Review: Netflix’s ‘Daredevil’ returns in season 2 for more vigilante hijinks

Going into the end of my spring break I wondered what I was going to do to fill my last weekend home before returning to school. Thankfully I didn’t really have to look far to figure that out. On March 20th, Netflix released all 13 episodes of Daredevil season 2, one of four shows the service is producing in partnership with Marvel. Naturally, with all the episodes being available at once I had to finish them as fast as I could and I have my impressions of the season below.

Last year when it was announced that Daredevil would be the first of four Marvel series to be released on Netflix (followed by Jessica Jones and the still-to-premiere Luke Cage and Iron Fist) there was naturally a lot of anticipation surrounding the project. For the most part Daredevil met and exceeded those expectations with engaging characters, a complex moral dilemma at the heart of the show, and a gripping story driving the whole season. Not to mention some of the best fight scenes ever produced for TV. So when a second season was announced the obvious question was; where does it go next and will it be as good? Let’s take a look and see.

Season 2 finds Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) firmly established as “The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.” Doling out vigilante justice by beating up every thug in New York one at a time. The take down of Wilson Fisk (an amazing and sorely missed Vincent D’Onofrio) at the end of season 1 left a power vacuum that had to be filled. This vacuum allows the introduction of Frank Castle, AKA “The Punisher” (Jon Bernthal) and Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung).

These characters provide Matt two very different foils to play off of this year. One, challenges him on the nature of magnitude of Justice while the other, challenges him in the way he relates to those around him. Both Bernthal and Yung are excellent additions to the cast and they invest what could have been two very one-note characters with depth and emotion. Sadly Matt himself occasionally becomes marginalized by the new players. To the point where he feels like a secondary character on his own show. But The Punisher and (for the most part) Elektra are serviced so well that the light focus on Matt is only occasionally a distraction.

Unlike season 1 which focused on the origins of Daredevil and Fisk, this season can be broken up into 3 smaller arcs. The first 4 episodes focus on the introduction of The Punisher (and culminates with a truly standout scene from Jon Benthal), the next 4 introduce Elektra, and the final 5 I won’t talk about here. This segmented approach allows for a large breadth of story to be told which, occasionally works against the show. I often found myself missing the singular drive of season 1 which built toward a showdown between Fisk and Daredevil. The season sets up an antagonist for Daredevil to face in the final arc of the season but it’s tossed in rather haphazardly and only feels like a prelude to a threat that will show up in the upcoming Defenders mini-series that will premiere after Luke Cage and Iron Fist.

Elsewhere on the show there just wasn’t much meaningful work for the rest of our leads to do. Foggy (Elden Henson) and Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) continue to be excellent and well-defined characters but the show just did not have much for them to do this year. A lot of Foggy’s conflict was merely a retread of what he went through last season. While Karen was mostly just around to get kidnapped by various evildoers. The highlight for Karen’s story this season was her unlikely relationship with Frank Castle. Her determination to show that while he is a killer, he’s not the psychopath the media painted him as was admirable and a great drive for her. Sadly, it sort of fizzled out and at the end almost felt like it just backtracked itself. Despite these complaints, both Foggy and Karen end up in a pretty cool place for the potential third season (it hasn’t been officially announced yet but you better believe its coming).

I wanted to briefly touch on the incredible fight choreography on display this season(*). Few shows can match the level that this show operates on. One of the highlights from season 1 was a single shot fight scene in the second episode and the show exceeds that benchmark this year. The end of episode 3 features one of the most riveting and complex fights I’ve ever witnessed. While it is clear that wasn’t done in a single shot like in season 1, that in no way diminishes the value of the scene. I challenge you to not be impressed by it. While nothing else quite matches the scope of the fight in episode 3, the rest of the season continues to display excellent action scenes.

(*)Small gripe; the latter part of the season features Daredevil and Elektra fighting a lot of ninjas. I mean a lot. Most of the fights, while still excellent start to feel the same after bingeing so many episodes in a row.

Speaking of the fighting, the violence definitely gets upped this season. With the introduction of The Punisher the show displays some of the most graphic superhero action you’ll see this side of Deadpool. Make no mistake, this show is definitely TV-MA. If season 1 wasn’t a clear indication of that then this season certainly is. This is not a show for kids. They can watch Agents of Shield. Most of the more graphic violence this season stems from The Punisher. A character such as he cannot be portrayed without violence and most of what he does serves as a reflection of his character. There is only a few times where what was depicted felt out-of-place in a superhero show. But again, this was already a dark and violent show so this likely just me not expecting this level of violence in a comic book show.

All things considered, Daredevil season 2 both improves upon and falls short of its first season. On one hand the action and scope are even bigger than the previous season. But this often comes at the cost of a lack of focus that leaves a few storylines feeling enjoyable but ultimately extraneous. The core trio of Matt, Foggy, and Karen continues to have wonderful chemistry with one another but Foggy and Karen’s stories feel rather vestigial to the rest of the show. As I said earlier though, Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll are so good that this is likely a byproduct of bingeing the season that it even bothered me as much as it did.

These 13 episodes were a wild ride. Seldom was I bored while watching this season. Even with a final few episodes that don’t quite meet what came before I was always eager to see the next episode start playing.

Good stuff.

Overall Score: A-

Both seasons of Daredevil are available for streaming exclusively on Netflix. 

So did you enjoy the season? Let me know in the comments below!

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