Season two of Daredevil was another watershed for Marvel, it’s partnership with Netflix, and for superhero television as a whole. There never seemed to be any doubt that the show would be successful, given the first series was one of Netflix’s most successful and popular (you can see how well it did here). Couple that with strengthening roots with the wider Marvel live action continuity, bringing back old favourites and introducing new characters, and it’s a recipe for both critical and financial victory.
That said, there were the odd moments when things wobbled – as indeed they do during every show. There were though, far more positives than negatives.
With that in mind, here’s a look at what Daredevil season two did right, and where, maybe, could have been a bit stronger.
The Devil himself
Not everyone who takes on the role of a superhero or comic book character takes on the right one – 2016’s renaissances for Ryan Reynolds and Ben Affleck proved that, but Charlie Cox has now grown into the role of The Man Without Fear. In season one, he was still find his true path, and only donned his iconic costume in the final episode. This time, he is the real deal from episode one. He plays both parts of Matt Murdock and Daredevil expertly, wavering between the uncertainty over whether Matt is doing the right thing, and the assuredness of his alter ego in coming down on the side of what he feels is just. Matt Murdock looks like a fish out of water when dealing with anything other than legal matters, while Daredevil’s single mindedness put him above the other heroes and elevates him to the star of the show.
Talking of getting someone to embody a role, three actors have had a crack at Marvel’s’ relentless vigilante Frank Castle, and none of them have really got it right. The complexity of the character needs more than just a two hour movie to get, right, so over the course of Daredevil’s thirteen episodes, The Punisher quite rightly gets the time he deserves here. Jon Bernthal becomes the definitive portrayal of the tormented anti-hero, becoming a chilling presences in the early episodes, and a genuine threat to Daredevil and his allies. He then changes as we find out more about his past, and while it’s hard to find him a sympathetic character, in the end you do have a better understanding of why he does what he does. The image of him in the with the iconic skull at the end is also one that lasts. A spin off series is definitely needed.
The return of The Kingpin
There’s only a fleeting glimpse of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk this, year, after he dominated the first season. Nevertheless, he steal the show in the two episodes in which he features. D’Onofrio gets both Fisk’s awkwardness at being around people, but also his brilliance in manipulating those around him to do what he wants. Beneath his calm exterior is a ferocity that is barely matched, and we see that in his face to face meeting with The Punisher. He begins to fulfil his reputation as “The Kingpin”, by turning the criminal fraternity to his will, and paving the way for him to be an influential figure in future Marvel properties.
Don’t pull your punches
Screening Daredevil on Netflix allows Marvel to get away with something they’d never manage to do both on the big screen or on a regular television network: violence. Daredevil, The Punisher, and the rest of the Netflix properties like Jessica Jones and the soon-to-be-released Luke Cage and Iron Fist, all inhabit a far more brutal world than that of Captain America etc. While they deal with laser wielding aliens, the Netflix heroes combat gangsters, mercenaries, drug dealers, and now, the occult. That violence though, makes the Netflix series’ something different, and gives them their own identity. It caters for an adult audience that the likes of Thor or Agents of SHIELD may not.
A hole, is a hole, is a hole…
So what on Earth was the hole for? In the Daredevil comics, The Hand is secretly building a temple under New York City, so it could be that, but for such a grand reveal, it seemed to go nowhere quickly. The constant search for The Hand’s secrets seemed to disappear once the mysterious coffin turned up. The ledger, the hole, all seemed to disappear so Daredevil and Elektra could focus their attention on facing Nobu (who we’ll get to in a minute). No doubt this will crop up again in a future Daredevil series, or even in something like Iron Fist, which has mystical connotations, but for now, it remains a frustrating unanswered question.
No ifs, Nobu
This plays into a larger criticism: Season Two lacked a charismatic villain. The Punisher is set up as the major threat early on, but after episode three, he becomes a side character for a good portion of the next five parts of the show. The corrupt District Attorney’s office doesn’t carry a malevolent threat, and is also quickly disposed of. The Hand then emerges as the Big Bad of the season, but too often they are cannon fodder for Daredevil and Elektra’s fun nights out. Nobu then returns as one of the heads of the organisation, but never dominates the same way Fisk did in season one. While he was a peripheral figure when Fisk was in charge, his fight scenes with Daredevil were excellent, particularly his use of the Shoge Hook. That though, doesn’t cut the mustard in season two, and the fact Fisk’s return is so compelling only serves to show how much these episodes missed a charismatic evil lead.
A real Page turner
Karen Page couldn’t not be in a Daredevil series for the pivotal role she plays in his character development, and it’s to be applauded that she’s upgraded from a secretary to a fully rounded investigator. That said, her sudden transition to being a key figure in the lives of virtually every major character doesn’t make sense. She starts as part of a love triangle with Foggy and Matt, starts a romance with Matt that is swiftly forgotten, quickly becomes The Punisher’s most trusted confidant (why is never made clear, apart from her visit to his house, which by rights should have sent him over the edge), becomes the only lawyer the police can trust, uncovers the conspiracy at the District Attorney’s office, becomes a journalist (with no legal or editorial training), uncovers who killed The Punisher’s family, and ends up being one of the kidnapped in the season finale. She is, in effect, a plot device, to link all the stories together, but because of the disparate nature of all the plots, her role becomes more and more outlandish.
How do you solve a problem like Elektra?
The problems with Karen Page are the opposite for the debuting Elektra. She isn’t really given enough to do. Elodie Yung imbues her with the right degree of sensuality, violence and underhandedness, but simply isn’t given enough to do. Her early escapades with Daredevil seem a little pointless, but actually serves as a ways of strengthening the bond between the two. As the mystery of The Hand deepens, Elektra seems to become less and less important to the plot, veering between ally and enemy depending on whether there are ninjas to fight. The character arguably deserved more than being Daredevil’s sidekick, and while there have been strong calls for a Punisher spin off, an Elektra one would also be quite welcome. Her ultimate fate leaves that option open, but it does make you worry she may end up being a plot device (much like Karen) rather than a fleshed out character herself.
In truth, we’re being picky, because we know Daredevil is a phenomenal series. We’re just trying to avoid being cheerleaders – but that’s particularly hard when the show is as good as it is. Now, let’s get that Punisher series sorted…0