It took more than a batch of chemicals to turn Matt Murdock into the brutal spirit of vengeance that haunts Hell's Kitchen.
"Stick" introduces us to the loveless, single-minded mentor who taught Matt Murdock how to read heartbeats, hear broken bones and beat the tar out of the city's underworld. This episode spends half its time in the past, and although it doesn't show us what eventually led Matt to put on the mask, it goes a long way toward showing us why our eventual Daredevil operates very differently from the rest of Marvel's heroes.
Stick is a necessary evil in this world. He's a killer, a bully who seems to take pleasure in acting as a drill sergeant to young Matt, and he doesn't know forgiveness in the slightest. Where a young Matt sees a father-figure, Stick sees attachment as a mortal sin, and crushes the boy's spirit long before Wilson Fisk will ever have a chance to do the same.
The episode also provides us another parallel path for Matt. While the show has repeatedly told us the line between Matt and Fisk is drawn in erasable ink, this installment shows us Matt's approach to vigilantism is pillowy soft compared to Stick's. Had his old sensei not walked out on his life, Matt could have easily turned into this misanthropic, vicious and morally simplistic man.
Sure, we might be scared of the Matt who tortures suspects and leaves mobsters comatose, but he could obviously be much worse. I'd argue that Stick, who seems comfortable making absolute decisions for what he sees as the greater good, is far closer to Fisk than Matt ever will be.
As much as I enjoyed this episode, especially Stick and Matt's apartment-wrecking brawl, the entire Nobu-Black Sky plot felt like it was part of a different television show. Mystic weapons of mass destruction encased in a child's body? That's tonally disconnected from the first six episodes of this series.
We needed a breather from the Fisk storyline, as the past three episodes were essentially one contained story, but the lack of an explanation about Stick's entire mission or what the Black Sky was left parts of this episode hard to connect with. Stick's meeting with the faceless man at the episode's close also smacked of mysticism that's disconnected from what this show has been so far.
I know the series will eventually touch on the more hyper-real aspects of Daredevil's mythos (Elektra and Bullseye will appear in the second season, if there is one), but again, without any kind of explanation, Stick seems like he got lost on his way to an eventual "Iron Fist" series and wound up here.
Good episode, hilarious at times, but possibly the weakest of the seven I've seen so far. You can't drop elements of black magic into a crime show without even a hint of an explanation.
Random Thoughts Without Fear:
So... who exactly is Nobu working for? Given Stick's discussions of war and the general voodoo weirdness of the entire situation, it's possible we're dealing with "The Hand," Marvel's resident ninja terrorist organization, but that remains unclear. The Yakuza have also been occasional enemies of Daredevil, most notably in the "King of Hell's Kitchen" storyline which is home to the kind of blood-and-guts action sequences this series seems to love.
Interesting take on Stick. In the comics, namely the "Man Without Fear" story that inspired the black costume Charlie Cox is running around in, he actually abhors killing and quits as Matt's tutor after he accidentally kills someone. The inverse is actually more interesting, at least to me. I'd love to see more Stick, I just want a better explanation of the supernatural elements of his mission.
Foggy-Page Watch: Watching our sidekick and love interest knock out Fisk goons by way of mace and baseball bat is hilarious, but poor, poor Mr. Nelson is running head-first into heartbreak.
Not sure how I feel about the Page-Urich storyline. I know, realistically, Ben is going to crack this story in ways that aren't sexy to the viewer, most likely by submitting public-records request after public-records request. But watching Karen bumble around isn't terribly enthralling either. If these two are really going to be integral to taking down Fisk, I need to see Ben meeting with more of his sources, peeling back the layers.
Follow @JamesQueallyLAT so he can treat your 12-year-old son like garbage while training him in the ancient ways of Kung-Fu ... and for breaking news in the real world.