“Stick” is a tough episode for me for a couple reasons. On the one hand, Stick is a character that I have never gotten; from Man Without Fear through to his and the Hand’s involvement in Brubaker’s run, he’s never clicked for me. On the other hand, this episode seems destined to be the breather between two larger halves of the season, especially being as it is the exact midpoint. Luckily, it’s the tough episodes of Daredevil that are the most rewarding. The episode starts out by introducing Stick in a particularly brutal, ninjatastic fashion, but the scene quickly shifts back to the home turf of Hell’s Kitchen, the busiest neighborhood in New York. Matt uses the information he managed to earn from Vladimir last episode to track down Fisk’s money man: Leland Owlsley. Owlsley, who is consistently the most rational person on the show, has a quick meeting with Nobu before being accosted by Matt. The coming of Stick is a distraction, and Owlsley manages to get away. Stick tells Matt he is back for part of the war he’s always talking about, to take out a Japanese weapon called the Black Sky. Matt agrees to help him, if Stick promises not to kill anyone. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Stick can’t keep that promise, even when Matt finds out who Black Sky truly is. Matt kicks Stick out of his city, and Stick tells a mysterious man (credited as “Stone”) that he doesn’t know if Matt will truly be ready for the coming war.
The real highlights of this episode for me are twofold: we get to see some of the ninja mysticism that’s been part-and-parcel with Daredevil since the Miller/Janson days during a break in the very grounded, gritty realism stuff; and we get to see young Matt’s training, explaining how he went from a kid who had seen a handful of boxing matches to a grown man who can do kickflips and all kinds of crazy shit. I, personally, think that the kid playing Matt does a stellar job, especially for a young actor. He never veers into the saccharine of most child-actors, and he manages to look convincing while doing kung fu. Luckily, even if he weren’t great, he and Charlie Cox get to play off Scott Glenn, who is amazingly cast. I’m not familiar with the guy’s work before this, but he’s just the right combination of grizzled old man and restrained nobility that it fits Stick to a tee (as far as loving Scott Glenn in the episode--don’t hate the player, hate the character, as they say).
“Stick” also does right by the show in that it doesn’t let itself just be a filler episode. Sure, it’s the only episode where Stick or anything really resembling the Chaste show up (I would say the Hand entirely, but I think later episodes would prove me wrong...), but it starts to build the moral question posed by Vladimir in the previous episode. Vladimir insists that when Matt started down this path, he got in the cage with animals--and animals don’t stop fighting until one of them is dead. Will Matt have what it takes to really bring down Wilson Fisk? Will he be able to kill him? Should he? Matt lives in a world of greys and uncertainties, and Stick, for the raging asshole that he is, lives in a world of stark black and white. Things are wrong, things are right, who gives a shit, you do what needs to be done.
This episode puts Matt on the path he walks for the rest of the season, hell on his left, heaven on his right, and the devil in front of him. There’s no right way to go, there’s no right thing to do, there’s only the morality one blind Catholic man with super senses can land on to save the city without losing himself.
Daredevil 1.7 - "Stick" Director: Brad Turner Writer: Douglas Petrie Distributor: Netflix, ABC Films, Marvel Studios Runtime: 60 Minutes Exclusively on Netflix