Warning: Spoilers for episodes 1-5 ahead.
If last year I referred to the Hell’s Kitchen of season one as a pervasive, yellowing, bruise of a city, something in the throes of decay, then season two is Hell’s Kitchen bleeding out as Daredevil himself tries to stopper the wound that Fisk left.
There’s was much anticipation going into Marvels season two of Daredevil, a show that excellently jump started the Netflix and Marvel team up on the road to the Defenders. The biggest hurdle that season one suffered was it’s own issues with pacing, hitting the home stretch from episodes five through ten and then completely floundering for the last three episodes, at a complete loss at how to wrap the season long storylines up in a satisfying manner and they kind of managed it. With the addition of Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle aka The Punisher and Eloide Yung’s Elektra season two already had a big head start with such comic book staples on their roster and they make great use of them with the first five episodes excelling at everything that we loved about season one while also fixing some of their trouble spots.
The first being Karen and Matt’s relationship, something I hadn’t been entirely sold on last year, largely due to the tremendous amount of chemistry between Charlie Cox and Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple. Everyone seemed to pale in comparison to them and the Karen and Matt bond at the end of the season seemed contrived, a way to force their potential relationship not because it was the natural narrative move to make but because it was what the fans of the comics expected. This season they’ve impressed however, from the flirtatious nature of their pool game, to their awkward first date but nothing sold the two as much as the scene where they walked home in the rain. Deborah Ann Woll is illuminating in the sequence where Matt traces a raindrop down her arm, everything shot in soft focus as the music soars. It’s a beautiful moment completely unlike anything the show has shot before, contrasting Matt’s nightly experiences as Daredevil and the darkness that it ensues with this moment of complete, innocent bliss where all the colors pop. I wasn’t sold on the pairing before-no matter what the comics or their fans said-but the show has convinced me.
However, having just finished episode five with Elektra’s reappearance in Matt’s life, I guess I’ll have to hold out hope on how they go forward to treating that relationship in future episodes.
But more on Elektra in a second.
They’ve done a lot in making Karen her own character as well with her own agency, her own demons and her own missions outside of the Nelson and Murdock offices. She, Foggy and Matt make quite the justice seeking trio, all sticking their necks out for those in peril either physically or through the justice system.
Foggy has also been given a bit of an overhaul as a character without erasing what we knew of him in season one. While I was worried at the start that Foggy’s main role would just be to nag Matt about his nighttime super heroics, he’s given a nice, human perspective to the craziness that tends to invade their lives and his concern over Matt comes across more touching that aggravating and Elden Henson plays it well. Him running all across Hell’s Kitchen to find Matt after hearing about gun fire on the rooftops was a great moment for the character as he’s sprung to action at the thought of his friend dead. Sure, the self-righteousness get’s in the way of him seeing the good Matt is doing in his dangerous vigilantism, but it’s coming from a place of love. While I always enjoy the character most when he’s playing off of Matt and Karen, the show has done a nice job of playing him as the up holder of the law as he sits at the office and does everything in his might to keep their law firm alive-even if it means accepting meals instead of payment from their clients.
On the other end of the spectrum we have Elektra and the Punisher, two people who have very different ideas of what justice means and how to enforce it. Elektra has a looser respect of the word than even the Punisher it would seem as we see drawn out in a flashback of her and Matt’s relationship in episode five. What started as a relationship that was based on who could outwit the other-a relationship based on spiking adrenaline and the rush of getting away with things they shouldn’t turns into something much more dangerous when Elektra brings them to the mansion of the man who ordered the hit on Matt’s father, bringing the devil out in him in a less than ideal setting. Getting close to beating the man to the death, Matt calls it quits while Elektra eggs him on, trying to get him to kill him. Yung and Cox have palpable, dangerous chemistry in their scenes and the writing and performances do a great job in showcasing how manipulative Elektra can be and how Matt has trouble backing away from his rougher edges and bloodier impulses. Ending with the surprise that Elektra knows that Matt is the Daredevil and has set them both up for a fight with the Yakuza men is a great cliffhanger (so good that I need to wrap this review up so I can go watch episode six.)
Which brings me to the greatest addition of season two so far, which is the Punisher. From the way he walks, talks and fights, the Punisher is instantly Daredevil’s opposite, making them for great parallels. Just as Castle says, the Daredevil is one bad night from being him. Bernthal is terrific and commanding in the role, bringing the soldiers precision to the character with his straight back and physicality along with the demons that come with it and the fragility in remembering the horrors of what happened to his family. He brings out a cocky playfulness in Cox’s portrayal of Daredevil as well as he’s quick to dismiss any and all reasoning of Punisher’s murders. Punisher see’s it as a way of completely eradicating all crime while Daredevil see’s it as a crime. Daredevil believes that life is worth saving, that there’s a whole world you’re killing, while the Punisher believes that he’s preventing innocent people from being murdered by killing the monsters in the world.
The show writes their dialogue and back and forth so well that you don’t know who to root for in some of their fight sequences.
Matt himself goes through a nice journey in the first four episodes as he’s ends the first being shot in the head but back on his feet in the next, hunting the Punisher down. If there’s one complaint I had for the episodes I’ve watched (beyond what I’ve found to be some gratuitous violence) has been the shows under utilization of it’s star. Cox is so effortless in the role of Matt that it’s easy to forget just how good he is but that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be the pivotal aspect of his own show. The much talked about fight sequence in episode three is action packed and brutal, intricately shot as it follows him down flights of stairs as Daredevil beats one man after the other into unconsciousness. It’s a nice reminder of how great of a fighter he is, how forceful he is, after a few episodes of having his ass handed to him by the Punisher. But isn’t that what makes Daredevil so fun? It’s much more interesting to see a hero get knocked down repeatedly and still stumble up, grasping at walls to fight again, then a hero who barely gets a scratch.
I’ve jumped around a lot but there is a lot to love so far in season two of Daredevil, particularly the dynamic between Frank Castle and Matt Murdock as they both grapple with what they believe is right and how to deal with the injustices in the world. The end of episode four showed us a lot of potential in their back and forth as Castle spoke to “Red” as he calls him about his family and the trauma he’s dealt with, opening up a whole new side of the character.
It’s a great start to the season and I look forward to reviewing it in full once I’ve finished it. Let me know what you think so far in the comments below (be kind-no spoilers please) and I’ll check back in after the season has wrapped.
Episodes 1-5: 8/10