Appropriately enough given his background, the episode dealing with the start of Frank Castle, the Punisher’s, trial, is titled “Semper Fidelis.” That is, of course, the motto for the Marine Corps. The opening is a montage of Castle getting ready for his trial, the jury pool being interviewed (and they have some very sharply differing opinions on the Punisher), and the attorneys getting ready. Reyes and Tower are prosecuting the case, Reyes no doubt hoping to grab some good press out of it, and Nelson and Murdock, of course, are the defense team.
This is actually the first time I’ve seen them seriously screw up something about legal issues. Castle is brought into court in shackles and bright orange jumpsuit. While a dangerous prisoner can be shackled in court (and Castle qualifies), anytime there’s a jury trial, the prisoner is supposed to appear in regular clothes to not bias the jury. Either they liked the visual of the jumpsuit better, or the writer screwed up on that one. They did a really nice makeup job with Castle’s impressive array of bruises.
Back at Nelson and Murdock’s offices, the team debates what to do. They have a tough battle. Whether or not something or someone is pulling the strings behind the scenes, there’s no question that Castle killed all the people he’s accused of. They need to uncover the conspiracy, if it exists, but also find a way to keep Castle from spending the rest of his life in prison, at best. They argue the insanity defense, and then settle on a PTSD compromise. Foggy and Matt are supposed to keep working on the case, while Karen goes to talk things over with Castle, since she’s the only one he’ll talk to. I do wonder what Castle’s reaction would be if he found out one of his lawyers is Daredevil.
Karen’s interview with Frank Castle doesn’t go as well as it could. After she gets through a lot of security, she finally gets to see him, which is questionable. Defendants have the right to speak with legal council, but Karen’s not a lawyer. Getting a paralegal in to a jail or a prison takes a lot of paperwork, and I can’t imagine Reyes is exactly helping them out. That to one side, Castle hates the PTSD idea, finding it disrespectful to people who are actually suffering from it. Whether or not you agree with what he’s done, you have to admire his honor here. Eventually, reluctantly, he gives Karen a name of someone connected to his previous military service as a character witness.
Remember I said Matt and Foggy were supposed to be working on the case? Well… Matt gets a call from Elektra, and, while he resists at first, joins her for another night of adventuring and trying to find out what the Yakuza is up to. First they pay a visit to an encryption specialist to find out what the book they stole from the Yakuza/Roxxon alliance actually says. After they “persuade” him to help them out, they are off to the railyards to check out a special shipment.
Back at the office, Karen and Matt discuss the case. She’s very impassioned about helping Frank, while Foggy is back to making his usual running joke about opening a butcher shop. Karen makes a great speech that really should be part of the actual defense. Finally, they find something odd in the mountain of files that may help them start chipping away at the shadows around whoever’s working to keep what happened to Castle’s family covered up. Oddly, they mention another way to prove their case and then both of them pretend they never said it.
At the railyard, Elektra is bored with surveillance and wants to bet on what the Yakuza are smuggling in the freight cars. Daredevil makes a passing reference to the events in the episode “Stick” from season one, but when they finally find out what’s in the train, they’re both very wrong. This, of course, turns into a running fight through the yard, with Daredevil and Elektra facing off against a horde of guards variously armed with automatic weapons and/or various hand weapons. As always on this show, the fight choreography is fantastic. Afterward, they patch each other up and flirt back at Matt’s apartment.
This is one of the few times in the series I’ve been really actually mad at Matt Murdock. He’s supposed to be preparing for the case, he knows how important this is to their office… hell, he’s the one that talked them into taking the case in the first place. And instead of doing his part, his running around with his ex-girlfriend, clearly enjoying the thrill of the fight and her company. This isn’t fair to Foggy or to Karen on several levels.
The next morning, the trial finally starts. Frank sardonically notes they’re a “man down” as Matt fails to show up. The prosecution goes first, and gives what has to be the shortest opening statement ever. Reyes comes across as a bitch, but she’s not wrong in a lot of what she says about Castle. Foggy, nervous and frustrated beyond measure, finally gives his own very inspired statement instead of waiting for Matt. Foggy is really good at what he does.
In the hallway, Matt and Foggy have an argument about Matt not being reliable. Foggy is completely right at this point. Matt’s being irresponsible at best, and he’s letting his friends down both professionally and personally. This leads to Matt and Karen going back to his place to debate strategy. They are desperate to find a way to shake up the Coroner, Tepper. They go from planning legal strategy to flirting to debating the merits of vigilantes. Karen and Matt are starting to disagree about the merits of the Punisher’s case. Karen leaves on this awkward note. Elektra was hiding upstairs, and heard all this. She tries to get Matt to come with her for more recon, but he finally decides to do his job. They do discuss locations that the strange shipment from the train might have come from, and Matt notices something that ties back to first season.
In court, the Medical Examiner testifies. Since this is supposed to be an easy part of the case, Reyes is letting Tower do the questioning. Things go strange when Tepper looks increasingly nervous before finally blurting out that he altered the Castle family’s autopsies. He also has a strange story to tell about what happened to him the night before. The judge ends up striking all his testimony, which is a blow to Murdock and Nelson’s plan. Foggy and Matt have another fight, much louder, in the men’s room. Foggy is beyond furious, although this time it doesn’t seem to be completely Matt’s fault. By the end of it, both Foggy and Karen are understandably pissed off at Matt.
The final scene is Elektra and Daredevil checking out the location Matt narrowed down for her. They have a brief but intense argument before finally going inside. They fight through a few more guards, which offer very little real challenge. What they find inside, however, is a complete surprise. They have no idea how what they find relates to what’s going on, and I have to admit, I don’t either. I don’t know where this is going, but they have me really curious.
What I liked: The fighting is just amazing on this series. They continue to impress me with their blocking and skill. Foggy is brilliant, and gets to shine in a few scenes. Karen remains the heart of the office, and also gets a few good speeches. Castle’s conviction and refusal to go with the PTSD defense is in character and admirable. Elektra is dragging Matt down a dark path, and doing a good job of it. The confusion in court over what happened to the Medical Examiner made sense. The final reveal is pointing to a much bigger mystery that I’m really wondering about.
What I didn’t: I get why it’s happening, but Matt is letting down Foggy and Karen and I really don’t like it. He’s also borderline cheating on Karen and I don’t like that either. Elektra is insufferably smug, and really needs to get taken down a peg or two.
I’ll give this one a 3 out of 5. That might be my lowest rating for a Daredevil episode so far, but I hate Matt’s decisions this time around. I am really curious to see how the trial works out and what the hell the mystery at the building is all about.