Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Intelligence Devolves To Action: "The Man In The Box."

The Good: Very smart characters, Performances, Character development
The Bad: Very expository, Works better for its serialized elements than on its own
The Basics: Daredevil reasserts itself as entertainment packed with intelligent characters before it devolves into horiffic moments in "The Man In The Box."

As the second season of Daredevil progressed, it became increasingly more esoteric and was devoted to laying the framework for plotlines in future seasons, as opposed to providing satisfying answers for viewers within the episodes. While some of that is natural for television in general and works within the Marvel Cinematic Universe - Jessica Jones (reviewed here!), for example, began to infuse hints as to a storyline surrounding the origins of Jessica Jones's powers within the last two episodes of the first season - the extreme weirdness of the elements seeded from the midpoint on of Daredevil season two are mind boggling. Giant urns with Japanese characters on them that are connected to people who are being exsanguinated is far more obscure and specific than a corporation that is experimenting on humans to make supersoldiers.

"The Man In The Box" follows up on "Seven Minutes In Heaven" (reviewed here!) and because it deals with ramifications of the events of the prior episode, it is impossible to discuss without some references to the prior episode. Because "Seven Minutes In Heaven" added new, horiffic elements to the Daredevil storyline, introduced the idea of the drug cartel led by The Blacksmith and put The Punisher back on the streets, it is hard to pick up "The Man In The Box" and not feel immediately lost. That said, the context clues within "The Man In The Box" give viewers about as much information as the prior episode, so if one skips the carnage of the previous episode, it is possible to not actually be missing much.

Having liberated five young people from being exsanguinated by Nobu, Daredevil enlists Mahoney and Temple to see to their care. Murdock visits Claire Temple, who has admitted the rescuees to a secure area of the hospital and informs her that Nobu is alive and likely to send killers to the hospital. Murdock learns that The Punisher has escaped and the next morning, Nelson, Page, and Murdock are called to Reyes's office, as suspects in Castle's escape. When Nelson mentions Castle was sent to cell block D, Murdock realizes that Castle was sent to the same prison and block as Wilson Fisk.

Reyes comes clean to Nelson and Murdock, about her attempt to bring down The Blacksmith and the sting that went horribly wrong, before shots are fired on city hall. Foggy Nelson is wounded and Murdock's desire to hunt Castle infuriates Page and Nelson. Tower uses the opportunity to get out of Hell's Kitchen, while Murdock visits Fisk in prison for some answers. Page returns to the New York Bulletin where Ellison helps her figure out that Castle will likely target the medical examiner next and the two head to his motel to try to save his life. That same night, Elektra prepares to leave Hell's Kitchen when she runs into an assassin sent for her and Ellison rectifies his past mistakes by getting Page a police escort. When Temple tells Murdock about the toxicology reports on the rescued kids, the situation suddenly devolves as Nobu's ninjas descend upon Metro General Hospital!

One of the real joys of "The Man In The Box" is seeing Charlie Cox and Rosario Dawson working together again. Cox plays being blind perfectly and Dawson portrays empathy so perfectly viewers are instantly convinced she is a nurse. Dawson makes the bit role of Claire Temple captivating to watch and the chemistry between her and Cox on-screen is palpable and instantly re-established in "The Man In The Box." Dawson is a powerhouse who makes the most of a comparatively minor role.

Just as seeing Dawson and Cox together, there is a lot for viewers to delight in with Vincent D'Onofrio and Charlie Cox sharing a scene again. For most of their time on screen, they simply talk with one another again and Cox and D'Onofrio make the mostly-expository scene good television. D'Onofrio once again plays Fisk as an intelligent man who knows how to scheme and get under Murdock's skin. D'Onofrio easily slips into Fisk's anger and he makes the transition look effortless. Cox plays Murdock cold and the contrast in physical presence makes him seem as big as D'Onofrio for the climax of the scene. Their shared scene is packed with foreshadowing and it gives viewers the promise that Wilson Fisk and Vincent D'Onofrio have more Daredevil to come!

"The Man In The Box" is the pay-off to almost all of the Punisher's backstory plotline. In the episode, Reyes and Tower detail the entire sting operation that they used to attempted to use to draw out The Blacksmith. The episode is the culmination of Reyes's arc and it is refeshing to see Tower is smart enough to get out of Hell's Kitchen before he's next. "The Man In The Box" is refreshing for how smart the characters in it are. Matt Murdock instantly figures out the Wilson Fisk connection to Castle's escape; Fisk's lawyer has strict terms for Murdock's visit, and the final shot of Wilson Fisk is so well performed that it makes an implication that Fisk getting wounded by Murdock clues him into the truth about Murdock's dual nature. Daredevil is smart, adult television and it is refreshing to have a show where there is some subtlety and inference, as opposed to having everything spoon-fed to the audience.

Elektra's return to the narrative is unremarkable in "The Man In The Box," but it follow's the episode's decent portrayal of its characters are generally smart people. Having been on the other end of a seduction by the Chaste, Elektra takes virtually no time in recognizing what she is up against and dispatching her would-be assassin.

Karen Page's role in "The Man In The Box" is to move her away from Nelson And Murdock and further into working with Ellison as an investigative reporter. Ellison has one of the biggest "awwww!" (sweetness) moments of "The Man In The Box" and it is refreshing to see that the death of Ben Urich's death still resonates with him. Ellison is likable and Geoffrey Cantor plays off Deborah Ann Woll with a protective quality that he manages to not feel at all patronizing.

Like many episodes of Daredevil, at least in its second season, "The Man In The Box" progresses along in one direction before taking an abrupt right turn. When Frank Castle appears on-screen, he is instantly convincing and the truth is refeshingly as it appears. The supernatural aspect in "The Man In The Box" is a significant component to the right turn the episode's climax takes, but the revelation to Elektra is hardly as surprising as it was probably intended.

The result is a smart episode of Daredevil that lacks larger themes, but is pretty essential for all of the major plotlines and character arcs.

For other works with Rosario Dawson, be sure to check out my reviews of:
"New York's Finest" - Daredevil
"AKA Smile" - Jessica Jones
Daredevil - Season 1
Seven Pounds
Clerks II
25th Hour
Men In Black II

[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 reviews of pieces of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, please visit my Marvel Cinematic Universe Review Index Page for an organized listing!

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