Daredevil Season 2 Review

Daredevil Season 2 Review

Did Hell's Kitchen's Red Knight deliver another great season?

So I finally finished Season Two of Daredevil, and despite all the evidence to the contrary of Season One, I didn’t think the second season of Daredevil was going to work. I know, I know – naïve. The show’s first baker’s dozen episodes were greeted by many – myself included, really– as some kind of revelatory viewing experience. And while no fandom grades on a more generous curve than Marvel’s, it’s tough to argue that despite its flaws, Daredevil represented a new high-water mark for the company’s TV division. Why the skepticism, then? Part of it was certainly that we weren’t expecting another helping of Matt Murdock quite so soon. It wasn’t the original plan, which was to introduce him, and then subsequently Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist – the remaining members of the Defenders. But thanks to slower-than-anticipated development on those series’ (Iron Fist,particularly), we not only got Daredevil and Jessica Jones but then Daredevil again, perhaps as an attempt to capitalise on the first season’s success, or to plug a hole in the scheduling, or both. I wasn’t crazy about any of those options. None felt right for the story, which had already left a lot of lingering questions, presumably to be answered elsewhere, and it occurred to me that the last thing a show like Daredevil needed was 13 episodes of meandering. So there was that.

There was also a sense that something about the character would feel used up after a second go-around. It isn’t that there’s a shortage of source material, and the best of it has the advantage of only being tangentially connected to the surrounding universe. The basic, underlying premise (a blind guy defending the indigent in courtrooms by day and battering organised crime by night) could conceivably go on forever. Nobody would want it to, though, because that gets away from something fundamentally appealing about superhero stories: the pleasure isn’t just derived from experiencing each individually, but in large part from experiencing them all together. On the big screen Marvel has mastered this bizarre form of interconnected storytelling, but on the small one there’s still work to be done. And revisiting Hell’s Kitchen prematurely felt like it could situate Daredevil too far away from the rest of his cohorts; like it would dampen some of the satisfaction in watching each individual cog turn in unison. Nobody would have cared about Dr. Frankenstein if his monster never got up and walked on its own.

 

I shouldn’t have worried. At this point Marvel hitting the bull’s-eye on every target it aims for is no longer remotely surprising. Even projects that seem destined for failure end up better than most of the catalogue. So, yeah: Daredevil’s second season is an improvement in almost every way, and wherever it isn’t better it’s still just as good. Not that it’s perfect, obviously, but neither was season one, and the show still has a knack for papering over areas that don’t work by having everything else work really, really well. If you were concerned, don’t be. They pulled it off. And I wanted that to be clear before I get into the spoiler-y stuff, because Netflix’s direct-to-binge distribution model makes discussing these shows one episode at a time pretty much worthless. So if you haven’t watched season two and feel you’d like to, go and do that now before I spoil it all.

Anyway. It’s been a year. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) has supplanted his tasteful Under Armour and do-rag combo with a dorky-looking horned suit. He’s fallen into a comfortable routine of daytime lawyering and night-time pugilism. Nelson & Murdock, the law firm he operates with his best friend, Foggy (Eldon Henson), and their secretary, Karen (Deborah Ann Woll), is still riding the wave of Wilson Fisk’s apprehension, but not, it seems, taking on any clients that will pay them actual money. They’re still broke and the office is still full of cobbler. But Matt has finally started to reciprocate Karen’s lustful staring, Foggy has accepted he’ll always be the beta male in the love triangle, and all is generally well in Hell’s Kitchen. Except, of course, for the various gangs and syndicates that have swept in to take advantage of the power vacuum left by Kingpin’s removal, and the new vigilante who’s determined to gun them all down as they fight over the scraps.

1

Daredevil isn’t having any of this, obviously, partly because the town’s only big enough for one costumed crimefighter at a time, but also because his stringent Catholicism means that he can’t tolerate murder on his watch even if it inadvertently makes his job (both of them!) much easier. Like last season, the show really leans into this idea of Matt Murdock as a beacon of Irish-Catholic masochistic martyrdom, to the extent that his arc this time around is essentially the exact same vigilantism-as-self-penance routine, except that now on top of getting beaten almost to death in every fight regardless of the number or training of his opposition, Elektra (Elodie Yung) is here to lure him away from responsibility and emotionally-healthy relationships.

Ah, Elektra, the leggy avatar of the most embarrassing corners of Frank Miller’s imagination. She’s terrible in this. It cannot be overstated. And what’s more is she shows up just as Murdock is starting to defend Frank Castle, aka The Punisher (Jon Bernthal), in court; easily the most interesting narrative development in the show until that point, and one of the main ways in which the second season surpasses the first – by weaving the previously boring and pointless legal subplots into the central narrative. But Elektra’s involvement here threatens to undermine all that by constantly dragging Murdock – and, by extension, the audience – away from the meaty, interesting drama and forcing them back into the leftover magic ninja stuff from season one.

To be clear, this isn’t the fault of Elodie Yung, who’s good-looking and charismatic enough to pull off a role that is built entirely on attractiveness and charisma, but her character and the dopey mystery that involves her are so catastrophically underwritten that it hardly matters. By the end of the previous season The Hand and “Black Sky” were compelling mysteries to be solved in the future; by the end of this one they’re rote and unimaginative “This is your destiny!” horseshit.

What’s worse is that The Punisher’s story is at its most interesting when it’s running parallel to this, and everything involving him is so much better than the stuff involving Elektra that it’s difficult not to develop some real resentment towards everything on her side of the plot, which includes Scott Glenn’s Stick and a lot of the larger world-building shenanigans one assumes will become much more important for the rest of Netflix’s Marvel pipeline. If there’s a single all-important take-away from season two of Daredevil it’s Jon Bernthal’s extraordinary version of Frank Castle, and the fact we’ve been blessed with a spin-off miniseries following him feels like a welcome reward for having put up with Elektra here.

daredevil-season-2-elektra-elodie-yung_0

Let me be clear, though: Elektra doesn’t ruin everything, and really, aside from comparatively minor issues like the costuming and an abundance of underlit hallways, she’s more or less the only thing legitimately wrong with the season. Sure, they still haven’t fixed the fact that Charlie Cox doesn’t have much range, or chemistry with the rest of the cast (except, weirdly, Bernthal), and the Murdock/Foggy/Karen triumvirate still has that rather annoying habit of laughing together even though nobody is saying anything funny. But that all seems forgivable when so much effort has been put into fixing what didn’t work the first time around, especially in regards to Karen and Foggy, who were previously underwritten B-plot conveyor belts and are now fully fleshed-out supporting characters. Karen, in particular, has been treated surprisingly fairly, given that at various points throughout the Daredevil comics she has been tricked into believing she was HIV-positive and traded sexual favours for smack.

What’s left, as usual, is the violence, which in the first season was the best thing about Daredevil being a Netflix show rather than a broadcast series or a movie, and in season two is still exactly that. As before it’s the humanity that matters, and because most superheroes transcend physical limitations you rarely get that from action in the comic-book genre. Fisticuffs in Marvel’s movies can still be fun and exciting (in Captain America: Civil War fisticuffs are more fun and exciting than they’ve ever been) but when hunks of CGI collide with glimmering metal-men you hardly feel as though it hurts. Daredevil, on the other hand, will make you wince. It’ll snap a bone or lop off a head or shoot and stab and stomp its bloody way through fight sequences that still feel somehow balletic and graceful, which is a delicate balancing act to pull off. What’s more, it’ll lay up the hero for an episode and a half while his love interest asks important audience-surrogate questions. It’ll smile through bloody teeth before flip-kicking a ninja. Daredevil, more than anything, brings bodily consequence to the forefront of superhero stories, and it does it in a ballsy tonal jamboree that works better than it has any right to.

After two seasons Daredevil still feels like the lurid black sheep of Marvel’s extended family, and it’s still one of the most compelling pieces of work the company has produced thus far because of it. It’s eminently watchable, consistently well-made and occasionally provides genuine greatness: Wilson Fisk in the first season; The Punisher in this one. At this point, whether or not we strictly needed a second season seems irrelevant. Not seems – is irrelevant. It’s not inconceivable that you’d be completely burnt out on superheroes at this point, but so what. As long as their stories are this good, Marvel can destroy and rebuild New York City forever as far as I’m concerned.

DISCLAIMER: Comic Book Movie is protected under the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act) and... [MORE]
Related Headlines
DAREDEVIL Season 2 Easter Eggs, Cameos & References

DAREDEVIL Season 2 Easter Eggs, Cameos & References

Daredevil Season Two is packed with Easter Eggs and References to Marvel Comics and the MCU in general. Hit the jump for a look at connections to other heroes and villains, specific issues, storylines, the work of Frank Miller and some very deep cuts into the Marvel Universe.
Punishment Finds DAREDEVIL In New Season 2 Motion Posters; Billboard Images Revealed in HD

Punishment Finds DAREDEVIL In New Season 2 Motion Posters; Billboard Images Revealed in HD

In addition to an official look at those badass billboards featuring the Man Without Fear, Punisher, and Elektra in full glory, Marvel has released two cool motion posters. Check it out
Closer Look At DAREDEVIL, 'The Punisher, And 'Elektra' Suited Up On New Official Poster

Closer Look At DAREDEVIL, 'The Punisher, And 'Elektra' Suited Up On New Official Poster

We caught a glimpse of The Punisher sporting the skull, as well as Daredevil and Elektra in new costumes, but a new poster has been officially released with a closer look at the super trio
Badass DAREDEVIL Posters See 'The Punisher,' 'Elektra' And Man Without Fear In Classic Gear

Badass DAREDEVIL Posters See 'The Punisher,' 'Elektra' And Man Without Fear In Classic Gear

Promotion for the second season of Marvel's Daredevil Netflix series has hit the streets with billboards revealing our best look at Jon Bernthal rocking the classic skull as The Punisher.
Jon Bernthal On Whether He Wants A Solo PUNISHER Netflix Series

Jon Bernthal On Whether He Wants A Solo PUNISHER Netflix Series

"I think about [Punisher] all the time. And I look at it the same way Frank would look at it. I'm a soldier, man. If they call on me, I'll stand to attention, and I'll be ready."
Latest Headlines
SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME Official Tie-In Promo Art Seemingly Features [SPOILER]

SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME Official Tie-In Promo Art Seemingly Features [SPOILER]

Though it's difficult to tell for certain, some new Spider-Man: No Way Home promotional artwork appears to give us a look at a certain rumored character alongside Tom Holland's Spidey. Possible spoilers.
[Everything] You Say Is Always Misconstrued: Tom Holland Clarifies His Comments About Retiring As Spider-Man

"[Everything] You Say Is Always Misconstrued": Tom Holland Clarifies His Comments About Retiring As Spider-Man

Spider-Man: No Way Home star Tom Holland has now clarified recent comments he made to GQ that appeared to suggest he was ready to leave Peter Parker behind. Find out what he had to say here.
THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT: Temuera Morrison's Legendary Bounty Hunter Takes Aim In New Still

THE BOOK OF BOBA FETT: Temuera Morrison's Legendary Bounty Hunter Takes Aim In New Still

The Book of Boba Fett is fast approaching, and Total Film has debuted a new official still from The Mandalorian spinoff featuring Temuera Morrison as the legendary bounty hunter of the title.
DAREDEVIL: 5 Team-Ups We Desperately Need To See In The Marvel Cinematic Universe

DAREDEVIL: 5 Team-Ups We Desperately Need To See In The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige has confirmed Charlie Cox is the Marvel Cinematic Universe's Matt Murdock/Daredevil, but which heroes are we most excited to see this Man Without Fear team-up with?
THE BOYS: First Official Look At Nick Wechsler As New Season 3 Supe Blue Hawk Released

THE BOYS: First Official Look At Nick Wechsler As New Season 3 Supe Blue Hawk Released

The upcoming third season of Amazon's The Boys will introduce several new supes, and we now have a first look at Nick Wechsler (Roswell High, Revenge) as the patriotic jingoistic Blue Hawk.
HALO: New Teaser For Paramount+ TV Series Released; First Trailer Arrives This Thursday

HALO: New Teaser For Paramount+ TV Series Released; First Trailer Arrives This Thursday

A new teaser for Halo has been released that features more footage from Paramount+'s upcoming small screen adaptation, while the full trailer has been confirmed for Thursday. Check it out after the jump...
SHANG-CHI Star Simu Liu Responds To Sequel Announcement With Another Little Dig At YouTube Trolls

SHANG-CHI Star Simu Liu Responds To Sequel Announcement With Another Little Dig At YouTube Trolls

Yesterday, news broke that Marvel Studios is officially moving forward with a sequel to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and star Simu Liu has now Tweeted out his response...
SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME - 5 Intriguing New Reveals From Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, And Jamie Foxx

SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME - 5 Intriguing New Reveals From Willem Dafoe, Alfred Molina, And Jamie Foxx

Willem Dafoe (Green Goblin), Alfred Molina (Doctor Octopus), and Jamie Foxx (Electro) open up on their villainous roles in Spider-Man: No Way Home, teasing their updated costumes and sinister motivations!