Warning: Spoilers Ahead!
Fresh off the success of JESSICA JONES, Netflix has returned to the Marvel Cinematic Universe with the second season of DAREDEVIL. The season opens with the law firm of Nelson & Murdock enjoying a busy, though not particularly lucrative, schedule as their notoriety from the Fisk case has helped their name get around. However, Hell’s Kitchen is anything but stable as the power vacuum left by Kingpin’s imprisonment has the smaller gangs eyeing to make a move while a new vigilante, later dubbed The Punisher, has hit the streets and is gunning down one gang after another with surgical precision. As Daredevil scrambles to stop him one of his few surviving victims comes to their law firm for help. Reluctantly they agree to help him make a deal with the authorities, but the DA is less than honest and uses him as bait instead of as a wired up informant as agreed upon, leading to an operation that goes completely sideways and creates new enemies for not only Daredevil, but for the law firm as well. If the DA and The Punisher weren’t enough to contend with, an old flame from Matt’s past, Elektra, shows up and engages him to help her extradite her company from the mob. However, things are not as they seem and Matt will be pitted against not only a mythical cult called The Hand, but he’ll also have to go toe to toe with former allies as he tries to save his city, friends, and loved ones from all these dangers and more.
What really stands out about the production this season is the phenomenal action sequences. Whether it is gun fighting or gritty hand to hand combat, every action beat is handled brilliantly. One of the highlights are a brawl in a building’s stairwell where Daredevil takes on an entire biker gang, it is every bit the kind of quintessential daredevil fight you’d see in the comics, and the action flows like a symphony. Another terrific sequence is when The Punisher takes out an entire cell block worth of inmates; despite the narrow quarters the sequence is easy to follow and incredibly intense as the show pulls no punches in depicting the utter brutality the crude weapons inflict upon the participants. Besides the wonderful action, the show also maintains the high standards of visual production it had in the first season. There are still plenty of shadows and low lighting, which maintains the thematic feel of the show, and despite the fact that the show takes place in New York City it maintains it’s feel as a much more contained show by having the cameras usually shooting at downward angles when they’re on rooftops, keeping the focus on the streets of the neighborhood as opposed to the high rises. Lastly, as the season moves along more and more comic book hallmarks of Daredevil show up, which will have fans of the comics bouncing in their seats in excitement as the MCU version of Daredevil becomes ever more similar to the one long time fans know and love.
The story this season was a bit more complicated than last season, which is exactly how it should be as the show progresses, unfortunately it was also a bit muddled. The storyline surrounding The Punisher was great, full of the same kinds of twists and turns that made the first season of Daredevil so engrossing. I particularly liked the way the district attorney’s office was integrated into the story and served as an additional antagonist, helping to further flesh out the overarching concepts of the storyline, mainly what is justice and where exactly is the line between hero and psycho. The Elektra storyline started off relatively strong, with explorations of her and Matt’s backstory and a marginally interesting corporate corruption angle, but as The Hand is introduced less and less is explained, and while some mystery is fun, many of the answers left out we’re central to the motivations of the involved parties which left the climax feeling a bit flat. A highlight of the story was Matt Murdock’s relationships with Foggy and Karen. The conflict between Foggy and Matt was great, giving us some of the most intense emotional moments of the show, and Karen’s love for Matt while being kept at arm’s length sends her down an unexpected path that opens wonderful new possibilities for future seasons.
While the story may falter a bit as the season progresses, the acting remains outstanding throughout the show. Returning to the role of Matt Murdock, AKA Daredevil, is Charlie Cox (THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING) and he delivers an impressive performance as a man possessed and torn between two worlds. Matt wants justice to work, but he also wants to keep the danger off of his streets, this forces him to compromise his daytime persona for his nighttime alterego. Cox perfects the portrayal of this dual life, he is as impassioned as Daredevil as he is exhausted as Matt Murdock. Beyond this, his onscreen interactions with his co-stars are intense and feel vastly personal, giving us a level of believability that is crucial to such a fantastical show. Elden Henson (THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 2) reprises his role as Foggy Nelson, and he really steps it up this season. Foggy is a far more complex character now that he has to deal with his knowledge of Matt’s double life and the consequences of that life consuming more and more of his best friend. Henson flawlessly brings Foggy’s desperation and exasperation to life, giving us an outstanding portrayal of a man doing everything he can to keep his head above water in the middle of the ocean during a raging storm. Stepping back into the role of Karen Page is Deborah Ann Woll (TV’s TRUE BLOOD) and we get a much deeper portrait of her character this time around. Karen comes into her own this season as her devotion to the truth leads her down an unexpected career path that will put her in the middle of most of the major events. Woll brings a fierce realness to Karen, infusing her with drive, passion, and an uncompromising devotion to what she sees as right, turning her into one of the most interesting characters on the show.. Jon Bernthal (FURY) joins the cast this season as The Punisher, and he is brilliant in the role. Bernthal gives Frank Castle the right mixture of calm, collected, calculating, and crazy to bring one of comic’s most iconic anti-heroes to life. He dominates every scene he is in as his crazed passion and flawless delivery creates the perfect atmosphere of a powder keg always ready to blow. Lastly, Elodie Yung (GODS OF EGYPT) takes on the role of Elektra and she does a decent job with the role. Elektra is a powerful woman with a past full of secrets, and Yung infuses her with the right mixture of badass and mystery, giving us a character that is above all fun. Also, Yung has great chemistry with Cox and their banter and power struggle makes for some of the more entertaining scenes of the season.
There is plenty to love in the second season of DAREDEVIL, the production values remain high, the action is amazing, the acting is top notch, and while some of the story lines get muddled, there are more than enough solid elements to keep you hooked and entertained. If you’re new to the series or the character I would recommend starting with the first season, otherwise dive in and get ready for some of the best episodic television out there today.
Final Score: 8.5 out of 10