So I finally got through the second season of Daredevil on Netflix, and I thought it was pretty great. If I had to choose which season was better, I would easily say season 1. There are a few problems that I have with season 2 that were not at all prevalent in the first one. These problems do not ruin the entire season for me, but it sure did give it a feeling of disjointedness more times than I’m comfortable with.
A lot of these choices could be chalked up to attempted bravery from the writers and directors because the problems didn’t necessarily come from the writing (well… except for one character in general and one scene at the season finale, but I’ll get to those later) or the cinematography. It came largely from the new plot elements. Many of them worked while others didn’t, but I think the biggest problem that they had is that they tried to tackle too much in one season.
One aspect that I really did continue to enjoy was Charlie Cox’s Matthew Murdoch / Daredevil. There’s a feeling of growth in him as the Daredevil persona. This adds benefits and detractors to Murdoch’s life in general. The deeper he gets into the becoming the “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen”, the more other aspects of his life suffer. There’s parts in the show where you see the careful juggling that Murdoch has done with his normal life and his alter-ego life starts falling apart. In many ways, choosing one life causes his other life great pain and loss. A lot of this is uncomfortable to watch, but it is an extremely valid path to take Murdoch through; putting your character through excruciating trials gives viewers an opportunity to see what kind of man Murdoch really is.
The intriguing thing is that when I did get to see what kind of man Murdoch was, I didn’t like what I saw. Other times I began rooting for him like no other. There’s no denying that all of the effort from the writers, directors, and Charlie Cox himself really make this Daredevil one of the best comic-to-movie character adaptations simply because of the intricacies of the character.
One of the best fighting sequences of the season happens in one of the earlier episodes where Daredevil is fighting a group of people down a staircase. It was absolutely spot on and reminded me of the fight sequence I mentioned in my Daredevil Season 1 review. It wasn’t cheated to look like one take like season 1, but it was still a lot of fun to watch. In general, the fighting sequences in Daredevil are done really well.
Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle / The Punisher was pretty fantastic. Some of the beginning episodes gave Murdoch and Castle a chance to deeply contrast each other because Daredevil does not kill people and The Punisher does. Confrontations between them were riveting to watch because even though their philosophies and motives are different, their mentality, drive, and brokenness is often similar.
As the season continued, I wished they showed more Punisher and less Frank Castle. The plot essentially created a much higher demand for Castle than for The Punisher, and while that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, I found the scenes where Frank Castle became The Punisher much more enthralling than when Frank Castle was Frank Castle.
I really could not find too much differentiation between how Bernthal approached Frank Castle and how he approached Shane from The Walking Dead or his character in Fury or very much else for that matter. This may be due to the fact that these characters are pretty similar in their personas, but it also could be due to the fact that Jon Bernthal isn’t the best actor. Don’t get me wrong, I almost always enjoy when he’s on screen, but I couldn’t help but remember other performances he did when watching him play Frank Castle.
As for Elektra, I found her character to be one of the lowest points of the show. I simply did not find her character all that great. In fact, I found a lot of scenes with her, especially some of the flashback scenes, were frequently obnoxious and occasionally weak. The way her character is written leaves very little to like about her, and many times I wish she just buzzed off.
As the story continued and I learned more about her, she did become a better character, but I still feel like something different should have been done about her generally in order to make her a more fascinating character instead of one that was just absolutely annoying. There’s also some ties between her and Matt Murdoch that I didn’t fully understand and it seemed like it was just thrown together. Maybe I’ll have to rewatch a few episodes.
Not only do they add new players into the game, they also deeply expand other characters. Karen has an even greater role in this story than in season 1. Foggy does not have quite as large of a role, but the obstacles that are put in his way and the way his friendship with Murdoch develops are very critical aspects of the show.
Both of these characters greatly benefited from being in season 1. What I found about The Punisher and Elektra is that a lot of their presence in the show seemed very choppy and unfocused. However, because Karen and Foggy were both well-established characters, their story lines never seemed unsteady or unfocused. I continued to enjoy both of their characters and often empathized with both of them more than I did with Murdoch.
Murdoch’s nurse friend also has some meaningful appearances; so does Foggy’s lawyer friend; so do quite a few villains from season 1 that I wasn’t expecting to come back, not to mention multiple new gangs of villains; so does the district attorney who’s trying to hunt down The Punisher; so does Stick; so does Reporter Ben Urich’s boss; so does that police officer that helps Foggy, Karen, and Murdoch; so does that one dude who makes Daredevil’s armor (who I think is a fantastic character, by the way);
And that’s the overlying problem of season 2: there are so many people they try to give attention to that they do not give enough attention to certain characters in a satisfactory way, particularly the new characters. This season seemed so scattered at a few points.
<SPOILER> Something this season really did make me appreciate was the presence of Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk. As The Punisher and Elektra were being introduced, I couldn’t help but feel that there was a strong presence lacking from season 2. And then comes the episodes where Fisk reaches out to Frank Castle, and the show immediately got better. The episodes that he is in are undeniably some of the best episodes of the season. I truly took for granted just how great of a character Wilson Fisk was. The new characters they introduced simply do not hold the same screen presence, menace, and intrigue quite like D’Onofrio’s character does. In fact, I think season 2 suffers from not having a prominent villain character in general. Yes, they do have quite a few villains to work with, and some of them are great, but they are not Wilson Fisk great. (Not to mention Madam Gao, from season 1, who I thought was also infinitely fascinating) </SPOILER>
I should also say that the season finale was rather anticlimactic and slightly predictable. And there’s this bit at the very end that is so cliche and cheesy that I wish they went without it.
Alright, fine, I’ll talk about it <SPOILER> So Karen gets this job at that one newspaper place (because Nelson and Murdoch are done for), and the boss tells her that before Christmas, she needs to write something that he’s never seen before. And she begins writing something to the effect of “If you want to know what a hero looks like, you need only to look in a mirror…” and other assorted cliche garbage. It was so overdone and cheesy and useless. It was the one scene in the entire two seasons of Daredevil that I actually hated. All I could think of was “I thought he told you to write something he’s never seen before” and “Really? Is that the best the writers could come up with?” </SPOILER>
So in general, Daredevil: Season 2 is a fantastic experience if not a bit disjointed. There is a lot of things that I really loved about the first season prevalent in the second season, but quite a few of the new things they tried didn’t work for me. I would still recommend checking this season out but in my opinion, the first season was definitely the stronger of the two, and I’m giving this season a 7 out of 10.