Last week, Netflix released the second season of their debut Marvel property Daredevil. Here’s a rundown of its highlights, low points, and how it stacks up to season one.
Things I Liked
Elektra Natchios. Her introduction helped pick up the season’s pace, and I enjoyed her interactions with Matt/Daredevil. Although she did have a bit of the femme fatal trope about her, actress Elodie Yung did a phenomenal job, and her arc during the season showed real substance and development. She also had a very practical fighting costume, which I always appreciate on female superheroes. Nothing suspends believability quite like metal bikini “armor.”
Karen’s arc, excluding her romance with Matt, which I will get to in a moment. They did a good job playing up the tension of her ignorance about Matt-as-Daredevil, and I felt those dilemmas were handled authentically, both between her and Matt, but also between her and Foggy. Her transition into journalism at The Daily Bugle was completely believable, and important to giving her an independent plot. Her dynamic with the editor Mitch Ellison (Geoffrey Cantor) was sparse, but extremely compelling, and kudos to actress Deborah Ann Woll for her work in the scene where she first returns to Ben’s old office (ep 2.09 “Seven Minutes in Heaven”). That is Emmy quality stuff right there.
Jon Bernthal’s turn as Frank Castle/the Punisher. Although I am very ambivalent about his character as a whole, mainly because his raison d’etre for becoming a vigilante is so profoundly cliché, I do think the actor did a stellar job of bringing him to life. He has some great scenes with Matt, and with Karen, and I felt like his presence and arc did a lot to help forward a nuanced examination of vigilantism as a moral problem, which is a core thematic of the show.
The technical production quality. Season one was already pretty stellar in this arena and season two manages, most improbably, to exceed it. The sound, lighting and cinematography were all absolutely top-notch, and add so much to the visceral experience of the series.
Claire, whenever she manages to show up. I love Claire as an individual character and I always enjoy the hell out of her interactions with Matt. The scene between them on the rooftop in episode 2.10 (“The Man in the Box”) was so good, I literally stopped and rewatched it twice more back-to-back. Perhaps even more so than Foggy, Claire is the humanizing voice of reason when Matt gets too far into his self-important, yet masochistic hero angst, and I live to watch her call him on his crap. This leads me to…
Things I Did Not Like
How little Claire was in this season. She probably had even less screen-time in season two than in one, which is saying something. Although she is well-utilized when she’s actually there, she is not there nearly enough.
The Matt/Karen romance. I realize opinions about shipping and romantic dynamics are often quite subjective, but I just had nothing but dislike for this narrative detour. First because I felt like it came out of nowhere, considering last season they teased Karen/Foggy almost exclusively, and second, because I felt that both the actors and their characters utterly lack romantic chemistry. They have a good platonic dynamic, but the romance angle genuinely made me squirm whenever it flared up.
The general pacing. The first season had a good, steady rhythm throughout, but this season was all over the place. Certain parts dragged, and I just felt like it could have been tighter and more even. Also, the integration of the various plot strands was clunky and oddly distributed. The season’s arc as a whole just needed better editing and smoother transitions.
The fight scenes. This is something that I know is also very subjective, but I am not someone who normally gets much enjoyment out of fight sequences, and the ones in Daredevil I often find to be both too long, and also too ostentatiously staged. Obviously all fights scenes in movies and TV are staged, but the ones on Daredevil often look like they are, which just makes them even harder to enjoy. Again, I know some people go in for that, so I am willing to concede a to-each-their-own about this, but I personally found it a detriment to my viewing experience.
The villain. Perhaps we were spoiled by season one in this regard, but Nobu was just so underwhelming as an antagonist compared to Wilson Fisk, and on a related note, the whole mystical Hand business was also not very engaging or intriguing. I honestly found it hard to care at all about the cosmic war underway, that ominous, nebulous threat everyone kept talking about in vague significant undertones. Maybe it will get more interesting as the series moves along, but for now, I just could not be fussed about it.
All in all, Daredevil season 2 has good things about it, but it also has some fairly ostentatious flaws. It is still worth your time, in my opinion, but I probably wouldn’t put it at the top of your watch-list (binge or otherwise).