Warning: spoilers for Daredevil season one and two follow.
Season One of Netflix’s Daredevil was nothing short of amazing. It was a dark, gritty superhero origin story that managed to weave an intricate plot with complex characters. Even the villain, Wilson Fisk, was a well-rounded character who had a compelling reason for doing what he was doing. Daredevil was the show that put Netflix originals on the map, the first one that everyone was talking about. And for good reason. It was a breath of fresh air in a genre that has commonly been full of cheeky, light-hearted stories.
It showed us a whole new side to the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).
Coming off of season one, expectations for season two were sky-high. Everyone wondered where they were going to go, what characters they were going to introduce. Daredevil spent the entirety of the first season coming into his own as a superhero, so what conflict would season two bring to the table? How would season two fare compared to the stellar season one?
Unfortunately, perhaps in part due to season one’s excellence, season two comes off as disappointing in a lot of ways. That’s not to say season two is bad. It’s still very much watchable, but compared to the first season it feels a little lopsided.
Let’s start at the beginning. As season two opens, we get to see Daredevil doing his work, taking on crime in Hell’s Kitchen. Matt Murdock (Daredevil’s true identity) is still trying to make it as a lawyer, and his friend Foggy Nelson is still coming to terms with the fact that Murdock is Daredevil. At the start of the season, we are introduced to a new threat. An apparent army of people is going around and killing off gang members in professional ambushes. Murdock, Foggy, and Karen Page (their secretary whom they met in season one) take on a client who managed to survive one of the attacks.
Season two starts off great, following in the footsteps of season one. If you know anything about what season two’s story is, you’ve likely guessed that the “army” doing the ambushing is really just the work of one man: Frank Castle, AKA The Punisher. His reveal is great, as the shows spends almost the entire first episode teasing the danger of this new threat before dropping the revelation of “it’s just one guy”. Immediately following that revelation we watch as The Punisher storms a hospital, looking to kill the client our main characters have taken on.
The Punisher serves as a foil to Daredevil’s character. In many ways he’s the man Daredevil almost becomes in season one when he considers whether or not he’s willing to kill Wilson Fisk. The Punisher challenges his notions of right and wrong. Most of the third episode is Daredevil being chained to a rooftop arguing with The Punisher about the morality of being a vigilante. There’s a fascinating difference between the two, and The Punisher is a great tragic character in his own right.
Unfortunately, after the excellent fourth episode (Penny and Dime), things start to go downhill. The fourth episode almost feels like it could have been a season finale. It’s epic, dramatic, and full of great character development. But then, The Punisher is almost unceremoniously pushed to the sidelines for the introduction of another character: Elektra. Compared to the epic reveal of The Punisher, Elektra’s introduction just comes across as silly. She appears at the end of episode four in Murdock’s apartment, literally throwing a knife at him before basically saying “what’s up lover?” And Daredevil reacts like he’s dealing with a freeloading college buddy who wants to crash on his couch.
I was never able to buy into his relationship with Elektra. Considering how mild-mannered they made Murdock seem in season one, it just seems strange that he would so easily be swept off his feet by someone as frankly psychotic as her. In the flashbacks detailing their former relationship, it takes her literally trying to make him kill someone before he starts having second thoughts.
And Elektra’s plot line is rather dull by comparison to The Punisher’s. Once she shows up, the show devolves into Daredevil and Elektra running around to different places and beating up either Yakuza thugs or ninjas who are part of a mystical cult known as “The Hand”. But despite all the action, very little actually happens during the middle part of the season aside from some pointless drama. For some stupid reason, Murdock decides not to tell Karen or Foggy about Elektra, which just leads to a bunch of drama over him being late for court over and over again. Of course, he eventually tells Foggy but it’s too late at that point. Things start to fall apart and both Karen and Foggy harshly rebuke Murdock for his actions. And not only that, but Elektra appears immediately after Murdock all but confesses romantic feelings toward Karen, which creates this barely touched on “love triangle” element.
Oh, and remember how I said I didn’t buy the fact that Murdock and Elektra got into a relationship? That’s actually explained later in the season as being part of some plan, which leads to the groan-inducing “it started as a mission, but then I fell in love with you” line. Some of the writing later on in the season feels so ham-fisted, which pales in comparison to the excellent first season.
And that’s part of the problem I think. Season one was just so good that expectations for season two were through the roof. Even so, the rough patches are hard to ignore. The Punisher plot line, which in my opinion was the far more interesting one, doesn’t get nearly as much attention as the plot involving The Hand. And while The Hand plot gets interesting later in the season when they start showing some of the weird, creepy stuff they’re doing, it still feels like a disservice to The Punisher. In fact, The Punisher is relegated to the sidelines so hard that he literally shows up during the final fight sequence of the season just to snipe a few ninjas in the head and say “see you around”.
I really wish they would have devoted a whole season to The Punisher and then a whole season to The Hand (or the other way around) instead of trying to cram both of them into one season. But I know why it ended up being that way. The Hand is going to be the main enemy in The Defenders, which is a cross-over show featuring the four Netflix Marvel heroes teaming up. And the first season of that show picks up a few months after Daredevil season two.
As I said, season two isn’t terrible or unwatchable. It’s just disappointing because it could have been so much better. Here’s hoping The Defenders will be worth it.
Thanks for reading! Check back next Wednesday for another post, and as always, have a wonderful week!
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