Daredevil Season Two: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Unless you’ve been under a rock, you know that Marvel premiered season two of its made-for-Netflix version of Daredevil.
Before I go any further, let me give you the usual spoiler warning. If you haven’t yet watched (read: binged on) season two, stop reading now. Major spoilers ahead.
Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
Season one of Daredevil had to be the best thing I’d seen on TV last year.
*takes a moment to think*
Yeah. Definitely the best.
I raved to all my friends about it. It had everything I love in a TV show; compelling characters, tight writing, believable arcs, and expert pacing (not to mention a good many gratuitous shots of a shirtless Charlie Cox). It had a different feel from anything Marvel had released up to that point. Unfettered by big studio protocols and an obligatory PG 13 rating, Daredevil could go where no Marvel project had gone before (before Deadpool). To the dark side (and those who know me, know that I’m a longtime lover the dark side). Daredevil was grittier, sexier, and more grown up. I was an instant fan.
So I, like many others, rejoiced when Netflix announced that Daredevil was coming back for a second season. And then I, like many others, waited with baited breath.
And season two was good.
I won’t say it was quite as good as season one. But I’m still all in.
So without further ado, here’s what I deem to be the good, the bad, and the ugly of Daredevil’s current run.
The Punisher — This was by far the highlight of the season for me. You heard that right. The highlight of a show about Daredevil was actually one of the secondary characters. Jon Bernthal (affectionately known as Shane from Walking Dead) as Punisher was nothing short of brilliant. He easily gave the best performance of the season; a complex, haunting, and nuanced performance. Even better than that was that, he served as a mirror into Matt Murdock’s own conflicted and tortured soul, making a more complex character out of Matt simply by being there. I couldn’t take my eyes off him when he was on screen. Not even to look at my phone. That’s saying something.
Elektra — The comic book movie world is (slowly) getting better at giving their female characters their just due. After sitting through countless failed attempts to translate the complexity of Catwoman to the big screen (with Anne Hathaway’s performance in The Dark Knight Rises being the notable exception) and one already abysmal portrayal of Elektra specifically (*cough* Jennifer Garner *cough*), we finally saw a character with some meat to her. Whether you like her as a person or not, Elektra is a complex female character and Lord knows we need more of those on television. Everywhere really. I love how she mirrored Matt in many ways, right down to the colors that they wore when they were doing their beating-criminals-to-a bloody-pulp thing, showing that she was probably the only person in the world who really knew him. But she was also far more than an accessory or a hanger-on. She was self-determined. She had her own moves, her own sense of purpose, her own (admittedly thin) code. She was fully realized, and that’s something we should celebrate even if she wasn’t particularly likable.
The fight scenes — I knew the fight scenes in season one would be hard to top but top, but overall I’d say that mission was emphatically accomplished. The scenes were artfully shot from unusual angles and perspectives. They were intense, close, really bloody (more on that later), and always exciting. Breathtaking really. The prison fight scene from this season is the new instant classic that the hallway fight scene was for season one.
Fisk — Because who doesn’t appreciate the acting chops of Vincent D’onofrio? He reprised his role as Wilson Fisk for a few episodes this season, and finally became The Kingpin that we know from the comics. He was an absolute pleasure to watch on screen. Except when he was playing opposite Jon Bernthals’ Punisher. Then, they were simply magic together.
Foggy coming into his own — Can we give it up for Foggy for finally coming out from under Matt’s impossibly long shadow? Foggy really grew a pair this season. He stood up for himself, spoke his mind and made moves that had nothing to do with Matt. More importantly, he was able to walk away when he realized that relationship was no longer good for him. Foggy’s the real MVP.
Stick — Sorry. I just didn’t like this guy. Didn’t like him last season either. I think that’s because he didn’t get the lengthy (to the point of being somewhat indulgent) character development that everyone else on the show got. Yeah, he came through with the assist in the end. But other than that, why was he really there? He just kind of showed up, said mean things, and caused even more trouble. Meh.
Matt — Was Matt Murdock a complete dick this season or what? Inconsistent. Unreliable. Self-righteous. Totally bought in to his own PR. I liked it because it gave his character more layers, but I found myself constantly annoyed with him. He seemed to have landed right in the middle of a full blown messiah complex, painstakingly shouldering the fate of Hell’s Kitchen squarely on his chiseled shoulders. He seemed unable to see his true motivations anymore, seemed unable to remember why he even got into the vigilante business in the first place (could it be that Matt Murdock needs Daredevil more than Hell’s Kitchen does?). Matt reminded us that power, even when used for “good”, inevitably corrupts. Even if it’s just a little bit.
Matt/Karen — I just didn’t like this angle. Mainly because Foggy already had a crush on Karen, and Matt must have picked up on that. Matt going on to date Karen, even if Foggy never made a move, violated G code big time.
Karen — Did I miss when Karen became a lawyer? Just what kind of legal assistant get to interview clients in jail (alone)? Sit at the table in court? Sees confidential patient files and investigates criminals? Out of your lane much?
Too many gangs — It seemed like Daredevil took on just about every gang left in Hell’s Kitchen. I think this made the overall product a bit disjointed and caused some pacing problems. They would have done better to narrow the conflict down to one gang and really flesh out the story. By the time it seemed they had tried to do this, it was already too late. There were only a few episodes left, and so things ended up feeling rushed.
The law vs. Justice — A running theme on this show. The law and justice are two different things. And they don’t always work in tandem. We see this even more in this season of Daredevil. Even Matt, a pretty darn good attorney, begins to lose what faith he has in the legal system. He’s painfully aware of its limits and inability to consistently deliver true justice. Why else would he dress up in long johns and beat people up at night just to miss his court appearances in the morning? The two halves of Matt Murdock have always been at war. But in this season, we see the vigilante half, the half that operates outside of the law, start to win out. It will be fascinating to see how far down this road Matt is ultimately willing to go.
There are no good guys — …only bad guys and worse guys. In the early episodes, we see how determined Matt is to put himself on some kind of moral pedestal over Punisher. He justifies his actions by saying “at least I don’t kill people.” But then he goes on to sabotage his cases, alienate everyone who loves him and inadvertently get even more people killed. So is he really that much better? For all his brutality and questionable morals, at least Punisher is more focused. And crystal clear about why he does what he does. Frank Castle teases Matt in that brilliant rooftop scene, “You’re one bad day away from being me.” And then throughout the rest of the season, we see Matt inch closer and closer to that imaginary line.
And Now, Some Burning Questions
Is Matt Murdoch’s identity compromised?
Matt becomes unmasked during the final fight scene. This happens at the exact moment the NYPD shine the floodlights onto the roof where the fight is taking place. Now I know there’s a good distance between the fight and the onlookers, but Matt never puts his mask back on. It’ll be hard to believe that no one saw him. He reveals his identity to Karen in the end, but it would appear that the world at large is about to find out who he is as well. This will make for an interesting season three. Especially with the Civil War storyline on the horizon.
Did Matt make a conscious decision to kill Nobu?
I have a hard time believing you would throw someone off a roof with any intent other than to kill then. What does this mean for Matt’s character (keep in mind that the comic book version of Daredevil isn’t as staunchly anti-killing as this TV version)?
How will Elektra play into the next season now that she has gone into Nobu resurrection chamber?
Will she still be Matt’s college sweetheart? Or the weapon everyone feared she would be? *cue ominous music*
Is Nobu really dead?
A Katana to the jugular should kill just about anyone. But still…
Will Karen forgive Matt and the two of them give it another go?
Spoiler. I hope not.
Who do I need to write to at Netflix to get The Punisher his own series?
This post originally appeared on cinephiliatv.com