After thirteen hours of binge-watching, I’ve concluded Daredevil season 2 wasn’t nearly as good as its first season or Jessica Jones. Those two had the benefit of telling a single (albeit sometimes overlong) story whereas this tries to do too much at once. It’s still better than Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice though, although that movie is less of a time-sink. Since I don’t have a word limit, prepare for extensive SPOILERS.
Not only does it have too many subplots, they’re also CONSPIRACIES! If they were going to load it with that many elements, it would’ve been better to keep them simple. The DA can’t just prosecute Punisher for his crimes like you’d expect. She has to be a corrupt DA involved a cover-up of of the very public death of Punisher’s family. Then the Kingpin plots to rig the trial so he can conquer prison. The Punisher discovers his family’s death was a conspiracy of coincidence & snuffs it out so there won’t be an overarching plot for his eventual Netflix spinoff. This is all on top of the vague shadow war between the Chaste & the Hand ninja cults. This somehow involves the Hand using the Yakuza to infiltrate Roxxon. Why did the Hand dig a ginormous hole in midtown?
We do finally learn what’s the deal with the Black Sky kid from last season. Black Skies are kids that the Hand pumps full of bacteria to turn them into creepy possessed kids so they can harvest their blood to power the
Lazarus Pit enormous resurrection urn for “The Rising.” The resurrection urn is treated liked a superweapon before we find out what it does, except in hindsight it’s not clear why the Hand desperately needs a resurrection urn in NYC. Nobu, the Hand leader who was flambeed by Daredevil last year, is already risen. Some of the Hand’s cannon fodder have also been zombified, so it doesn’t seem like it’s that a big deal for them. It does come in handy for Elektra (who it turns out is The Black Sky, which is different from the other Black Skies), but her demise wasn’t premeditated. Maybe this is special because it’ll allow The Beast (comics Hand are inexplicably Devil worshipers in the Satanic Panic sense) to possess her revivificated body?
If you’re a Punisher fan, you’ll probably love this year more than me. Jon Bernthal reminds me of a thinner Dominic Purcell. He’s good, but he’ll never top Ray Stevenson. Daredevil finds Punisher’s apartment in episode two but doesn’t tip off the police? Despite Daredevil being Red Batman, it’s Punisher who’s elevated to the status of BatGod to the point where he overshadows everything else. He has a reputaion for killing any target with a single shot, aside from that sequence in the first episode where he just puts bullets into Metro General Hospital & Karen’s car. The Punisher is somehow able to drag Daredevil to a roof whilst dodging a SWAT team after being shot in the arm & falling through a skylight. They homaged that infamous Garth “superheroes are embarassing wankers” Ennis scene without making Daredevil an incompetent hypocrite. (He’s merely a self-righteous hypocrite.) Meanwhile, the house he hasn’t returned to in two years is miraculously pristine & dust free. The non-Seuss book he’d read to his daughter sounds like Nursery Rhymes For Pushers. He does go full Rorschach in prison though, so that’s fun to watch.
Matt Murdock is a terrible friend, lover, & co-worker in this. I say this as someone who puts up with Oliver Queen & Jim Gordon on a weekly basis. There’s a love triangle between Matt, Karen, & Elektra, but he’s so dispassionate that I was rooting for both women to leave him. (There is only one flashback sex scene to lots of gratuitous gore.) The much better love triangle is actually between him, the law, & vigilantism. Since the show isn’t titled Matt Murdock, Esq., you can guess which he favors. Due to the narrative, poor Charlie Cox often feels like a guest star in his own show.
It was bad enough when his blindness was shown to be a fiery Instagram filter last year, but Daredevil’s compensatory radar sense seems to have silently vanished. Daredevil has trouble fighting the zombie ninjas because he can’t hear them breathing & has to listen for their weapons. Shouldn’t his radar sense ping their bodies anyway? We don’t get any cool radar POV shots.
I was pleasantly surprised when Karen Page was an autonomous character last year, but the elfin Deborah Ann Woll doesn’t fare as well here. Aside from encouraging Foggy & mooning over Matt, she strangely becomes a champion of the Punisher because she vigorously objects to the media not mentioning his dead family or military career. She also gets the late Ben Urich’s (he wouldn’t been a great bridge for Marvel’s new Spider-Man films) newspaper job just by complaining to his former editor in person. I barely work online, so maybe that is standard operating procedure for print journalism? The season closes out with a voiceover from one of her editorials, but she’s certainly no Lois Lane.
The best part of the show was Kingpin’s return. I really liked Vincent D’Onofrio’s semi-autistic take on the character last season, but it felt like there was a big gap to where his character needed to be for a recurring threat. His stay in prison, however, has brought him much closer in line to his comics counterpart. It’s debatable whether the loss of most of his tics was a worthy trade-off. He doesn’t have that many scenes, but they’re all perfect.
Elodie Yung is a vast improvement over Jennifer Garner. She starts off Catwoman-esque & only belatedly exposes her assassin aptitude. Then the plot goes off the rails with recess team picking dialed up to eleven. Elektra quits the Chaste to partner with Daredevil even though they’re all anti-Hand. Daredevil rejects her because she’s a murderess. As the dejected Elektra tries to mend her broken heart by jetsetting, Stick send another assassin to kill her. He fails & she finally gets her iconic sais. (Stick is responsible for his pupils getting their signature weapons late because they can’t figure of the value of going into battle armed.) So the justifiably miffed Elektra returns to to the city bent on murdering Stick & the Chaste. Then the Hand announce they’d like to serve her because she’s really The Black Sky their prophecy foretold. So Elektra is The Chosen One stolen from The Hand by Stick as a youngling in yet another conspiracy. She even had to be adopted by a Greek ambassador’s family The Omen-style instead of just being their biological daughter. “It’s all for you, Elektra!” The Hand dreamily calls. Then Elektra decides she doesn’t want to belong to any club that’d have her as a member.
So why is Elektra a monster when Stick might be even more bloodthirsty? She’s not even motivated by seeing her dad killed in front of her. It comes off like she’s a threat because she has hysterical women’s emotions. Or because she’s not 100% white like the rest of the Chaste? (The Irish sub in for Russians as the token Caucasian ethnicity genetically predisposed to crime this year.) If Stick is a Frank Miller analogue, either explanation would fit. He’s definitely a Highlander expy at the end. Between him & Punisher, the season’s moral seems to be that murder is only okay if you’re a white man.
The 2003 Daredevil film was not very well received because it tried to cram way to much in. Viewers didn’t care about the rushed plot points because they’d only been just introduced to the characters. A TV series seemed like the ideal way to tell the story because there’s more room for character development. As such, I was looking forward to the Elektra saga. I became worried, however, when Bullseye wasn’t cast. (But they should get Jason Statham or Walton Goggins, right?)
Elektra’s death in the comics was tropey, but it was a trope executed very well. (She also didn’t spend too much time being dead.) As Kingpin’s top assassin, Elektra grew a conscience & failed to kill Foggy. Then Bullseye impaled her with her own sai to get his ex-position back. (In prison, Punisher told him Kingpin wasn’t going to spring him because he’d been replaced. So Punisher is indirectly responsible for Elektra’s death.) So the tragedy is that Elektra dies just as she’s about to turn over a new leaf of morality by quitting her job. While it did give Daredevil extra manpain, Bullseye’s real motivation was jealousy & job security. (In-story justifications still matter.)
Season two probably had enough room to do this story justice, but instead they botch it. Elektra gets killed accidentally by Nobu. It’s completely undramatic! This is not an example of doing something more innovative that the comics. If you’re still going to fridge Elektra, shouldn’t it be by a supervillain with personality beyond “yellow peril?” I’ve heard much about how Gwen Stacey’s death in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 felt obligatory yet unengaging, but this may be even worse given Daredevil had much more time to set this up. Her body goes into the resurrection urn at the end of the finale to even viewers that didn’t know about her revival will be underwhelmed by her unearned demise.
This deviation poses a problem for using Bullseye next season or in The Defenders. He really cemented himself as Daredevil’s archenemy by killing Elektra, who had been established as masterful opponent herself. With her prematurely killed in a dumb way, there’s nobody formidable or important enough to him to establish his reputation upon. He’ll kill plenty of civilians, but that’s not especially impressive. I’m worried he’ll kill Karen, but, just like when it happened in the comics, it’ll come off crass since she’s nowhere near his equal like Elektra was. Even if they substitute Foggy to avoid misogyny it won’t have the same impact. Maybe they can salvage this by having him impale Punisher on his own assault rifle?
Now that I’ve seen more of Daredevil’s costume, I don’t like it. The red’s too muted, the black panels are distracting, & it’s missing the double D logo. It looks best when it’s bathed in red light, but it shouldn’t have to depend on mood lighting. I actually prefer the Darefleck suit. Daredevil’s costume should’ve looked like this. I did appreciate him getting an upgraded billy club at the end.
The classic Elektra costume isn’t practical, but the drab duds she wears really are duds. She gets a better one at the finale, but it’s not crimson enough. (At least it wasn’t the cowgirl stripper outfit Jennifer Garner wore, since that’s a completely different Frank Miller comic.) Couldn’t they have at least given her her signature bandanna? Elodie Yung’s Jinx costumes in G.I. Joe: Retaliation looked more like Elektra’s costume than her Netflix ones.
Punisher gets the most unnecessarily protracted costume origin of all. Since skulls have long been associated with death, you’d think that having him show up with a skull on his shirt in his first appearance wouldn’t need a lengthy explanation. Instead he spends 98% of the show without his logo. It’s as aggravating as Matt refusing to make armor a priority despite being seriously injured each episode last year. We get teased with X-rays of his own skull & blood stains miraculously forming a skull pattern on his prison garb, but he refuses to wear his own insignia until he finds a tactical vest that looks vaguely like a skull in the final episode. If the origin of a superhero suit boils down to “he cobbled it together himself” or “he went to a tailor,” they should just debut fully attired no matter how many installments there are to fill.
Some reviewers have called Batman 5 Superman an extended trailer, but this feels apt here too. There still isn’t a sense of closure to the battle against the Hand that was set up last year. I don’t understand the stakes, & I’m not sure if The Rising actually happened or not. It teases the Kingpin’s revenge. Melvin started wearing a breastplate but he’s not Gladiator yet. Stilt-Man still hasn’t picked up his armor. Even though the Punisher receives the most complete arc out of everyone, it still insinuates there’s more to come. Unlike last season, I can’t really say that title character accomplished anything. Mostly there is an expectation of progress since Daredevil is out of the origin phase, which is undercut by Punisher’s & Elektra’s origins. This season says “Watch for these anti-heroes that know Daredevil to finally be fully formed in The Defenders!”
The series is still has great performances, action, & cinematography, but it feels like it was sabotaged by trying to cram both the Punisher & Elektra into the same season. They could’ve fleshed out Elektra’s connections to the Kingpin, Bullseye, the Chaste, & the Hand if they hadn’t spent so much time with Punisher. Since Elektra is a more crucial part of Daredevil’s life & the Hand were already introduced, that’s what I wanted this season to focus on. The Punisher could’ve easily headlined his own Netflix series instead of drawing focus away from everyone else. There are some interesting themes about corporal punishment, gun violence, & veteran support that he stirs up, but they evaporate once the ninja fights get underway. So viewers rooting for each element will be disappointed by Daredevil’s second season being a a half-measure.