When the first Season of Daredevil released in 2015, many heralded the show as an unprecedented moment in superhero television. Not only did it have a level of grit and violence that was far beyond shows like “Agents of Shield” and “Flash” but it was building a far darker and grittier tone than the rest of the Marvel Universe. To say that Season 2 would be an anticipated show in 2016 would be an understatement, with the show gaining new viewers every day and quickly becoming one of Netflix’s most watched programs in its history.
With a second season, Daredevil faces new enemies and trials. The most anticipated of these characters is “The Punisher,” a.k.a. Frank Castle. Not only has he been portrayed by several actors in feature films, but the character continues to have a cult following that transcends the genre (you can buy his t-shirt at Disney World). Billed as the anti-Batman, he slots perfectly into the universe as a foil for Daredevil, and functions as the catalyst for Season 2.
The show returns most of the Season 1 cast, including Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock/Daredevil, Elden Henson as Foggy Nelson, Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, and Royce Johnson as Sgt. Brett Mahoney. However, while it subtracted star actor Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk (at least at this point), it added Walking Dead alum Jon Berthal as The Punisher, Elodie Yung as Elektra, and Stephen Rider as Blake Tower. Through four episodes, the series has been focused on Bernthal’s introduction, and quite frankly with good reason.
Realistically, those who liked the first season are in for more of the same, with the gritty nature of the Punisher taking the show to a new level of violence and gore. The show clearly enjoys jumping into the muck to find kernel of truth, and the introduction of the character further explores the effect that Daredevil has had on the city. From the get go, the people being terrorized by criminals are more likely to stand up to those who attempt to intimidate him. The opening scene of the season involves a chase sequence where individuals flat out defy criminals despite the threat of violence, and even take vigilante justice into their own hands. It’s repeated often that “Devil Worshipers” are starting to pop up around Hell’s Kitchen to help clean up the city, creating a whole new problem for the police. It is when this occurs that the Punisher begins to make his presence felt.
It should be noted that if you are squeamish to violence, this is not the show for you. In the first episode alone, there is an extremely high level of death and destruction, as the Punisher uses military assault weapons in a residential neighborhood. Beyond that, he uses mob techniques to kill other gangsters, including meat lockers and rigged explosions. Anything is fair game for the Punisher, and at times his zealousness to kill the evil men of the world overshadows his use as a foil for Daredevil.
Unfortunately, I think this is the trouble with “Daredevil” Season 2 so far. Rather than letting events change Matt Murdock, he is reactionary and oftentimes witness to the change of others. Even just a few episodes in, Murdock has denied the claims that the Punisher is inspired in any way by Daredevil, despite the fact that the Punisher calls him a “half-measure.” It’s not only obvious that they’re inspired by each other, but they disagree on almost every aspect of justice. There was never any doubt in the minds of the surrounding characters, so it seemed odd that Matt was so slow on the take.
Like Season 1, the visuals of the show are stunning. Not only do they incorporate another long take fight scene into the fold (this one I think was slightly more impressive than that of Season 1, but the choreography remains top notch for these scenes. I think there’s little debate about how expertly they use fight scenes in this show, and they clearly have one of the best stunt teams in the TV (maybe second to “Game of Thrones”). The use of violence is often purposeful again, but regardless of how you feel about that violence, the makeup used to create the wounds and effects is top notch. The editing was choppy at times, and there’s some problems with the structure of the narrative. Overall, its technically above average for a TV show, but could still improve in some ways.
One of the interesting concepts the show continues to deal with is the interaction with police officers versus the vigilante. This has been dealt with before in comic book adaptations, most notably Batman, but Daredevil doesn’t seem to know which side its on at times. Clearly Daredevil can understand the impact he’s having on society, but many of the moments where we’re given time to reflect his impact through an officer’s point of view, he’s not actually in the room. It’s a problem with narrative, because choices he makes later at the end of these episodes do not fully connect to the experiences he’s been having. The audience may understand the choice, but I’m not sure his character would have made that choice based on previous episodes.
The acting again is high class, but I do say that Henson and Berthal are the clear standouts of the first four episodes. Berthal is perfectly cast as Frank Castle, and not only has the physical presences to make his character seem like a walking tank, but even with few words you feel his impact. It’s in many ways a superior performance to that of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Kingpin last year, and should gain praise from fans moving forward. Henson’s Foggy Nelson is also just as excellent as he was last season. He has done an excellent job of funneling in comedy to the series, something that the show severely needs in the dark places its chosen to go to. Beyond that, he’s an undeniably likable actor, and at times anchors scenes by himself. It’ll be interesting to see how he progresses, but ultimately I expect him to continue in the role he’s performing as he moves forward.
On the other hand, Woll’s Karen is starting to be a grating presence at times on the show. I think that the actress is doing everything she can with the performance, but what’s written for her is so limited in its scope its rough to watch. Rather than let her build on the strong character she became at the end of Season 1, she steps back into familiar shoes that weren’t very interesting. There’s a scene in the 4th episode that’s a retread of Season 1 when she visits the Kingpin’s mother, as well as multiple occasions where she is dumbed down to a love interest for Matt despite her problems with him. I don’t blame this on Woll, but instead on the writers who seemed to be more interesting in writing Elektra than the character that already existed.
Overall, I’d say the show is an improvement overall on last season, but still has some holes it needs to fill. It’ll be interesting to see how the rest of the season progresses (this is being written after the 4th episode) especially since much of our preview has yet to really be addressed. Hopefully we’ll get some more character work over awesome visuals, but at the end of the day, beggars can’t be choosers. It’s a great show, and if you enjoyed Season 1, you’d enjoy Season 2.
Marvel’s “Daredevil” is streaming now on Netflix. It stars Charlie Cox, Jon Bernthal, Deborah Ann Woll, and Elden Henson.