Monday, 28 March 2016

Daredevil: Season 2

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.


Silent said...

The Punisher is the highlight of season 2. I really like Jon Berenthal as an actor. He does a great job. Hope they create a spinoff or a made for Netflix movie of the Punisher. He nails it!

What I have found interesting with the Walking Dead as the show progressed is that Jon's character Shane was sort of the villain in the early episodes, but everyone has now become "Shane".

JoshC said...

Excellent summary of the 2nd season that is pretty much identical to my own. The initial episodes with Jon Bernthal's The Punisher are superb. I've never really rated him that highly as an actor (I hated Shane but not for the reasons we were supposed to) but in The Punisher I'm going to have to eat my words because he was excellent. Every second he has on screen is the highlight of the entire season.

The courtroom bits were ok although was I the only one who was puzzled by Murdoch's 'questioning' of Frank that seemed instead to be a speech to the jury rather than a question? The focus on Foggy and Karen here was interesting enough.

Those two fight scenes were indeed great.

The thing that really let the season down was the whole Daredevil/Elektra plot. Elektra was fun and the banter between them also fun (at times) but I never want to see another bloody ninja in my life. Every episode... the plot is a little weak, throw in some more ninjas! What was that hole for? The creepy vampire children? Basically the more mysticism and ancient war mumbo-jumbo was thrown in there, the less interesting it became.

Finally, just how peed off were all those other journalists to see the hot blonde with no previous experience waltz in to a senior position on the paper with her own office? There will be salacious gossip over the watercooler no doubt...

David Wagner said...

I still would like to see Foggy get punched in his whiny, cherubic face. Dude got under my skin, big time. Admit it... he's a bit of a twat....

Ghost said...

I think the problem for season 2 is the simple fact that there’s no Kingpin. Vincent D'Onofrio as Wilson Fisk was the best thing about season 1. In fact, I found the season to be pretty boring till he showed up in episode 4. As well as Jon Bernthal played Frank Castle, D'Onofrio as Fisk was just better.

axel shut said...

Am I the only one to have noticed that in the end Daredevil can win without killing only because his allies (Punisher, Elektra, Stick) do nothing but killing?