The following obviously contains spoilers for Daredevil season 2, so be warned.
Blood was spilled. Shots were fired. And principles were tested. In the opening two episodes of Daredevil season 2, Ol' Horn Head and the Punisher sparred across the rooftops of New York in a battle that left Matt Murdock beaten and chained up at the start of the third episode: "New York's Finest."
This episode works to encapsulate the central conflict of the show: what is the difference between heroism and vigilantism? What moral authority do these two men have to wage their own personal war on crime? And in the end, what, if anything, separates them? The drama is spelled out on a New York City rooftop, as a prone Daredevil talks to Castle about their warring ideologies.
The Punisher sees himself as judge, jury and executioner, putting down anyone that he perceives to be a criminal. Daredevil, on the other hand, attempts to toe the line between the law and his own brand of the justice — but for some, he doesn't go far enough.
It's a conflict that has played out numerous times in the comics, but it's two issues in particular that inspired this latest iteration of the battle: Daredevil #183 by writer Frank Miller and Punisher #3 (Vol. 4) by writer Garth Ennis.
In Daredevil #183, writer Frank Miller introduced the relationship between Daredevil and Punisher by having them immediately at odds over each other's methods. Their first confrontation begins with DD saving a would-be informant from Castle's brutal brand of interrogation. From there, the two heroes do quick battle, while spelling out their views on the world.
This rooftop imagery, as the pair of vigilantes fight for the very soul of the city, is brought to the screen in the second episode "Dogs to a Gunfight." It's not a word-for-word retelling of Miller's work, but its influence is clear.
What happens next, though, in the episode "New York's Finest," is the most literal translation from the page to the screen that Marvel has brought to Netflix so far.
After their brawl ends in his defeat, Daredevil wakes up to find himself chained to a rooftop chimney, as Punisher looks on. The two soon get into a debate over the ethics of murder and the cost of justice, and Castle punctuates the talk with one of the season's most devastating lines, "I do the one thing that you can't. You hit them and they get back up. I hit them and they stay down."
It's a conversation echoed in Punisher #3 from writer Garth Ennis. Here, Daredevil, again chained up and with a pistol taped to his hand, is given a choice by the Punisher: either use the pistol to shoot him dead or watch as he kills his next target. He's testing Murdock; he's daring him to break his rules and see the world from his view. In both the show and the comics, the Punisher wants Daredevil to make the same tough choices he makes on a daily basis and see the world from his perspective.
This is more than using Ennis' words as a springboard for the drama; it's almost a panel-for-panel recreation of this issue, with Grotto filling in for Dino Gnucci. It's also no coincidence that this is some of Daredevil's strongest material of the season.
Murdock, despite all the evil he's witnessed, believes people deserve a second chance. Punisher won't allow that, and it only adds fuel to their decades-long rivalry. By following the lead of the books, Daredevil season 2 turns this dynamic into the best superhero rivalry in recent memory.
Also be sure to check out the five comic books that will shape Daredevil season 2: