How's that sound? Karen, what do you think?
May contain spoilers for all seasons where she has appeared, which currently include Daredevil S1&2, The Defenders, and The Punisher S1.
First let's get this out of the way: I'm referring only to the TV adaptation of the character, because here she is in the comics. I understand she develops from this one-dimensional love interest into a drug addict who betrays Matt and then gets fridged.
Karen in the shows was awesome right from the beginning, but she's come a long way, too. In the span of a couple years she's been framed for murder and kidnapped/held hostage several times over, she's talked her way into two professional positions where she has no prior experience, excelled at both of them, killed a man, lost too many loved ones, and become the first person to hear Matt Murdock's secret from his own lips, as well as the only soft spot of the most dangerous man in New York.
She has not, however, been sexually assaulted or flirted her way into getting what she wants.
It's not that no one dares to take advantage of her. It's that they can't. She hasn't left room for that kind of crap in her life.
We still don't have her backstory, although the hints about it started early. Everyone noticed the line, "Do you really think this is the first time I've shot someone?", but there are also more subtle and intriguing references, especially in Daredevil S2. She mentions her brother to Matt, and later describes him as "sweet" and a "good brother" with a smile on her face. Her brother is dead; we briefly see a news article describing a car accident with no known cause and no other driver known to be involved.
Casting WIN. Deborah Ann Woll killed it as Jessica in True Blood, but here she is with a much different character and killing it all over again. She's so beautiful and so talented!
This was my first time making a moodboard. I had to do it.
You can find that on Tumblr along with this post I made yesterday describing where I think her relationship with Matt is currently (short version: not where he thinks it is).
Most of the reason I wanted to ship Matt with Karen was because I loved them both and I wanted to have a ship for that show, but it never quite sat right with me. Their dynamic in DS1 actually wasn't too far off that comic panel above, although portrayed much less pathetically. Karen wanted him, he either only liked her as a friend or was too distracted to think about romance. (Or he was mindful of Foggy's feelings, which, I will never stop griping about the way this pseudo-triangle was mishandled by canon.)
Here's an awesome thing that happens when you rewatch DS2 after watching The Punisher, though: Matt's frustrating attempt to define Karen as the good girl who would be good for him is only half the story. She's doing the exact same thing to him! During their awkward first date they ask about each other's day and it suddenly struck me that both of them answer with lies. Until Karen knows about Daredevil, she thinks Matt's an angel and she's the only one with a dark side.
After Matt got Elektra I figured he was never going to have another relationship with the same impact, so Karen deserved better. For a while I had vague dreams of writing a Daredevil/GotG crossover in which I was very much planning to pair her up with Peter Quill. And, you know, they'd still be a gorgeous couple so maybe the actors can co-star in something else someday. I'll resort to black magic for this if I can learn the right spell.
But anyway, The Punisher happened and oh my God Frank Castle is her soulmate, how did I not see it before.
Got that covered mostly through fanfiction and previous babbles, but how could I resist posting another image of them together. THEY ARE SO PURE.
I'm not entirely certain what issues fans have with Karen, because I gotta keep that negative energy out of my life, so I don't go looking for it. But I think it comes down to two things that happened in DS1 that established the kind of character she was going to be, and still is. First was the way she friendzones Foggy and keeps trying to get to Matt through him even after realizing that he's in love with her. Second was manipulating Ben into investigating Fisk's mother with her.
This is not the part where I try to justify all of her actions. Playing with Foggy's heart like that was mean, even if she meant no harm. If you too have had a hard crush on someone, you may have also allowed it to hurt your friendship with someone else. I know I have. Fortunately, she and Foggy are still BFFs a few seasons later, but she acted dishonorably, much like Jessica did with Luke, and there's no point in denying that.
Deceiving Ben into going to the nursing home with her was a much greater offense. Using someone's sick wife as a lure to get him to go along with your plan is just a shitty thing to do and that's even before it led directly to his death. The show might have wrapped this up a little too neatly in comparison with the careful attention it gave to Karen's guilt over other matters, but we did see her acknowledge her responsibility for what happened. She even went straight to Ben's widow with it, which must have been excruciating, but it was touching to see her forgiven so quickly.
If you need a parallel scene in which she makes a different choice to show that she's learned her lesson, I don't know if there's been one yet, but she also hasn't walked any more of her friends straight into the crosshairs. Thing is, the lesson she learned could have been to back off and let the heroes deal with the criminals, but that's not where the story has taken her at all. Causing and exacerbating trouble has become the reputation that defines her.
And this is, I think, what sets her apart and what I love about her: she takes risks. She has a lot to lose, and she'll take that chance without a second thought if what she stands to gain is worth it. She's not the moral authority, she's not powerful, and most times she doesn't even know what the best course of action is, but she knows she can't do nothing. We not only need more characters like her, we need more people like her.