Although Daredevil’s action sequences are a tremendous asset, they’re also one of its biggest liabilities. It’s a simple problem of escalation: In a martial-arts movie, for example, you can almost always expect three big fights, one for each act, with maybe a smaller fight or two thrown in for good measure. Ideally, each of those fights would scale up in both ambition and narrative importance. As you get closer to the end, the stakes get higher and the choreography more elaborate.
It’s harder to do that sort of thing on a show like Daredevil, however. Given budget concerns and time constraints, resources have to be allocated in such a way that no one episode handicaps the rest. This makes it really tricky to keep topping each fight scene in a sustainable way. Daredevil almost pulled it off: After introducing the Punisher, then Elektra, then the Hand, now all of them are slowly converging.
Except the vocabulary of Daredevil’s action is limited; every fight can’t be a long-take hallway thriller. The show’s dark setting and clean, straightforward style — which rewards well-staged fights like Matt’s first two bouts with the Punisher, or his living-room brawl with the Hand assassin — begin to buckle under the weight of ambition. It’s kind of ironic, and very unfortunate: The more exciting elements Daredevil has to throw into a fight (like a small army of Hand ninjas storming a hospital), the less interesting that fight is bound to look onscreen.
So yes, the resolution to the cliffhanger at the end of “The Man in the Box” is a little underwhelming, as the ninja brawls start to take on a vanilla flavor. The show is still capable of some really cool stunt work, like when Claire Temple is thrown out a window and Daredevil plunges out after her, catching one of the Hand’s rappelling cables and crashing into a window to save her. It’s all for naught, though. The Hand grab the Farm victims and Daredevil loses them in pursuit.
With the Hand out of reach, “.380” then pivots its focus on the other big priority: How are our heroes going to find the Blacksmith?
For Frank Castle, nothing else matters — and for some reason, Karen thinks she’s better off helping him track the drug lord down. This leads to the two of them sitting across from one another in a diner, drinking coffee and talking about guns and dating.
No, really: Since she pulled a gun on him in “The Man in the Box,” he wants to know if she chose the firearm, a .380 herself. He’s impressed, because most people go for something fancy or aesthetically pleasing, but “a .380 shows thought.”
While they’re sharing, Karen tells Frank that she believes him because he’s always been honest with her. The same can’t be said for everyone else. This is where Karen loses me. Daredevil has worked really hard to give Karen an assertiveness and agency that she lacked in season one — I’ve been really happy with her story this season, barring a few quibbles — but her relationship with Frank Castle might compromise that. I buy why she’d believe Frank, and why she’d advocate for him. I don’t buy her helping him.
Also, Frank gives her super-questionable advice about love and Matt and I’m not sure what she’s supposed to take away from it other than, “It’s better to be with someone bad for you than with no one at all,” which is just wrong. Besides, he’s not actually there to talk to her; he’s there to kill a pair of the Blacksmith’s goons, but not before beating a possible location for the Blacksmith out of them.
Meanwhile, Matt — whom Karen finally clued in on the fact that the Blacksmith is killing everyone, not Frank — follows a tip from Blake Tower and tracks down the Blacksmith’s chief competitor, hidden in Chinatown. Turns out it’s Madame Gao. Remember her? While it’s fun to see her, she doesn’t reveal much. She doesn’t know who the Blacksmith is — just that his drugs come via boat.
The Punisher is already at the dock, tearing through the Blacksmith’s men and holding the freighter captain at gunpoint, pressuring him to confess to being the Blacksmith so he can kill him and feel vindicated. Only he’s wrong, and Daredevil shows up to tell him so. The Punisher is really damn frustrated by Daredevil’s interference, and they’d normally have a huge fight over it … but they’re besieged by the Blacksmith’s men. Frank pushes Daredevil into the Hudson river, then sets off a powder keg of explosives to take out the goons and, seemingly, himself.