Daredevil - 1.07 Stick

Writer: Douglas Petrie
Director: Brad Turner

A crucial figure from Matt Murdock’s past has returned looking assistance to combat a new foe that’s arrived in Hell’s Kitchen and threatening to upset the apple cart.  As past and present bleed into one another the future of the city depends on these two men, who once shared an ideology, getting along.

The episode title, at least for Daredevil fans, is a ready-made spoiler.  Stick has returned to Hell’s Kitchen.  The man who instructed the devil is back and on a crucial assignment.  The significance of Stick’s appearance in the series is only ever so slightly trumped by placing his key episode in the middle of the series.  Stick (as a character) was a bridge between Matt’s past, his father, death, blindness, and his future as urban crime-fighter/vigilante.  Stick (the episode) likewise is a bridge between Matt’s past, origin, training and his future as the finished product –Daredevil.  Petrie’s (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) script in extremely smart and sympathetic, not only, to the series-running and guest characters but to the sub-genres these characters occupy in the Daredevil comic book oeuvre.  Netflix, in using The Man without Fear and Born Again, as creative inspiration is taking the DD world down a modern-realism path but it handles some of the other genre-based characters in a wonderfully considered and earnest way.  More of that in later reviews.

Scott Glenn is perfect as Stick.  He has the screen presence, authority and believability of a Carradine without any of the emotional/cinematic baggage and the way he fills the screen is magical.  Even viewers of the show who have little-to-no exposure to Stick can understand the significance of his arrival, such is his physical dominance of the mise-en-shot (kudos to Brad Turner).  The father-son relationship between Stick and Matt draws a beautiful parallel between Jack and Matt.  Both fathers are blind (in their own way), Stick literally, Jack figuratively as the ramifications of entering into a relationship with “The Fixer” were unseen to him but that is as much as these two men are likely to have in common.  Jack wants his son to be mentally tough, mentally fast, agile, mentally successful.  Stick on the other hand “wants a soldier”.  There is no clear way to make both father figures proud.  One must be disappointed and it is these feelings of disappointment, inadequacy and helplessness that Stick’s return draws to the surface of Matt.  His biggest challenge to date was not the epic corridor fight in Cut Man (still loving this!) but winning the approval of his former master.

There’s more to Stick’s arrival than simply triggering more of Matt’s origin (which I’m so glad they teased out rather than stacking all upfront).  Stick’s appearance opens the door for other adversaries from other genres.  The modern-realism feel of the show allows for Gladiator (Matt Gerald), Bullseye, Black Widow and maybe even Mr. Hyde if done right but Stick and his groundings in Eastern mysticism lays a path for a fully fleshed out Elektra, The Hand, Death-Stalker and Typhoid Mary.  Handled with the amount of care and sensitivity that Daredevil Season 1 has and ALL of these characters are on the table; especially when you consider this is a modern-realistic New York that has recently been leveled by alien-invaders.  It’s impressive how Drew Goddard, Steven DeKnight and co have managed to align these two incredibly contradictory genres without undermining one.

We shouted out a quick kudos to Brad Turner earlier and it really couldn’t be underlined enough.  This is an absolutely critical episode to get right.  Sure, if it wasn’t perfect it’s unlikely to harm the rest of the season however future seasons could suffer from poor execution but Turner has an amazing understanding of “the visual”.  Cards on the table –I’m a big fan of Brad Turner.  He did some sterling work on 24, so much so that when Jon Cassar left the show Turner took over showrunner duties.  It’s usual, if not a requirement, for television shows to be running multiple storylines through episodes but it’s the way Turner weaves the two Matt and Stick stories together.  There are some beautiful juxtapositions that tease out underlying meanings, comparisons and has an almost dream-like fluidity. 

1.07 Stick is nothing short of amazing.  Petrie’s script has all the core, advanced, and fanatical elements to please die-hard Horn Head fans (including a Stick and Stone scene) but does it in such a way that is welcoming… no… inviting to new fans.  Praise could not fall consistently enough.  Daredevil’s bridging episode is as close to perfect television as you are likely to get.


Gabriel said...

This has been my favorite episode thus far. When I first saw the wrinkly hand holding the sword I almost yelled David Carradine! but then I remembered how he has already passed away. Later when I saw Scott Glen, I thought "he is perfect. Maybe even more perfect than Carradine. Glad to see we shared the same opinion on it.
Like I said this is probably my favorite episode. Stick's an amazing character and it was great to see Murdoch's training done right. I find the fighting scenes in this shows very appealing, but this episode had some of the best.
Can't wait for Elektra.

John Baxter said...

He's an incredible piece of casting. With you one hundred percent on that. There are so many amazing episodes in this show. Rarely have I been so pleased so consistently across an entire season.

Apparently, thanks to the success of Daredevil, Netflix and Marvel are now talking Punisher!!

Gabriel said...

That is fantastic news! I hope they do it with the same quality and faithfulness to the source material as they did with Daredevil.
I don't know if you're a big Vertigo fan, but I'm dying to see Preacher. I hope they get it right too.

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