Wilson Fisk is in jail and the several criminal organisations he brought together in Hell's Kitchen have been defeated. But the Daredevil's work is not over, as new criminal gangs arise to take their place. More dangerously, a new player is in town, a vigilante who solves problems with heavy weapons and utter ruthlessness. Daredevil has to defeat the games, neutralise the threat of "The Punisher" and deal with an old flame who is back in town with her own agenda.
Daredevil's first season was an excellent slice of television drama, a serious-minded show that grounded the superhero elements in the dirt and back-alleys of New York City and focused on the villain's magnificent characterisation as much as on the hero's development. It also featured brilliantly-realised side-characters, uniformly excellent acting and some really interesting direction. Netflix and Marvel proved a winning combination, and proved it again with the superb Jessica Jones a few months later.
The second season of Daredevil is, unfortunately, somewhat less accomplished. Many of the creative leads on the first season have departed, the show's most riveting villain is behind bars and Matt Murdock's evolution into Daredevil is complete. What more is there to tell?
As it turns out, an interesting amount. Marvel has struggled bringing the Punisher to the big screen, despite several brave attempts. Introducing him on Daredevil is a move that works well. Jon Bernthal (late of The Walking Dead) plays the character to the hilt, bringing gravitas and the required brutality to the role. He's also a good actor, given a chance to shine on Daredevil that he wasn't on The Walking Dead. Several scenes featuring the Punisher stand out from the season, but a quiet moment of reflection in a graveyard may be his best. Elodie Yung is also good as Elektra, although her arc is a little less compelling due to the plot overload that begins to strain the season towards the end.
The second season of Daredevil is divided into several sub-arcs, a good move designed to combat the strain that both the first season and also Jessica Jones suffered in trying to drag one story out across thirteen episodes. In the first four episodes, the focus is on Punisher and his apprehension. Then the focus moves to his trial, with both Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) having to step up as Murdock (Charlie Cox) is distracted by Elektra's return. Enjoyably, the consequences of Murdock's double life and his inability to do everything are played out in full, to Nelson and Page's anger. Nelson and Page were the heart and soul of the first season and are even better in the second, Nelson's rise to becoming a respected, effective attorney and Page's transition from secretary to investigator to journalist playing out convincingly (her sort-of romance with Murdock is more tedious). There's also some good backstory developments and flashback storylines.
The season reaches its high-point with a three-episode arc set in prison which is absolutely riveting, driven by some fantastic performances and some beautifully-written, terrifying dialogue.
The last few episodes of the season are less accomplished. The season has a big problem in that it has no real continuing villain. A few minor bad guys show up and are dispatched pretty quickly, and the return of a Season 1 minor villain is underwhelming. The Hand, effectively an army of ninjas, start out as being vaguely intriguing but degenerate into pantomime. They never show up in numbers of less than a million (it feels), resulting in lots of really tedious fistfights. Also, despite being stealth ninjas able to totally avoid New York City's law enforcement agencies, they get beaten up by a blind man rather easily. When Stick, Murdock's mentor from Season 1, shows up for no real reason it's hard to really care. The final few episodes are still worth watching for the storylines of Nelson, Page and the Punisher, as Daredevil, Elektra and Stick's story becomes vague and forgettable.
Still, if the second season is weaker than the first it's still a highly enjoyable series to watch. The late-season action scenes become boring, but there's two action sequences earlier on (one in a stairwell and one in a prison corridor) which are genuinely breathtaking. There's some good dialogue and twists, and introducing the Punisher like this is a ballsy move which succeeds brilliantly. If Daredevil's second season (****) falters compared to the first, it's certainly not a fatal issue and hopefully the third season will improve upon it. The second season of Daredevil is available now on Netflix.