Daredevil season 2 was under the burden of high expectations, many of which came before the introduction of the Punisher, Elektra and the shadowy ninja clan called The Hand. Once the introduction of season 2’s plot was revealed the sky, as dark as it may be, became the limit. The discussion below will have SPOILERS
Season two starts off with a buckshot blast, and I mean that almost literally. The Punisher, Jon Bernthal, explodes onto the first episode of Daredevil and hits the ground running. This version of the Punisher is literally right out of the comic books in terms of look and feel. The savage visage of Bernthal is both terrifying and heart breaking as we delve into his role as the judge, jury, and executioner, and the broken father who re-lives the death of his family every time he closes his eyes.
In his few moments of calm, Frank Castle is depicted as a thoughtful and insightful character. In the first four episodes he battles Daredevil, and has some of the best interactions with our titular hero in the entire series. Later in the season as he grows closer, or at least as close as Castle can grow, to Karen Page you see the true pain and depth Bernthal brings, taking Punisher from a two-dimensional killing machine to a three-dimensional character you can feel for. . . . and also watch murder a shit ton of people in some of the most violent ways we have seen on TV. His visceral nature is such a turn from the last season of Daredevil and Jessica Jones, it almost shocks you as much as his more apathetic monologues, which are by far the best pieces of dialogue in the series. The prison scene shows you the full extend of the animal that is Castle while the diner scene shows you his humanity. . . . and the brutal nature of his business.
From human death machine pushing out hero to kill out of necessity, comes an exotic blade, to bend Matt’s ear, heart and hand towards the bloodied path. The Yin to the Punishers Yang in Daredevil’s psyche, Elektra played by Élodie Yung, was the character I found to be the hardest to pin down my feelings on. One the one hand, I like how she is initially a temptress for a young Murdock, who pushes him to the edge, only to fade away when she cannot turn that final key. I also like her natural nature of killer and her enjoyment of the fact, even if that puts her at odds with the man she has started rekindling a relationship with. Her humour while casually murdering ninja’s always managed to make me smile, as it felt like such a natural way her and Matt bonded.
What I don’t like however is her being used as a tool by Stick, played by Scott Glenn. This ties in with his odd story arc about training her, yet knowing she was the weapon the Hand were looking for, yet in the first season we see him eighty-six another kid who is “black sky”. This is not a very clear sub plot, and muddles both her and Sticks roles within the series. Lastly, I found she wasn’t as strong-willed as I remember her in the comics. While this is not a game breaking issue, it was always something that rubbed me the wrong way, though I will admit I have not been keeping up with Daredevil, so I don’t know what her character is like now.
Last of the main characters is Daredevil, the man without fear, one half of the Avocados at law, Matt Murdock. This season had a good five or six episodes which Daredevil was a tertiary or secondary, at best, character. as mentioned above, the assault of the Punishers presence put Matt on the back burner in terms of mind share and excitement, sans the FANTASTIC Hallways-Stairway fight scene, which is a testament to the crew’s ability to shoot ridiculously good fight scenes. Further pushing him to the back of the pack is his lack of actual presence in major court room scene’s where the mask-less Murdock normally makes a strong appearance. On the brief occasions he does show up, the want for more Foggy courtroom drama, or Karen and Frank dialogue exchange almost make more sense from a design stand point and, in my opinion, would have been more enjoyable.
Daredevil comes across as both annoyingly nonchalant, deeply conflicted, and lost in the slowly overwhelming world he is currently a part of. Each of these phases, or chapters, or whatever you want to call them in this season builds off of the characters he is interacting with. The Punisher push’s him to be conflicted in his actions and how effective he is as a crime deterrent, annoying and nonchalant as he draws farther and farther away from his friends and law practice, making him kind of a whiny dick. I think the most interesting aspect of his mental issues is the slow, methodical nature of his world being crumbled around him. All of his relationships around him are pulling their own individual threads and by the end of the season he is at the tipping point for both killing, a line that cannot be come back from, and leaving the city to be with a woman who is being hunted by the Hand.
The supporting cast and villains make a surprisingly strong showing over all. Karen Page grew on me from the first season, where I found her character to be kind of lack luster. While I was not overly drawn to her “reporter” career change, her scenes with Frank Castle were some of the most enjoyable in the series as you felt the faith she has in him, and see it crush her little by little as his act’s of violence escalate. Stick, like mentioned above was still kind of a dick. His motives have always been about him, but I found them a bit muddled when it came to Elektra and not really flushed out in a satisfying way. Claire, Rosario Dawson, played a small role, which seemed almost throw away, but I believe (and I could be wrong) that she is one of the characters who will be our connective tissue between all of these Netflix series. I surmise she will be showing up in Luke Cage at some point to make quips, which I will greatly enjoy.
Foggy was one of the stand out supporting cast to me, as he really stepped his game up. The “lawyer mode” in the hospital was a great way to show him flexing not only his confidence, but his ability to use the skills he has acquired with Matt as a force for good, without having to put on the mask and punch people in the face. His constant quick wit against the DA shows that he knows his stuff, and he CRUSH’S it in the courtroom while defending Castle especially with the opening monologue. The cracking friendship with Murdock, the closing of their firm and the finality in their talk about said closing of firm/friendship really showed me a much more mature and collected Foggy vs the goofy guy we got in season one.
Our main villains of the show, the Hand, were fun as I think everyone likes to see ninja’s. This group was both deadly and brought their own set of challenges to our Hero(s) which for the first couple encounters had the man without fear on the ropes. The downside though was that the last 2-3 episodes, the Hand went from “deadly assassin ninja’s who were silent as death” to “ninja’s who get punched once or twice then fall down”. This was very prevalent in the last episode where Elektra dies (I did say spoilers at the top of this). They mill about, almost like an old fashion kung fu movie waiting for their time/place to attack and be defeated. There also was a hell of a lot less than I expected, again especially in that last episode. Nobu, the undying assassin, was of a similar vein. Initially he was a monster, putting Daredevil through the beat down only a master ninja could deliver, however by the end of the series, it seems like he ran out of steam and the fighting became a lot easier. Small nitpick, but nitpick none the less. Another small nitpick was the lack of Punisher using a mini-gun on a rooftop full of ninja’s like I, and I imagine many others, were hoping for.
One of the biggest and best surprises for the villains was Vincent D’Onofrio making a return as Wilson Fisk aka the Kingpin! Not only does his calm yet somehow domineering presence steals every scene. . . . except when he is face to face with Jon Bernthal’s Punisher. Watching naked aggression vs smoldering rage is something magical, and I hope we see it again. Kingpin sets himself up to get said name by using Castle to remove his obstacle, which also serves Frank’s objectives. Fisk, to his credit is bluntly honest with his cleaning man who is both underhanded and brilliant. This sets up Punisher for easy return in future seasons of Daredevil or in his own series, which I personally hope he gets.
My minor issues aside, I have to recommend this series to anyone who asks. It’s a different world to explore, which is always great and allows Marvel to push forward into more unknown characters like Luke Cage and Iron Fist. The success of these current franchise and Jessica Jones season 2 and the Defenders could lead us into more street level heroes or beyond! Ghost Rider, Moon Knight, Blade, Night Thrasher are just a few of the front-runners I can think of, and have seen mentioned online, to expand the MTVU. If we could only get AoS over to Netflix to increase the violence now eh.
Daredevil season 2 is a fantastic addition to Marvel’s line up, please give it a watch.