Daredevil season 2 episode 3 viewing notes: New York’s Finest

Heightened, operatic and high-concept with a spectacular fight scene, New York's Finest is the best Daredevil episode yet...

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I’m gonna level with you. As a superhero fan, I like when things get operatic. I like when they get high-concept. I like when they’re earnest and heightened and melodramatic. And this episode of Daredevil absolutely nailed all of that.

On paper, it could be ridiculous. The Punisher literally forcing a gun into Daredevil’s hands and asking him to make the choice whether to end one life so he can save another could’ve been super-contrived and overly convenient. But it wasn’t. It was a fun battle of philosophies between two guys who are, in their own ways, on the same side.

Personally, I find Matt’s arguments about the sanctity of life compelling, especially since he went through his own journey on the subject in Season One when he thought about whether or not to kill the Kingpin. But you also can’t deny that the Punisher’s black-and-white morality has a certain simple appeal. It is why the character has endured, after all.

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The strange thing about this version of the Punisher is that, for me at least, it doesn’t resemble any existing version of the character as taken from the comics. He’s a lot younger and a lot more emotional, whereas typically the Punisher has been broadly humourless and stoic. But at the same time, he’s absolutely the guy we know, because he’s got the same rigid moral code. That’s why Grotto had to die, and even though we sympathised with his plight in the last two episodes, it’s not impossible to see the Punisher’s side of the equation.

So I broadly enjoyed all that. I did feel like Foggy’s subplot of hanging out in the hospital with Claire “looking for Matt” was perhaps a bit of a stretch, but it’s impossible not to enjoy Rosario Dawson when she turns up. And unlike her Jessica Jones appearance (which she obliquely referenced) it didn’t steal focus from the regular cast. Even with her in the mix, it was Foggy who got the big moment.

It’s impossible to talk about this episode without mentioning the ending, too. Clearly designed to top (or at least recall) the corridor fight scene from last series, Matt fighting his way down an entire building of gang members only to lose the Punisher at the end was brutal in every sense of the word.

Reference-wise, it seems like time to mention that The Punisher first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #129 (1974) as a villain, no less. The idea of Daredevil chained up by The Punisher with a gun in his hand was taken from Punisher #3 (2001) by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, though it being a Punisher series Daredevil comes off a lot worse in the philosophical battle.

And of course, Karen’s discovery that Frank Castle took a bullet to the head? Well, that x-ray is of course a reference to the Punisher’s famous skull logo. Will he end up wearing it before the series is out? It’s hard to say. Personally I’d like to see it, but Daredevil has done a lot to put characters in costumes that look vaguely realistic, so if we don’t see that I won’t be completely crushed.

In any case, this was probably the best episode yet, and the season’s already looking like an absolute gift to comic fans in all the ways Jessica Jones wasn’t. Which isn’t a slam – it’s fine to disregard the source material of an adaptation to some extent – but I personally enjoy it a lot more when they stick closer to it, as they are here.

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Read James’ viewing notes on the previous episode, Dogs To A Gunfight, here.