I never got sick of the Punisher for one second. I can't get over how perfectly he was cast and how well his arc was crafted to fit him into the MCU. I've never been interested in the Punisher comics, and I'm still not, but this interpretation of the character is a winner. Elektra, similarly, was stunning and fascinating and enough to carry a season of TV by herself.
Did Frank and Elektra ever even meet? I don't think so. The only justification they have for being on the same show is their respective relationships to Matt. Which would be fine, he's the main character and all, but instead of those relationships building his story, they're building Elektra's and Frank's stories, which both really need every minute of the attention they get to do them justice. With two other major arcs to deal with, it's no surprise that Matt's own character development all but fades out.
At the beginning of the stairwell fight-- early episode, trying to be the corridor fight from S1, you know the one-- there's this moment that Matt pulls the trigger of the gun duct taped to his hand and smiles when nothing happens. It only lasts a second, but that knowing little smile is a brilliant, unexpected character moment that perfectly set up a thrilling fight scene. Except the fight scene wasn't thrilling, it was boilerplate and tedious. The only really great bits of action throughout the whole season didn't have Matt in them.
Is it the suit? It might be the suit. The billy clubs should improve his look, but he hasn't had much time to play with them yet. Anyway, I was originally here for Matt, and he disappointed me. His religious beliefs turned generic, his romance with Karen deflated before it began, his friendship with Foggy didn't affect much, his past didn't have any new surprises (isn't it about time we heard something about his mother?), and honestly? For all the chemistry he had with Elektra, that deflated at the end too.
I thought his best moment in the season was the meeting with Fisk in prison. I mean, the Fisk episodes were the best in the season overall, but keeping it to Matt-- he starts out all sharky and smug making his threats about Vanessa, and then gets literally throttled. And it's not because he's afraid of revealing his identity; Daredevil couldn't get out of that either, and all of the witnesses are completely willing to allow a prisoner to murder him. I would totally buy it if that was his turning point to deciding that he's better as a vigilante than a lawyer, but it ends up playing out more like he just doesn't have time for his real job.
So, I still love him, but what's done is done and the fact is that it's more interesting now to focus on the supporting characters. Elektra and the Punisher, yes, but how about that dynamite-with-a-laser-beam Karen Freakin' Page? This is what I mean about liking the same things I didn't like: her romance with Matt was nothing, and I wanted a romance, but not having it meant that she was emphatically never there just to support the main male character. The entire Punisher arc, where it mattered, was hers. She proved her competence with Nelson & Murdock and then went into a completely different career just because she was good at that too and was recognized for it. She faced her own faults but never let them drag her down. Man, I've got an irrational hatred of journalists and I still love what she chose to do with talents. Please let's see her crossing over to other Defenders shows, and finally dealing with the Wesley business after a whole season of silence on it.
Foggy got an even better deal in exchange for Nelson & Murdock, but I found it a lot less plausible. Handling himself well at one losing case doesn't really pave a direct path to becoming a partner at a huge powerful law firm. What we know of Hogarth put a bit of a sinister spin on it, too. I hope that was all foreshadowing, and not just the narrative trying to reward Foggy for being a good ol' fella.
Claire's career took a sharp turn, too-- hold up, is this a theme of the season? Did anyone actually stay in their job? Even Brent got a promotion. Melvin's doing the same kind of work, but it's not for Fisk anymore. Okay, maybe I'm reaching, but I like overarching themes. Claire, though. She up and quits her position for purely ethical reasons because she's an indomitable queen who has no time for your crap, and we know she's going to have a sizable role in Luke Cage, so soon we'll find out what she starts doing instead. I got frustrated when she wouldn't stop scolding Matt, who really was out of options at that point, but he brought it on himself. Claire knows what she's doing, everyone should just do what she says. I kind of want her to have a love interest but I'm not sure who.
Well, Stick kept the same job. As far as we can tell, anyway. I like Stick a lot, mostly because he's such a jerk and he enjoys being a jerk enough to make it funny. Totally okay with his increased airtime and ready for more of him, but I still don't care about his war.
In the final episode, everyone seems to get hit by some kind of lameness bug and can only speak in melodramatic cliches. I seriously hope that Karen's voiceover article about how Everyone's a Hero in Their Own Way was a rough draft and not indicative of her actual writing skills. Matt stands at Elektra's grave getting all swoony about their moments together, like he thinks Stick is going to pat his back or something, but Stick caught the bug too so I guess he sympathized.
But aside from all that, Matt made a move that I could only respect, revealing his identity to Karen. It's the first time he's ever done it intentionally, and he clearly put some thought into it and chose her because she was not only trustworthy but also deserved to know. Since she was my favorite character of the season, and that was the lone scene that offered me any inspiration, I wrote a ficlet on it that I'm including below. It's been up at Ao3 for a while, but wasn't worth its own LJ post since I know I don't have a lot of DD fic readers reading. :)
Frank made that connection between pain and love, urging her to see her feelings for Matt in a different light, but instead it makes her think of Frank himself. Just hearing his name (or his sensationalist new title) gives her a physical sense of terror, followed by a shockwave of hurt and the fading gleam of desperate hope.
She doesn’t desire Frank -- she never has -- but the emotional tidal wave doesn’t leave her thinking, I don’t love you, so maybe he has a point.
But the same thing happens whenever she thinks of Matt (which is far, far too often). No terror for him and certainly no hope, just the hurt, plus a constant, simmering fury. She wonders if Frank would have told her that this means there’s still something there to salvage.
It doesn’t matter. She knows she’s right. Matt’s trail of damage goes beyond emotion. It even goes beyond their relationship. She’s better off without him.
What’s worse, in a way, is Foggy. It’s the last thing she expected, because she’s happy for him, so happy. Their friendship is among the best things in her life right now. She doesn’t need pain to know she loves Foggy.
There’s pain anyway. Jealousy, because he’s found his place. Regret, because she’ll never know if she should have made her move back when he was in love with her. He doesn’t seem as pissed off at Matt as she would be in his place, and she doesn’t understand why.
Hell’s Kitchen has broken her heart, so she falls in love with it. She stops flinching at images of the human skull. She takes pride in her work for the New York Bulletin. She rebuilds her life, bit by bit, rummaging through the pain to find the seeds of love in it and throw the rest away.
By the time she sees Matt again, she believes in herself. Even her righteous anger has dulled; no apology from him will make a difference, and nothing he has in that paper bag can bring her joy. If she’s curious about what he’ll say, it’s curiosity for its own sake -- she is a journalist now, after all.
He says he’s Daredevil. It’s not fair, she thinks, to turn him into a new person when she’s finally come to peace with how she feels about the old one.
Matt takes pain out of the bag. Karen sees love.