Thank God for the half-baked Daredevil movie. If it weren’t for that film, there’s a chance that we wouldn’t be the spoiled DD fans we are now, living in a post-DD Season 2 world. *As someone who is obsessively immersed with this character and has a tattoo of him diving down on my forearm, thinking that we live in a post-DD Season 2 world is all kinds of weird. As if living in a post-Season 1 world wasn’t mind blowing enough for me.
Released a mere two Saturdays ago, the sophomore season of Daredevil took the world by storm as it relentlessly fired off an all cylinders; it improved on all aspects of production and performances and masterfully told stories both familiar and unfamiliar from the Daredevil mythology. In short: Daredevil Season 2 is every fan’s wet dream come true.
From the costume design down to the fight choreography, Season 2 saw all aspects of production up the ante this time around. The season is grander in scale, a lot darker, much more cerebral in its themes and downright more enjoyable compared to the first one, feeling more comic book-y than ever.Ninja assassins, ex-girlfriends and bloodthirsty gunmen are all major players this season; the three primary ingredients that make up this fanboy’s dreams.
Making their Marvel Cinematic Universe debut this season are two characters who have become fully formed icons of their own despite their supporting character appearances in the comics, the Punisher and Elektra, played by frequent supporting bit actors Jon Bernthal and Elodie Yung, respectively. Both their performances are instant highlights this season. Bernthal portrays the Punisher in a way that we’ve never seen and likely one we’ll never see again. One with unparalleled magnetic depth that brings you the heart of his pain and loss. Punisher is just as moving as he is violent in this incarnation; one moment he’s talking about the loss of love, a minute later he turns a quaint diner into a massacre of a crime scene.
Cut from the same cloth of excellence as Bernthal’s Punisher, Elodie Yung’s Elektra does nothing but exceed expectations. When she was first cast, the reception was lukewarm. There admittedly wasn’t much to base fan excitement on other than the fact that she looked the part. But man, when she debuts in Episode 5, the entire season goes to another level. Yung’s Elektra takes a lot of cues from Frank Miller. She’s psychotic, violent, bloodthirsty, manipulative and somewhat emotional. She struggles to tame the fire within but gets a kick out of it when indulged. Yung’s Elektra is an expression of reverence towards the legacy of the character Miller created. At the same time, it’s a totally refreshing take on a character that was tainted onscreen a decade ago. She’s a whole different beast (Yaminote-related pun intended) on her own.
Suffice to say, Bernthal and Yung’s depiction of their respective characters are on their way to form into icons of their own, just like in the comics.
Coming back with a redemptive vengeance this season is Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson. I found Foggy mostly unbearable last season as he forced his way in as a comedic relief via his unlikable charm and I think most fans felt the same way too. I like my Foggy Nelson conflicted and burdened. The Foggy tormented by the weight of Matt’s secret and pushed to the edge as circumstances get worse. We got hints of that Foggy in the latter end of Season 1 and it was only then that he grew on me as a character. Season 2 for Foggy is nothing but all that. With pain comes growth and boy and Foggy did nothing but suffer and grow this season. He finally learns who he is and what he’s capable of. He accepts his place in his world and starts to respect his strengths as a lawyer, as a friend to Matt Murdock and as a person. Their dynamic changes for the better; the friendship becomes more meaningful and endearing. When they end up cutting ties to each other by the end of the season, it’s somberly resonates with you as a viewer. Foggy Nelson is a winner this season, both in-show and depiction.
Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page this season, for the most part, is still the same Karen Page we had last time; a crusader of truth with the heart and conviction of a hero… which sometimes goes a little bit too far. Karen gets into trouble a lot this season and that’s understating it. I’ll be elaborating my criticisms of the season as a whole in a bit, but one of the things I found laughable this time around was the number of times Karen’s life is put in danger. Detective Sargent Brett Mahoney puts it eloquently in the last episode, “Any shit-storm you’re not a part of?” Woll plays Karen Page with such vulnerability; the vulnerability of a woman dealing with things that are way beyond reach. Page stands emotionally weak among a cast of gun-toting and sai wielding vigilantes, but stands just as strong and triumphant in the wake of adversity. She may weep at the sight of a bloodied and mangled corpse but she takes crap from no one. Even from the big bad Punisher. Deborah’s Karen Page is a force to be reckoned with.
Going back to my point of having an improved season on all fronts, Season 2 is superior in narrative cohesion and pacing compared to Season 1. As much as I championed the first season, I have to admit that it does get weary and dragging as it goes along. The pacing is stilted; multiple B plots spin off into different tangents which become detrimental to the urgency of the A plot. As mentioned by my colleague Doug Herring, Season 2 is a wise experiment in telling serialized comic book stories. Instead of having an overarching plot divided into 13 episodes like was the case with the first season, Season 2 is divided into three parts, akin to a 13-issue run in the comics. Story arcs smoothly wrap up as new ones are fluidly introduced; the Punisher is arrested at the end of an episode just as Elektra breaks into Matt Murdock’s apartment; Matt and Elektra discover The Hand as Frank Castle is sentenced to prison where he meets Wilson Fisk. It’s a storytelling exercise that works wonders for the season. There’s a delicate balance between character, expository and world building moments. The narrative is in constant forward momentum, yet it still finds time to breathe.
That is the case for the first 10 or so episodes.
Amidst my praise and worship for this second season, it is not without flaw. The illusion of the season being close to – if not – perfect slowly disappears when you get to the back-end of the season. The convolutedness of having too many unresolved stories on your plate becomes evident in those final episodes. There are a few elements from the last three episodes that I perceive to be the cause of this slight dip in quality at the end of Season 2.
One of which is the Punisher’s Blacksmith subplot. Throughout the latter half of the season, we are given hints and clues about a mysterious figure called the Blacksmith. The Blacksmith is the figure said to be responsible for the massacre in Central Park which ended the Castle family as we know it and inadvertently birthed the Punisher. Frank Castle spends a lot of the latter half fighting his way through prison and Hell’s Kitchen looking for answers about the massacre, for us only to find out in the most Shyamalan twist – that the Blacksmith was an unsuspecting character we met earlier in the season; his former commanding officer, Col. Schoonhoover. With that in mind, not only do his actions defending Frank Castle on the stand make no sense, this whole subplot – which we spend 3 to 4 episodes exploring – has no bearing to the super important season finale arc. It feels like a quick solution to give the Punisher the closure he needs this season and a reason to keep the character in the final episodes.
Another aspect of the last third of the season that makes it lose the footing is the lack of a legit Big Bad in the finale arc. One of the criticisms I stumbled upon before going into this season was the lack of definite big bad for the season. Given that that criticism was aimed at the first seven episodes, I found it preposterous. The seven episodes were cool and smooth as hell and worked perfectly despite having no singular baddie. It was only until I got to the finale that I understood the criticism. As much as I adore Peter Shinkoda as Nobu Yoshioka, Nobu isn’t a big enough a villain to carry the season finale. And it absolutely isn’t a Shinkoda issue as the dude kills it all the time. It’s the way he’s written. Nobu, as we know him, is just some ninja who wants Elektra which makes him essentially a character lacking in personality and gravitas. None of his actions pose any real threat; Daredevil and Elektra beat their cannon fodder ninjas most of the time. Nobu has been defeated by Daredevil before. If the entire Hand/Black Sky arc was spent properly building up Nobu and the threat he poses to the MCU Netflix world as a whole, him as the final Big Bad would have worked a lot differently.Heck, Nobu killing Stick would have made a tremendous difference threat-wise. His elevation to Big Bad status would have been earned and not forced.
Other than those two points, the rest of my criticisms can be construed as fanboy nitpicks. (Elektra should have gone full dark side/Black Sky as the final villain. The 13 episode format shouldn’t be mandatory for these shows! The Hand mythology still makes no sense! Daredevil just runs off after dealing with a mystical ninja invasion at a Metro-General! Matt’s mask still looks bad at different angles!) However, none of those criticisms detract from the overall quality of this second season. Seeing the show become what it is and the characters transform to who they are is an experience I thought I’d never go through as a DD fan. The world of Daredevil is finally in the shape we’ve all been dreaming it to be. Punisher and Elektra officially exist in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Wilson Fisk is more evil than ever.
And that’s just the core of the good stuff! It’s the little things and details that make this entire season such a joy to rewatch over and over again; Brett Mahoney’s working relationship with Daredevil, Ellison taking Ben’s place and frequently showing his love for a friend gone too soon, Melvin being a total bro to Daredevil, Wilson Fisk finally cementing himself as the biggest threat Matt Murdock will have to face, the Punisher recognizing Matt’s voice in court, Stick being the endearing prick that he is, Daredevil understanding Madame Gao’s capabilities and not going after her, Elektra figuring out who Daredevil really is via his ass, Karen and Matt falling in love, Elektra and Matt driving away in a sports car like they did in Man Without Fear. It’s these moments in the season that make me truly appreciate what Marvel has given us fans.
Moving forward, there’s a lot I’m looking forward to slash expecting. But that’s another article for another time.
Thank God for that half-baked Daredevil movie.
**Reminding readers on how much I love DD is a thing I loved to do. As evidenced by the rest of my articles. 60% of which are Daredevil related and have some sort of line talking how much I love the character.*