Review: Daredevil Season 2

While I know that Daredevil, season 2 came out in March, better late than never.

To be honest, I’m not entirely certain what to make of this season, and perhaps you’ll see why by the end. The season was strange, and not because of the content so much as how it was handled. Season 1 had a great, brilliant buildup of the antagonist and the protagonist, ramping up to an inevitable collision of two men who really were mirror images of each other. And season 2? It was a little all over the place. Yes, there was a dark mirror for Matt Murdock, who plays the titular vigilante, but in this case, it also tries to address the dark side of being a vigilante.

Hi, my name is Frank. I’ll be the sniper for this evening.

To start with, we have the introduction of Frank Castle, the Punisher. This vigilante is the “Kill all the killers, let God sort them out.” He is particularly interested in wiping out the three gangs involved in the massive shootout that butchered his wife, his daughter, and his son, and left him for dead in a hospital.

This of course, leads to a conflict with Daredevil, who, on the other hand, believes in law, order, and the possibility for redemption … because, well, he’s Catholic. So he generally objects to Castle’s approach.

In fact, you could say that the primary motivation for Daredevil going after the Punisher is purely philosophical, because it’s bad enough that the NON-lethal vigilante is running around, doing the cop’s jobs for them, but having a professional killer wiping them out en mass starts to sound like a recipe for mob rule, complete with torches and pitchforks. When the Punisher is caught, Frank Castle is represented by …. Murdock and Nelson.

On the other hand, there’s the plotline with Daredevil’s other dark side, Elektra — Matt Murdock’s crazy ex-girlfriend, who’s first going up against a corrupt corporation and … spoilers … sort of … ends up going against The Hand, magical Yakuza ninjas. (Yes, comic books, where “Magical Yakuza Ninjas” are a thing).

And by “crazy ex girlfriend,” at the time, I even thought the line: “Oh Matt, don’t go there … don’t go there … oh no. Too late.” You can see from the photo of actress Elodie Yung that she’s quite beautiful, but there are moments that she is crazier than a bag of cats. She doesn’t mind killing, and dang, does she seem to enjoy her job.

This three-way plot sort of devolves after a while. The Elektra thread seems to have little to no connection to the Punisher thread, only insofar as the two plots interfere with each other and cause problems for our hero, pulling him in two different directions at once.

By dealing with the Hand, Elektra drags Murdock away from the Punisher case, and dealing with the personal and professional fallout of defending the Punisher puts stress on Daredevil as he fights the Hand. By the end of the season, the finale feels a little rushed. In fact, it’s starting to feel like they knew they were going to have to have multiple stories spin out from this season.  But I’m rushing ahead.

Subtle

First of all, let me address some of the acting. Elodie Yung is marvelous as Elektra. She’s insane, she’s enjoying every minute of it, and I think her performance works, overall. She is broken. She’s not evil, but she is deeply, deeply screwed up in the head.

Yes, my first thought is “extenuating circumstances, your honor. She really is just that crazy.”

Scott Glenn returns as Stick, Murdock’s schmuck of a mentor … who actually does care, he just has duties to attend to, and since he never actually explains himself except as a last resort, he looks schizophrenic. Seriously, Stick, learn from Oliver Queen on Arrow, stop with the secrecy.

In season two, it’s like someone in the writer’s circle had some legal training, because this time out, they actually remember that, you know, THEY’RE LAWYERS. And it shows up especially with Foggy Nelson, Murdock’s partner. This year, Foggy is a much firmer character overall. He has more confidence, he knows what he’s doing, and in some cases, he mans up because he has no other choice. And he uses his lawyer superpowers to get out of some nasty situations — he avoids being killed by bikers, defuses a gang war in an ER, and he stands up to a vicious District Attorney who is more of an antagonist  than some of mad dog killers. And he does it all by being a smart lawyer. He really stood out this season, and the actor gets some serious props from me for pulling it off.

This season was almost like this was written by Steve Martini meets Vince Flynn.

Karen Page surprised me at how much she was a driving force this season. After Frank Castle is arrested, and we go into “The Punisher Case,” Page comes to the fore of this story. Having had to shoot someone herself, she clearly sees parallels between her and Castle. And she dives into this case headlong, and she barely stops long enough to be shot at. Fatigue and exhaustion are her primary adversaries, and she doesn’t seem to be really shaken too much by bullets anymore. She does most of the legwork and investigation this season. Ben Urich has rubbed off on her. This is what I call character growth.

Though, half of Daredevil this season felt like Punisher season 1, costarring Karen Page as a sidekick. By the end of the season, there is very little shared screentime between Punisher and Daredevil … or Castle and Murdock.

Special mention must be made for Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle, the Punisher. Truly, the Punisher has never been handled this well. Ever. I would say that Frank Castle is more sympathetic here than in the comics. They finally got him — he’s a man whose family was butchered right in front of him, he was left for dead, and the only thing he has left is revenge.

Castle is a killing machine, and he’s afraid that that is all he is … and he is not happy about it. But he has to do it. He must. Because it’s all he has left. And I don’t think I’ve ever seen a trigger pull break your heart quite like this before … If you want to talk about people who are broken, Elektra might be a nutter, but Castle is almost tragic in how much he hurts.

Not to mention that Castle has some of the better moments in this season. There is a particularly heartrending moment in a diner, sitting across from Karen Page, as she complains about how Murdock is driving her insane, and hurting her every time he does something else stupid in their relationship.

Castle’s response is perfect.

People that can hurt you, the ones that can really hurt you, are the ones that are close enough to do it. People that get inside you and tear you apart, and make you feel like you’re never gonna recover. Shit. I’d chop my arm off right here, in this restaurant, just to feel that one more time for my wife. My old lady, she didn’t just break my heart. She’d rip it out, she’d tear it apart, she’d step on that shit, feed it to a dog. She was ruthless. She brought the pain. But she’ll never hurt me again. You see, I’ll never feel that. You sit here and you’re all confused about this thing, but you have it. You have everything. So hold on to it. Use two hands and never let go. You got it?

Which, of course, leads to something else. This season, they decide to follow up on Karen Page and Matt Murdock being an item, as they were in the comics. Which is BS. I’m sorry, but please go back through season 1, and watch Karen and Foggy as they’re bar hopping in season 1. They had all sorts of strange chemistry, but dang it, it WORKED. This? Eh. Not so much.

And now, looking at Matt Murdock himself. Charlie Cox, is, as always, perfect for the role. A the problem of these season is actually the problem with Daredevil — who has always had personal problems. While Daredevil has always been one of the most stubborn men in the Marvel universe, this season is where he starts to push his own limit.

And the bigger problem? Murdock doesn’t talk to people, he tries doing everything, and failsspectacularly. Remember the priest that Matt spent every other episode with in season 1? He makes one appearance this whole season. Murdock spends the entire time talking to either Elektra or Stick (or early on, with Castle). These are not the healthiest people to hang out with. Or the sanest.

Then again, if Murdock had done the smart thing and spent more of his time with his priest, I’m pretty sure this season would have gone a different way.

This is particularly highlighted by an episode where Matt once more runs into Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple, the Night Nurse, who interjects some sanity into this plot. Her role is to smack Matt upside the head with common sense, while he’s busy trying to play martyr … it’s almost like the writers remembered that this is a Catholic superhero at this point. (Okay, that’s unfair, you can hear Murdock praying the Our Father at one point). This is a point in the season where Murdock is thinking “I’m going to be only Daredevil from now on!” Yes, this happens. It even happened to Tony Stark once … but he was drunk out of his mind at the time.

And of course, in the latter third of the series, everything picks up again. Not because of the hand, but because of the one man that everyone has been waiting for the entire season.

Yup, the return of the always entertaining Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk. It’s amazing how much impact Fisk has on the series just by showing up, almost more than any of the ninjas running around, spouting exposition.

What’s Fisk doing here? In part, he’s here to show us exactly what he’s been up to since he went to jail. What is he actually doing in the plot?

He meets Frank Castle. The result is that Castle ends up looking like this.

This leads to Matt Murdock needing to put in some work on the Frank Castle plot, at long last. All he needs to hear is that Fisk and Castle were put in the same cell block, and immediately knows that Fisk has been up to shenanigans.

This of course, leads to an interesting confrontation that we never really got in season 1.

Yeah. Think about this a moment. Kingpin is in jail, which means he’s probably running the place, and one of the lawyers who put him in jail is sitting right across from him.

And then Murdock threatens Fisk. Hilarity ensues.

Special note must be made of one or two episodes. If you recall season 1, episode 2 (“Cut Man”), it ended with a simple tracking shot of a fight going back and forth down a hallway. It was beautiful and well executed. In season 2, episode 3, “New York’s Finest,” they felt the needed to recreate the episode. It is mostly a philosophical conversation between Daredevil and the Punisher, about killing criminals versus throwing them in jail, expecting reform. And, like in “Cut Man,” “New York’s Finest,” ends with an awesome fight sequence. Let’s just say it’s one of the most exciting walk down a flight of stairs I’ve ever seen.

In terms of pointing out individual episodes, something else that should be noted is the finale. You have Elektra and Daredevil versus about a hundred ninjas in an overhead establishing shot on a roof … except when they come up to face the ninjas, there are maybe only two or three dozen. Where did the rest of them go?

Now, if you’re wondering, “There’s a Daredevil finale of a season with the Punisher, shouldn’t he be involved?” The answer is, yes, he is. A little. In fact, Punisher was so little in the final fight, I was thrown. I was really expecting more of a Castle ex machina. Perhaps he was busy dealing with the other five dozen ninjas somewhere offscreen.

To be honest, I’m surprised this episode wasn’t a little longer. Perhaps there should have been another episode afterwards.

At the end of the season, there was an interesting monologue by Karen Page about heroes

“What is it, to be a hero? Look in the mirror and you’ll know. Look into your own eyes and tell me you are not heroic, that you have not endured, or suffered… or lost the things you care about most. And yet, here you are… a survivor of Hell’s Kitchen… the hottest place anyone’s ever known. A place where cowards don’t last long. So… you must be a hero. We all are. Some more than others, but none of us alone. Some bloody their fists trying to keep the Kitchen safe. Others bloody the streets in the hope they can stop the tide, the crime, the cruelty… the disregard for human life all around them. But this is Hell’s Kitchen. Angel or devil, rich or poor, young or old, you live here. You didn’t choose this town. It chose you. Because a hero isn’t someone who lives above us, keeping us safe. A hero is not a god or an idea. A hero lives here… on the street, among us, with us. Always here but rarely recognized. Look in the mirror and see yourself for what you truly are. You’re a New Yorker. You’re a hero. This is your Hell’s Kitchen. Welcome home.”

All I can think was “Tell me that wasn’t written by a New Yorker who lived through 9-11.”

This is a 4-star season, perhaps even 5-star. The Hand plot was 4-star, and the Punisher was 5-star.  This might have been a better season had they spent the time focusing mostly on the Punisher. Daredevil season two is a lot more of a mystery than season one. Perhaps I should have said that it was a mashup of Steve Martini and Larry Correia. There was so much time spent on the mystery of who Castle is, then who slaughtered his family, and what’s the big deal around this one man.

This is a plot that mostly has zero Matthew Murdock, and little Daredevil.

And then there’s the Hand. And yes, I know that the Hand plot needs to be put here in order to set them up as the Big Bad for the other series in The Defenders build up, and yes, Daredevil was a good place to do it. I just wish that it didn’t make the season feel slightly disjointed.

But yes, I liked it.

And what about the series, The Defenders?  By the end of this season, Foggy might join the law firm that employs Jessica Jones hangs out, so imagine that fun. Now that Punisher is getting a series, I expect him to be in Defenders. I imagine locking him in a room with Jessica Jones. It’s hilarious. Then again, sticking her in a room with anyone else would end badly. Then again, who am I kidding, I want a Hellcat series with Jones’ foster sister, and not Jessica Jones season 2 — one of them has charisma, and she’s not the brunette.

As for season three of Daredevil, I suspect that there will be at least one or two people figuring out who Daredevil is, so that’ll go well.

Anyway, at the end of the day, I enjoyed season two. Have fun.

Speaking of fun … insert a shameless plug for my novel Honor at Stake. 😀

About Declan Finn

Declan Finn is the author of Honor at Stake, an urban fantasy novel, nominated for Best Horror in the first annual Dragon Awards. He has also written The Pius Trilogy, an attempt to take Dan Brown to the woodshed in his own medium -- soon to be republished by Silver Empire Press. Finn has also written "Codename: Winterborn," an SF espionage thriller, and it's follow-up, "Codename: Winterborn." And "It was Only on Stun!" and "Set To Kill" are murder mysteries at a science fiction convention.
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3 Responses to Review: Daredevil Season 2

  1. AnneMarie says:

    This is a great review! Season 2 was very enjoyable, but definitely felt scattered at times, because they tossed together so many different storylines. I also really enjoyed how Foggy grew! I like how he went from being Matt’s dorky friend/sidekick to being an awesome (still somewhat dorky), strong lawyer and character. I thought Karen’s role with Castle was neat, though Karen also drove me crazy a bit in this season-mainly because of her and Matt, I think (and how she stayed with him for so long). Seriously, their relationship was just…ugh. Matt was not my favorite this season, mainly because of how he was a complete idiot whenever Elektra was in the picture. Overall, I think Episode 3 was my favorite, though I did enjoy the whole season, especially the later episodes when Elektra didn’t make me as mad 😛 I’m excited to see how things continue to unfold in Season 3!

    Like

  2. Nice review. I thought one of the most powerful moments of the season was *SPOILER ALERT* when Castle was put on the stand during his trial. What happened had me absolutely shocked.

    And to comment on this:
    “As for season three of Daredevil, I suspect that there will be at least one or two people figuring out who Daredevil is, so that’ll go well.”

    Sounds like you and I are thinking the same thing for Season 3. Watching the wrap-up of the Season 2 finale, I thought that if anyone’s read the comics they’d see this setup from 5 miles away. It also helps that they introduced a certain person in Jessica Jones. Two words: Born Again. Can’t wait.

    Like

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