Daredevil (2016) Season 2 Review!!

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Synopsis – Matt Murdock, with his other senses superhumanly enhanced, fights crime as a blind Lawyer by day, and vigilante by night.

Episodes – S02E01 to S02E13

My Take – Inspired by the recent tradition of pitting superheroes against each such as as Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War, Season 2 of the much awaited Marvel and Netflix collaboration product Daredevil broadens its scale by adding more characters, cameos, action, along with subplots to its universe and most importantly pitting its lead Daredevil against fan favorite The Punisher. Before I continue I must warn about the SPOILERS ahead. Being a comic book nerd and a fan of Daredevil, it was extremely exciting when Netflix began Daredevil. While, I loved the 1st season of the show, I must say it was kind of a mess. Despite nailing the narratives of its prime lead Matt Murdock and the antagonist Wilson Fisk aka the Kingpin, the show was poorly paced and often found itself floundering with the sub plots of its supporting characters. But even with all of the problems, season 1 established itself as a small part of the massive Marvel Cinematic Universe which means the story shares continuity with the other Marvel Studios releases like Captain America, Iron Man, etc. And ended with Daredevil in an alternate version of his traditional uniform. It wasn’t great, but good enough for a TV show. While I enjoyed the following release of Jessica Jones, the casting of The Walking Dead alumni Jon Bernthal as the Punisher is what got be excited for the blind vigilante’s return. And boy, what a ride!! Despite losing Steven S. DeKnight as the show runner, and pushing the series creator Drew Goddard to consulting, Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez have managed to raise the stakes. The show is still dark , gripping, dramatic and most importantly entertaining. Season 2 is extremely well written and there are so many great scenes of dialogue being exchanged between characters. While some of the story arcs have been better than others, it still manages to be a non stop ride. Picking up shortly after the downfall of Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) —also known as Kingpin—who is now imprisoned for the crimes he committed in Season 1. With Fisk subdued, various threats in Hell’s Kitchen have promptly emerged to take his place. This upsurge in crime forces Matt Murdock, a blind lawyer with superhuman senses, to suit up once again as Daredevil or the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen and defend his city. Charlie Cox reassumes the role of Matt, who is still struggling to balance a law career and personal life with his crime-fighting alter ego.

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Understandably, this dilemma ultimately jeopardizes the relationship Matt has with his close friends Foggy Nelson (Eldon Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). If you felt that Season 1 sidelined Foggy and Karen, you will be pleasantly surprised to find that they are both given more to do in the second season. They quickly grow tired of Matt’s dishonesty and, unlike in Season 1, they refuse to be dragged along as baggage. Personal drama aside, Season 2 shows us Hell’s Kitchen in a state of turmoil. In addition to several resurfacing gangs, Season 2 introduces the Punisher—a mysterious gun-wielding vigilante who, unlike Daredevil, doesn’t object to killing criminals. We quickly learn that the Punisher is none other than Frank Castle, who seeks retribution after his family was tragically killed in the crossfire of a gang shootout. Played by Jon Bernthal, the Punisher is a brutal anti-hero, and his character is largely responsible for Season 2’s astronomically high body count. His presence in Season 2 makes for some of the most violent television I’ve seen to date, so be prepared. And while Bernthal’s performance as the Punisher is excellent, I imagine that people will either love or hate his character. Frank Castle is a hyper-masculine killer with a one-track mind, which might be frustrating for some viewers. I kept hoping that Frank would listen to reason and change his demeanor, but he’s a man who ultimately refuses be persuaded. Alongside the Punisher, Season 2 also features Elektra Natchios—a highly trained assassin who, as it turns out, has a history with Matt Murdock. Played by Elodie Yung, Elektra is a genuine bad ass with a sardonic edge. She invigorates Season 2 with energy and charisma, a welcome divergence from the Punisher’s dark and brooding vibe. Although we got a glimpse of the constant internal debate of Matt Murdock in season one, this time Matt seems to be constantly struggling about what’s wrong and right, what’s a hero and a villain. With the introduction to the Punisher and Elektra, this debate was inevitable. And this is one of the most exciting things of this season, I was always trying to categorize the three of them into hero or villain and I came to the conclusion that’s not that black and white. Humans are so complex and, for that reason, there is a thin line between a good and a bad person.

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We are not just good or bad, we have both traits in ourselves. We also see a lot of character development on Karen Page (as she investigates the Punisher and constantly questions her own values and beliefs) as well as Foggy (we know his insecurities and beliefs better as his friendship with Matt Murdock is once again threatened). I have to point out that I did not like the evolution of Karen and Matt’s relationship, although I understand why they decided to include it in the show (because of the comics!), I was not much of a fan. One of the biggest changes in season two is that the law firm of Murdock and Nelson actually does some lawyer work, and it’s actually integral to the story. What’s more, season one’s dud duo Foggy Nelson and Karen Page don’t act as lead weights dragging the whole show down this year. In the first season they spent every episode investigating a mystery both the audience and Daredevil had long since solved – who is Wilson Fisk? In season two there’s some minor duplication of effort (Karen is learning about Frank Castle’s family right before we get a whole long monologue from Frank Castle about them) but in general Foggy and Karen have their own thing going on – as Daredevil teams up with Elektra to investigate The Hand, they’re knee-deep defending The Punisher at trial. It’s smart, and it means flashing to Karen and Foggy no longer stops the show dead in its tracks. Structurally, the second season wisely has two plots, and the smartest thing the writers did was to make them not connect.  In the first The Punisher rolls into town, wreaking havoc on local gangs in retaliation for the murder of his wife and children during a shoot-out. Jon Bernthal, who was the only reason to ever watch The Walking Dead, is simply extraordinary as The Punisher. Physically he’s perfect, with his broken nose and hard eyes, but more than that he is able to find a humanity inside of Frank Castle that makes his murderous ways all the more terrifying. When he’s first introduced The Punisher is basically Jason Voorhees or The Terminator, especially in a sequence where he strolls through a hospital blasting things with a combat shotgun. But as the show goes on, and as Castle goes on trial and ends up in prison, Bernthal brings shades to this guy. The show makes a choice I didn’t love – it gives Castle brain damage to explain why he’s so damn violent – but otherwise this feels like the best iteration of The Punisher yet. The character has a rich depth that puts him ideally between the killing machine version in Punisher: War Zone (2008) and the emotional version in The Punisher (2004). He’s brutal enough to murder a whole wing worth of maximum security prisoners in a fight but also human enough to offer Karen Page some love advice – and Bernthal sells both without ever contradicting the character. Even though the end of his story arc is kinda disappointing, but hell we have got an awesome Punisher (even-though I still feel Ray Stevenson in Punisher: War Zone was great). What makes The Punisher, a plot so successful is the way the writers use it to test Matt Murdock’s no-killing policy. The show allows the characters to have actual, lengthy debates about morality, and they’re especially welcome coming from Bernthal’s mouth. In the second half Elektra comes in. Relative newcomer Elodie Yung (G.I.Joe Retaliation) is incredible in the role, bringing a mischievous sexuality, and steamy chemistry with the lead Charlie Cox. You believe these two have a past, and once Daredevil is done bouncing off The Punisher he finds himself teamed up with his old flame who is also happy to kill.

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The middle section of the season, which sees Daredevil and Elektra investigating yakuza goings on in Hell’s Kitchen and realizing it’s all a dastardly plan by The Hand, is some of the best and most super-heroic stuff we’ve seen from the Marvel Netflix shows. Daredevil and Elektra have fun teaming up against goons, and Yung and Cox are fun to watch together, being playful and having a good time. Karen Page doesn’t fulfill a strong thematic role in season 1 sucks, but what’s great is that Karen herself doesn’t suck. In season one Karen and Foggy were the doom that came to Daredevil, their storylines sucking the vitality from a pulpy crime narrative. Here I actually liked Karen, and I kind of loved her weird relationship with The Punisher (even though, again, it hurts her place in the larger thematics of the show). It was interesting seeing her realize that her drive to uncover the truth didn’t make her right for the law but rather for the press. This season was also about Foggy finding himself, about him understanding that he didn’t need to stand in the shadow of his handsome, well-spoken and blind best friend. That arc grew organically out of Matt’s, because as Murdock ignored the practice more to go adventuring Foggy was forced to stand up on his own. Speaking of which, the action in this show is some of the best ever put on screen and you really have to applaud whoever choreographed the fight scenes. There are some long fight scenes done all as one take (that must have been extremely difficult to film), which are absolutely thrilling. The action is filmed in a series of long, excruciating shots with minimal stunt doubles, and features violence worthy of a Tarantino film, although it never reaches gratuitous levels. What’s more, there are subtle callbacks to scars from specific season one battle wounds. The show excels in ripple effect continuity and storyline payoffs. Not only did they manage to top that epic hallway fight scene from season 1 which will go down in top 10s for fight scenes until probably the end of time–they also threw in an even more brutal Punisher prison fight scene, well i don’t really know how to describe it but i was screaming from disbelief the entire time that it was even possible for them to capture so much carnage in a single scene and still stick to the realism. The fight choreography alone in this show makes it worth watching. The characters, the action, the romance – is in the service of a larger series of philosophical questions about not only how vigilantes operate but how we, as people, navigate the world. The entire season is a lively debate about whether or not the ends justify the means, something which was somewhat a stand point in the underwhelming Batman v Superman film and the show wisely never answers that question. Despite a nearly flawless season one performance, Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil proves he still has plenty to offer in terms of acting chops and commitment to the physicality of the role. He was born to play this role. So is season 2 better than season 1? In my opinion, a big yes! Daredevil has instantly become one of my favorite current shows. It’ll be interesting to see if Daredevil returns for a 3rd season before the Defenders series, which could do a lot to write his personal arc moving forward. However, it looks like we’ll get a 2nd season of Jessica Jones first. I actually think that if they want to craft the story of the Defenders over the action the series may bring, that might be the best path to take.

4.5

Creator – Drew Goddard

Starring – Charlie Cox, Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll

Status – Season 2 (Completed)

Network – Netflix

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