“I’m not seeking penance for what I’ve done, Father. I’m asking forgiveness for what I’m about to do…”
Matt Murdock’s words in season one of Daredevil ultimately ended up weighing heavily on his soul. He gained a reputation, his costume, and the confidence that he could make a difference in his city – but he lost the trust of his closest friend, and painted a target on his back for those who would seek to undo his good work, exploit him, and even destroy him.
Murdock may now be Daredevil, but he’s about to encounter some of the most dangerous characters the Marvel Universe has to offer in his second series. They might not be the conquerors of worlds or those intent on changing the planet, but they are some of the most vicious, brutal assassins and vigilantes to grace the pages of the comics they come from. Wilson Fisk may be out of the way, but let’s take a look at who is in line to make Matt Murdock’s day a whole lot worse – and where they come from.
Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung)
Who is she?
One of several on/off girlfriends for Matt Murdock – but more on than off. Elektra’s destiny has been inextricably linked with that of Daredevil for the majority of their comic appearances. She first appeared as a supporting character to the Man Without Fear in 1981, and was originally intended to be a one off character. Her creator, Frank Miller, soon found ways to bring her back, due to her popularity – and soon got the hump when she started appearing in other characters’ stories after she was killed off in April 1982. Since then, she’s been brought back from the dead numerous times, as her death in the first place often holds some significance in Matt Murdock’s life. Born to Greek parents, she dates Murdock in high school (a fact alluded to in season one in a conversation between Foggy Nelson and Matt), but when her father is kidnapped and Matt botches the rescue, she learns of his true identity and turns on him, linking up with Japanese bad guys The Hand (more on them later). She endures a difficult relationship with the group and occasionally works both for and against them. More recently, she’s been an assassin for hire, replaced by a shapeshifting alien (a Skrull, as part of Marvel’s Secret Invasion comic book storyline – the Skrulls are, for all intents and purposes, the equivalent of the Chitauri from The Avengers movie), stopping a demon-possessed Daredevil, and joining a black ops commando squad called The Thunderbolts under the leadership of General Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross (a character soon to be seen in Captain America: Civil War, and perennial nemesis of The Hulk).
What role will she play?
From the trailers, particularly, the “part 2” entry, Elektra seems as if she wants Daredevil’s help to take down the rebuilding Yakuza crime empire in New York City, but Elektra is not all that she seems. Their past romantic relationship is more than hinted at, and for the majority if the scenes released so far, she’s working together with her old flame to take down the Mafioso. Elektra though, is not to be trusted, and Stick’s words in the trailer where he talks about The Hand, hint at a potential betrayal by Murdock’s lost love. She appears so far as lover, confidante and ally, but she is possibly a greater threat than Daredevil realises.
Who are they?
A clan of ninjas who are involved in organised crime and mercenary work. Based in Japan, its influence extends all over the world, mainly into the United States. While all members of The Hand tend to be skilled martial artists and hand-to-hand combatants, they also dabble in the occult and black magic. It was formed in 1588, so it’s had plenty of run ins with the likes of near-immortal characters like Wolverine, who’s racked up a significant body count of Hand members over the years. Its main focus though, has been in providing a violent, malevolent force in Daredevil stories. Another creation of Frank Miller, the group was founded by the enigmatic Kagenobu Yoshioka, intending it to be five separate organisations which would come together to accomplish its nefarious goals. Its members have been wide and varied, including Abraham Cornelius (the man responsible for creating Wolverine), Wilson Fisk (The Kingpin), various X-Men enemies including Psylocke, Mystique and Sabretooth, and Daredevil himself. It has long feuded with a rival religious clan called The Chaste, of which Murdock’s mentor Stick was once the leader (which would explain how he knows of The Hand in the trailer). In its most recent high profile appearance, in the comic storyline Shadowland, The Hand is actually conscripted by Daredevil to be a force for good, only for its ancient twisted magic to actually control him, and very nearly drive him over the edge. Elektra (along with imminent Netflix arrival Iron Fist) manages to bring him back from the precipice, and The Hand dissolves into the darkness once more.
What role will they play?
The Hand is likely to be a major force behind the events of season two, manipulating events, either directly or through their supposed agent, Elektra. While the trailers place a heavy emphasis on the Yakuza, The Hand is possibly the greater evil, and may even be using the Yakuza as a front for their own activities. This theory is given some credence by the appearance in season one of Nobu, one of Wilson Fisk’s three partners in his ultimately failed plans for New York. Nobu is said to be the head of the Yakuza, when his name is actually an abbreviated form of The Hand’s founder Kagenobu Yoshioka. It’s therefore not unreasonable to assume that the Yakuza name was merely a front. The Black Sky superweapon featured in the first season was also much more The Hand’s style than that of Japanese gangsters. Daredevil decides Nobu’s fate in season one, but their showdown is one of the most brutal, and also shows that his opponent was far more than just a mob boss. Nobu’s training and skill lends itself much more to the type of combat knowledge a Hand member would display. Couple that with the group’s relationship with Elektra, and it’s not unreasonable to assume that they will be working in tandem, pulling Daredevil’s strings.
Frank Castle/The Punisher (Jon Bernthal)
Who is he?
A murderous vigilante who has no faith in the justice system Daredevil fights to uphold. First appearing as a hired gun, hunting Spider-Man in one of his comics in 1974, Frank Castle has no superpowers, but years of training in military ordinance and combat. Again, initially conceived as a one off character, his brutal methods were very much an antithesis of the type of hero who populated the printed page back then. He had more in common with Harry Callahan than Harry Osborn, and that made him stand out. Gerry Conway and John Romita Sr’s creation has experienced peaks and troughs in his popularity, but his backstory endures. A former special forces veteran, Castle’s family are gunned down in mob crossfire during a day out in Central Park. When the justice system fails them, Castle snaps, drawing on his years of military training to leave a swathe of destruction in his wake. His fundamental difference from Daredevil is that while Matt Murdock still believes that protection and justice are the priorities of his vigilantism, The Punisher thinks revenge, punishment and death are more important. Often depicted as a remorseless, unfeeling killer, the inner rage that drives him hasn’t always been prevalent during his previous big screen incarnations (which we’ve explored in greater detail here), and it’s hoped that giving him the scope of a TV series will allow his character to be explored in greater depth. Over the years, Castle has been his own man, rarely joining up with any super teams in Marvel’s comic continuity, but he’s fought and stopped some of the most dangerous villains he’s come up against. Recently, he’s even taken on and beaten most of The Avengers (including Iron Man, Captain America, Wolverine, Black Widow and Thor) before giving himself up. Along the way, he’s come across the likes of Elektra and Kingpin, and it rarely ends well for them.
One of his most famous encounters with Daredevil is in the Punisher series “Welcome Back, Frank”, where Murdock attempts to stop Castle from shooting a Mafia don, only to end up chained to a post and told the only way he can stop The Punisher is to break his own code and shoot him with a gun Castle has provided. It’s a scene the producers of the Netflix series have already recreated, and when it comes to highlighting the difference in philosophies, it’s one of the most effective sequences on the printed page.
What role will he play?
Jon Bernthal’s casting was universally praised when it was announced, mainly because of his portrayal of the unstable Shane Walsh in The Walking Dead. He’ll be hoping to bring some of that brutality and violence to a role that frankly, demands it. If you think some of the fight scenes in season one were hard to watch, The Punisher will up the ante. His roots and backstory are likely to stay the same, with one exception, he’s now a cop instead of a former soldier (although the trailers have hinted that he has military training). His family tragedy, and the failure of the system to deal with it, will likely send him down a much darker path than Matt Murdock, and we’ve already seen the fruits of his handiwork in the “part 1” trailer, where his trail of destruction is plain to see. The telling lines “you’re a half measure”, and “you’re one bad day away from being me”, show that while both The Punisher and Daredevil want crime off the streets, Castle is far more willing to kill to do it. There’s also a fair amount of disgust in his voice, insinuating that he has contempt for Daredevil’s methods. There’s no doubt that painting him as an antihero, rather than an out and out villain, will bring in the majority of Punisher fans who want to see him done right – but it’s highly unlikely that he’ll be a sidekick, or even a friend, to Matt Murdock by the season’s end. He’ll probably become a recurring presence. He may even end up imprisoned as a result of Daredevil winning the day (It’s his series, after all), but he will be back.
Daredevil season two is streaming on Netflix from March 18th – here are the two trailers.