Breaking up is Hard to Do

daredevil 2Dear Daredevil TV Show,

I’m ending our relationship.

You have so many admirers and groupies that I’m certain my own absence will have no effect upon your feelings, but I wanted to air my grievances anyway.

I was pre-disposed to like you a lot, maybe even love you. Sure, I wasn’t a huge DD fan who owned all the Frank Miller graphic novels, but I like a good superhero comic or show and I have fond memories of reading all of my sister’s Daredevil comics. I even bought some myself back in the day.

(If anyone hasn’t seen the show yet, there are SPOILERS GALORE in the following. Be warned!)

punisherI can’t fault your acting. By God, even the most ludicrous scenes are handled with stunning power by your entire cast, from one-time players to the lead roles. I sincerely respect them all.

And I can’t fault the stunt work, which has to be some of the finest I’ve ever seen not just in a television show, but in any visual medium. The entire team deserve multiple awards for their work.

I didn’t care too much for the extreme violence or the focus on hyper-realistic brutality, but I thought hey, you’re young, it’s faddish, either you’ll get over it or I’ll just have to adjust my older sensibilities.

My problem is with the writing. It was pretty impressive most of the time through the first season. But something seems to have happened in season two. You do realize that once Frank Castle is caught that you have no true victories?

foggyYeah, you save the people from the dark basement where they’re caged and breeding microbes or whatever mysterious blood thing they’re doing, but it turns out that doesn’t matter, because as soon as they can, they walk back to their captors, killing at least one innocent in the process. They’re not saved, and the situation was made worse.

Your nurse friend has to leave her job, you break up with your best friend AND your girlfriend, and then your other girlfriend dies. And then, when she sacrifices herself so that the whole thing is over, the bad guys get her anyway!

The closest we get to a victory has to wait from, what is it, episode 3 or 4 all the way until the very end, when Stick kills the ninja president. There are no upticks. There’s little clever going on, it’s just you, Daredevil, slugging it out with ninjas in the dark. Over and over and over. Unrelieved darkness. It’s just… depressing and not cathartic. I happen to be a huge fan of Sophocles, who could write pretty grand tragedies. But he also knew you  had to create a logically consistent world, and logical characters. You failed to do both.

Let me get more specific.

There are two main arcs, and they both have problems.

The Punisher Arc

karenThe Frank Castle storyline starts out in a promising fashion. It works really well until Fisk makes a deal with Castle in the prison. The problem is that one moment Fisk’s lawyer tells him that there’s only enough money to bribe one guard, and then — only a short time later — after Castle goes in and kills all the dudes in the cell block, suddenly oodles of guards are working with Fisk. Huh? What changed? You never explained it. Just as you never explained how it is that even MORE guards are on the payroll so that Frank can get out disguised as a guard himself. Surely, surely, there are some guards who aren’t corrupt? I mean, I’d like to believe that MOST prison guards aren’t corrupt, which would make things a lot harder on Fisk, clearly.

(Edit — for clarity let me emphasize that even if Fisk is positioning himself to take over the drug trade by eliminating the drug trade leader, this change is finger snap instantaneous. Before Castle kills the guys in the cell block, Fisk has one guard paid for. IMMEDIATELY after Fisk is standing there with several other guards, clearly in command.)

Even assuming that the prison is just stuffed full of the worst prison guards in the states, how did Fisk afford them? Did killing everyone on that cellblock suddenly bring Fisk a pile of cash? And when Frank escaped shouldn’t there have been a huge, messy investigation at the prison that would bring down the warden and uncover a whole bunch of corruption? Seems not, because Fisk is the prison president by the time you, Daredevil, turn back up. And when you confront him you don’t seem to have much of a plan. I thought you were clever, Daredevil. But you keep expecting to beat your way out of every problem without thinking.

fiskYou might say that it’s all make believe and that if I buy that your truck accident gave you super powers I ought to believe Fisk can suddenly become lord of the  prison. But when you’ve got people acting realistically and logically half the time, as though they’re in the real world, you really need to have them making sense the rest of the time and make them so compelling we want to believe the silly stuff. And if you introduce information imparted by a character like Fisk’s lawyer concerning the amount of available money you can’t immediately just ignore it (as you ignore some of your own powers and are inconsistent in their depiction, but I digress).

For the sake of brevity I won’t go into too much detail about other nonsense related to the Punisher plot — that his old commanding officer is, gasp, the one behind the terrible events, just feels tacked on as an afterthought. Then there’s the whole business of Karen being brought to the docks with the police — which would never have happened — and then everyone assuming that Frank must be dead because the ship is on fire. Why would they assume that because a ship’s on fire and a bunch of bad guys are dead that Frank is dead too?  And speaking of that ship, how exactly did that explosion kill EVERY BAD GUY WITHIN 1000 FEET?

Lastly, what was up with the reaction shot on Matt Murdoch in the courtroom when he noticed some word passed between Frank and the guard Fisk had bribed? It definitely felt like you were setting something up that you never followed up on. But then from that point on through the season I constantly had that feeling.

The Endless Ninja Arc

elektraWe need to evaluate the media we have with the content within it. Meaning that if I was supposed to read a bunch of graphic novels in order to follow what was going on with the ninjas you, Daredevil, failed in your storytelling. The story should make sense from the content inside, not the content outside required for understanding. This entire arc is just a mess, epitomized by the hole that’s the dramatic discovery at the end to one episode. Wow, I said upon seeing that hole, maybe things will turn around! What could that mysterious hole be?

YOU NEVER SAY. How is that connected to Black Sky? Who the heck knows? I don’t. Am I supposed to wonder until later in some future season and be excited by the continuing mystery? If so,you’re like one of those guys who tries to convince me to read a long fantasy series by saying “It really gets good after the fourth book!” I just love guys like that.

You left me with so many questions.

How is the hole connected to Elektra/Black Sky? How are the caged microbe/blood/whatever donors connected to the immortality? How are they mind controlled on top of it?

The ninjas know where you live, Daredevil. Why didn’t they just come back in force and kill you rather than coming up with their big show-down plan? They clearly have SO MANY ninjas.

Here’s a thing — you, Elektra, and Stick all knew that The Hand could bring people back from the dead, and you knew that they were obsessed with Black Sky/Elektra. So why did you bury her when the Hand still existed? Clearly that’s so the writers could bring her back, but it makes no sense from a character perspective. Why didn’t you cremate her? If it’s because you’re Catholic, couldn’t that discussion with Stick and/or Elektra have been a fine character moment? Couldn’t Elektra have had enough foresight to say “if they kill me, burn my body?” And then the secret could be that the Hand can still regenerate a body from the ashes, if you absolutely have to bring her back.

Speaking of writers and characters, I’ve already touched upon the point that Daredevil can’t get any real victories until, maybe, at the end. You, Daredevil, also can’t get any information. There’s no slow uncovering of the secret ninja plot and how to stop it after our characters get to the hole, unless you count the sudden revelation that Elektra is Black Sky (whom the Hand were hoping to find at the bottom of a hole?) And her being Black Sky wasn’t connected to any clever deductions that all of your ninja fighting and investigation finally uncovered, it was just a surprise. Kind of like ordering the house special and getting a dead rat floating in a bowl of dish water. Surprise!

There’s no sense that the ninjas are even particularly bothered by you and Elektra because they’re just endless. You got their incubators? Well, heck, they just sent a million ninjas to the hospital (and don’t even get me started on the hospital nonsense) and took them all back. It wasn’t even a big deal if they died, because they’re immortal.

At no point do we actually know how many ninjas there are, so we never know how much any of these battles matter to you or them. I mean, tactically shouldn’t we be made to care that you’ve eliminated their top three ninjas or that there are seven elite ninjas or that THIS particular fight halted one part of their plan or… I dunno, something? So that we have some kind of sense of satisfaction? It was like Space Invaders. You kept knocking down ninjas, but they just kept coming. And everyone knows how much fun it is to watch someone else play Space Invaders.

The endless ninja fights seemed solely to exist to give us some action. I actually began to groan when more ninjas popped up.  During the later episodes, my long suffering wife (who had mostly given up on you and was playing Candy Crush) would look up as I’d say: “Another ninja fight? How many ninjas are there?” Congratulations. You actually managed to make ninjas boring.

You  know what, I had more points I could make about other weird choices and nonsensical stuff, but I already wasted too many hours watching you and thinking about you and now I’ve wasted 45 more minutes writing this letter. I’m done. We’re done. I hope the Luke Cage show is a lot smarter. I always liked him better anyway.

4 Comments on “Breaking up is Hard to Do

  1. Wonderfully insightful dissection, Howard. My brain just kept wandering to other things when I was supposed to be paying attention. Ninjas made boring indeed. Ah, well. Nice to hear someone else prefers Luke Cage too. I too am hoping it’s better written.

  2. I completely disagree, but I respect your opinion.

    This season was more about EXPANDING the Marvel Universe, not about giving answers. You’re right: There were no satisfying victories (or only a few minor ones). Welcome to the world of DAREDEVIL…where one crazed blind man fights an obsessive and never-ending battle against the forces of evil.

    If you want statisfying conclusions to subplots and clear-cut heroic victories, look to more “standard” superhero fare. DD is a dark tradition of superhero noir–as much a crime tale as it is a superhero tale. Things are just getting started for this version of Matt Murdock–a character known for his ability to endure one horrible defeat after another–but like a stubborn pugilist, he keeps on going no matter how bad he gets beaten down, blown up, stabbed, or otherwise fucked-up. I can certainly understand why that concept isn’t for everybody–it’s way darker than most superhero tales (even Batman!). And that’s how DD fans like it.

    And yes, part of the show’s whole appeal is its realistic approach to portraying believable ultraviolence. That is also not to everyone’s taste.

    I hope you like the LUKE CAGE show better.

    Me, I’m most stoked about the upcoming IRON FIST. (There will probably be more ninjas on that one, so you may want to skip it.)

    Cheers!
    John

  3. …well, it wasn’t that I don’t like ninjas, it was just that the show somehow made them boring, probably by sending them in endless waves rather than developing the story.

    I can respect someone’s difference in storytelling techniques if it feels like they’re coming from a different angle. But if it looks simply like they dropped the ball, or something got left on the cutting room floor, then it just feels sloppy and undisciplined. Like that hole and a whole bunch of ninja nonsense.

    And yes, I do like conclusions to sub-plots that make sense. In ANY medium. And I like a storyline that the characters pursue and decipher. This did, after all, have elements of a mystery, and it seemed like the characters were trying to figure it out. Except they didn’t. They just wandered into a lot of dark hallways and beat on things. If that satisfied you, I’m happy you enjoyed it, but it surely didn’t satisfy me.

  4. My wife and i quit watching the first season after 5 or 6 episodes it just got to gory for us.
    I’ve never been a huge fan of street level marvel characters anyway.

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