Daredevil Season Two: Crime & Punishment

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In every way a superior production to its predecessor, the makers of Daredevil season two have definitely looked back on their previous failings (and taken note of what made Jessica Jones so successful) and given this run a far stronger sense of identity. This feels more confident and assured in every way, and while I maintain the thirteen episode seasons do more harm than good (every one of these shows has run two or three episodes too long, and would benefit from a healthier HBO/Game of Thrones style pruning down to ten episodes), the shows are improving constantly.

After a stunning first episode, this season takes a measured approach with a strong arc across the next three instalments. The next two arcs fold into each other neatly too, but if there’s one strong criticism to be made it’s that the three core threads don’t finally come together in the way you really hope. There’s a big scene missing, one which you’ll definitely want to see, that actually occurs in a somewhat diminished form. To say more would involve spoilers, but you’ll feel it when it comes (or rather, when it doesn’t come).

Still, there are surprises along the way, especially for those paying attention to Daredevil’s fellow Netflix shows, and several threads are set in place for forthcoming series. One particular thread promises what could be the first strong link to the eventual team up show, The Defenders (bringing together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist).

Jon Bernthal finally gives us a definitive Punisher, not just a cold hard killer but a fractured, broken soul who frequently seems more like a wounded animal than a man, and his nuanced performance breathes life to a character attempted several times onscreen before but never quite humanising him the way Bernthal does here. This take on The Punisher is genuinely interesting and definitely leaves you wanting to see more. You hear that, Netflix…?

The same applies to Matt Murdoch’s long lost love, Elektra. Last seen several years back portrayed by Jennifer Garner in a generally rotten movie, Élodie Yung essays her as playful and dangerous, the bad girl that Murdoch can’t let go of. Fans of the comic book iteration are certain to be pleased with this take on the beloved character.

Charlie Cox has settled well into the dual role of Murdoch/Daredevil, making him a multi-faceted and far from perfect man, both in and out of costume. Deborah Ann Woll and Elden Henson (as Matt’s partners, Karen Page and Foggy Nelson – far less of a douche here, I’m glad to say) share greater chemistry with the lead and have more to do this time round. Thankfully, what they do feels, for the most part, more intrinsically a part of the main narrative rather than leaving them with the wheel spinning duties of the first season.

This season’s big bad is far less earthbound than the strong, focused villainy of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk/The Kingpin, and opens a very definite door for things to progress into the wider Marvel Universe, but its slightly diffuse nature does leave a less satisfying whole. However, this deficiency is more than made up for by the introduction of The Punisher and Elektra. Both characters are given room to breathe and shine throughout the twisting, turning narrative.

The superheroics are much more fun this time, Daredevil’s costumes and weaponry receive significant upgrades along the way, and we’re finally presented with full on action from the billy-club that became his trademark weapon of choice in the comics (and we’re even treated to the wonderful sight of Hornhead using it to swing across a rooftop or two).

And for those who felt season one kept things too street level, this second season takes turns into far weirder and darker corners of the Marvel Universe. Action is plentiful, constantly exciting (sometimes even breathtaking) and frequently positively brutal, and with more than one costumed character running around this feels even closer to the source material than ever.

Themes of love and responsibility weave through the action alongside questions of what exactly makes a hero, and though the TV budget does occasionally show (the climactic battle feels just a little lacking) this is a wilder, generally more satisfying ride and finishes with multiple endings which, while a little predictable, also leave the door wide open for more adventures with The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen!

With the Netflix shows improving each time, and with early word suggesting that Luke Cage will hit with torn-from-the-headlines subject matter of police brutality against the black community (giving the kind of emotional heft that accompanied Jessica Jones), I’ll be glued to my sofa (again) come September 30th!

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