IT WAS INEVITABLE. Daredevil’s first season was a lot of things: unforgiving in its violence, shocking at every turn, and so fantastically orchestrated as to be received with the critical success it deserved. The obvious thing for the second season was to amp up the successful parts that much further; what better way to do that than introduce the violent absolutism of Frank Castle’s Punisher and the exotic mystique of Elektra, both of whom have been the central focus of some of the most compelling Daredevil stories?
It was only natural that the Netflix series would include these two at some point. To include both in a single season was a very daring decision. The risk was that the swinging focus on the two characters would only dilute two strong stories down, depriving them of the time and attention necessary to do them justice, especially considering that the two of them represent very different aspects of the Daredevil mythos. The beauty of this second season is that it pays more than enough attention to these two characters and expertly weaves them into the existing framework that was built by the previous season.
After the events of season one, Hell’s Kitchen is slowly piecing itself back together and Daredevil (Charlie Cox) still has a lot of work to do, cleaning up the remnants of Wilson Fisk’s (Vincent D’Onofrio) empire and dealing with the people vying for control of the streets. Into this mix jumps Elektra (Elodie Yung) with news of an ongoing war with the Yakuza, who played a minor part in the first season, and links to Matt Murdock’s old mentor Stick (Scott Glen).
Obviously, considering the source material, she also has romantic ties to Matt’s past, which is revealed through flashback, and this is played in contrast with the present romantic storyline that occurs between him and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). At heart, the relationship between Elektra and Matt is a destructive one; it’s a credit to the writers, but especially Yung, that their relationship is portrayed as effectively as it is.
Bouncing between the varying loyalties they each have, the connection between the two is explored a great deal through the flashbacks and the present day storyline. The acting is entirely convincing between the two, never feeling phony or hammed up just for romance’s sake. Fans of the comic books will know how Elektra ties into the expanded world of Daredevil and, beyond the romantic aspect of her storyline, that aspect is given a lot of justice by the series.
The real standout character of this season is The Punisher (Jon Bernthal), who is given an amazing amount of characterisation in the series. Just like the majority of the characters in this show, the writing of The Punisher is amazingly crafted and it’s a credit to the team that they’ve pulled off such a deep and interesting iteration. For a character that can often get written off as simply a thug who kills, it’s great that we can see so many different facets of The Punisher.
In any other hands, that may have been the route that the actor portraying him could have taken. In Jon Bernthal’s, The Punisher is a deeply flawed and interesting character. Horrified by the death of his family after returning from the army (the war being updated to Iraq/Afghanistan for the modern setting), The Punisher stands as a stark contrast to Daredevil’s sensibilities that, even though they are combating the worst scum of New York, they shouldn’t kill the villains they fight.
When the two of these characters interact on-screen it is an absolute joy to see them argue their points of view on the ethics of vigilantism and how far one should go for the greater good. We see Daredevil slowly develop from someone who wants to deal with The Punisher like any other villain, to someone who slowly comes to accept their individual struggle even if they don’t see eye-to-eye on their methods. The viewer is also treated to a slow reveal of The Punisher’s backstory.
As we delve into his past through the eyes of Karen Page, we slowly peel away more and more layers to someone who is, probably, the most complex anti-hero in comic books. But this wouldn’t have been achieved if it was limited to just a two and half hour long movie.
The fact that there are thirteen 50 minute episodes of this series means we can be treated to some very complex and in-depth viewing. One of this season’s strengths, over the first, is that there doesn’t feel like there are any filler episodes. Often, a TV series will have the meat of that particular season near the beginning and end and there can be quite a few episodes that only set-up events or go nowhere in the middle.
Even the first season was a little bit guilty of this, where the middle often felt a little lacklustre in comparison to the first and last episodes. This season, however, is constantly adding to the overall story as more and more is revealed about the workings that are going on behind the action taking place on-screen. Just when the viewer feels comfortable that the information they have received has been clearly laid out, the show throws more depth and intrigue into the mix. The great thing about this particular season, also, is that it plays around with what we thought we knew from the previous season, which will make re-watching the both of them even more interesting for the viewers.
The overall composition of Daredevil‘s second season is brilliant. The cinematography, music, acting, writing and direction are so perfectly in synch with each other that it’s simply a pleasure to watch. On every point, season two improves and betters season one and brings something new to the table, leaving the viewer feeling fully sated by the complete experience it offers.