*****SLOW DOWN THERE, COWBOY! WE’VE GOT A SPOILER ALERT. YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED, GO NO FURTHER*****
Well, regardless if you think its too violent, poorly acted, or simply freaking amazing Daredevil Season 2 has dropped on Netflix and the bingefest has begun (and ended) for so many looking to lap up the story from the digital stream. As all things comics and nerdy, Daredevil comes with its fair share of controversy; on the agenda this time around is the level of blood and violence in the series.
Before going on a more focused bit-by-bit, I’m going to address the blood and violence directly. Daredevil is a ninja (essentially). His enemies are ninjas and gangsters. In this season we have the added bonus of the Punisher, who is a killer of gangers. If you’re offended by blood, just stay the Hell away from this Kitchen (see what I did there? It didn’t really work…). Everything about this take on Daredevil is going to be absurdly violent. If that’s a turn off for you, that’s cool but you may want to stick to Paw Patrol.
As for the rest of this review, I’m going to break it into manageable sections. Obviously there’s sufficient overlap between them, but I’m going to do my best to tackle this in pieces.
Let’s get down to brass horns, right? Daredevil is especially violent this time around. The fight choreography surrounding this real-life Man Without Fear is a complete one-up on last season (and last season was spectacular). Additionally, while it was cool to have Daredevil knocking around in a bandana and Adidas pants for most of Season 1, its nice to have Matt knocking around in something more like his comic book outfit.
In fact, it’s certainly better than him hopping roof to roof in a direct translation of the bright red tights and chest signed “DD”. As my wife put it, it’s a little hard to take him seriously when he’s wearing horns and silly red armor, it would be even harder if it were spandex. The body armor allows for a modicum of plausibility, which we can make endlessly elastic.
While it is a little difficult to believe that Daredevil gets around the whole city on foot, to and fro, in the time that he does…its also improbably that the police in any particular crime procedural do either. So when Daredevil’s people–Elektra and The Punisher–get involved later in the season it’s not difficult to believe they can all cover so much ground so quickly.
Overall, the handling of our superhero protagonist in this season is good. He’s a little more experienced than last time around and a little less hinged. Matt Murdock’s personal life is crashing down all around him and he’s leaning more and more on Daredevil to keep himself going. That leads him down a rabbit hole that our new characters will only suck him deeper into. Unfortunately, those characters are just as intertwined with his personal life…
Nelson & Murdock, and Page, oh and the Normals
The firm of Nelson and Murdock are living on barter when we catch up to them at the start of Season 2. Things are busy, but they are just as broke as they ever were. Inexplicably, Karen has begun warming up to Matt rather than Foggy (which was set up last season), and Foggy seems pretty okay with this sometimes more than others. This piece of the show–the Karen Page romance–is the most inconsistent part of the series and is a little rushed and crammed in on top of it.
Personally, I have a hard time getting attached to Karen because I know that ultimately in one of these seasons Bullseye is going to come along and…
…but enough about spoilers from Season 3 or 4. The romance is a little forced and rushed and really Karen is used as a sort of MacGuffin to tie all storylines together. The romance piece keeps Daredevil tied to Foggy, her burgeoning role as a reporter hearkens back to Ben Urich in Season 1 and keeps a link alive to the Punisher, and eventually she even ups the stakes for the “final” show down with The Hand.
Foggy, for his part, becomes increasingly interesting as a character that belongs, probably, on another show entirely. As his ability to really fly on his own without Matt gets him into trouble with street toughs, noticed by big firms, and makes him increasingly less tolerant of his partner’s bullshit. There comes a point early on in the season where Matt doesn’t show up for work anymore and the most Foggy can muster is an insinuation that he might be an alcoholic. But how would anyone know? There’s so much drinking in this show you’d think it was the source of Daredevil’s heightened senses. This is less a critique of people who enjoy a daily drink, and more a question of how one retains superhuman ninja reflexes after a scotch or three.
Lastly, for this section, are Detective Brett and the Night Nurse. Offering more than just ethnic diversity to the cast they also serve as the only real world first responders on the show. Brett is increasingly grateful and frustrated with Daredevil, with an often changing balance and the Night Nurse really could do without his shit. They add an element to the real New York that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is offering and illustrate that there are good people in the city, even if the story hardly ever focuses on them. I’m looking forward to them popping up in the forthcoming Netflix Marvel shows in order to flesh out the world a little bit.
Elektra, Stick, and The Hand
Thank god they did a better job with Elektra than they did in those horrible movies. Elektra is immediately dangerous, deadly, and bored–a trifecta that spells bad news for anyone in her way. I will say upfront that I was irked that they took a French actress and pushed a British accent on her to play a Greek character, but that’s American media for you. “If its Europe its England!”
Elektra is every bit the deadly assassin you might expect, though not as infallibly so as she is in comics. Let’s chalk this up to the fact that she’s pre-resurrection here. Most of my experience with Elektra in the comics has come after her death, so its probably fair that she’s not quite up to that super-uber-mega-deadly level of fighting yet. While there are some rather large holes in her relationship with Matt Murdock–even after a few flashbacks–there’s no doubt that when we meet her, he wants nothing to do with her…anymore. By the end of the season, he’s willing to give everything up to be with her. That arc is much more developed than the Karen Page arc, and comes to a pretty stiff closing.
Having Elektra all wrapped up in Stick’s never ending war with The Hand was a pretty boss move to make. It kept things interesting and fresh and allowed the audience to rely on some familiar characters rather than learning ten thousand years worth of fake ancient Chinese secrets. Speaking of Stick, he’s fun to have around. Inexplicably well trained blind dude with sass and swords. Who doesn’t love that guy? One thing is certain, we learn again and again not to trust him.
The Hand is also well handled (GET IT?). The assassin Nobu is back from the dead setting the tone that The Hand’s greatest warriors will always rise from the grave and continue to be a deadly menace (unless Stick chops off your friggin’ head). Though it was said that the ninjas were “hiding their heartbeats,” what fell short for me was a lack of sudden understanding that these dudes were dead already. Additionally, it was a swerve for me that Madame Gao wasn’t the head of The Hand, but a good one. I think over all we’ll be seeing more from this group as the supernatural threats ramp up heading towards Iron Fist and the eventual Defenders crossover event.
Overall, the ninjas were deftly dealt and mostly well executed. As ninjas should be.
Some years ago, I asked Jeph Loeb and Joe Quesada why it was so hard to make a Punisher “that was good”. Two years ago I asked Gerry Conway, creator of the Punisher what he thought of all the media made with his character. The former twosome nodded in sympathy and assured me that Marvel had recently reacquired the rights for the Punisher and they had a plan. The latter informed me that he had never “seen any of those movies”. My contention was that the Punisher is not a complicated character. He wears a shirt with a skull and shoots gangsters to avenge his family. The formula is easy:
(Guy – family) + Guns x (Gangsters getting shot)
The math is perfect. For some reason except for the Bootleg Universe’s “Dirty Laundry” they’ve never been able to get it right.
Until now. There is nothing to complain about in this rendition of the Punisher. He’s gritty, mean, calculating, and angry. He’s got the skills and the talent, and Liam Neeson better stay away because he doesn’t have the particular skill set that Frank Castle does, lemme tell ya.
Early in the season, Daredevil and Punisher are able to come to an understanding that they are on the same side with vastly different takes on the end game. They play heavily into the idea of how much of a Catholic seeking redemption and the Punisher has moved past redemption is on a mission to take everyone to hell with him. Over time they develop a respect for each other, with a knowledge that they are oil and water. Daredevil will never let Punisher kill and Punisher sees no point in sending criminals to jail.
As his attorney, Matt Murdock doesn’t do nearly enough for Frank Castle as do Karen Page and Foggy Nelson, but in a truly telling but unspoken moment we can see that Frank knows that Matt is Daredevil while he’s asking him questions on the stand.
The season spends most of its creative energy on the Punisher giving the viewer every opportunity to condemn him and every reason to sympathize with him. When Frank is sent off to the slammer, you know in your heart that the District Attorney that was out to get him is clearly trying to kill him. There’s no reason for him to be in general population, and the only rationale for it would be for him to thin out the herd or for them to rub him out. Following an uneasy deal with Wilson Fisk, the Kingpin, The Punisher is set up to completely hate that guy too…and get out of jail.
As the Punisher tries to untangle the gordian knot of his family’s murder, he becomes framed for killings that are totally not his style. This, of course, is where Karen comes in tying in all the storylines. She had built a bond with him earlier in the season and while she tries on her Lois Lane pants, it gives them an opportunity to dig deep.
At the end, Punisher comes in for the save and is left believed dead and able to take out the bad guys hopefully in his own series—and what a bloodbath that would be.
All in, the writing is a little over the top, the acting is a little soap opera, the fight choreography is amazing and the fan service is excellent (keep an eye out for that picture of Darth Vader vs. Luke Skywalker by Frank Castle Jr.). If you enjoyed the first season, this one is gonna knock your socks off. If you don’t like violent crime dramas with martial arts action and sci-fi undertones….why are you even reading this? Go watch Wheel of Fortune.
Watch Daredevil. I can’t wait for the next season…