“No sympathy for the devil; keep that in mind. Buy the ticket, take the ride.”
‘The Man in the Box’ shows what happens when heroism blinks– villainy takes cheap shots and does not waste one of them. With a minor victory for the good guys starting us off, the writing team of John C. Kelley, Whit Anderson, and Sneha Koorse reveals the flying flag of victory we thought we saw was actually the signal for the start of round two.
The first thing we’re hit with is a setting apparently taken from SAW: cages, medical tubing, vampiric intent, #groupactivities, etc. Sergeant Mahoney, played by Royce Johnson (JESSICA JONES) follows Daredevil’s footsteps to find a warehouse hiding what appears to be a human-blood farm, with plastic tubes collecting a thick, blood-like ooze from the bodies of emaciated young victims. This rescue clearly was meant to be a victory on-paper, but its a grim reminder there are no true victories in war, only the hope for fewer casualties. Maybe don’t get attached to that hope just yet, we’re five minutes into the episode.
I do like how Sgt. Mahoney has settled nicely into the “Jim Gordon” role to Matt Murdock’s “Batman,” complete with the raspy banter and begrudging gratitude to the horned-hero of Hell’s Kitchen. Royce carries a quick wit and can switch gears on a dime to a “Roger Murtaugh” energy. When Daredevil shows up, you can almost hear Danny Glover narrating in Mahoney’s head, “I’m gettin’ too old for this shit.” Murdock gets a much needed pep-talk from Nurse Claire (Rosario Dawson, JESSICA JONES, SIN CITY) just before overhearing radio chatter that Frank Castle has escaped prison.
The news washes over Matty like an A.L.S ice bucket challenge and sends the plot into overdrive. The audience is treated with dramatic character shifts from D.A. Reyes, and her assistant, Blake Tower, proving the magnitude of threat facing the once enemies turned allies and manifesting before they can even shake hands. I was taken completely by surprise by a devastating hailstorm of gunfire scene in Reyes’ office, leaving one fatality and one damaged Foggy. This sudden attack was brilliantly executed with barely a half-beat of warning. Usually the rising music or scene cue will clue-in the audience of an impending shock, followed by the protagonist realizing it moments before everyone else in the scene is taken completely off-guard by it. What made this DAREDEVIL scene not one of the usual? The moment Matt Murdock realized the threat was the same moment I did; I didn’t have time to exhale my gasp before it was already happening and it was over just as quickly.
Desperate to find answers, Murdock visits Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) in prison, leading to my new favorite Kingpin scene. Threats are made, blood is drawn, and trigger-fingers get real itchy when Fisk reminds Murdock who he’s dealing with. D’Onofrio has added a quality to Fisk I can’t quite nail down, not just the energy he brings to the scene, but also his speech pattern; mechanical, precise, with the weight of full conviction, and dripping with deadly intent. Fisk’s monologue during the back-half of this scene reminded me of Ned Beatty’s disarming monologue from Paddy Chayefsky’s NETWORK. It almost felt like a raging pit-bull, inches from your face and snarling elucidations of exactly how it will rend your flesh to ribbons, in lieu of mindless barking.
Elektra tries to follow Matt’s advice of “get lost, home-wrecker,” but is thwarted by a handsome, wealthy chap with good taste in tequila and women who can deliver a sound double-sai thrashing topped with a cherry one-liner.
‘The Man in the Box’ comes into the station with a severe “infestation” at the hospital Foggy’s chilling in, causing DD to engage beast mode despite looking like he will collapse from fatigue and guilt at any moment. And Frank Castle shows Karen how drive-by shooters sometimes fire their automatic weapons in one slow strafe from left to right–watch the scene, I wasn’t particularly happy about that overlooked detail.