Human superhero-themed comics were always my favorite to read. While heroes that could defy gravity or crush a truck with just their thoughts are cool in concept, they almost always fall into the trap of any powered-up character, power creep. A term used frequently in game communities of all kinds, power creep in this case refers to how heroes who have superpowers eventually gain so much power that their foes are either dwarfed in presence, or just as equally absurd in terms of power. It’s why Superman really isn’t fun outside of comics and animated films/shows.
Human heroes are just more down to earth, both literally and figuratively. For live-action shows, this is quite an asset, as it leaves a lot less for special effects and editing to do. Perhaps this is one contributing factor as to why I enjoyed the first season of Daredevil, along with the writing, cast and pacing. It was an enjoyable surprise when it first dropped on Netflix. Thanks to its success, we now have season two to binge on.
[The season will be critiqued from this point on, including possible plot details. Read at your own peril.]
The big bad villain from season one is now behind bars, and the show starts us off with the looming threat that faces Hell’s Kitchen. There’s another vigilante in the city, and he prefers the finalities of bullets over fists and broken bones. The Punisher is looking for vengeance, and heavens help those that are in his way.
The best moments of this season are when they show a contrast between these two heroes. Daredevil embodies hope in even the most desolate situations, and The Punisher represents grim realism. Their methods of madness are greatly different, yet both were satisfying to watch. This is greatly helped by the casting for The Punisher.
Jon Bernthal being casted resulted in some caution about the second season, some thinking he may not fit the role or do it justice. Having little experience with his other work, I found him to fit the boots of The Punisher eerily well. He’s emotionless when killing random grunts of various gangs, but when he’s emotional it hits you like a truck. The graveyard scene between Daredevil and The Punisher will probably be my favorite heart-to-heart dialogue for some time.
Speaking of new arrivals to the show, we finally have a live-adaptation of Elektra that isn’t under-par, played by Élodie Yung. It was refreshing to see a portrayal of Elektra actually have depth and character, instead of being like the one-dimensional bore-fest the 2003 Daredevil film portrayed. She suddenly appears in Matt Murdock’s life years after Matt had a falling out with her, and the scope of evil plots grows somewhat bigger as she details events. Such events see the return of Matt’s mentor Stick, who continues to be a fun character to watch.
But there are things that are not fun to watch as well. They’re minor in terms of story, but I find relationship drama that results from misunderstandings to be one of the lamest plot devices in writing, and its ugly head shows up in this season as well. I understand why it occurred, as Matt would inadvertently reveal more than he probably would have wished, but there are better ways to show this off. Karen being suspicious of this new client and following Matt and Elektra might have served a better drama kick-off then seeing her in Matt’s bed. She doesn’t even consider why this old man (Stick) was there, or why she was covered in bandages.
One other point that dwelled in my mind throughout the season was how The Punisher seemed too powerful. Against the gangs where his marine training and tactics vastly outperform the gangs, it makes sense in film logic. However, when you have a marine with no martial arts training going up against essentially a ninja with sensory abilities that dwarf most animals and mastery of many martial arts (and not only having him win, but getting a shot off into Daredevil’s helmet), you end up with a moment that briefly kills your suspension of disbelief, which is especially bad for a superhero show.
Those two minor gripes aside, this second season was definitely worth the time I spent watching it. Many elements of the show were improved over the previous scene. Foggy is a genuinely enjoyable character in his own right, no longer needing the support of Matt in scenes. This is demonstrated especially well in the Punisher court case, where his defense of Frank Castle turns some important eyes his way. Never was a mundane court case as enjoyable to watch as this one was. I appreciate the effort into making it seem like a real legal battle, for its well-structured state lent to the scene being just as enjoyable as the rest of the show.
But there is something definitely lacking in this season entirely. Last season was entirely dedicated to Wilson Fisk being the big bad, and the role he left after being incarcerated had left behind a large power vacuum, which the show briefly touches on. But I feel that this vacuum extends beyond the story they are telling, and affects the whole show altogether.
After Fisk is relegated to being in prison, we are left with two big bad’s, one who turns out to be a good guy (relatively), and the mysterious Hand cult. The Hand cannot quite muster enough menace and interest for me to consider them as a genuinely interesting foe to encompass a whole season, as we know little to nothing of their goals and ambitions besides vague allusions to the end of humanity. The season’s end also doesn’t help this matter as we are left with an ending that results in more questions popping up than answers. Fisk’s relatively brief showings in prison scenes were vastly more enjoyable than scenes involving The Hand. The lore building for The Hand could be vastly improved, I feel.
The show is still entertaining, and worth your time. It definitely has some shortcomings when compared to its first season, but they’re not deal breakers. With the live action show staying strong and a new series of comics that have gorgeous artwork and writing, it is a great time to be a fan of Daredevil.
★★★★☆ “Great – Has some flaws keeping it from excellence.”