We’ve gotten a lot of hints about Karen’s backstory. This episode fills in the details, and takes its time to do it. To me, this doesn’t seem to jibe with the hints she herself has dropped about what’s she’s done before, especially her final showdown with Wesley. There were a lot of surprises, and I was surprised by how several things turned out in “Karen.”
“Before” is all we get for a description of when this happens, and I guess it doesn’t really matter what the date was. Karen is at a big party and not at all like the person we’ve come to know in New York City. She goes from risqué to outright illegal as we see what she used to do, and I admit, I saw none of this coming. The morning after all this, we get a glimpse of the rest of her life, and it’s rough. You know the old line about a life of quiet desperation? That’s her. She’s stuck at a family business she clearly doesn’t want to be part of, tied in place with love and guilt and responsibility. In short order, she gets into an argument with her dad about a major purchase and deals with a really annoying regular customer. We also see her life choices are taking a toll on her.
A bit later, we learn her brother, Kevin, did something for her that she has very mixed feelings about. In his view, he’s looking after her, and trying to get her what she wants. She spends the rest of the evening with her boyfriend, making up stories about what her life could be, doing drugs, and target shooting, because that’s a great combination. She gets called home unexpectedly, where her father is trying to do something nice for her. She completely flips out and goes on a hateful rant, stunning both her father and brother. We do learn what became of her mother in this. Sobbing in the parking lot, Karen’s boyfriend Todd shows up to get her. Even this doesn’t go smoothly, as Todd and Keven get into an argument, which is just what she needs right now. Todd and Karen drive around aimlessly for a while. It’s that kind of place, they don’t have a lot else to do. Returning to Todd’s home, they see Kevin has done something rash. Things get really bad between Kevin and Todd, and Karen has to go to extraordinary lengths to stop it from getting worse. Karma isn’t done with the Paige siblings yet, and their arguing leads to a tragic result.
Karen and her father have a conversation after all this. He tells her what’s being done for her, and what he needs from her. His comment on the phone last episode is a bit easier to understand now. Karen had a lot to take in at once, and in one night, arguably lost everything. That’s going to take a toll. The way she was back then was a bit of a nod to the characterization she received from Frank Miller during his run as writer on Daredevil.
Returning to the present, Karen is hiding in the room Matt’s being staying in most recently. Lantom brings her food, reassures her they are working on something for her, and quotes John Lennon (there’s a lot of dispute about where that quote actually comes from). Karen and Lantom talk about Matt, since that seems to be everyone’s favorite topic of conversation (and it is his show, after all). Fisk gets a report on someone he’s been looking for, gives a speech about how he lives his life, and sends his pet costumed killer out on another assignment. At Fisk’s hidden command center, Matt’s conversation with Mrs. Shelby takes several surprising turns, and he’s forced to make a decision. Ultimately, he chooses to be a hero and a protector once again.
Lantom gives a good welcoming speech at Mass, while Ray gets pressed into service in yet another role he doesn’t want. Lantom’s talk is interrupted when Faux-Devil shows up, calling out Karen Paige, and beating on the worshippers until she shows up. Things get utterly chaotic as Faux-Devil stalks up to Karen, all set to deliver some kind of bad guy line and a brutal death. Instead, he gets hit from behind by Dark-Devil, and the fight is on. All the action that was lacking in Karen’s back story gets crammed into these final several minutes, as Dex and Matt have an ugly fight, while Lantom and Karen try to get all the civilians out of harm’s way. There’s no shortage of heroism as several characters do some impressive things to save lives and slow down the crazed killer.
There’s a tragedy as someone makes a great sacrifice, and if there was any hope left for Daredevil’s reputation, it’s probably gone now. The fight rages on, as Matt gets some help from the survivor, and at least no one else manages to get killed. Matt’s been beaten to a pulp, and Dex survives what should have been something fatal and manages to slip away once again. It’s a very sad ending to a brutal encounter.
What I liked: I empathize with Karen over some of what she went through, although I still have to say she made some really bad choices. That big fight at the end was amazing. The choreographers outdid themselves. While Iron Fist is flowing and graceful martial arts, Daredevil (and Punisher, even more so) are brutally realistic and graphic in their fights. It’s going to be tough to come back from this one.
What I didn’t: Honestly, I’m coming away from this episode not liking Karen very much. She made a lot of bad decisions, things went really bad, and she let herself get carried along by the decisions other people made. There was also a crucial moment in the fight when Matt was winning, and he got distracted by someone who made a very poorly timed plea, which annoyed me. What we learned of Karen’s background didn’t quite seem to match the tenor of the hints she dropped about herself in the past.
It was a good episode, but I question the timing on delving into Karen’s story at this point in the story. I’ll give it a 3 out of 5. Things are definitely building up towards the end.