I love Stick! Sticky Sticky Stick! I lost my mind on this one. It’s still hard to pick a favorite, but this episode is a strong candidate. This is the first time the character has appeared off the page — because we are not counting the terrible Elektra movie — and after Daredevil/Matt, he’s right there as my next favorite character. Why? I think it goes like this: having grown up on many (mostly shitty, some good) martial arts flicks and having trained for years, there’s this stereotypical Mr. Miyagi idea of what a teacher — a sensei — should be like. Kind, gentle, wise, patient, caring, loving, etc. I’ve even had some that sadly seemed to be playing the part.
The wise part, sure, and ninja master indeed, but stereotype be damned. Dude’s an asshole! An arrogant, mean, crotchety old piece of shit asshole. This is the way Miller created and wrote Stick, and Scott Glenn knocks it out the fucking park. I couldn’t get enough. The Golden Broken Arm is yours sir.
This one opens with a chase with a man fearing for his life that eventually arms himself, waits for an elevator, fires all over it, but it opens and nobody’s home. Next thing you know the hand that held the gun is now on the floor and the mystery man is asking about “Black Sky” in Japanese. After threatening to cut off his remaining hand and feet, the handless one tells him it’s being shipped to NYC. Then, slice. We’re left with a blind old man getting into the elevator. Stick lives.
Matt, Foggy, and Karen discuss the new so-called “terrorist” with Foggy getting the most amped up. He says something like he’s not even a terrorist because at least they claim responsibility. There’s some silly banter about the Mets — a classic butt of NYC jokes — but Matt says he would defend the man in black and that he shouldn’t be tried by the press. This riles Foggy up some more until they start joking about a staff softball team that leads Karen to abruptly leave. Foggy is worried and thinks she’s holding something back, and Matt comes back with “everyone has secrets.” Indeed. When pressed by Foggy, Matt tells him he broke it off with the “hottie on the phone,” aka Claire.
In a parking lot, Owlsley and Nobu meet and the money man is assuring Nobu that funds have been relocated and it’s business as usual. Owlsley, however, is very nervous after what happened to the Russians and doesn’t want to be the next up Fisk’s shit creek. He tries to make a deal with Nobu to have his back, should anything go south. Nobu comes back with: “Every man must stand by himself or fall to the unworthy.” The look on Owlsely’s face is classic.
As they break and Owlsley’s getting in his car, Matt in black jumps him using the fresh intel from the recently departed Vladimir. He presses him about Fisk, Owlsley offers money of course, but a knocking sound distracts Matt. When he realizes it’s a cane (and who’s at the end of it), Owlsely seizes the opportunity and tazes our hero putting him on the ground then quickly takes off.
Later, our first taste of the relationship between student and teacher is like it came off the page: “You just gonna lie there all night?” Stick says to Matt. The dialogue between these guys: magnifique.
The Stick and Matt flashbacks then begin and we start in the orphanage where a sister tells Stick that Matt’s getting worse and has terrible pains. She reached out to Stick since he has experience with “special kids.” Once they meet he tells Matt that it’s not getting worse, but he’s getting stronger. He then chucks his keys, which young Matty catches. Time to get started.
As they sit on a park bench they have some great back and forth and Stick the prick (even rhymes) comes out telling Matty nobody is going to feel sorry him. He makes fun of Matt teaching himself Braille and hits him with a line about smarts not coming from books, but from quick decisions on the street.
He then eases up on the attitude and explains that Matt has a gift and that it can be used. We get treated to one of my favorite parts of the episode: the ice cream test. As they lick their vanilla ice cream in a park, Stick asks Matt what he tastes and he just says vanilla. Stick then goes on to demonstrate the analysis he’s looking for; he lists the ingredients, a weird chemical additive he can taste, even the dirt from the field the man selling it worked in before selling it.
Understanding what he’s after, Stick points to a dog and Matt tells him he’s hungry, next he asks about a woman who Matt can’t quite figure out,( in a disgusted tone Stick says she’s in love).
Finally he asks Matt about an old man that he can tell is dying. Stick tells Matt his gift is to find special people and train them with the skills needed for the war.
Karen and Ben are hashing out more about the case in Ben’s car and she compares it’s tangles and twists to a bowl of spaghetti. Ben tells her he believes the Yakuza are involved and potentially the Triads on the drug side. He’s still convinced that the man in the mask is a cop killer and tells Karen that if he shows up again, she should run the other way. Ben has a good line that encompasses the series telling Karen: “In my experience there are no heroes or villains; just people with agendas.” Karen is fired up and ready to do more, but Ben brings her back to reality and tells her it’s all a long shot, but that he’ll help untangle the spaghetti.
Twenty years have passed since teacher and student were last together, and the tension between them is like a powder keg. Stick goes after Matt’s materialism, comfort, women, and his work as a lawyer saying it’s all a distraction. He has a great line about Matt’s silk sheets one day choking him to death. Stick warns him that he needs to cut everything and everyone loose or those he cares for will suffer. While Matt is taking the verbal beat down, he knows the jerkass well, it’s not until Stick crosses the line and goes after his dad saying he’s worse than his old man. Matt snaps and goes after him, but Stick instantly traps the punch and has him locked up.
Young Matty training with Stick is improving, but Matt is pissed. He tells him the anger can be a good thing if controlled, but not rage. “Rage is like a wildfire; out of control, useless.” The next moment is excellent and straight out of the comics. Matt breaks down and lets out his guilt about his dad being killed because of him. Here’s a little boy pouring his heart out and normal human would show some comfort and sympathy. Stick tells Matt he made his choice, it doesn’t matter whether it was for him or himself. He’s gone, that’s that, world keeps on turnin’. Now get up, he tells him.
Skylar Gaertner as young Matt does some good work here, and whoever his stunt double is does even better work. The training scenes must have been intense for a kid, but in the end, I was convinced. As his fighting skill improve, Stick tells him he should meditate, or pretend to not sleep, as Matt calls it. He says it helps to control feeling and can even heal wounds. In the comics, Stick is well over a century old and has the ability to drain a person’s chi to keep his ticker a-ticking.
Matty hands stick a bracelet he made out of the first ice cream cone wrapper. Stick crumples it an abruptly tells him he can’t train him anymore. Too many feelings just don’t make quality ninjas young Matthew. And now, two fathers have left the boy. That’s not going to cause any angst or psychological issues.
Back to the present, Matt acrobatically counters the lock and tells Stick he’s learned some things since he’s been gone. “Like what?” Stick asks. “You’re a dick.” He says. “That’s true.” Ha. Stick then banks his beer cap across the apartment into the trash. Pretty dope. Matt presses him for what exactly he’s doing in Hell’s Kitchen and he tells him about the war in Japan, Nobu, and the weapon that has arrived called Black Sky: “the bringer of shadows.”
Stick tells Matt that Nobu is in with Fisk and when Matt is surprised, Stick can tell he really doesn’t know shit. This leads him to asking Matt if he still doesn’t kill. He calls it a “half measure” and tells him to get over it. Though he’s frustrated, he asks Matt to ride with him to take out Black Sky and promises it will drive Fisk nuts. Matt tells him one rule: no killing. Stick agrees, and calls his uchi-deshi a pussy. The absolute anti-Miyagi.
Karen has a scene with Elena Cardenas, they’re on a first name basis after the apartment help and disaster they went through, and shows that Matt isn’t the only one que puede hablar español. I like that the writers make hers a more realistic Spanglish with errors to contrast Matt’s precision. Elena often goes in and out of Spanglish too. Now where did Karen learn it, you may ask? Ah, a good question tied to the comics. She asks Karen about payment for her help, but Karen says she can pay her with information.
Elena asks about the cute lawyer and Karen ask, “Matt?” No, Foggy. Elena says. No man is more handsome than a man in love. That hits Karen like a ton of bricks. Elena asks about the slumlord Tully and Karen tells her he’s on a beach on vacation. Elena gets fired up at that news and it’s cute to see her swear in Spanish, and then ask for forgiveness for having done so.
Eventually Elena remembers two of Tully’s workers and describes them for Karen as a big bald guy and one with tattoo up his neck. Well, as Karen leaves Elena’s place, guess who follows her and corners her in an alley? She pulls out the mace, but they have her under control until Foggy shows up with a baseball bat and gets his first kind-of action sequence. He does save the damsel in distress, so take that Murdock.
At the shipyard, Matt and Stick are scanning heart rates getting their intel on numbers. Matt tells him one heartbeat is different from the rest and Stick says that would be Nobu. Stick hands Matt, well, a pair of Kali sticks and asks him if remember how to use them. As Matt takes out guys one by one ninja style again, while Stick slowly and calmly pieces together a bow and arrow. When the main container with Black Sky opens, what is this weapon of mass destruction? A child.
As soon as the kid tied up in chains steps out of the container, Matt hears the tightened arrow, and when Stick lets an arrow fly he’s able to hit it to redirect it. So much for stealthy ninja tactics. Matt takes out a number of goons showing off some Kali skill with the sticks. We also get more glimpses of how the sticks will evolve into his weapon of choice.
Matt and Stick meet back at Matt’s place and he’s pissed since Stick broke his promise. Yep, he says. Matt wants to know how he could kill a child, but Stick tells him he’s blind as he ever was if he thinks that thing was a child. Then they both go deep and have this moment where Stick yells at Matt telling him that he needed a soldier and he wanted a father. Matt tells him I guess they’re both disappointed. Oh, and by the way, he tells Matt while he was fighting everyone, he caught up with them and put an arrow through the kid.
This sets Matt off and he attacks Stick, but he is getting nowhere battling his sensei. It’s another close quarter match and Matt’s apartment takes as much damage as the two men. Continuing the Kali work from earlier, there is some nice Kali/JKD in the Matt vs. Stick fight. It takes some time, but Matt does indeed best his master to which Stick says, “Maybe there’s hope for you yet.”
He tells Matt it was nice catching up and to “keep the sticks. You’re gonna need ‘em.” After he leaves, Matt finds the ice cream bracelet in the apartment destruction. Is it a sign he does care? Or is he saying good-bye for good this time? Hopefully not the latter, cause I want as much Stick as possible. Oh, and if we could all move half as well as this old man, that would be awesome:
Karen bring Foggy into Urich’s office. He is not amused, but she convinces him he’ll be a good alley and that it would be good to have a lawyer on their side. Urich tells her to show Foggy the board. They talk about the dilemma with the king of diamonds and the joker, now sporting a hood over the eyes colored in by marker. Karen is convinced the man in black is not working for the king, so Urich goes along with it and tells them that if that’s true, then they are working against each other. Which trumps which?
Stick meets a mysterious shirtless dude who asks about Black Sky. Stick tells him it’s not a threat. The mystery man then asks about Murdock and Stick tells him he’s stubborn, immature, and still a pain in the ass. “Will he be ready when the doors open?” says the man. “I have no idea,” replies stick.
Scott Glenn has been playing tough guys for as long as I’ve been alive. From his big break as Travolta’s rival in Urban Cowboy, a real cowboy in Silverado, to the bodyguard in the original Man on Fire, to the sub captain in The Hunt for Red October, to the FBI agent in The Silence of The Lambs, to his most Daredevil-relatable character: a sensei in Sucker Punch. Turns out though, his acting talent is based in reality. Here is a man that could challenge Danny Trejo as the contender for top real life badass over 70. In an interview with HitFix, Glenn revealed some of his hobbies:
“He [fight choreographer Silvera] asked me my background, and I told him Tang Soo Do, Tai Chi, Wing Chun, Kali, Kung Fu, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, target focus training, boxing, wrestling, combat pistol shooting. Just in my own life, it’s a hobby or a pastime. So I had that knowledge. I’m a gym rat, and the life I live in Idaho is very physical. I downhill ski, and hike and climb and motorcycle tour and do track days on motorcycles, and open water spear fishing and free diving. I live, for an old man, a pretty adolescent life.”
Spear fishing is like the cherry on top. Glenn doesn’t mention the tie that binds all of the above combat training, which likely comes from him being a veteran in the Marines. Nor does he mention his Aikido training which ties into his first work in martial arts fight choreography. It’s been decades, but check out footage of him from Hollywood’s first Aikido inspired film from 1982’s, The Challenge with Toshiro Mifune that launched the career of some Steven guy with a pony tail as fight choreographer.
I don’t remember if it was DeKnight, Silvera, or some of the cast, but somebody on set mentioned that nobody was in better shape than the 74 years young Glenn. Another casting gem; the man was born to play this role.
Devil in the Details:
- The Japanese characters on the container with Black Sky are Asano Robotics, which ties into Iron Man’s universe.
- St. Agnes orphanage, where Matt grows up, is also where Skye/Daisey/Quake from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. grows up.
- Black Sky is still a mystery, but tying it to the above, the kid could be an Inhuman, right? Since The Hand messes with the occult, it could be a demon? They said other worldly so…?
- The mystery dude at the end is Stone, Stick’s #1 student. In the comic’s Stick is the leader of The Chaste, but it looks like for the show, Stone may be calling the shots. I later read this shot was originally stuck in the finale, which again points heavily to The Hand getting more attention in season two.