REVIEW: Marvel’s Daredevil achieves the impossible with even stronger second season
As the runaway success of its first season gave rise to smash hit Marvel’s Jessica Jones, plus the much anticipated Defenders series to follow, you could say the bar for season two of Marvel’s Daredevil had been set pretty high. Now, after an eleven-month interval since first falling in love with Matt Murdock and co. (yes, I’ve been counting), I say without exaggeration that Netflix has achieved the impossible with the show’s return. Benefiting from two formidable additions to the cast, the further development of our favourite existing characters, a hearty serving of unforgettable fight scenes, and even a much yearned for injection of romance, this new instalment of Marvel’s Daredevil manages to rise above and beyond the exemplary standard set by the show’s debut run. Even if it’s still too dark to see what’s going on half the damn time…
With the unmatchable Kingpin (Vincent D’Onofrio) seemingly locked away at the end of Daredevil 1, my main reservation about the show’s followup season was that the scene-stealing villain’s shoes would not be sufficiently filled. I mean, how could they be, when that character was so uniquely chilling; so imposing in his physical strength, and so ready to flip from zero to one hundred in a heartbeat? Who or what could possibly top that? Luckily, new showrunners Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez (replacing season one boss Steven DeKnight) found the answer; the Punisher.
The genius of introducing Punisher as a foil for Daredevil lies in the duo’s ambiguous moral ground; the difference being that the new troubled antihero on the scene, portrayed masterfully by The Walking Dead‘s Jon Bernthal, has well and truly crossed the line that Daredevil tentatively toes. “You hit them and they get back up. I hit them and they stay down”, he growls at Daredevil, now endearingly nicknamed ‘Red’, as the two compare their philosophies on a rooftop. In fact, the Punisher’s ruthless approach to bad guys (adopted both in his service as a Marine, and in response to personal tragedy) actually makes our titular hero seem kind of ineffective at times. Murdock would rather let the offender go, free to continue a life of crime at the expense of the innocent, than borrow from Punisher’s book and just shoot the guy already. Their differing brands of vigilantism are starkly pitched against one another, with Punisher painting Daredevil’s humanity as a weakness. Of course, it’s the vulnerability afforded by his own deeply buried humanity that Punisher’s most afraid of. It’s seriously compelling stuff.
If anyone’s pathologically insane in the series, though, it’s not Frank Castle’s Punisher; it’s Elektra Natchios. Given a new lease of life by soon-to-see-her-everywhere Elodie Yung, the character once consigned to the cultural trash heap by that Jennifer Garner film sashays onto the scene just as our hero’s personal life seems to be assuming some level of functionality. She’s cold, calculating, and every bit the physical match for her former flame Matt Murdock. On top of dragging Daredevil into a whole new world of drama, the timing of her entrance could not be more frustrating, as the unresolved tension between Matt and another lovely lady friend has just began to blossom in the form of the most breathtaking romantic sequence we’ve seen in some time. But anyway, it’s not that kind of show. We won’t see Daredevil riding off into the sunset any time soon.
It’s not just the shiny new toys that make this new season of Daredevil so enthralling, though. The exceptional Charlie Cox gets to show some different sides to himself than the serious and the shirtless, as new challenges bring out more of Daredevil’s complexities and Matt Murdock’s personal life is also further explored. Now that Wilson Fisk appears to be out of the picture, Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) is a dog with a new bone on the case of Frank Castle’s shrouded past, and even Foggy (Elden Henson) is afforded greater maturity as a player. It’s a pleasure to see Rosario Dawson return as the tireless Claire Temple, making wink-wink-nod-nod references to her part in Jessica Jones, and my left of field love for (as yet) minor character Melvin the costumier is satisfied by his brief but charming appearances.
From the seven episodes kindly provided me by Netflix for preview, I’m confident in saying that season two only sees Daredevil going from strength to strength. The absence of fan favourite Steven DeKnight is all but imperceptible, as the level of writing, acting, choreography and direction remains consistent with the first season, and the added elements brought by the new storylines afford opportunities for finer tuning and greater sophistication. Netflix, you’ve done it again!
All 14 episodes of Marvel’s Daredevil are available to Netflix subscribers from Friday, March 18th.
Check out the trailer below.