Sweet Jesus. Has it really been almost a year since Matt Murdock graced our TV screens on a Friday in April and proved to us that he was here to say? I could tell you exactly where I was and how I felt watching him in costume beat the shit out of seedy crooks in the cold-open to the series premiere, but that’s not exactly relevant, nor is it even really important. Because Daredevil came and made a huge impact on pop culture, and that’s all that matters. It does help that people approached the show with equal parts intrigue and skepticism, and intrigue ended up winning in the end; people were convinced that Daredevil was indeed here to stay and not just a stupid Batman clone that immediately became irrelevant after a summer blockbuster tried to bring him to the masses, only for that to go out like a fart in the wind. Not only that, but the show also was the start of a more adult-oriented MCU, one that allowed for Marvel’s storytelling to not be bound by the nazis that are the MPAA or the fact that Marvel movies can’t be almost 3 hours long. And boy, did that ever pay off in the brilliant first season. And it also paid off brilliantly well in season 2, which against all odds, worked extremely well. That’s right, season 2 is proof that Daredevil isn’t just a fluke, nor was the rather disappointing Jessica Jones enough to spoil any hopes for a compelling Netflix-verse. In fact, from the engaging opening scene which shows a montage of Daredevil doing his good deeds around Hell’s Kitchen to the stunning finale, Daredevil proves to us that there’s still lots of stories to be told from Hell’s Kitchen.
Warning: some spoilers follow
It goes without saying though that despite Netflix’s good track record with second seasons I went into this season with equal parts enthusiasm and skepticism. While the news that The Punisher was coming to the MCU did excite me, and the subsequent Elektra announcement as well, I was worried that the show may have been jumping to conclusion a bit too soon, and the bitterly disappointing Jessica Jones didn’t help matters, in fact it led me to wonder if Marvel was biting off more than they could chew. But that’s thankfully not the case. The writers know what they’re doing here, and it’s clear in how hey handle the characters. This is, of course, considering that much of the planning was done under such high pressure from Disney, Marvel, and Netflix after the season was given the “go” light due to the success of the first season. For one, the season almost immediately had the announcement of The Punisher being in the season, and not long after, main Femme Fatale of the comics Elektra Natchios. Additionally, discussions of The Punisher getting his own series began, and the pressure to get Season 2 of Daredevil shot by a certain time so a The Defenders miniseries would be achievable was apparent all throughout shooting. But watching the cast clearly have lots of fun throughout the season, you almost can’t tell.
“You’re blind, and I’m just a vengeful little shit.”
What makes the season so good is that the writers seem to understand what people want in a highly anticipated follow-up to a hugely influential debut season. The “moments” are there, the characterization, the dark and grimy/gritty tone, the bloody and gory violence, the fight scenes that are equal parts raw and stylish, you name it. But of course, it can’t be the exact same thing as the last time around, right? So naturally, Daredevil’s conflict with The Punisher is introduced almost immediately, right in the first episode, and is fleshed out and developed over the course of the season- one episode of the season is devoted almost entirely to it, in fact. Episode 3, titled New York’s Finest, consists almost entirely of their banter together (The Punisher has Daredevil chained up to a rooftop column for most of it) and their banter and chemistry is almost dead on, perfect. The character development of The Punisher is also what makes him so effective as a character; while the show doesn’t coast entirely on him, the audience knows that he’s a tortured man, struggling with the loss of his family and stopping at nothing to get revenge. Yet the show also doesn’t try to paint him as a totally good force; he blurs the line between “sympathetic violent spirit” and outright villain several times throughout the season. The eventual revenge does happen, in the penultimate episode of the season and is one of the absolutely most disturbing and stomach-churning scenes in television history both thanks to Jon Bernthal’s powerful performance and the sheer brutality of the situation. There isn’t even any onscreen gore either, it’s all down to the acting and execution of the drama- Karen Page begging him to stop and Frank Castle’s sheer indifference. It’s powerful, hard-hitting and gets the message across perfectly. Then we get gems such as the climactic cellblock fight scene in Seven Minutes in Heaven, which, much like Season 1 episode 2 climactic hallway fight, is a perfect set-up for how relentless the character is.
Elsewhere, Elektra Natchios, played by Elodie Yung, is another huge highlight of the season, and as a huge fan of the comics, to me, Elektra was a real make-or-break moment. The movie, and her own respective spinoff movie, portrayed her as a cheesy superhero role model- but here, Frank Miller’s vision of her is almost fully realized. I say almost, because the writers add some elements of their own to Natchios- but her trademark sociopathy is there, as is the femme fatale factor. The thing that people disliked most about her is ironically what I loved most about her- her and Matt together. To me, they had absolutely perfect chemistry, and watching their shenanigans together at the party mid-season was one of the best executed things bout the season- there’s a scene where they break into an office to steal a certain item at a party (that’s all I’ll say to not spoil much), and not only is the scene tense, but also clear and playful thanks to Yung and Cox’s perfect chemistry and how well done the scene is. Additionally, her backstory is touched upon, and while it differs quite a bit from the comics, it’s interesting and brutal enough to fascinate in its own right, and one of the better done examples of liberties taken for screen reasons.
Only she doesn’t slice someone open with a stiletto.
As far as the action scenes go, they’ve never been better. There’s more action scenes this time around, but not once do they feel as though they’re there to pad the season out. There’s tons of them, at least one per episode, and while they’re admittedly more stylized than season 1, it’s for a reason, and not to mention, the stylization doesn’t take away from the overall experience. We still see chunks of skin fly off, blood splash from scrapes and wounds, decapitations, shotgun blasts, dust flying off walls, and not once does any fight scene look too “clean” with little to no consequences. In fact, New York’s Finest has a fight scene that could be described as Alejandro G. Innaritu directing the climactic Season 1 episode 2 hallway fight scene, and it’s without a doubt one of the most fascinating and most badass fight sequences I’ve ever seen. The body count piles up the more and more as the season goes on- ninjas come into the picture and familiar faces Stick, Nobu and Wilson Fisk return, and the result is not only nostalgia of a sensational first season, but also terrifying new elements to said characters that make them even more likeable, in spite of how evil the latter two may be. Additionally, the actual drama works amazingly well- Frank Castle in court for murder with the Nelson and Murdock team there for his defense plays out over the course of a few episodes. If this were in the hands of any other writers, this would seem superfluous an padded, but these writers manage to make the courtroom scenes suitably tense and just as exciting as watching Daredevil, Stick, and Elektra kick some ninja tail.
Admittedly, not all is perfect- as with the first season, there are some unignorable flaws. For one, ninjas come into the picture around episode 8, and while they are exciting in some cases, there’s distractingly too many of them. A few times, it seems as if the writers ran out of ideas and sent more ninjas in to fill the time, which was a bit too noticeable. There’s more and more of them as the season nears its end, and it gets pretty damn ridiculous, even for a superhero TV show about a blind vigilante. Additionally, we get to see Nobu’s post-burn face, and it looks like they didn’t really put much effort into it- only his lower jaw is totally burned. But these are only minor flaws when the rest of the show is so damn good. As expected, the show delivers those instant “moments” you’re likely to spend Monday morning at work with your buddy discussing, the compelling drama needed for you to recommend it to your friend, and the memorability and sheer intensity that will leave you needing season 3 immediately. Too bad we’ll have to wait a year for that…