Published on March 21st, 2016 | by Ian Goodwillie0
Daredevil Season 2
Ian binge watched the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil in less than 24 hours. His opinion: season two is even better than the first one.
Almost one year ago The Feedback Society published its review of Daredevil, the first series in Marvel’s collaboration with Netflix. It was a revelation to say the least. After that came Jessica Jones, another stellar series that upped the ante. Saying that expectations were high coming in to the second season of Daredevil is an understatement of epic proportions.
And, wow, did it deliver.
In addition to Daredevil and the same great supporting cast as the last go around, The Punisher and Elektra were added to the mix. Elektra is a key character in Matt Murdock’s life, both personally and as The Man Without Fear. The Punisher also plays a big role. They patrol the same streets, sometimes as allies, sometimes as enemies, and always with two very different ethos. But beyond their tumultuous relationships with Daredevil, they are also both characters weighed down by terrible past film adaptations. Transitioning them from comic books to screens has not gone well.
Elodie Yung’s portrayal of Elektra was fantastic, and far better than the previous iteration. Torn between mission and love, destiny and desire, she makes difficult choices throughout the series particularly when it comes to her relationship with Matt Murdock. Yung balances Elektra’s affable personality with her homicidal tendencies perfectly. She brings out the turmoil seething beneath Elektra’s surface.
Punisher, on the other hand, is not conflicted. At all. He has a mission and he is dedicated to it. Keeping in mind that the bar was pretty low, Jon Bernthal gives the best performance as The Punisher that’s been seen on the screen, big or small. Frank Castle’s core motivation has always been the murder of his family. He wants revenge. The issue with the character is that vengeance is a terrible motivator in the long term for any character. Eventually, you’re just writing about a mass murderer who ran out of people related to his inciting incident to kill and just kept pulling the trigger. It’s a problem that has plagued Punisher in the comics as well as the movies.
But Bernthal is able to humanize Castle. You get to see how he’s trapped in that moment, unable to move past it. How he survived war overseas only to find something worse at home. How he is consistently used, manipulated, and betrayed by pretty much everyone. Castle is just tired and made the choice to cross a line he can’t go back over as his way of dealing with it.
Season two demonstrates how both Elektra and Punisher are representative of different aspects of Daredevil’s own motivations to do what he does. Both Elektra and Matt Murdock had similar experiences growing up and training that push them. Punisher and Daredevil are both driven by personal loss. But Elektra and Punisher have gone a step too far into the darkness, crossing the line with a huge body count to achieve their respective goals. Daredevil constantly toes that same line but fights to never cross it. While they want Daredevil to join them on that side, Punisher and Elektra also need him not to. He is, unintentionally or otherwise, their moral compass. Elektra is a little more amicable and receptive to that idea than Castle is.
Admittedly, I liked Tom Jane as The Punisher and Jennifer Garner as Elektra. They just got garbage scripts to work with. The quality of the Netflix Daredevil series is undeniably superior to those films, giving Yung and Bernthal the chance to excel. It’s further proof that comic books stories need time to breath in a format like this over movies.
But I digress. As usual.
Season two also provides a lot of set up for what’s next, presumably in The Defenders when Marvel’s Netflix heroes team up, or perhaps Daredevil season three. The Hand, as shown in many of the trailers, have finally made their presence felt in a big way. Their plans started in the first season with more details being revealed in season two. One can’t help but wonder how much of the secondary story surrounding Officer Simpson in Jessica Jones may play a part in The Hand’s scheming. Perhaps it won’t at all. And will any of that impact Luke Cage this September? Madame Gao also made a brief return to the series, someone who is likely to play a role in Iron Fist.
While secondary characters are providing connection points between the different series, the primary characters really have yet to interact. Luke Cage was key in Jessica Jones so one would hope she plays some sort of role in Luke Cage. But outside of a few name mentions and/or vague references, Daredevil has yet to interact with either hero, and we’re three seasons into this Netflix world of Marvel shows. Lacking that connection is noticeable.
Beyond this specific aspect, the lack of connection to the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe is also surprising. There are most likely rules about character moving between films, broadcast TV, and Netflix but it still doesn’t make sense to keep them this separate. At this point, we have spent 26 episodes of time with Daredevil. That is the most time spent with any Marvel costumed hero on screen in a series or movie focused on that character. There are others, like Phil Coulson, who have more screen time but he is by no means a costumed hero. Daredevil is. It feels weird that Murdock isn’t, as far as we know, involved in a story like the upcoming Civil War.
It’s also kind of odd that neither S.H.I.E.L.D. nor The Avengers have taken notice of what’s going on in New York. Daredevil, Elektra, Punisher, Luke Cage, and Jessica Jones have fought wars against crime lords, super powered villains, and ninja armies, tearing the city apart on three separate occasions. It seems like someone should have noticed that, perhaps Iron Man’s new best friend/web head who happens to be based out of the Big Apple.
The best work Marvel is doing on any screen is available right now on Netflix. It’s time to show how all of this fits into the bigger picture.
But that’s a larger scope question.
The reality is that this season of Daredevil continues the pedigree of season one and Jessica Jones. It’s superb, making Elektra and Punisher intense yet relatable and setting the stage well for what comes next in season three, perhaps even The Defenders. If haven’t checked into the Netflix/Marvel world, yet, now is the time.