“Daredevil” (2016): Better The Devil You Know (Season 2) (Episodes 7 – 13) (TV Review)
Season 2 of Daredevil sees Marvel and Netflix avoiding any sort of sophomore slump, with the change in showrunners not cutting down the series’ stride. The long and short of it is that this offering is more of the same quality material, without sounding reductive: If you liked the first season there’s every chance you’ll like this as well, but if you didn’t this probably won’t change your mind.
The Punisher and Elektra provide engaging counterpoints to Murdock’s Daredevil, enabling the series to explore and ponder on the nature of heroism and vigilantism. In between all the fighting of course. Many have heaped praise on both Jon Bernthal’s performance as the Punisher and Elodie Young’s performance as Elektra, and while I completely agree with that sentiment, my favorite element of the show is the titular character himself. Charlie Cox really holds his own. It’s easy to dismiss his acting because much of what he’s doing is sort of invisible, but how wholly he embodies being blind without it impeding his ability to emote is simply amazing. Moving on from a focus on origin, the series is able to embolden him in grappling with what it means to be a hero, and what sort of hero he is. Cox feels more confident and at home than he did before, and he was already fantastic.
Also improved are Foggy Nelson and Karen Page, elements that were already strong. In Season 2 they form the core of the show along with Matt and the conflicts that arise between them feel not only organic but wholly understandable from each of their points of view. It is also mainly through them and the trio’s interactions that most of the levity is injected into the darkness that otherwise permeates the series, not to mention though Matt’s back-and-forth with Elektra, which are also quite charming. When they’re not deadly that is.
The Punisher serves as a completely different foil to Matt than Wilson Fisk did in Season 1. On the surface both are scary and sympathetic, but the arc and approach is completely different, while Fisk is a straight up villain, The Punisher goes on his path towards anti-herohood. If he is a point of contention with Daredevil over how to approach vigilantism, then Elektra is the same to they very concept of heroism in itself. Her character is grounded in sort of self-centered swagger, an enjoy life to its fullest, everyone else be damned lifestyle. And she is fantastic, her arc of Matt trying to get her to be a hero is perhaps the most compelling in the series.
It’s quite remarkable how well the series bounces between courtroom drama, mystery thriller and supernatural ninja action spectacle, without dissolving into a mess with an identity crisis. These successful turns make the series feel very kinetic and propulsive, compounded by the fact that practically every episode ends on a cliffhanger, ensuring that you will want to keep watching.
The series relies a lot on its action scenes and those are as spectacular as they’ve ever been. Nothing might touch the one-take hallway scene from Season 1, but everything we get here is great. If anything could’ve been better the staging of the final battle in the finale which is a bit looser in its execution than we’ve come to expect. There’s also a whole heap of violence. Like a lot of it. Even more than the first go around, so if you’re uneasy with open faces, amputations, compound fractures and things getting stuck under fingernails, at the very least be ready to avert your eyes, if you’re there at all. It completely fits the tone of the series and the feel of the universe but it can still be very uncomfortable.
Perhaps a controversial opinion, but the Daredevil suit looks great, especially when he gets an update, more of and a better red color as well as a changed fit of the mask makes is work really well in this universe.
Daredevil Season 2 is better than the first, but so far of what Netflix has put out Jessica Jones reigns supreme. That’s not to take anything away from what is a hugely compelling, engaging and entertaining season of streaming television.