TV: Elektra, The Punisher… Rating Marvel’s #Daredevil’s Sidekicks

Needless to say, you are now entering a spoiler-filled zone on Netflix’s Daredevil series:

SOPHOMORE SLUMP, SEASON TWO OF MARVEL’S DARDEVIL AIN’T. Given the vast void left by the now-imprisoned Wilson Fisk a.k.a. Kingpin (played with earth-shaking gravitas by Vincent D’Onofrio), the show has furnished itself with a plethora of vibrant supporting players to Charlie Cox’s Daredevil (Matthew Murdock by day). If you have had a Twitter, Facebook, or even Yahoo News homepage for the past few months, you knew two iconic characters from the comics were coming–Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher (Jon Bernthal in probably what will be the defining role of his career) and Elektra Natchios (Élodie Yung). It would take all of Hell’s Kitchen, however, to fortify the lofty stage set by D’Onofrio’s Fisk. Season two of Daredevil is really about the auxiliary arcs, those of characters adjacent to Matt Murdock’s one-man crime-fighting crusade.

LI’L GRIPES rated Season Two’s major side players on both “Likeability” and “Who Gives a ****” factors:

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SEASON 2 OF DAREDEVIL IS REALLY ABOUT THE AUXILIARY ARCS, THOSE OF CHARACTERS ADJECENT TO MATT MURDOCK’S ONE-MAN CRIME-FIGHTING CRUSADE.

The “Likeability” and “Who Gives a ****” scales are numbered 1-10, with 10 being, “I couldn’t like this character more and care what happens to him/her more than I do my parents”:

Frank Castle/The Punisher (Jon Bernthal)

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Likeability (1-10): 8

There are times the Punisher comes off as nothing more than a bloodthirsty, vengeance-seeking, and self-serving animal. More often than not, however, he is a man of great honor and compassion who never puts the hurt on anyone who didn’t deserve it. For example:

  • He mulled down an entire crew of Irish gangsters on their home turf and takes the Pit Bull they were using to dogfight, only to treat it like a lapdog.
  • He, unsolicited, comes to Daredevil’s rescue at one point because it was the right thing to do.
  • Even with the promise of revenge dangling in his face, Frank couldn’t be seduced by Wilson Fisk to go Dark Side. Frank immediately recognized how deeply entrenched in scum Fisk was and refused to associate with him. We cannot wait for his and Daredevil’s inevitable team-up next season against Fatty.

Bernthal’s performance illuminates both the terrifying killing machine Castle is as well as the teddy bear-cushy heart inside that made him fold under questioning when, of all things, his dog’s life was threatened.

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A Marine and family man who is the victim of a government cover-up, Frank Castle’s story is so ripe with morality tales and conspiracy mysteries that it should have consumed a lot more of this season than it did. He left a lot of dismembered bodies in his wake from episode one but by midseason, you already miss him whenever the Punisher is not onscreen.

Who Gives a **** Factor (1-10): 10

Although chances of the Punisher dying his inaugural season were slim given his surrounding fandom, he still came close too many times. Do we care what happens to the Punisher? Oh, HELL YEA! Our hearts even broke when he allowed himself to be incarcerated. By mid-season, we wanted nothing more than for Frank Castle to be roaming free and violently kicking asses.

FUN FACT: Jon Bernthal is not the only cast member from AMC’s The Walking Dead to play the Punisher. Norman Reedus voiced Frank Castle in 2013’s animated feature, Iron Man: Rise of the Technovore.

“Frank Castle’s story is so ripe with morality tales and conspiracy mysteries that it should have consumed a lot more of this season than it did.”

Elektra Natchios (Élodie Yung)

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Likeability: 3

The problem with the character of Elektra is that she really should have been saved for another season. We are introduced to the Punisher from the first episode and don’t meet Elektra until the end of the fourth. Completely immersed emotionally at this juncture in the Punisher’s storyline, we are literally interrupted by Elektra who steals Daredevil away to help solve her own problems.

For the most part, Elektra rubs us the wrong way with her trite rich-girl accent, bratty attitude toward literally everything she sees, and irritatingly snarky one-liners. The only times we root for Elektra are when she is mortally wounded and drops the snooty-bitch act and whenever she engages in hand-to-hand combat. Élodie Yung, who was already a black belt in karate, trained heavily to convince us of Elektra’s ninja cred and every single sweat bead paid off.

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Who Gives a **** Factor: 7

She is the Black Sky, after all. Like or dislike her, we don’t want Elektra falling into the wrong hands i.e. THE Hand. It would void everything for which Daredevil, the Punisher, and all other well-meaning warriors in this universe have ever fought. Still, Elektra’s entire character universe feels sharply dissonant from that of Murdock’s Hell’s Kitchen. Perhaps, it is really better-suited for its own show.

FUN FACT: Elektra Natchios is famously of biological Greek heritage in the comics. Because they cast Élodie Yung, an actress of Cambodian and French heritage, they reimagined Elektra to be the adopted daughter of a Greek diplomat.

“The problem with the character of Elektra is that she really should have been saved for another season.”

Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll)

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Likeability: 8

It is to the writers’, directors’, and actress’s credit that Karen Page is this likeable. From the first episode, she seemed poised at best to be a pretty wallflower and, at worst, a Mary Sue. Karen’s tenacity at peeling back the bullshit film of corrupt men is further hoisted by the actress’s mystifyingly intense glare, one that can cause grown men to wet their pants upon one look. Karen Page is a mystery, but she is also real. She’s not an expert in any martial art, but she knows her way around a handgun (a remnant of some horrible incident in her youth). She never seeks fights, but she has proven herself capable of surviving more than a few kidnappings. She ain’t there to be Daredevil’s cheerleader.

In many ways, Karen Page is more of a badass than the assassin, Elektra. An untrained secretary who singlehandedly took down the right-hand man to the biggest crime boss in New York City…Where is this woman on Tinder?! She’s earned our respect as viewers. Despite that she has been in the dark about her friend Matt’s secret identity for two seasons long, she has always fought in the daylight for the same justice Daredevil seeks.

Who Gives a **** Factor: 2

Unfortunately, liking a character and caring what happens to him or her are two separate entities in the universe of television. As enjoyable and engaging as Karen Page is, she is simply not integral enough to the Daredevil story for us to bite our fingernails over her life expectancy.

“Karen Page ain’t there to be Daredevil’s cheerleader.”

Franklin “Foggy” Nelson (Elden Henson)

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Likeability: 2

What a bellyacher Foggy Nelson is. Great lawyer? Check. Loyal friend? Check. Gullible and naïve about the reality in which he exists? YUP. Vigilantes always need their dissenters and it would be cosmic irony that the Daredevil’s best friend is his. Foggy has his moments of glory when his nonstop jokes do land as the comic relief of this show.

His funny moments are heavily outweighed yet again this season, however, by his aggressively anti-vigilante stance. Foggy’s eagerness to believe the faulty media portrayal of Frank Castle as a bloodthirsty lunatic and unwillingness to help Frank as a defense attorney is confounding. Couple that with this season’s token Foggy outburst in which he lays into Matt for being the Daredevil, for risking his life to save others, without any sympathy for how difficult the tiptoeing act of balancing work and vigilantism must be. He knows the New York City, and the Hell’s Kitchen, in which he lives. How could one be so cut off from reality under these circumstances?

Who Gives a **** Factor: 5

We actually do care what happens to Foggy- We want him to die. We are excited for the psychological ramifications his death would have on Matthew Murdock as a person and the Daredevil as a vigilante. The only other major character upon which his death will impact is Karen Page and, well, we already stated our feelings on her fate. Other than bringing the occasional moments of necessary levity to the show, Foggy Nelson is a generic doughy and clueless sidekick.

“We want Foggy Nelson to die.”

Lend us your thoughts on Season Two’s character likeability.

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Daredevil‘s Hell’s Kitchen, NYC
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