Warning, this review contains spoilers for Daredevil season 2 (but you should have watched it this weekend!)
Most properties in the Marvel Cinematic Universe had a very sunny outlook, but with the Marvel ad Netflix Partnership, we got something very different. Daredevil and Jessica Jones operated more like a 13-hour movie than a television show and was perfect for the binge culture that we have grown accustomed to with Netflix. Daredevil was such a big hit, that it was a no-brainer that this show would have a second season.
The “Superhero Versus” season begins with the second season Daredevil where layer by day, masked vigilante by night Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) continues to fight crime in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen. Even though season 1 bad guy Wilson Fisk is in jail, Hell’s Kitchen is worse than ever, and the city need Murdock’s help. With his new armored suit he gained in the first season finale, he feels that he is ready for anything, or so he thought.
Enter The Punisher (Jon Bernthal): another vigilante who doesn’t play by the same set of rules. Daredevil beats up villains and leaves them for the cops to arrest. Punisher kills them with military precision and leaves them for the police to take to the morgue. He makes life difficult for Daredevil because he’s turning Hell’s Kitchen into a literal war zone with the bodies he leaves in his wake. There is a moment in the earlier episodes where Punisher and Daredevil have a philosophical debate over whose methods are better: both are right, and both are wrong.
Even though Matt Murdock is the masked vigilante by night, he has a day job. He has to still be a layer with his partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and their assistance Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) for their small time law firm Nelson and Murdock. Like many other superheroes (Batman, Spiderman, etc.), he finds it hard to manage is civilian and superhero life. As a result, his civilian life suffers. He alienates his friends, because he cannot be depended on because he’s too busy trying to save the city to help them. Even though starts a relationship with Karen Page, it quickly suffers as a result of him being Daredevil.
The latter half of the season also focuses on the trial of the Punisher, as he is finally caught and the mystery of how his family was killed, and what for. Nelson and Murdock serve as his defense attorneys during the trial, but because of Murdock’s Daredevil activities with Elektra, he case suffers. Once in jail, there is an awesome cameo by a fan favorite Wilson Fisk that will ultimately have repercussions for next season. Karen Page also builds a rapport with The Punisher and tries to see the good in him, much to her disappointment. She also tries to find out the mystery of how the Punisher’s family was murdered and what set him on his path of such violent vigilante justice.
As the season progresses, the audience is introduced to new players. Murdock’s college flame Elektra Natchios (Élodie Yung) finds her way into his life and she is definitely more trouble for him than good. As she requires his assistance to help solve her problems, Matt is drawn into the world of the mysterious group “The Hand” and their battle against “The Chaste” and their centuries-long war against each other. Matts mentor Stick (Scott Glenn) returns as well and is as cryptic as ever about the upcoming war he had trained Murdock (and Elektra) for. There is a great deal of worldbuilding for the history of The Hand and The Chaste, much provided by Stick.
As always, the fight choreography is top notch. Last season’s hallway fight was superb filmmaking. Just when you thought “How can they top that?” They did! There is another miraculous fight scene with Daredevil and members of a motorcycle club gang that was spectacular. Many of the fights with Murdock and Elektra are very well done. It could be rather easy to get bored with the endless kung-fu fights, but the choreography works in such a great way that you are never bored. The Punisher also get a chance to shine. When in the prison, he has his own hallway fight where he has to take on many prisoners and he single-handedly take them out with extreme prejudice that was cringe-worthy to say the least.
The chemistry between Murdock and Elektra was very good. Although Karen was Murdock’s girlfriend at the time, you can absolutely see his love for Elektra hasn’t diminished. Both Yung and Cox did a great job working together.
Bringing back Wilson Fisk (and actually referring to him as The Kingpin) was a great addition. It was good to see what has happened to him since he went to jail. It was also great to see him consolidate power in the prison, and even reach the Punisher with his charms.
We now have a great Punisher! In recent Punisher movies, the actor was interchangeable, not the case anymore. No longer is Jon Bernthal “Shane” from The Walking Dead. He owns the role of The Punisher. Every time he was on the screen, it was never boring. Whether he was killing bad guys or giving Karen love advice he was great on the screen.
The ties to the other Marvel properties is always a great thing. The cameo of Kingpin (Vincent D'Onofrio) was great. The cameo of Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) further connected Daredevil to Jessica Jones was also wonderful, as well as the name dropping of Jessica Jones when referring to other vigilantes. The Night Nurse Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) was also great as she remains the glue that connects all these shows together.
What Didn’t Work?
The lack of a central villain was a big problem. What has made Daredevil and Jessica Jones stand out from other Marvel properties is that they had a strong villain. Kingpin and Killgrave were terrifying forces of nature that not only did you fear, but you were also felt sorry for as their backstories explained them. Unfortunately, there was no central villain this season. The Punisher never really was a villain, he was just a hero who played by a different set of rules. The Hand serves as the villains for the second half of the season, but they don’t seem to have a central leader this season. Assassin Nobu returned, but he never was portrayed as the leader, in fact, he and The Hand seemed to want Elektra to lead them, but she wasn’t ready for that (at least not yet). In fact, the only person who truly seems to upset the audience was actually Matt Murdock. He kept screwing his friends over for his selfish Daredevil reasons. There were a few moments where you could be justified in rooting against him and his breaking up of the law firm.
The season was split in 2 parts. The first was Daredevil vs. the Punisher, and then Daredevil and Elektra vs. The Hand. Both storylines didn’t mesh together well. Perhaps if both storylines worked in parallel, it would be better served.
Towards the latter season, it also felt like it was simply serving as a “trailer” for season 3. It’s good that the show is building more and more stories, but a more complete close to this season would have been better. Like many Marvel properties, it seems like it’s just setting the audience up for the next one. Having a good beginning, middle, and end would have been better. The Punisher’s story was never wrapped up, but simply set up for his own Netflix series (he most certainly will get). Claire quitting working as a nurse at the hospital only sets her character up for whatever will happen on this falls Luke Cage show.
Even though the shows is a part of the Marvel Universe, there’s a slight disconnect from what’s going on in the films. There was more connectivity or at least references to the Marvel films in the first season and Jessica Jones. This season feels like its own thing. There’s no reference to other things that have happened, except newspaper clippings that reference “The Event” (from the first Avengers movie. There should be more of a connectivity between the films and the shows at this point.
Overall, this was a great season of the show. It does feel like it’s going through “Sophomore-it is” and there are a few missus, but overall, this season once again delivered some mature, action-packed, and quality storytelling. Rest assured, there will be a season 3, and we’ll all be ready to binge-watch that as well!