Elektra And The Importance Of Agency (SPOILERS)
tried to remain as spoiler free as possible in my two part review of Daredevil season two. However, one of the main things that didn’t work for me concerned the ending of the series and the final reveals when it came to certain characters. Specifically, I had an issue with where they went with Elektra though Frank’s story had issues as well. The things about Elektra are part of a larger pop culture problem that I believe needs to be talked about, but to talk about it I need to spoil pretty much all of Daredevil season two. So this is your warning; I’m about to spoil all of Daredevil season two. These are not minor spoilers; these are spoilers that could ruin the entire season for you. Do not proceed with this article if you want to go in unspoiled.
Back in season one of Daredevil the man that trained Matt Murdock to control his senses and martial arts, Stick, showed up saying they needed to take out a weapon that the Yakuza were bringing in. This weapon was called ‘the black sky’ and Stick didn’t explain anything about it. That was probably for the best since it involved killing a child and Matt was not okay with that. Stick managed to get away to kill the child while Matt was dealing with henchmen, and Matt sent him on his way with threats of violence should he return. The Yakuza play a rather large role in the second season of Daredevil so it was only a matter of time that ‘the black sky’ and Stick would show up again.
The connection turned out to be Elektra herself. We find out that Stick also trained Elektra and that isn’t a coincidence. Stick basically kidnapped Elektra and tried to reign in her killer instincts to the best of his ability. When he realized that Matt was ‘getting soft’ as he went to law school, it became obvious that Matt wasn’t going to take part in his war against the ninja army, The Hand, that Stick was secretly training him for. In response to that Stick told Elektra to enter into a relationship with Matt to try and persuade him back to the side of mystical war. There are a lot of things wrong with that plotline but I’ll get back to that in a moment.
After some craziness that made little sense, it is revealed that Elektra is ‘the black sky’ and that Stick trained her to try and keep her from taking her place as the idol that the Hand worships. Elektra doesn’t take this news very well and very nearly joins the Hand but is brought back to the light side by Matt. The two of them decide to take on the Hand in a final fight. In that fight Elektra gets stabbed as a final act of self sacrifice to save Matt as she finally realizes ‘what it is to be good’ as she dies. The Hand no longer has the center to their cult as Elektra declares that she ‘took everything from them’.
To start off with let me say that I do not dislike Elektra as a character nor am I against radical reimaginings of characters. I did not have a problem with Elodie Yung’s performance; I found Elektra to be an intense presence as she skirted the line of being mysterious to being insane. I enjoyed all of those things about her, but the problem I have comes down to how the writers decided to treat her character in the end. There is maybe one moment that we witness where Elektra’s actions aren’t being ????? bya man. She has lost all agency in her own life. Stick kidnaps her and trains her only to dump her on some rich parents when it becomes apparent he can’t control her. Stick tells her to seduce Matt which was not her choice. Elektra doesn’t make the choice herself to not join the Hand but Matt tells her not to. The only thing that Elektra does in the entire series that is of her own volition is get killed, and it is obvious the Hand is going to bring her back. Not to mention that the sacrifice read very much like the “women in refrigerator” trope.
This lack of agency is a trap that lots of female characters fall in. They don’t seem to have lives outside of the men in their lives that govern all of their decisions. Her relationship with Matt wasn’t even something that started organically, even if Elektra does admit that she wasn’t supposed to fall in love with Matt when she was given this mission. Agency is something that lots of female characters lack and it’s lazy writing to fall into this trap. In this case we’re supposed to brush it aside because Stick was protecting her from her destiny and because her feelings for Matt became genuine, but I don’t believe this is something that can brushed aside so easily.
The final nail in the coffin is her self sacrifice to save Matt and to stop the Hand. This choice is hers and it’s something she’s very much known for in the comics, but a dead love interest is such a cliche that it almost always rings hollow. In this case all I kept saying was, ‘why does no one remember that they can bring back the dead?’ Matt and Stick do nothing to protect Elektra’s body and the Hand get a hold of it. Now they are taking away her ability to die on her own terms. The series will more than likely use her death to spur Matt’s guilt which means she was killed off just to further a man’s story.
I was extremely excited to see Elektra join the MCU and even more so when I saw the casting. I thought I knew what I was getting into but the story decided to make Elektra a “deus ex machina” plot device instead of a person at the end. She had no agency throughout her entire life, and due to the incompetence of the men around her she is losing her decision to die. There were so many great directions that they could have gone with this character but instead she became a plot device instead of a person. That’s a shame since the character and the performance deserved much better than she got.