Daredevil Season Two: A Spoiler-Light Review

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!

Daredevil

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.

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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).

Summary

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.

Revenge of the Reviewed

You’ve passed the first hurdle, getting your work published, and now it’s out there in the wild, available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other purveyors of fine literature. You’ve made it. Rejection is a thing of the past, a bad dream from which you have now awoken. Right?

Wrong!

The truth is the ante has been upped, and the stakes have been raised. Your work is now available to the—Gasp!—public. Unlike an editor who maintains some level of civility and professionalism when rejecting you, the book-reading world at large is under no such constraints. They can and will tell you exactly what they think in the most direct and even brutal fashion. An editor who doesn’t like your work will send you a vague form rejection filled with soft, professional niceties. A guy on the internet who doesn’t like your work will say you straight-up suck and the world should avoid your craptacular writing at all costs. That kind of stuff is certainly tough to hear when its aimed in your direction, but the public is plunking down their hard-earned cash, and this affords them the loudest (and sometimes cruelest) voice of all critics, the voice of the consumer. Brutal reviews hurt, no doubt, but they do keep you humble—they’ve certainly humbled the fuck out of me on occasion.

Okay, lets lay down some rules how to handle bad reviews. There’s really just one. Here it is. Do not respond to negative reviews. Let me repeat that. Never, ever respond to a negative review. Ever. There’s practically no way to avoid looking like you can’t take a little criticism. And by responding, I don’t mean just on Amazon or wherever the review actually happened. I also think it’s a bad idea to call attention to the review on your Facebook page, your Twitter account, or even your blog (it’s really the same thing as responding). You’ll notice I haven’t posted any of my bad reviews here. That’s not because I’ve never received one; trust me, I have paid my dues. This is just an instance where I actually follow my own advice.

Worse than possibly making you look bad in public, responding to bad reviews has the potential to fuck you in ways you can’t even imagine. There have been numerous incidents where authors have responded to negative reviews in shockingly childish ways, and then the tantrum goes viral. You can guess what happens next. The internet unleashes its full and not-so righteous fury upon the offending writer. I’m not going to link to any of the specific incidents because, honestly, I don’t want to pile on, and I think these authors have done their penance. If you really have to see for yourself, just type something like “authors responding to bad reviews” into Google and let the horror unfold. If that shit doesn’t convince you, nothing will.

In each case where an author has misbehaved and it’s gone viral, the author did himself or herself no favors by calling attention to the review. Yeah, the internet is forever, but it’s also filled to the brim and overflowing with a constant stream of digital diarrhea. Chances are a bad review will be buried under a hundred layers of cat videos and dick pics within days. So leave those bad reviews alone and let them fade away.

But what if something in the bad review is factually wrong? I don’t think you should respond to that either. Look, if you’ve got fans, people who like what you write, and someone posts a review of your work that is factually wrong, your fans are going to let that reviewer know, and they don’t have to be nice about it. I’ve seen reviewers get absolutely savaged by an author’s fans over an abusive or factually dubious review. Someone stumbling upon that review after your fans have had their way with the reviewer is not likely to think negatively about the author. Now, if it’s something really egregious or straight up libel, you probably should take action, but I still don’t think that action should be responding directly to the review. For starters, almost every place someone can post a review, someone can report that review and potentially have it removed. You can totally be that someone.

At the end of the day,  no matter how good something is perceived to be, there will always be someone who hates it. This goes for every writer under the sun, even the greats. For example, look at a real titan of speculative fiction, George R.R. Martin, whose success is undeniably gigantic and whose work I enjoy. Go out to Amazon, look up the first book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, Game of Thrones, and look at the reviews. George has a whopping 7,290 reviews on Amazon, and 73% of those are of the gushing, five-star variety, but 4%, that’s 303 people, think he’s terrible and gave the book one star. Are those 303 people wrong for not like Martin’s work? Nope, and the people who don’t like your work or my work or any writer’s work aren’t wrong either. Reviews are someone’s opinion, and opinions are not objectively wrong.

As a writer, you just have to come to grips with the fact that despite all the success and accolades you might acquire, someone is looking at something you wrote and thinking, “Well, this is shit.” It will always be that way, and accepting it is just another step along the winding road of Rejectomancy.