The overall pattern of Daredevil is starting to become clear. As we head into a largely stand-alone episode depicting Matt’s mentor and his early training, I have to make a decision… am I okay with the thinner, less interesting aspects of the show? Does the rest of it balance out that disappointment?
Episode Title: Stick
Original Airdate: 4/10/2015
This is a pretty simple episode at heart. The jerkbutt mentor who trained Matt at an early age to fight comes back for a reunion (and an assassination mission), the two clash, and that’s that.
Everything unfolds pretty much exactly as you’d expect based on that pattern. Stick, the ancient blind ninja-guy, advocates having zero emotional attachment to anybody else in the world or to the world itself. He believes in strict self-reliance, and tries to impart his ideology onto Matt. While Matt picks up the fighting well enough, he’s too “soft” for Stick’s tastes. When cute widdle Matt offers a show of emotional bonding towards his new father figure, Stick simply bails on him, and…
…y’know? Seriously, this story writes itself. If you’ve ever seen a hard-as-nails martial arts trainer with grey morality before you know how this one’s going down, and you even know the surprise emotional twist at the end. I’ve even seen it in the Katamari Damacy games, for crying out loud. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fun to watch it go down as it leads to a number of great dialogue scenes and fights, but there’s no surprise whatsoever. The only eyebrow-raiser is in what Stick’s target actually is and how it ties into what looks like Season 2’s story arc, which will likely delve into the “ninja clan shenanigans” side of the Daredevil comic experience. So while it’s an easy-to-swallow episode and has some delicious moments, it’s definitely a throwaway story in the end.
So how about the subplot? Any salvation there? Well, Karen, Ben, and Foggy are chasing down the mysterious Kingpin. And we already know everything they’re trying to learn. I’ve mentioned this before as a problem, that their flailing about is basically useless to an audience already in-the-know, and that’s a shame.
Lastly, let’s add in that my fears from the previous episode that a massive terrorism incident would be completely glossed over. Foggy even mentions Al Qaeda by name, but the whole world is perfectly happy to swallow the idea that one dude in a mask was responsible alone for simultaneously destroying five city blocks, and the story isn’t interested in exploring that any further. It’s moving on and wants us to move along with it.
When it comes down to it, this is the episode that makes or breaks the series. I’d been impressed by a lack of narrative conveniences until now, but we’ve had a large number of those stacked up in a short time, alongside an ongoing B-plot which just isn’t very interesting. So, are we at the tipping point where Daredevil becomes just another flimsy action set piece?
The only way I’m going to be able to carry on, I think, is to forgive its shortcomics. Maybe it’s way too picky of me to harp on the boring supporting cast or the surprisingly unimportant explosions. When the show delivers, it delivers very nicely; even in this episode we get some great fights and good back-and-forth with Stick. I feel as long as we acknowledge the flaws and move on, realizing this is definitely not a perfect show by any stretch, it’s still entertaining enough. And that’s a far sight better than most shows manage.