Monday, March 21, 2016

"Red Wedding" On Daredevil: "Seven Minutes In Heaven"

The Good: Well-written, Well-directed, Well-performed
The Bad: Light on character development, Disturbingly violent and graphic . . . even for adults
The Basics: Daredevil steps up its game as adult's only entertainment in "Seven Minutes In Heaven," which returns multiple adversaries to the series.

I am not, as a general rule, a huge fan of spoilers. Spoilers, however, are entirely time-based. Last year, when The Walking Dead had an episode that led to the apparent death of Glenn and viewers freaked out for a week as people went online to discuss it. During that period, I used my social media accounts to illustrate that everything that was once a spoiler eventually became common knowledge - things like "Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker's father," "Bruce Willis's character in The Sixth Sense is dead," and "Don't get too attached to Sean Bean's character in [insert name of movie/show here]!" The second season of Daredevil had a huge, incredible spoiler that managed to be unspoiled by reviewers because reviewers were only given the episodes before the spoiler event occurred.

"Seven Minutes In Heaven" is the first episode of Daredevil after the huge spoilerific event. The episode follows up on a revelation in the last moment of "Guilty As Sin" (reviewed here!) and while it is easy not to spoil that moment in "Guilty As Sin," the very nature of "Seven Minutes In Heaven" makes it absolutely impossible to discuss the episode without revealing the climactic moment of "Guilty As Sin." In "Seven Minutes In Heaven," the second season of Daredevil takes an abrupt right turn that ties it to the first season and that turn is enough to make fans of the first season squeal with delight, especially given how unexpected it is.

Opening with the convicted Wilson Fisk arriving at prison, Fisk is approached by Dutton, an inmate who declares himself to be the kingpin of the prison. Fisk is also approached by Stewart Finney, a white collar criminal, who bonds with Fisk. Fisk immediately begins assembling information on inmates and using his lawyer to arrange favors for his new crew. Fisk is looking for a way to get into cell block A and he sees The Punisher as a way to get to Dutton in block A. His information points to the idea that Dutton's heroin trade might have been involved in the incident that resulted in Frank Castle's family being killed.

At Matt Murdock's apartment, Matt is rescued by Elektra, who has used her allies to clean up his apartment in the wake of her killing a ninja in self-defense. Murdock pushes Elektra away and later Foggy Nelson visits and suggests it is time to shut down their law practice. Much to Nelson's chagrin, Murdock agrees and does not fight for their business. Heartbroken, Nelson returns to the office where Page has made an important discovery about the Castle case. Page discovers that there was another civilian body at the shootout the day Castle's family was killed and she convinces Nelson to visit the medical examiner with her. Daredevil gets confirmation from the Yakuza accountant that The Hand exists and he learns that the accountant's son, Daniel, is a prisoner of The Hand. While Frank Castle dispatches of his and Fisk's mutual enemies, Daredevil attempts to rescue civilians from a horrifying facility run by The Hand.

"Seven Minutes In Heaven" expertly ties the first and second seasons of Daredevil together. Wilson Fisk is not out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe; he is rebuilding his organization from the inside of the prison. Similarly, the return of Nobu only makes sense to those who were invested in the first season of Daredevil (reviewed here!), but his return is the first real confirmation for Matt Murdock that Stick was telling him the truth in "Guilty As Sin."

Fans of the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe are likely to wonder how it is that Wilson Fisk and Frank Castle did not end up at the Supermax prison from the Jessica Jones episode "AKA Top Shelf Perverts" (reviewed here!). That said, the rest of the continuity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe works well.

"Seven Minutes In Heaven" features long scenes between Frank Castle and Wilson Fisk simply talking. The scene, which includes a lot of exposition and subtext, is a chance for Jon Bernthal and Vincent D'Onofrio to growl at one another for more than ten continuous minutes and it is a pleasure to watch such dramatic heavyweights verbally box. Bernthal holds his own with presence and vocal force opposite the established, recognizable, greatness of Vincent D'Onofrio. The performances and characters are a thrill to watch for a scene where two people are just calmly speaking to one another. The final scene between D'Onofrio and Bernthal reminds viewers what an undeniable presence D'Onofrio has as Fisk. Seeing Fisk and Castle go toe to toe is one of the high points of the series so far.

But "Seven Minutes In Heaven" is not all talk. After the single, very graphic on-screen murder at the end of "Guilty As Sin," "Seven Minutes In Heaven" features a bloody scene on par with the Red Wedding from the third season of Game Of Thrones (reviewed here!); it is not for the feint of heart or the weak of stomach. Those who want the Marvel Cinematic Universe to be kid-friendly have to accept that Daredevil is adult, R-rated television and "Seven Minutes In Heaven" features the most graphic moment of the franchise yet. Director Stephen Surjik presents the violence in a way that is exceptionally difficult to watch.

"Seven Minutes In Heaven" is a weird mix of cerebral, procedural conspiracy drama - Karen Page is all investigative reporter, Fisk and Castle conspire to cut a lead in the case of the shootout between three rival drug gangs, and Foggy Nelson talks shop entirely in his time on screen - and a horror film (Daredevil's trip to "the farm" the Hand has established is nightmarish). Surjik backloads the episode; the first half hour is visually tame, the last half includes throat-slitting, exsanguination and other grisly, on-screen murders.

The conspiracy in the second season of Daredevil is almost entirely detailed in "Seven Minutes In Heaven." Dutton speaks the first reference to The Blacksmith, a drug supplier with pure heroin who orchestrated the meeting of three rival gangs in the park near the carousel that went south. Like all well-crafted conspiracy stories, there are layers and Page and Ellison (the editor of the New York Bulletin) learn key facts about the conspiracy before Castle gets some of the information. The Blacksmith is a newly-discovered player in that conspiracy and it will guide Daredevil's Punisher arc through the end of the season.

Not all of "Seven Minutes In Heaven" is oppressive, cerebral or visually unpleasant. Karen Page is given Ben Urich's old office to work out of and the emotionalism of that moment is enough to root fans of the show in something more real. Sadly, it is sandwiched in between two scenes that are so graphic that they turn the viewer's stomach. Despite the episode's graphicness, "Seven Minutes In Heaven" is packed with information those who are fans of Daredevil that is essential for understanding both the Punisher and Elektra plots. This episode lays the framework for future Wilson Fisk plotlines, as well as the core concepts for the eventual television incarnation of Shadowland.

The result is an episode of television that is not always enjoyable to watch and might not have larger themes, but is essential Daredevil.

For other works with Bill Walters, please check out my reviews of:
Birdman (Or The Unexpected Virtue Of Ignorance)
Man On A Ledge

[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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