On Friday morning I woke up early, so I could watch the first few episodes of Daredevil before work. I had finished rewatching the first season the night before so I was all caught up and anxiously awaited the return of Charlie Cox as Daredevil, the debuts of Jon Bernthal as the Punisher, and Elodie Yung arriving as Elektra. I worried a little about whether or not season two could live up to season one, and now I feel foolish to have ever questioned it.
The plot of season two offers a welcome change from season one, as this time the series is broken up in several conflicts rather than one overarching focus. Hell’s Kitchen has devolved into a more chaotic state of criminals without Wilson Fisk’s control. While last season following the story of Daredevil chasing down the Kingpin of Crime was excellent, it would be formulaic for season two to follow the same path. Instead we are given a clear idea of Matt Murdock’s need to continue as Daredevil, since crime in his home has descended into a turf war. The gangs are a little underdeveloped as a sacrifice to having a higher array of enemies, but they still appear as valid threats and dangers to the innocent of Hell’s Kitchen.
The show does still utilize a long story arch for the second half of the season, this time delving deeper into the character Stick and the war he mentioned. The introduction of Elektra to the shows mythology and the opposing groups of The Chaste and The Hand, take the show from gritty street crime to mystical modern day fantasy. It is a credit to the writers that this change feels organic and does not detract from the show’s general mood.
The cast is given a great deal more development this season as well. Matthew Murdock’s struggle to balance his life as Daredevil with his personal and professional is a source of tension that plays a great deal in making us really care to see his struggle and does a good job of making the audience question where he should fall on the scale. Aside from the main protagonist though, we are given excellent subplots for the supporting cast. Karen Page attempting to follow in Ben Urich’s footsteps and Foggy gaining confidence as a lawyer to realize he doesn’t need his partner to be great, both supply a great deal of welcome development and help turn the series to an ensemble piece. In addition, minor characters like Sargent Brett Mahoney and editor Mitchell Ellison are brought more into their own, and while they are still not as prominent as the main cast, they have some wonderful moments, bringing to a the audience’s attention the loss of beloved characters and the effect vigilantes have had on life in NYC.
New addition, Elektra does an excellent job of making us forget the ill attempted Jennifer Garner film. In Daredevil she is the epitome of what Matthew could do if he just let go of being a person anymore. She embraces the freedom that her skills and wealth afford her, relishing in combat and risk. Elodie Yung does a wonderful job of showcasing the character’s psychosis and lack of traditional morality, while radiating a sexual energy.
Jon Bernthal is now The Punisher. He is not the fourth actor to take the role, he is not just a good choice for the role, Jon Bernthal has become Frank Castle. He is terrifying, intimidating, and unstoppable. He is a man who in the few moments he shows vulnerability we want to weep for him, but who then comes around to show us that he is not someone to pity. He is a force of nature that decimates the unfortunate criminals who cross his path, and someone we can root for but at the same time makes us question our own morality if we do.
The major villains are well crafted follow-ups to Wilson Fisk. The Punisher is developed just enough to get us to care about Frank and his story, but not so much that he loses his imposing and terrifying stature in the series. The surprise return of Nobu, Madame Gao, and Wilson Fisk are welcome moments in the show, but the characters do not detract from the new additions, instead accentuating them. Wilson Fisk’s ability to use Frank Castle to his own ends firmly establishes that his stay in prison is little more than an inconvenience, and Nobu’s role in Elektra’s story serves to fill in some mystery of the character without taking away what made him so enjoyable to watch in his earlier appearances. Upon Frank Castle’s escape however, we still have to question if Wilson Fisk may have created his own worst nightmare, and the fact the Nobu actually seeks to serve Elektra only adds to her tragedy.
While the characters and story are still on point, it is a bit repetitive with certain moments. In episode three we get a full episode of Daredevil having a discussion with the Punisher, and it is hard not to notice that it comes right around the same time that we had an episode of Daredevil and Claire sharing a similar meeting. This point is highlighted more when the episode ends in a second hallway fight, which while incredible to watch, and a great piece of storytelling, does still feel like the showrunners may have been trying to play it safe. This is not the only time that I noticed a seeming repeat of circumstances, in the series, but it is the most noticeable. While they are not enough to ruin the story I do hope that the show runners will be more willing to take a risk next season, less they fall into predictable patterns.
Season two is by all accounts as incredible as the first, with a few slight missteps that can be easily overlooked for the sheer enjoyment and appreciation of the series. Strong character’s, excellent plotting, and incredible choreography make me feel this is the perfect adaptation of my longtime favorite character. While no news of season three yet, I think it is safe to say that Daredevil can easily support another go around, and may be the best superhero series we have seen so far.
+More character development
-Less developed villains
-Writers playing a little safe at times