“You’re one bad day away from being me.”
Wow. I love when I watch episodes that are so good that I simply have to talk about them. Season 2 Episode 3 of Daredevil is one of those episodes. No big reveals or major twists are spoiled in this post, but if you want to watch the episode completely blind (hah!) you should know I do talk about the events of the episode and some of the key dialogue points.
This episode, titled “New York’s Finest”, is a spectacular hour of television. Virtually none of the runtime is wasted, and each scene is as engaging as the last. The main arc is Daredevil and Punisher talking on the roof while Daredevil is chained up. And the supporting arcs follow Foggy as he tries to enlist Claire Temple in helping him locate Matt, and we also see Karen trying to pressure the Assistant DA into helping her track down The Punisher. Karen’s scenes are good, and really show off her character and drive, as well as her ability to get things done, but they aren’t what I want to talk about right now.
“You want the ER perspective? Victims love him. Victimizers? Want him more dead than ever.”
First I want to talk about the scenes with Foggy and Claire. Their scenes are a beautiful contrast to the scenes happening with Matt and Frank (more on that in a bit). While Daredevil and The Punisher are up on a rooftop debating exactly how much violence is necessary in order to make a difference in the world, Foggy and Claire each show alternatives to both their solutions.
Claire puts helping people in need first. She sees things from the victim’s point of view and rather than stopping or punishing the perpetrator, she focuses on actually helping the people who are in need. She’s non-discriminatory in her aid of people. She will patch up superheroes and gang members alike. Claire exemplifies the virtue of both having a moral code, and still providing care to all who need it, regardless of background or circumstance.
And then there’s Foggy, a character with just as strong of a moral compass as Claire, only with a different skill set. Throughout the series, Foggy uses his law knowledge in order to secure justice for his clients. In this regard, he is often even better than Matt when it comes to using “by the book” solutions to problems. And in this episode we see him not just use his powers of persuasion for his clients like he has in the past, but uses them to stop two rival gang members from getting into a violent fight right in the middle of a crowded ER surrounded by innocent bystanders. He deescalates the situation with an amazing speech (any single part of which would do the speech injustice if I pulled quotes out of it here) and proves that violence in any form doesn’t always have to be the answer. This further illustrates that perhaps Matt’s morals are in fact closer to those of the Punisher’s then he’s willing to admit.
“What do you do? You act like it’s a playground. You beat up the bullies with your fists. You throw ’em in jail, everybody calls you a hero, right? And then a month, a week, a day later, they’re back on the streets doing the same goddamn thing. You hit ’em, and they get back up. I hit ’em, and they stay down. It’s permanent. I make sure that they don’t make it out on the street again. I take pride in that.”
Which brings us to Matt and Frank. No amount of writing about these scenes will ever fully illustrate how fantastic I think they are. Just two men talking on a rooftop, one of them chained up. It’s so simple, yet it goes so far into the core of both of these characters. After spending the whole first season of Daredevil watching Matt struggle with the morality of what he does, longing to reconcile justice with violence, we think we see Matt finally come to terms with what he does. But then right away in this season, just three episodes in, we see him confronted with what happens when his sense of morality is pushed just a little bit further.
The first season we see him trying to convince himself and Foggy that he needs to go to extremes to see justice done, but now we see Matt on the other side, trying to define where that line is between extreme and too extreme. At their core, there is not much of a difference between Frank and Matt. They both believe that the justice system doesn’t always produce the best results and take to vigilantism to see “true” justice done. Their only difference is in how far the push it.
“You know what I think of you, hero? I think you’re a half-measure. I think you’re a man who can’t finish the job. I think that you’re a coward.”
In Frank’s mind, Daredevil is just as ineffectual as the police. He goes around beating up bad guys and enjoys being a symbol and feeling that because he gets praise from the people in the city that it makes him the good guy. Frank doesn’t need or seek validation. His goal begins and ends with ridding the city of evil people. He is calculating and unyielding and in his mind this puts him in the right.
It can be argued that by trying to convince Matt that he is doing the right thing that he is seeking validation for what he does, but I don’t think that’s the case. I think that he wants Matt to see his way of thinking because he sees himself in Matt. He sees someone who has the same goals but just isn’t going far enough. He also knows that if he doesn’t convince him, that Matt will continue to try and stop him, Matt even said as much.
“What kind of choice is that?” “The kind I make every time I pull the trigger.”
Frank believes wholeheartedly that what Matt does doesn’t actually help anyone because he doesn’t go far enough. The criminals that Matt lets live have every chance in the future to hurt or kill someone else, and Frank believes that by letting them live, those next victims blood is on Matt’s hands. To prove this, he puts Matt into an impossible situation. He makes Matt choose between killing a murderous criminal, or killing Frank to stop Frank from killing the criminal. Frank says this is the choice that he is faced with every time he kills someone. That he is weighing the criminal’s life against those of his potential victims.
To say Matt struggles with this choice is an understatement. Eventually Matt attempts an option number three. Trying to stop Frank, but without killing him. Ultimately, however, this fails. Frank still takes the shot and the criminal dies, blaming Matt for not stopping him. This proves Frank’s point, that by not going all the way, and not taking that responsibility on, that people will die.
Even with this ending, there is still debate for which method is “right”. It all comes down to philosophy of accountability. Are you morally obligated to kill if it saves someone else? Does this absolve you of taking a life? Is inaction worse? These questions don’t have clear cut answers and I love that this series and this episode in particular does a fantastic job at showing Frank’s argument in a powerful and effective way. It really sells his character, and makes for some amazing tv.
“For Christ’s sake, that’s what you think? I’m just some crazy asshole going around unloading on whoever I want to? I think that the people I kill need killing, that’s what I think.”
It’d be remiss of me to talk about this episode and not mention the final fight sequence. Matt, injured, with an empty gun duct taped to one hand and a length of chain ties around his other arm, makes his way down from the rooftop to the ground floor of this building fighting biker gang members all the way down. It’s a hell of an action set-piece. Top-notch fight choreography and great camera work. There is a lot of love, care, and hard work that went into making this scene as good as it is. That said, I am genuinely conflicted when trying to compare it to last season’s memorable hallway fight (at this point a Marvel Netflix staple, and a welcome one). While the season 2 scene is definitely more, and it’s executed beautifully, part of the charm of the season 1 fight scene was its simplicity. The brutal, clearly exhausting fight was unlike anything I’d seen before, showing Matt’s determination and ability to take a beating and keep on fighting. The season 2 fight lacked those thematic qualities, but put forward an excellent and engaging fight scene. So comparing them is very difficult. But, just like when I think about Fisk vs Kilgrave, if I have trouble comparing two things because they are just both so good, then that means they are doing something right, and I’m looking forward to the rest of this re-watch (and the Punisher hallway fight in later episodes which I am sure I will talk about once I get there).
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you thought of the episode, and also which hallway fight scene from Daredevil or any of the Marvel Netflix shows is your favorite!
Read Part 2 here.