With almost a year between this season and the last, I’m almost (but not quite) ashamed to say that I haven’t really brushed up on the Daredevil character, other than my previous experiences with crossovers, the original film, and the first season of this Netflix Original Series. When I found out we were getting Elektra and Punisher this season, I did, of course, look more of them up as what I knew of the Punisher was basically what I knew of Daredevil, and what I knew of Elektra was the outfit in the comics and the films, but that was about it. This second season definitely delves into the mythos and lore behind Daredevil, and feels even more like Batman at the beginning of his career than it did even last season. They use some of the more known story arcs in the comics, including the one introducing Elektra by Frank Miller, and while Punisher has shown up in Daredevil a few times, this season is really about introducing the character and getting him far more entangled with Daredevil than I think he may have been in the past. The good news is that there are a lot of upsides to this, but there are a few negatives as well.
Like the first season, I binged this over the course of a few days, more to spare my wife than anything else as she just wasn’t into this show at all. She was just hanging around for Jon Bernthal because she’s gotten into The Walking Dead, where he played Shane, and she wanted to see him do something else. If the first season was designed to be binged, the second season is even more so, as events unfold slowly, even with all the action pieces and powerful character scenes to keep things moving. While this focuses more on Daredevil this season than actually being a crime drama, the criminal elements and mystery are definitely still there, and we get some actual courtroom drama this time as well. Like our reveal with Fisk in the first season, we don’t necessarily get right to it with Punisher and Elektra, and instead the story unfolds more dramatically, and it works. Nothing is really spared this season as I think they managed to bring back just about everyone from last season who even had a remote impact on the main characters’ lives. They even brought in elements from Jessica Jones so that this feels even more like a shared universe, and given that everything seems to be focused around Hell’s Kitchen with the Marvel Netflix shows, that makes a lot of sense, especially with theDefenders team-up coming eventually.
Picking up a few months after the end of the first season, Hell’s Kitchen seems to be recovering a bit from the crime wave that Fisk started up, and while things have quieted down, Matt has been keeping busy, taking care of the smaller time criminals that are taking advantage of the situation. This leads to tension with Foggy and Karen as Matt ends up largely neglecting his half of the partnership at their law firm. Foggy thinks he finally has Matt largely on board again when Frank Castle hits the scene on part of his revenge spree. Frank is after three groups in particular: a biker gang called the Dogs of Hell, the Hell’s Kitchen Irish, and a Mexican drug cartel. When a surviving member of the Irish looks for help from Matt and Foggy’s firm, they get largely involved with a police sting operation to take down Frank Castle, who the DA and police seem to know far more about than they’re letting on. Things, of course, go bad, and Matt has to go after Frank as Daredevil, and doesn’t quite manage to handle it all that well. He does turn it around, and in a bizarre twist, will end up representing Frank Castle in court after Frank allegedly killed one of their clients.
Elektra picks this as a great time to show up, looking for more information on the goings on of a Yakuza operation that her adopted father got her investments tangled up with. Matt reluctantly helps her, leaving Foggy and Karen to defend Castle largely on their own as he tries unsuccessfully to keep his two worlds separate. Things are far more complicated than they first appear, not only with what’s going on with Castle, but with Elektra as well. Plus Stick returns, and finally brings Matt more up to speed with the ninjas that are attacking he and Elektra known as The Hand. They want to bring about doom and gloom, and the key to doing this is in New York, or rather right in Hell’s Kitchen, and Matt finds he can’t manage the lawyering end of things while he’s trying to stop another crime war at night.
If the first season was testing the waters with how dark the show could be, the second season decides to wallow in it and embrace the hell out of being dark and gritty. At the same time, it keeps that sense of humor that all of the Marvel properties seem to have which keeps the show from spiraling into territory where it’s just mired in the grim dark and won’t let viewers out. They give us lots of well-timed breaks, not just with levity but with some great interactions between the characters that not only get us into their heads a bit, but provide indications for where a lot of their motivations and interactions are coming from. It’s a great mix-up that we just don’t get much of in the big event films featuring The Avengers, or even in their solo outings, and it’s a nice element from the comics that we’ll probably never really get on the big screen.
The biggest issue I have with this season is Daredevil himself. As a character this season he does get development, but it’s really clichéd and by the numbers, and really predictable in every move he makes. That’s not to say that’s terrible, but it makes his scenes far less interesting when he’s not punching someone out. Where this season shines, though, is every supporting character surrounding Daredevil, as they don’t necessarily follow the mold, but manage to be absolutely fantastic as the show moves on. Foggy taking a stand against Matt’s bullshit is awesome, and Foggy’s story arc this season is heartbreaking and inspiring, making me really feel for the guy. There’s a lot more going on with Karen than she lets on and she becomes a more important character as she and Frank Castle begin interacting quite a bit while Foggy and Matt represent him. Karen gets to spread her wings a lot, though, and they took her in a direction I wasn’t expecting at all, and then backed the hell out of it, making the arc between her and Frank the one I was really following throughout the season. Claire Temple even has a more developed and expanded arc than Daredevil, and I actually think it’s almost criminal she wasn’t featured more.
As far as Daredevil’s antagonists go, Jon Bernthal as the Punisher was gripping and intense, and you could see the anguish this guy was going through at the right moments throughout, making him a completely understandable and relatable character. He has this presence when he’s on screen that just works for the character, and some of his lines made me shiver – hell, even cry – a bit. The Punisher arc in this season is both heartbreaking and violent, and it fits the character I remember from the comics perfectly. Now, Elektra is a bit more complicated. Élodie Yung is pretty freaking amazing with the role, but being tied almost exclusively to Daredevil through most of this season puts her at a bit of a disadvantage as she ends up in the superhero trope rut with the Daredevil character as the season moves along. We get a lot of interesting bits around that, though, that keeps her still more interesting than our lead, but if you’re looking for a break from the comic material, or something entirely new, you may be disappointed. She is a pretty cool character, and I did love that they at least fleshed her out far more than she was in her initial comic run, but it still felt a bit like we’d seen this before. The one that surprised me that I was not expecting at all was a return from an actor I loved in the first season. I won’t spoil it here, but let’s just say that he was a very welcome return, and I did love what they did with his character.
Action is what drives a lot of Daredevil along, and the action here is fantastic. There’s a fight scene that is easily on par with, if not surpasses, the excellent hallway fight in season one, and it happens almost as early on in season two. The last ten to fifteen minutes of episode three of season two are nail-biting, and they use nearly the same long take method they used in season one’s hallway fight for a brawl from a top floor hallway down a stairwell that’s amazing to watch. I rewound it to watch it again. The action overall through the season is well choreographed, and the violence and graphic shots are kicked up a bit here, even over what we got in the first season. The best part of the action is that it’s always backed up by events and isn’t just there for the sake of being there. There’s always a reason and some weight behind each fight, bringing some gravity to each one.
While some of the supporting character arcs are much stronger in this season than the first, the development of Matt and Daredevil overall wasn’t nearly as satisfying. You could see where they were going with him throughout, and while it worked, it wasn’t as gripping as it could have been. While I liked most of what they did with this, some of it felt like more of the same just with much darker themes. While not as good as the first season of Daredevil or of Jessica Jones, season two still manages to deliver some really high quality, street level, superhero storytelling with great action and an emotional punch.