Check out Our Review [WITH SPOILERS] for Daredevil Season 2!
There has been a great deal of debate lately about the darkening of the superhero genre. Some fans argue that it is just a progression of the genre while others argue that it is a nihilistic approach to heroic fiction designed to make the characters seem more edgy and modern. Either way, no one can argue that Marvel’s Daredevil Season 2 reaches new artistic heights in regards to the dark superhero.
While brilliant, the first season of Daredevil was held back a smidge by the need to introduce the myriad players and locations of Marvel’s street-level world. For season two, all that is already in place as new showrunners Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez hit the gas early and often. The season starts with an uptick in gang activity thanks to the arrest of Wilson Fisk. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is doing a great job keeping Hell’s Kitchen safe from the different factions as he, Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), and Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) are still helping people through their not-for-profit law firm. Things seems steady, or at least as steady as things can be in Hell’s Kitchen, until large swathes of gang members are brutally and systematically wiped out. At first, it seems like an army is targeting the different gang factions, but Marvel fans know exactly who is coldly wiping out the scum of the Marvel Universe. Enter: Frank Castle.
Now, even the most jaded comic fan has to admit that Marvel has done a superlative job in casting all its films and TV shows. Starting with Robert Downey, Jr. as Iron Man, Marvel has regularly found the perfect actors to fill starring roles, supporting roles, villains, and bit players. Even with that history, Jon Bernthal as the Punisher might be Marvel’s most inspired bit of casting to date. Bernthal’s Castle exudes menace. He is every inch the Garth Ennis Punisher and whenever Bernthal is on screen, it is almost like a signal to the brain that something horrific and intensely violent is about to take place. But this Frank Castle is also vulnerable and in the season’s most daring moves, he forms an absolutely fascinating relationship with one Karen Page.
You see, the new Daredevil season is separated into three parts:
1.The first focuses on the introduction and exploration of the Punisher.
2. The second half deals with the aftermath of Castle’s capture by Daredevil and the vigilante’s subsequent trial while also introducing Elektra and the Hand.
3. The third deals with Daredevil and Elektra’s final conflict with the Hand and the transformation of Frank Castle into the iconic version of the Punisher.
When Castle is first introduced, the series deals with the conflict between Murdock and Castle. The season deftly explores why the two characters stand in complete opposition to each other. But during this time, Murdock begins to see Castle not only as a menace, but as a hero broken by the tragic events that took him from his life as a loving father and thrust him into the muck and mire of the darkest part of the Marvel Universe.
Somehow, even though Castle is indeed the most violent hero ever to be plunged into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the character is still imbued with a spark of humanity. He is never completely the robotic killing machine, but a man who is trying to come to terms with loss. Murdock doesn’t so much want to bring Castle down because of his disregard for human life (although there is plenty of intense discussions about the morality of killing), he wants to bring Castle in to get the mentally ravaged soldier the help he so desperately needs. It is a classically told tragedy of the fall of a hero and the rise of an engine of death. Make no mistake, this is not a watered down Frank Castle, this is a Punisher that shivs the crap out of his enemies and hangs his victims from meat hooks. Bernthal’s Punisher brings the pain but always has a toe in the water of humanity.
Other than the Punisher, Marvel’s Daredevil has a ton going on. Murdock is trying to kick-start a relationship with Karen, maintain his friendship and business with Foggy, and protect Hell’s Kitchen from fighting mad vigilantes, swarms of rival gang members, and an undead ninja cult. He is split between his two identities as the whole season is paced like a classic Daredevil comic as Murdock attempts to maintain balance between his two lives.
If things weren’t complicated enough, as Murdock finally begins to find a work/vigilante/life balance, Elektra Natchios walks into his life. Elodie Yung sizzles as Elektra. She is an athletic, stunning woman who exudes intelligence, grace, menace, and power. The first few episodes Elektra appears in made up the show’s only small misdirection as Elektra was ostensibly more of a brat that seemed like she took joy in messing up Murdock’s life. Later, she became the Elektra fans have grown intimately familiar with over the decades. Her story was intertwined with the story of the Hand and the returning Stick (Scott Glenn) as the season deftly introduced the history of the Hand and the Chaste.
Considering there were basically no supernatural elements in last season of Daredevil, this season had to do some dexterous story gymnastics to fit in the idea of undead ninjas, centuries-old war, demons, resurrection, and Eastern magic. But somehow, it all worked. Every time a story element was in danger of becoming too fantastical, Frank Castle would show up to ground the entire thing in a hyper-realistic, gun oil-soaked reality. Daredevil, Elektra, and the Punisher formed this three way morality play as Murdock tried to keep the two from spreading death around Hell’s Kitchen.
Again, this season had everything the first season had and more. It even managed to top the now legendary hallway fight from season one. Yes, stairwell fight is now a thing, and holy crap, you just have to see it to understand how majestic it was. This is the same Murdock from season one but more confident, and yes fans, you get to see an entire season of Daredevil in the legendary red suit. The stakes are higher, the action is more intense, and there is a sense of cohesiveness and purpose to every moment and every relationship. There is almost no filler as every scene either delivers a high octane set piece or is designed to make you care just that more about the characters and interactions.
Some might feel that there is no real big bad this season. But really, how can Wilson Fisk be topped? The Hand and the ongoing gang war for Fisk’s territory is at the center of most of this season’s conflicts with Frank Castle in the role of the wildcard. We have some classic nods to some classic Marvel moments like a famous rooftop confrontation between Daredevil and the Punisher, and a Frank Castle in prison story arc that proudly riffs on the Devil of Cell Block B comic arc from years back. Some old favorites return in pivotal roles, but I won’t ruin that here. There are even nice, subtle tie-ins between Daredevil and Jessica Jones that give the whole Marvel Netflix experience a sense of cohesion.
But through it all, it is the beloved characters that shine. From Daredevil’s struggle with two lives and two loves, Foggy Nelson’s struggle choosing between friendship and career, to Karen Page’ struggle of overcoming her own dark path to help Frank Castle, everyone gets more than enough time to shine. Page even begins a new career as a reporter as she steps out of the Nelson/Murdock shadow. This new career puts her in the path of Castle’s war as the two form a unique and fascinating bond that rarely forms the heart of the whole season. Hell, there are even a few absolutely riveting visits with Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) as she has her own career choices to make.
In this age of dark and dire super heroes, the darkest of them all, Daredevil, spends thirteen episodes finding a balance between bleakness and hope. While doing so, it introduces some pivotal new characters to the Marvel Netflix Universe while setting up future installments of all of Marvel’s coming streaming shows. Needless to say, Daredevil season two was an absolute triumph and proves to the world that even the darkest corners of the world have a spark of light and hope.
And really, Marvel, if you’re reading this. Netflix. Punisher. Season one. Now!
What do YOU think about Daredevil Season 2? Let us know below!