DOGS TO A GUN FIGHT – 9.5/10
Forget Batman v Superman. Who cares about Captain America vs Iron Man? The only showdown that matters right now is Daredevil vs The Punisher. Round 1 definitely went to Frank, with Matt taken out by a very precise bullet to his armoured skull. Unfortunately for Matt he didn’t fare a whole lot better in round 2, but at least he managed to get plenty of licks in before the final bell. Mmm, boxing analogies; because Matt’s father was a… okay, you get it. But there was a great deal more to this episode than the fantastically choreographed fight scene that formed its climax, as several characters were forced to question whether or not they deserve to be punished. As Karen puts it to Matt, maybe they are all partly responsible for the creation of The Punisher.
After the carnage at the Hospital, Foggy scours the rooftops of Hell’s Kitchen in search of Matt. He finally finds him, unconscious and covered in blood. His mask may have saved his life but he is still seriously wounded. Matt eventually wakes up in his apartment having been dragged back by Foggy, they argue revealing that their rift may not have healed at all. Foggy implores Matt to rest up and leave The Punisher to the police. These turn out to be wise words as moments after Foggy leaves, Matt finds himself unable to control his senses. He goes temporarily deaf, trapping him in a prison of darkness. While Matt finds himself unable to protect anyone, Foggy and Karen do their best to protect Grotto from the self-serving intentions of the District Attorney, Sam Reyes.
Reyes makes Grotto an offer he can’t refuse; wear a wire while talking to one of his criminal contacts and they will provide him protection against The Punisher. We actually hear that name for the first time when the DA’s assistant shows Foggy and Karen his casefile. This clearly affects Karen, who still feels a huge amount of guilt after killing Wesley in season 1. She pays a visit to Matt, whose hearing has now returned but is still very much suffering the effects of serious head trauma. Karen shares some of her feelings with Matt (the ones that don’t involve killing someone) and she suggests that the actions of Daredevil and those who applauded him have led to the creation of The Punisher. While Matt strongly disagrees with her he is smart enough to know that it could be true.
Even if he won’t admit to feeling any responsibility for Frank’s actions, Matt is still driven to return to the streets when he clearly isn’t in good shape. He visits Melvin who reluctantly agrees to repair his mask. Melvin says it would take days to repair it properly; Matt gives him a few hours to at least patch it up. Matt returns to the scene of the Irish Massacre, following a trail of dog’s blood across the city back to Punisher’s lair, but Frank is out shopping. He visits a seedy pawn shop to buy a police scanner. As he goes to leave, the sleazy shop owner tries to sell him some child pornography which lands him on Frank’s naughty list. That’s never a good place to be if you value your health as the shop owner and a gang of truck stealing bikers discover in this episode.
As night falls, Foggy and Karen prepare Grotto for the sting operation. However once he arrives at the meeting point it becomes apparent that Reyes has lied and is using Grotto as the bait in a trap for The Punisher. But Reyes has underestimated Frank, who launches an attack of his own using the biker’s stolen truck as a distraction. Daredevil once again interrupts Frank before he can kill Grotto. They fight each other while attempting to dodge the S.W.A.T. team’s bullets. Frank takes one to the arm but still manages to fling Daredevil and himself through a skylight. The fall inflames Matt’s head trauma, leaving him visibly disorientated. Foggy rushes out to help his friend but by the time he gets there both men have vanished.
One of the best things about Daredevil is the way in which every fight has an effect on Matt, despite his ‘abilities’ he is still a very real protagonist. Getting shot in the head has made him vulnerable and Frank is a shark who will pounce on even the slightest sign of weakness. Matt’s moral quandary is another huge part of what defines Daredevil; he is a Catholic after all so guilt is more or less another one of his heightened senses. He may not want to admit it, but Daredevil has undoubtedly inspired others to follow his bloody lead. Most of these ‘Devil Worshipers’ may be a bunch of crazies in hockey pants, but eventually blood will be shed in Matt’s name. But that isn’t who Frank Castle is; Like Matt, he was born of a very different kind of fire as we are likely to find out very soon.
This episode really was everything you could want from an adaptation of Daredevil. The show perfectly captures the feel of the comic books, certainly in its appearance but also in its spirit. The human interactions are played out perfectly, most specifically in the dynamic between Matt and Foggy. Their complex friendship has often formed the backbone of the Daredevil saga and that is brilliantly brought to life by Charlie Cox and Elden Henson. Henson in particular does an excellent job of showing the strain that Matt’s war has taken on their friendship. Daredevil may protect Hell’s Kitchen but Foggy protects Matt Murdock. But now the realisation is slowly starting to dawn on Foggy Nelson that nothing can protect his friend from the Punisher. Who’s ready for round 3?