Tony Curran as Finn, the head of the gang was another casting coup as Curran comes across so intense and focused you could buy him as someone who could be a constant threat to The Punisher. Finn managed to get some payback taking a drill to Frank’s foot that was definitely not for the squeamish.
We learned Frank has numerous contingency plans in place — from the bomb in the briefcase containing the Irish gang’s money to a razor blade under his skin in case of extreme emergencies. He casually gunned down Finn’s bodyguards before turning to Finn. When Finn didn’t provide any information on who killed his family, Frank didn’t do the cliche route of getting distracted allowing Finn to escape — he simply pulled the trigger on the shotgun. Nice knowing you Finn. Frank also got some unanticipated help as Daredevil arrived.
Although The Punisher stole the spotlight, Daredevil had some great moments as well with that hallway fight scene where he darted in and out Batman-style to take down Finn’s gang. While they were united in taking down Finn’s gang, Daredevil and Punisher’s philosophical differences continued to play out as Daredevil had to repeatedly stop Frank from killing folks. The ‘alter boy’ remark was a nice touch without feeling too cute.
Daredevil’s visits with Melvin are becoming an unexpected pleasant treat in the series. I wanted to hug Melvin myself when he gave Daredevil an updated all-red cowl. Now if he’d drop the Batman nose piece it’d be perfect. With Punisher upping the Hell’s Kitchen body count, Melvin wanted to show off his protection revealing an armored vest referencing his Gladiator comic book outfit. With the saw blades and vest tease, I’m wondering if we’re ever going to actually see the Gladiator pop up in the series?
After Punisher’s cemetery confessional, Sgt. Mahoney arrived. Daredevil’s plea for Mahoney to take the credit for bringing in Punisher to prove the justice system works was a great moment. It’s good to see Foggy encouraging Matt and Karen’s mutual interest so we don’t have a goofy love triangle. Matt and Karen’s kiss in the rain, a more subdued callback to the Ben Affleck film, felt earned as it was given enough time to organically develop without being dragged out. Besides, Matt’s life is about to get a lot more complicated as he enters his apartment to be greeted by his first love Elektra (Elodie Yung).
The writers have dramatically increased the show’s binge-ability factor with every episode ending on a cliffhanger. It’s a trick comic book writers regularly used (before dragging a story out for six- to seven-issues for a trade became the rage) to hook the readers into buying the next issue.There’s no point bothering to compare Daredevil to any other comic book based show. At this point, there’s Daredevil and everything else.