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Daredevil – Stick (Review)

To celebrate the launch of Marvel’s Daredevil and the release of Avengers: Age of Ultron, we are reviewing all thirteen episodes of the first season of Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil. Check back daily for the latest review.

Sitting smack bang in the middle of the season, Stick is something of an oddity.

It demonstrates just how episodic Daredevil can be in structure. Stick lets its focus move away from Matt’s conflict with Wilson Fisk, offering an episode built around a guest star and shedding some light on one of the members of Fisk’s cabal. “Ride with me tonight,” Stick urges Matt. “Help me destroy Black Sky, keep it off the streets, and I promise you this: Wilson Fisk will know the taste of fear the day he faces you ’cause he’ll know that you kicked the guy he’s afraid of right in the nuts.” Fisk is still a target here, albeit one temporarily shifted to the background.

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There are obviously ripples from Stick that reverberate through the rest of the season. Nobu’s loss here helps to mount more pressure on Fisk in Shadows in the Glass, while it leads to a very physical confrontation between Nobu and Matt in Speak of the Devil. At the same time, it remains curiously disengaged from the show around it. Despite the fact that the casting of Scott Glenn was announced with the fanfare reserved for primary cast members like Rosario Dawson or Vincent D’Onofrio, this is his only appearance in the whole thirteen-episode season.

Of course, there might very well be a reason for this. Stick is the only episode of the first season with a closing scene that hints at something far beyond the scope of this individual show – a coming “war” between mystical and magical forces. In some ways, Stick feels like it takes advantage of the episodic structure of a thirteen-episode season to relegate all the obligatory set-up and world-building for material outside the show to a single episode in the middle of the season. This is perhaps the ideal place for it, not distracting from the beginning or the end of the run.

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A lot of this feels like set-up for the Defenders project that will unite all four of the Netflix and Marvel miniseries, bringing together characters like Matt Murdock, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Danny Rand to fight an incredible evil in much the same way that The Avengers brought together Iron Man, Captain America, Thor and Hulk. Stick seems to allude to something decidedly more epic in scope than the details of this individual thirteen-episode run. It is, essentially, the second act of Iron Man 2 structured as a mid-season episode of Daredevil.

However, it all works. Stick might be divorced from the larger plot concerns of the season around it, but it never loses sight of its main characters. After a run of episodes focusing on Wilson Fisk, Stick brings the focus back to Matt Murdock. The return of Matt’s childhood mentor might be tied to some larger plot, but it also helps explain Matt’s character a bit more. Meeting Stick, we get to know a little bit more about how Matt ended up this way.

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