For those who feared that the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil series wouldn’t equal the outstanding quality of the first year, then worry no more…Daredevil’s sophomore season is just as good as the first year, and much of that is due to the Punisher (Jon Bernthal), who steals the show. We review the season, but beware of spoilers.
With two seasons under its red belt, it has to be stated now that the Netflix Daredevil series is the finest super hero comic-based show ever produced. When the first year debuted, it was the single best season of any comic book to TV adaptation, but it was still too premature to call it the best comic book show ever. Now, after two years and 26 episodes, it has to be said…Daredevil is on a level above any other super hero show.
Charlie Cox is back as ‘The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen’; Matt Murdock; AKA the Daredevil. Cox was great in the first season, and does an even better job this year as the blind vigilante who has a lot of issues. Cox is excellent in the many action sequences he's called on to enact, showing great physicality and energy, but it’s when he is playing Murdock that he really shines. The guy's mannerisms, body-language and expressions beautifully capture the essence of a man who can see more than other people but who must pretend to be blind. He also does well embodying the physical pain that Matt is often in, due to his rough-and-tumble night life as DD.
What Cox and the writers touch upon this season is that Matt isn’t dressing up like Daredevil because the city needs it but rather because he needs it. Matt’s reckless style of charging into the lion’s den with no plan other than to out-punch everyone initially makes him seem rather foolish but as the episodes go on, we realize that this is what he lives for. This is why he is so easily and often drawn in Elektra’s wild adventures despite repeatedly saying he’s done with her. This season tells us that Matt is not the reluctant hero of Nolan’s Batman films or the CW’s Arrow…Matt needs to be Daredevil and wants to be.
Also, for those who recall the epic, intense hallway fight-scene from episode three of Season One, you may have doubted that they could out-do that amazing battle. Well, I have some good news for you…This not only equals it; this surpasses it! In the third episode of Year Two “New York’s Finest”, there is a fight sequence that starts in a hallway and continues down a stairwell. Daredevil fights his way down several levels of a building, dispatching numerous members of the street gang called the Dogs of Hell. Like the fight from last year, it's done in a single unbroken shot. It’s fantastic!
The story is broken up into three 4-episode blocks, which are interconnected but each section of the season has a separate focus. The two main storylines running throughout year two are (1) the scheme by the group called the Hand who are trying to get their evil hands on ‘The Black Sky’, and (2) the Punisher’s story arc. Both are well done but the Punisher scenes are the stand-out moments.
Speaking of the Punisher—AKA Frank Castle—we get the best-ever live version of the character this year. With all respect to Dolph Lundgren and Thomas Jane, who have both played Frank Castle in films (both of which were disappointing), this is the Punisher fans have been waiting for. Jon Bernthal superbly brings the character to life. He embodies a single-minded vigilante killer who is also sympathetic and honorable in his own strange way. His fight scenes with Daredevil are sure to give comic fans a thrill, seeing them actually play out on screen. Also, there is a well-written conversation between the two, which takes place while Daredevil is captured and chained up. It highlights the differences in their beliefs and philosophies. The dialogue comes straight out Marvel’s Punisher # 3 written by Garth Ennis during his Punisher run in 2001. Many of the lines were lifted verbatim from the page. Bernthal’s portrayal and the writer’s interpretation of the character seem clearly influenced by Garth Ennis’s work.
The relationship between Daredevil and Elektra (Elodie Yung) is also interesting, altering between flashbacks to their youth and their reconnection in modern day NY City. When Matt and Elektra are reunited in 2016 Hell’s Kitchen, he maintains he wants nothing to do with her at first but he is pulled so easily back into her orbit that he clearly wants to be with her, and by the end of the season, he is willing to leave his beloved city to go on the run with her. Of course, fate has other plans, but before things go bad, the relationship between the two is contrasted with Matt’s relationship with his admin Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), who gets built up as his love-interest in the early episodes before Elektra pops up.
Both Karen and Matt’s law firm partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) have expanded roles and are handled here almost as equal co-stars. The whole trial-of-the Punisher arc, which takes place during the middle four episodes, features Foggy handling Castle's defense by himself while Matt is off fighting Ninja’s with Elektra. It’s odd that the show alters between action sequences and courtroom drama, but it somehow works. As for Karen, she grows a lot over this season, and her scenes with the Punisher as she delves beyond his violent exterior to find the man beneath the menace are effective in furthering both her development and the Punisher’s storyline.
Also returning this year are Rosario Dawson as compassionate and dedicated nurse Claire Temple, who is put into danger helping DD out; and Scott Glenn who reprises his role as Stick, DD’s enigmatic and morally ambiguous mentor. Stick is more vital to the overall season story arc than he was in the first season. Claire has her own mini story arc which will probably be picked up in the Luke Cage series.
There are two aspects of the season which are reminiscent of Nolan’s Batman…One is that Daredevil is partly responsible for creating the Punisher, much as Batman was blamed for creating the Joker in The Dark Knight. Also, the writers focus on his unshakable no-kill philosophy, and his belief that Hell’s Kitchen can still be saved, much as Batman felt about Gotham.
Was the season perfect? Maybe not. One thing that seemed to be missing was a strong, central villain. Nobu (Peter Shinkoda) who runs the Hand is only in a few episodes, and while the Punisher starts out as a villain, he doesn’t remain that way. The unseen mystery villain called ‘The Black Smith’ is mostly an off-screen presence. Once again, the best bad guy is Vincent D’Onofrio who reprises his role as Wilson Fisk, the kingpin of Hell’s Kitchen. Sadly, he is only in four episodes, which is too bad because he is intimidating and formidable in his few scenes. This season could have benifited from a main baddie like the Kingpin last season or Kilgrave from Jessica Jones.
Season two raises the blood and gore content of the first season, and that can be a positive or a negative, depending on how much you enjoy limbs and heads being chopped off. Several plot threads are left dangling, including a bizarre subplot about people being used as Guinee Pigs for a strange experiment. These plots could either be picked up in future seasons of Daredevil or in one of the other Netflix shows.
While on the subject of other Netflix shows, make sure you hang in until after the final episode to see a brief clip from the upcoming Luke Cage: Power Man show, which will debut in September. If it’s as good as Daredevil and Jessica Jones, it’ll be a winner.
Daredevil year two is superbly done in most aspects, living up to the expectations of fans who loved the first season. Netflix is raising the bar for comic book-based shows, making other series like Agents of SHIELD, Arrow, Supergirl and Legends of Tomorrow look amateur in comparison. Can they keep up this level of quality? Let’s hope so because Daredevil is first-rate entertainment.