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Although Daredevil doesn’t lean heavily into the legal drama aspect of its lawyer-as-superhero high-concept, when it does the emphasis is more often on the “drama”. See, for example, the idea that the Punisher could be brought to trial in a week. You’d have to do more than pull strings to get that far in real life. But it doesn’t bother me because what I want to see is the Punisher in the dock, and I don’t care what flimsy explanations they give for why that happened.
The idea of Matt’s life being thrown out of balance by Elektra is well-emphasised here, as he completely botches his presence at the Punisher’s trial much to Foggy and Karen’s understandable disappointment. If you ever sided with Matt over the strain of his double-life, it’s fair to say he screwed this one up big time by abandoning his responsibilities and throwing his friends in at the deep end in favour of helping Elektra investigate something vague.
Vague is pretty much all it was, too. The decrypted ledger led to a train car full of dirt which led to a giant hole. What’s the hole for? Beats me. I’m getting a slight shade of the comic event Shadowland, where the Hand build a large fortress in Hell’s Kitchen so that they could raise a demon, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. The sexual tension between Matt and Elektra really keeps the episode engaging, but the payoff here is not strong.
Luckily, the other side of the story is absolutely fantastic. The courtroom jousting between Foggy and the DA is great no matter who’s winning. The one problem is that the case itself seems completely unwinnable. The chance of the death penalty’s been thrown out, so that’s not a concern. The Punisher won’t plead insanity, so he can’t get off the charges. And he’s definitely guilty, so Nelson & Murdock can’t even argue for that. What are they trying to do again? Get his charges reduced so he doesn’t end up in with the kind of crooks who’d kill him? As fun as the trial is, it would’ve been a lot better if the stakes were simpler. If the state of New York can force a high-profile trial to happen in a week, they can get special dispensation for the death penalty.
As it is, they aim for a mistrial by attempting to prove that Reyes is corrupt, which they almost manage until Elektra intervenes unilaterally. It’s thematically strong for a show about a guy who takes the law into his own hands, and for the current duality of Daredevil and Elektra’s relationship and the way it affects the life of Matt Murdock. Matt is barely in control of himself, and other people are paying the price. The episode’s pivotal moment – Foggy chewing Matt out (“Stop acting like things just happen to you”) – is fantastic.
It’s that kind of characterisation which makes this show work so well even when the plot is all over the shop. Along similar lines, Karen and Matt talking about the Punisher’s methods while on their date is loaded with subtext, not least because last series she murdered someone and Matt’s a vigilante. The speed at which they both get their hackles up show’s that it’s not really a conversation about The Punisher that they’re having, so much as one about themselves.
Oh, and there’s only one other comics reference here: the indictment number for the Punisher is 1986-4447, and I’m fairly sure that the first part of that was chosen because the Punisher got his first solo comic in 1986 – a five-issue limited series by Steven Grant, Mike Zeck and Mike Vosburg.