In the past, I’ve warned that I might occasionally use this blog as a vehicle to showcase my other interests, especially those of the nerdish variety. This is one of those times. So let’s take a little break from rejection and writing and such, indulge our inner nerds, and talk about goddamn superheroes!
Like many of you, I just finished binge-watching the entire second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, and I generally enjoyed it. What follows will be a fairly spoiler-light review of the second season. Note, I haven’t read a single Daredevil comic (or that of any of the other characters in the show), so my review will not address how well the show sticks to the source material and whatnot; it’ll simply be based on the Netflix’s adaptation of it.
Like I said, my review is spoiler-light, but if you’d rather not know anything about the season, stop reading here.
Quick & Dirty Synopsis
The second season primarily revolves around the escalating violence in Hell’s Kitchen, due in large part to a continuing (and expanded) storyline from season one and a couple a new storyline introduced for season two. The continuing storyline deals with the Hand, the shadowy group of ninjas Daredevil encountered toward the end of the last season. Stick returns and a new character (to those who aren’t familiar with the Daredevil comic), Elektra, is introduced. The Hand is after some super weapon called the Black Sky, and there is much ninja-fightin’ shenanigans as they tear the city apart looking for it, drawing Daredevil into a whole mess of mystical ninja mojo and forcing him to deal with some of the demons of his past (see Elektra).
The new story line is Frank Castle, a.k.a., the Punisher. He’s a former special forces military badass seeking revenge against the criminal organizations responsible for the death of his wife and children. He’s a pull-no-punches, scorched-earth type dude, who basically murders the shit out of those he believes have wronged him. Obviously, Daredevil is not too keen on all the killing, even if it is a bunch of bad guys he’s hasn’t managed to get rid of himself. So he scraps with the Punisher, gets his ass handed to him a few times, and as the season progresses, we learn more about who Frank Castle really is and what is really driving him.
Foggy and Karen are back as well, aiding Matt Murdoch mostly with the Frank Castle storyline and adding more emotional turmoil to make Daredevil’s life more difficult.
The Good Stuff
This season has a lot going for it, and it’s generally quite good all the way through. Here are my three favorite things:
1) Frank Castle/The Punisher. Holy shit, what a character. The Punisher is played by veteran character actor Jon Bernthal (you might remember him from The Walking Dead), and he simply hits it out of the park. Frank Castle is brutal yet sympathetic, and his story is at times downright heartbreaking. He is the epitome of the antihero, and, honestly, this is Emmy-winning stuff right here. Bernthal gets the Punisher’s physicality down to a tee as well, and his action scenes are some of the best of the series. There’s a scene in a prison that is one of the most brutal five minutes of TV (in a good way) I’ve ever seen. Frank Castle also delivers the best lines in the season, and there’s a couple of scenes that just crackle with emotion and depth. He’s by far my favorite part of the series so far.
2) Elektra. Another complex and emotionally charged character, Elektra, who is played by actress Elodie Yung, presents an interesting complication in the life of Matt Murdoch. She’s a window into his past, and through her, we learn a lot more about his training with Stick, and, more importantly, its purpose. Like Frank Castle, she’s a bit of antihero, and there are some good scenes with her and Matt, as they are often at odds with their approach to fighting the bad guys. She kills; he doesn’t. There’s a romantic relationship here that works much better than the failed attempt to create one with Karen, which rang a bit hollow for me. Elektra’s action scenes are quite good, and seeing her and Daredevil fight as a team can be fun at times. The performance put in by Elodie Yung is solid and believable, though it doesn’t approach the majestic mayhem of Bernthal’s Frank Castle. In short, she’s a good add to the series.
3) Foggy and Karen. In season one, Foggy annoyed me to no end; his goofy demeanor just grated on me. He is much improved this season largely because they’ve given him something to do, and he is no longer simply attached at the hip to Matt Murdoch. We see Foggy developing into a character with a little more depth, especially when he’s calling Matt Murdoch/Daredevil on his bullshit, specifically for not being there for the Murdoch & Nelson law firm and generally fucking up some of the good things Foggy is working on.
I liked Karen last season, though I thought she was underused. They fixed that this time around, and she has a major part to play in the story. Her scenes with the Punisher, for example, are very good, and the connection between them is believable as she tries to keep Frank Castle from becoming the monster everyone (including himself) believes him to be.
The Not-So-Good Stuff
There were definitely some missteps this season, and I found certain elements to be either boring, irritating, or both. Here’s my top two:
1) Daredevil/Matt Murdoch. Sadly, he’s just not as interesting as the secondary characters, especially Frank Castle, who absolutely outshines him in every scene they share. He’s also irritating because of his “code,” that prevents him from actually killing anyone. There’s a scene where The Punisher accuses him of being a “half measure” because Daredevil “hits them and they get back up,” where as he “hit’s them, and they stay down.” There’s a simple and brutal truth to this, and one that is explored quite a bit in the second season. Even Karen, who is not exactly prone to violence, wonder at one point if the Punisher’s way isn’t the more effective way.
The problem is that Daredevil suffer from the Batman syndrome. His code actually impedes his ability to fight crime in Hell’s Kitchen because the super-powered bad guys always come back. In this season, for example, with all the crazy cult ninjas, just beating them up really doesn’t do much, and let’s face it, there isn’t a prison cell that could really hold them. (We also see all the bad shit that can happen when you do actually manage to put a super villain behind bars. It ain’t good). So, if you’re like me, you are put into a situation where Daredevil comes off a bit dense because he can’t see that killing these fanatical ninjas is really the only way to stop them. The showrunners must understand this too because they let Elektra and The Punisher do all the killing for Daredevil, which makes him character look weak and ineffectual if you ask me. I know the whole no-killing code can be somewhat controversial in comics, and your mileage may vary here, but I really got tired of Daredevil reminding everyone not to kill the crazy murderous ninjas trying to kill them about halfway through the season.
2) The Hand and its one million ninjas. You’d think a bunch of ninjas might be fun and interesting, but after what seemed like endless battles in dark underground places with a ton of faceless assassins, it really wasn’t. It became rote, and the bad guys never really felt like much of a threat (unlike Wilson Fisk in season one). Their leader, Nobu, also bored me in that “we’ve seen this all before” kind of way. In addition, the Hand’s shadowy mission really isn’t adequately explained, and it felt more like the showrunners were being intentionally obtuse rather than trying to build up tension for a big reveal, which never really happened (at least to my satisfaction).
In all, season two was solid, and I’d rate it a solid B or 3.5/5 stars. The best part of it for me was Frank Castle, and I really hope Netflix gives us a Punisher series. There’s so much dark, ugly emotional goodness to explore there, and the Punisher’s merciless brand of justice really does it for me. (Again, your mileage may vary here.) Bernthal’s excellent portrayal of the character only makes me more eager to see what he can do with his own show.
So, that’s my take on season two. Tell me about yours in the comments.