Episode seven of Daredevil‘s second season proves that you don’t need kick-ass fight sequences to make a great show. “Semper Fidelis” does indeed have a few moments where our heroes show off their incredible moves, but the heart of this episode was in the way it conveyed a procedural courtroom drama. It was like watching a darker, grittier episode of Law and Order, but with Marvel characters. If you were hoping for an hour of punches and kicks, then you might not have enjoyed “Semper Fidelis”. But if you wanted an episode that will make you sit back and really think about the legal system and the overall concept of justice, then you’re in luck. (spoilers ahead!)
The People vs. Frank Castle is finally underway. The episode kicks off with a montage of various jurors recounting their opinions of the Punisher. Some claim he is the hero that the city needs; he’s the only person with the power to permanently take crime off the streets instead of leaving rapists and murderers squirm their way through the legal system. Others consider him a menace and a serial killer with no regards for human life. So how will the law firm of Nelson & Murdock save Castle from rotting in prison for the rest of his life – and more importantly, why SHOULD they save him?
At first, it appears that the N&M team wants to use PTSD as a defense for Frank, claiming that he’s still suffering from the horrors he witnessed during the war. However, Frank refuses to go with that defense because he believes that it’s an insult to veterans who actually are suffering from the trauma. Instead, he suggests his former commanding officer stand in as a character witness to testify on his behalf. As I’ve stated in past reviews, Frank isn’t such a bad guy, and the fact that he won’t use PTSD as an excuse for his crusade goes to show that he’s honorable and respectful for those he considers heroes.
Even though he’s not front-and-center in this episode, Frank really shines throughout the entire trial. Jon Bernthal has been doing so well in the role, and I have to applaud him for continuing to deliver stellar performances. His subtle expressions and phrases carry so much emotion and depth that I’m left wondering how the hell Bernthal managed to acquire the Punisher’s mindset. What exactly did he do to think like Frank Castle? I know he spent weeks walking to the set alone in order to develop the sense of solitude and loneliness that Frank Castle experiences, but the way he’s been portraying the character, it’s like he’s spent the past six months in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison. Am I the only viewer actually terrified of Bernthal’s Frank Castle?
Sorry, I’m going on one of my Punisher rants again. Let’s focus on the rest of the episode, shall we?
Bernthal wasn’t the only person to deliver a great performance. I’ve always been really “meh” about Elden Henson‘s Foggy Nelson. The character seems like a plucky comic relief to me, so I don’t usually have high expectations when he shows up on screen. But I gotta hand it to Henson for killing it during the trial scenes. Matt doesn’t show up in time to give the opening statement, leaving Foggy to take up the reigns. Seeing as this is the biggest trial in his career, it’s understandable that Foggy would be nervous and bumble a bit when speaking to the jurors. Rather than trying to push through his pre-written notecards, he simply tosses them aside, utters a low “screw it”, and gives a heartfelt speech to the jury in an attempt to put them in Frank Castle’s shoes. He explains in detail what it must be like to be Frank, coming home from a brutal war to spend time with your family only to watch them get killed before your eyes. Even I felt for Frank when Foggy was giving the statement. Henson’s delivery was perfect, and I think I have a newfound respect for his character.
Now, this episode wasn’t solely about the Punisher. Remember, this show is mainly about Daredevil himself, Matt Murdock. So the question is, what exactly is Matt up to, and why wasn’t he at the trial?
One word: Elektra.
Elektra came into the picture two or three episodes ago, and it seems like she’s been causing nothing but trouble for Matt. In this episode, she convinces Matt to join her in decoding the ledger, and then following up on a series of cryptic clues that eventually leads them from a pervy playboy’s penthouse, to a shady train yard, to a seemingly abandoned warehouse/garage/construction site. To be honest, I was too drawn into the Punisher trial portion of the episode to really care about what was going on with Matt and Elektra. Sure, they’re both bad-asses with great chemistry and amazing fight scenes, but the trial was far more interesting for me. It is interesting how the show managed to weave the two plots together in order to progress the story.
Not only does Elektra cause Matt to oversleep and be late to court the next day, she actually gets involved with the trial and nearly botches the entire case after threatening a witness. To be fair, she was just trying to help Matt, Foggy, and Karen by exposing the lies behind the witness’s testimony, but it seems like her brutal methods don’t always work.
On a side note: if I’m being completely honest, I haven’t been a huge fan of Matt these past episodes. He’s become more than just reckless; he’s become irresponsible. This isn’t the Matt Murdock I’ve come to know and love. He’s losing it. Is this due to Elektra and the Punisher’s influence, or is he simply losing his touch?
The great thing about Elektra this season is that, like the Punisher, she’s testing Matt’s moral compass, making him second-guess whether he really is too soft. Will Elektra force Daredevil to be more aggressive in future episodes?
Well, it looks like he does let loose a bit toward the end of the episode when he and Elektra fight their way through a horde of ninjas. Aside from that fight scene with the chain and the gun in “New York’s Finest”, this sequence had to be the most intense I’ve ever seen Daredevil. I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts killing people regularly in the future. He looks like he’s becoming unbalanced.
The episode ends with Daredevil and Elektra happening upon a mysterious, seemingly bottomless pit tucked away in the abandoned warehouse/construction site mentioned earlier. This is one of the first major curveballs of the season. What exactly is going on with this pit? What (or who) lies at the bottom? I have a feeling we won’t find out by next episode, which is fine with me. I’d rather Daredevil focus more on the courtroom action instead of Matt and Elektra’s shenanigans for the time being.
Final Grade: A –
+ Fantastic performances from everyone, especially Henson and Bernthal.
+ Loved the courtroom drama portion of the episode; it was like a watching Marvel’s version of Law and Order.
+ I love how Elektra is finally being portrayed as the terrifying, ruthless assassin that she was in the comics.
– People who are so used to the fast-pace action sequences of the earlier half of the season may think this episode was too slow.
– I found Matt Murdock to be really unlikable these past two episodes.
– What’s going on with that huge hole?
What’d you think of “Semper Fidelis”? Are you enjoying the courtroom drama version of the show, or would you rather just watch Daredevil kick ass the entire time? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!