Ironically, “The Dark at the End of the Tunnel” became our beacon of light as we move on from the over-par work of episode eleven. One thing I favor more than most is a good chunk of origin story, and episode twelve was kind enough to provide.
We open on an adorably intimidating young 13-15 year old Elektra Natchios, played by Lily Chee (SUNSET PARK), during her merciless martial arts training under an unnoticeably younger Stick’s “watchful” gaze. Chee goes super sayain and kicks the holy dragon balls out of three full-grown men in a flurry of tight-knitted stunt choreography–all of which Chee performed herself, I might add. After a sound pounding, Elektra gets a lecture from Stick about controlling one’s baser instincts of brutality. I have to add, during this intimate dialogue, Scott Glenn uses his dead-blind stare for an amazing impression of a fish made of leather with lung cancer. Its ok to laugh, its true and its a great segue to Glenn’s commitment to character. I like his ability to maintain that creepy, endless stare at nothing in particular. It takes a constant conscious effort not focusing on any one object while running a scene with dialogue, and Glenn has always done a seamless job of it. His performance stays true to Stick’s one universal constant–he has no eyes. His fighting choreography reflects his lack of sight, flipping a handicap into an obvious advantage over his sighted opponents. The following fight scene between he and the present-day Elektra follows suit with his swordsmanship. Did I mention? They’re fighting now. For good reason, if you ask me. A lifetime of that gritty, humorless, curmudgeon’s verbal and physical whippings merits a solid ass-kicking rebuttal. Go, sexy Greek ninja lady!
After our boy, DD, interrupts the student-pupil quarrel with just enough distraction for goons of The Hand to swoop in, kidnap Stick, and disappear so silently even Daredevil can’t hear them. One thing I like about Netflix’s DAREDEVIL is the portrayal of The Hand cult. In the comic books, the ninja of The Hand are similarly capable of moving with super-human speed and stealth; on more than one occasion has DD’s literary version been ambushed by entire hordes of the Hand, making them the spectral opposite of the Kingpin’s daylight robbery approach, but equally as deadly. With Stick now in the clutches of the resurrected Nobu (Peter Shrinkoda), DD real talks with Elektra and realizes she’s fed up with a lifetime of human-weapon training and is out for lethal revenge on Stick. Naturally, Murdock can’t have his sensei cut to pieces, so it becomes a race to the finish line (the finish line being Stick’s jugular vein.) Call me old fashioned, but I liked this element to the story. Granted, I don’t care much for vendetta-obsessed characters beyond all reasonability, but it played well with this storyline; two outlaw souls hopelessly locked in a self immolating cycle of mutually destructive romance, both driven to the same goal by opposite forces and neither willing to yield. Good stuff.
Lets check in with Karen, live on-location at the site of what authorities are calling a drug-bust gone bad, but what was actually a lucky break of anti-hero luck as Castle’s liberal spritzing of gasoline took out a boat-load of gang mobsters and the cargo they were hauling. Thanks to some unsolicited interference from DD, the Punisher is able to elude the destruction and police custody, and subsequently disappears from the episode for the next thirty-five minutes. In the mean time, Karen shakes off the incident at the docks just in time for her new newspaper boss, Mitchell Ellison (Geoffery Cantor, HOUSE OF CARDS), to reminder her deadlines don’t wait for people without resiliency, and despite her surviving two deadly encounters with men with guns, he thrusts her out again to finish the story she had so passionately started.
Karen shakes the dust off, along with the bullet casings, singed hair probably, and tracks down one of the witnesses whom testified in Frank’s defense during his trial, Colonel Schoonover (Clancy Brown, SLEEPY HOLLOW). A harmless father-figure friendship is forged and a sigh of hope for Castle’s well-being is shared before Karen’s alarmingly impressive observational skills reveal’s Schoonover’s true colors (the color of dishonor, puce probably), dropping crosshairs on Karen’s head once again. I swear, if she were a cat, she’d be about to lose life #4 at least by now. Debrorah Ann Woll is fluent in getting her character into trouble, as well as making each encounter feel unique. She exercises contextual awareness well in her dialogues, especially when the tension is thick enough to taste.
What happened to Stick? Lets just say, his situation is not best suited for those sensitive to cringe-worthy scenes, like, say, a bamboo splinter manicure. DAREDEVIL writer, Bill Everett, brought the gore to episode twelve, adding a visceral tone to the plot. In iron mockery to his torturers, Stick shares some ultra-low volume phone-a-friend help with an infiltrating Daredevil racing to the rescue from Stick’s subterranean prison. Soon they’re joined by Elektra and Nobu in a bit of a Mexican standoff. Quickly, Nobu drops an earth-shattering truth bomb on Elektra with the season’s biggest reveal thus far! Entire perspectives are shifted and new alliances are created with the Greek assassin’s life purpose being turned on its head. I loved these scenes; the lighting was well done, the practical effects were convincing, and the character development felt organic.
We lastly check back with Frank after he saves Karen–again–from her own journalistic drive. Although she continues to fight for the faded glare of good within Frank, he shows his true colors are still blood red by bringing fate to Col. Schoonover. With Castle fully submitted to the darkness, Karen abandons her hope in Frank and leaves him behind. And Castle? The last shot of him is when he walks into his own personal candy store, courtesy of the late colonel. I liked this ending, it was honest. I enjoyed seeing characters stripped down to their deepest core, fully embracing their true selves or finally knowing the truth–their truth.
“The Dark at the End of the Tunnel” comes to a close with an obligation to move immediately into the final episode of season two.