It’s no secret that most superheroes are only as interesting as the foils that the writers place opposite them. Across the two seasons, Daredevil has been at its best when the antagonists are at their best. What is season 1 without Vincent D’Onofrio? Season 2 hit a high point just as Jon Bernthal was given some room to brood as Frank Castle. And now we come to Elektra as played by Elodie Yung. She’s intelligent, dangerous, more than a little psychotic, and brilliant across from Charlie Cox.
One of the biggest disappointments about The Punisher so far was how long it took for the character to catch up with Bernthal’s potential. Daredevil waited until the end of his first arc to give his character any depth beyond I’m like you, but I also kill people. How does that affect Matt? He’s already made up his mind about how he fights crime and has more or less fully matured as a hero. There’s no real philosophical danger there.
Elektra, on the other hand, has a point of entry into Matt’s psyche. She can work secrets out of him that he hasn’t told anyone else (and also convince him into some slow-motion boxing ring sexy time). That edge is enough to slip an emotional sai through the cracks in his armor. The flashback sequence was able to succeed where most fail because of these entanglement. With that kind of look back into a character’s history, it’s difficult to establish a sense of “What’s going to happen?” We know where the character is six months or five years later, so suspense is usually a moot point. On top of being a first-rate twist, Matt’s reunion with Roscoe Sweeney, however, was filled with uncertainty. This is Matt before Daredevil, before guidelines were established. He could have killed Roscoe for all we knew, and Elektra would have been responsible. That is what an interesting and well written supporting character can do.
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But it’s not just her relation to Matt that makes Elektra exciting. A spoiled rich girl who has taken her boredom and ennui to murderous and psychotic ends is such a compelling character in her own right. Granted, I’m one full episode into her presence on the show, but even in that short amount of time, she’s distinguished herself as one of the most electric (sorry) personalities in the Netflix-Marvel universe, basically the opposite of Robyn from Jessica Jones.
The biggest drawback from all of this, however, is that Elektra might belong to a better, tighter show. Obviously, positioning her as a contrast to Karen and the kind of romantic life that Matt may no longer have access to is a purposeful move on the part of the writers, but there’s such a clear stratification between the characters that can thrill us by simply pulling up a mask and — I’ll just say it — Foggy.
- Along the lines of my complaints about the Kitchen Irish, please, please, please no more scenes where characters ramble off psych profiles of each other based on superficial details. There has to be a fresher way to establish that someone is sharp.
- There’s a version of that boxing ring scene where Elektra totally read Matt incorrectly, and she just knocks out a guy who’s actually blind.
- Karen sucks at research. Let’s think about this for a second. She has an idea of when Castle’s family was murdered, so her big play is to page through the newspapers from that day? And just one of the city’s newspapers? What about public records? What about the internet? Karen sucks at research.
- And this actually brings up another annoying bit. There was so many convenient coincidences in Karen’s story line. The show never really established why Karen would just break into Castle’s house, which for all she knew was occupied by another family. It’s completely out of character. Also, why would she ever take a framed picture from the house? And how is it that the one picture she grabs happens to match the location of a massive gang shootout? For that carousel picture to be framed, it means the Castles would have had to return to Central Park on the day of the fire fight. So that’s somewhere they go a lot? None of it makes sense.