Monday, April 13, 2015

"Stick" Trains Matt Murdock To Become Daredevil!

The Good: Plot works, Acting and characterization is competent
The Bad: Boring, Nothing superlative on the acting front, Predictably choreographed fights
The Basics: One of the essential Daredevil backstory characters makes it into the television story in "Stick!"

As the first season of Daredevil progressed, it was clear that the street-fighter vigilante story was taking a long arc into the super hero domain. Matt Murdock, by the midpoint of the first season, has not been called Daredevil or the Man Without Fear and Wilson Fisk is still building his organization; he is not yet The Kingpin. The thirteen-episode first season reached its midpoint with the episode "Stick" and it provides an opportunity for reflection into the protagonist's past.

Since "World On Fire" (reviewed here!), Daredevil has been in a plot hole that requires a massive amount of work to get the characters out of their current predicaments. Indeed, "Condemned" (reviewed here!) takes place over the course of a single night and almost exclusively in one building (at least for Matt Murdock's part in the story). "Stick" opens well, with an obvious narrative gap between "Condemned" and it, which allows for the story to progress beyond Hell's Kitchen's darkest night. The whole purpose of "Stick" seems to be to seed a future plotline, while explaining how Matt Murdock got his fighting skills.

Opening in a building where a man is being pursued by another, the pursued man attempts to shoot his attacker. The man is fleeing from the blind Stick, who is asking about the location of Black Sky. After he gets an answer, he kills the man. At Nelson And Murdock, Foggy flirts with Karen, who has to leave abruptly. At a parking garage in Hell's Kitchen, Leland Owlsley meets with Nobu, nervous about getting killed by Fisk like Vladimir was. Nobu does not want a strategic alliance and Owlsley falls prey to the Masked Vigilante, but is able to escape when Murdock is distracted. Murdock is distracted by the arrival of Stick.

The episode flashes back to young Matt Murdock meeting Stick and going out for his first lessons in how to adapt to being blind and having an overwhelming sensitivity. Twenty years later, Stick reveals to Murdock why he has returned; Stick wants to help Murdock save Hell's Kitchen. Meanwhile, Karen Page and Ben Urich meet again to talk about what it means to continue investigating Fisk's operation. Stick derides Murdock for the way he is living, but asks Murdock for help in getting the Black Sky before it falls into Nogu's hands. On the docks, Murdock and Stick intercept a boy being smuggled into Hell's Kitchen; the Black Sky. When Stick tries to kill the boy, Murdock intervenes and finds himself in direct conflict with the Yokuza and Stick!

In "Stick," Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson are actually partners and there is a whole "buddy comedy" aspect to their relationship at moments in which they interact. Still, their friendship is evident in this episode and it works nicely to contrast some of the episode's other, darker, elements. In fact, the positive interactions between Murdock and Nelson at the episode's outset play well as Stick tries to get Murdock to give up his connections.

Threaded throughout the episode are flashbacks to the young Matt Murdock being trained by Stick. Stick is a jerk, but he helps to Matt manage his new abilities. Stick also has the moral goals that Matt adopts, but he is willing to kill and insists that Murdock will have to cross that line to achieve his goals of cleaning up Hell's Kitchen. Stick is characterized as a cold mentor who has almost lost his humanity in his quest to save civilization.

Also peppered in "Stick" are scenes that have Karen Page trying to connect Tully and his rent control apartment scam to Fisk. Those scenes have Page overcoming her fear, almost to the point of stupidity. Page's character is a little weakened by the way she witlessly walks out of Cardenas's apartment without her pepper spray at the ready. It is unfortunate - especially after Urich's advice - that she is forced into the role of damsel in distress.

"Stick" degenerates into yet another fight scene and the fight between Murdock and Stick feels incredibly choreographed. The episode serves as an odd bounce back and forth as a Daredevil origin story. Viewers are finally rewarded for their faith in the show by seeing how Matt Murdock learned the martial arts that allow him to confidently fight crime on the streets at night. In the present, Stick is pursuing his own agenda and Murdock ends up with his iconic batons.

Ultimately, "Stick" is an average-at-best story that is superlative in no ways; the acting is fine, the characters move, but the plot is unremarkable and more than any of the other episodes, it feels like filler.

For other works with Scott Glenn, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Sucker Punch
Nights In Rodanthe
The Silence Of The Lambs

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Daredevil - The Complete First Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the debut season of the Man Without Fear here!


For other television episode and movie reviews, please visit my Movie Review Index Page!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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