Friday, March 25, 2016

End On The Anticlimax: "A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen" Is More Foreshadowing Than Satisfying!

The Good: Good character moments, A lot of plot seeding, Moments of performance
The Bad: Light on resolutions, Details, Mundane mood accents the less-developed plot
The Basics: Daredevil ends its second season on "A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen," which might be a good tie-in to future episodes, but is more lackluster than fans of the show (and comic) might want.

It is very easy to think that Daredevil shot its creative wad in its first season. Daredevil appeared on Netflix with a season that utilized its most iconic villain (which is par for the Marvel Cinematic Universe course) and killed off a shocking number of its essential support characters. When the second season of Daredevil was first announced fans might have had the reasonable concern that what was left of the franchise was nearing its creative end; with Elektra and The Punisher popping up now, only Typhoid Mary and Bullseye remain from the core of essential Daredevil villains. Both Typhoid Mary and Bullseye would have trouble with fitting into the Marvel Cinematic Universe and (even together) sustaining a full-season arc for the show. The second season finale of Daredevil is built almost entirely on the promise of future seasons of Daredevil. "A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen" does a faux-conclusion for Elektra's storyline - faux- because only those ignorant of every other Marvel Cinematic property would not see the episode's final scene and what it promises coming.

"A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen" follows upon the threat made at the climax of "The Dark At The End Of The Tunnel" (reviewed here!), when Nobu set The Hand upon the task of killing Daredevil. The episode has Elektra in her full, honest, form and manages to not completely neglect the core characters of Daredevil while justifying her appearance on the show. Some of the best moments of "A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen" are allusions to Jessica Jones and set-ups for future episodes of Daredevil (which are fairly well-telegraphed for anyone who has read Shadowland).

The mysterious object that Nobu has been protecting is shown to still be in Nobu's possession when Nobu tasks one of his assistants with capturing twenty targets in New York City for his own purpose. Daredevil patches Stick up while the two debate the Black Sky, which Murdock refuses to believe in. Elektra, continues to struggle with understanding her true nature and Murdock tries to convince her of her humanity and they resolve to try to stop Nobu and The Hand. While Foggy Nelson meets with Jeri Hogarth for a job at her firm, Elektra and Daredevil visit Melvin Potter, who outfits Elektra with a costume and gives Matt his unique billyclub. Nelson calls Murdock to reveal that Mahoney has been roughed up and the people who assaulted the police detective took the records of all the people Daredevil saved.

The abductors are Nobu's forces and they capture Page and Turk, among others, which leads Daredevil on a chase across Hell's Kitchen to try to rescue them. Turk being among the captives becomes advantageous as he is under house arrest and Page convinces him to re-activate his ankle monitor to alert the police to their location. Murdock correctly deduces that the capture of the people he once rescued is a trap designed to draw him out and to save Karen and the others, he willingly runs into the trap . . . though he has back-up from Elektra and someone he never expected.

The promotions for the second season of Daredevil - one featuring The Punisher, another featuring Elektra - allowed attentive viewers (like me) to pretty easily predict the basic plotting of the larger second season arc. Despite that, "A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen" is entertaining and it creates an effective emotional investment for viewers. The faux-resolution for the Elektra arc is a deposit into the emotional bank for viewers; will it pay off? The answer seems to depend almost entirely upon how far ahead the executive producers of Daredevil have plotted the series and the rest of Marvel's "street level" universe on Netflix. Given the quality of Daredevil so far, it is hard not to bank on the investment paying off.

After the revelation in "The Dark At The End Of The Tunnel," seeing Elektra react with considering suicide is actually refreshing on television. Elektra has had a core of evil within her, which Stick has tried to redirect and use for his good cause. So, Elektra's sense of violence perfectly fits within her character to have her consider self-violence and that sense of realism is well-constructed. Director Peter Hoar and writers Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez wisely put Elektra on a ledge for her first solo scene following her truth being revealed to herself. Murdock's faith in Elektra is not wasted, which is refreshing. When Page is captured, Elektra calms Murdock and exhibits an affection for him that is very human.

Fans of Daredevil, both the show and especially the comic, and the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe will have a lot to squeal about from "A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen." Jeri Hogarth's appearance leaves viewers with the promise of a potential crossover of Nelson to any potential second season of Jessica Jones - or any other trips to Hogarth's law firm within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Daredevil getting his iconic billyclub is more of a geek-out moment for the fans of the man without fear than seeing Frank Castle in his full Punisher armor. And geeks cannot help but delight by some of the background details - like a poster for The Gladiator in the background at Melvin Potter's workshop. Given that level of detail, it's virtually impossible to believe that the "Wanted For Robbery" poster over Nelson's shoulder when he calls Matt is random!

Oddly, for a show (and episode) that is so detail oriented, it seems odd what details the episode gets wrong. For sure, Jeri Hogarth has a ton of money for things like reconstructive surgery, but the seemingly compressed timeframe of the second season of Daredevil and the lack of a significant gap between it and Jessica Jones (Claire Temple's first appearance in the second season is within the month window after the finale of the first season of Jessica Jones, though there seems to be an incredibly poor transition between the hot summer at the beginning of this season and the finale ending at Christmastime) make it somewhat unrealistic that Hogarth has no visible scars whatsoever. Within the episode, Detective Mahoney requests lights up on three different locations to illuminate the rooftop for the final battle, but those lights never materialize (despite the long stairwell scene before that confrontation.

"A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen" illustrates one of the problems with a show that features a lot of physical fights; the final battle in the episode might be a decent-enough fight sequence, but it is poorly lit and much of it is resolved without being focused on. It is like the executive producers, like the viewers, were feeling fight fatigue and didn't know how to top previous fights and just didn't care to try. Fortunately, the episode does not bank everything on the fight sequence. Instead, the episode's big moments are appropriately focused on Matt Murdock.

Murdock declares his love for Elektra in a fairly convincing way in "A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen" and her observations tie well to the confession Murdock ultimately makes. Season three has an important character aspect to follow up on - Daredevil does not kill, so how Murdock's feelings of guilt play out in the next season for what director Peter Hoar shot in a way that convincingly could be written off as an accident is fodder for fan speculation until it airs. Stick and Murdock's relationship deepens in "A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen" (though how Stick got out of the chair remains a mystery) and their final scene makes Murdock's final scene make perfect sense (especially tied with the stairwell scene between Daredevil and Elektra).

The acting front is dominated by Geoffrey Cantor. Cantor has the supporting role of The New York Bulletin's Mitchell Ellison, who is now Karen Page's boss. Cantor takes a fairly small supporting role and performs the hell out of it. There is not a millisecond of his portrayal of Cantor in his final scene of the season that he is not absolutely convincing as an editor. His final scene, which is part of the season's long denouement after all the action is over, is one of the most interesting, even through it is mostly just a guy lecturing to his employee. Deborah Ann Woll's responsive monologue is well-delivered, even if it feels a bit gushy for the oppressively dark Daredevil. On-screen, Woll nails her final moment of the episode, which relies entirely upon her reaction.

"A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen" is enjoyable, but not actually extraordinary. While it affords some level of closure to the season, the episode is belaboring the foreshadowing to future Daredevil, seeming to bank on the future as opposed to creating something great in and of itself.

For other climactic season finales, be sure to check out my reviews of:
"AKA Smile" - Jessica Jones
"Fast Enough" - The Flash
"S.O.S. Part 2" - Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.

[Knowing that single episodes are an inefficient way to get episodes, it's worth looking into Daredevil - The Complete Second Season on DVD or Blu-Ray, which is also a better economical choice than buying individual episodes. Read my review of the sophomore season of the blind vigilante here!


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

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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