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Marvel’ Daredevil recently released their second season destroying peoples revision schedule everywhere.
For those that missed the first season, blind lawyer Matt Murdock fights crime by night using his years of training in martial arts, as well as his heightened senses (he is a superhero after all). What has always made Netflix’s Marvel series extremely compelling is their ability to focus on the history of a character, thereby strengthening it over the season (or two, in this case). The first season showed us how Matt Murdock got to where he is, whereas the season successfully shows us where he is going.
My main worry with the second season was that it would fall victim to a ‘sophomore slump’, where the second season is unable to build upon the first season, or it rest on the strength of the first season (see: True Detective). Overall, Daredevil delivers in it’s second season, with the introduction of newbies Elektra and The Punisher, characters many viewers would be familiar with. The first season drew on themes of Good vs Evil, and in fact rather uniquely, had flashbacks of both Daredevils childhood, and the primary antagonist Kingpin. In this second season Elodie Yung and Jon Bernthal (Elektra, and The Punisher respectively) take the Good vs Evil debate, and delve deeper, by questioning morality.
Elodie Yung’s Elektra is alluring, and dangerous though I found the ‘I like to kill’ shtick a little boring after a while. Jon Bernthal was marvellous, initially I found his ‘I need to kill’ shtick simple, but the more you understand the character the more complex he became, which is why he succeeds where Elektra failed. The Punisher is a trained killer who decides the easiest way to rid Hells Kitchen (the area in new york Dardevil defends) of evil, is by killing all the bad people. At first its obvious, of course that’s immoral, but there is an incredible scene in a graveyard where I found myself rooting for the Punisher, and even feeling sorry for him. Later on in the season there is an important moment for the Punisher that I was far too emotional about.
The season long story arc is that an evil organisation named ‘The Hand’ wish to take over Hell’s Kitchen/implement their big bad guy plan. The fact that I can’t concisely tell you is an issue the second season suffered from. The storylines waned in the middle, and it seemed like multiple story lines all individually occurring (to me at least). Netflix’s episode-dumping tactic means that often it seems like one long window into Daredevils life, than a strong episodic story structure. Which is fine, however it means that there’s never a clear storyline, yet while you’re watching that doesn’t bother you, which is why ultimately the ‘storyline’ becomes less relevant.
One of my main criticisms with Daredevil remains the amount of time dedicated to Matt, Foggy and Karen, the three people that make up Nelson and Murdock’s law practise. Ultimately any superhero show must appreciate there is a duality to any superhero, they act as separate personalities, but the superhero informs the man, and vice versa. Foggy is shown to be a whip-smart lawyer, and a good form of comic relief as well as Matt’s method of rationalising, yet in the entire series, similar to the first season, there is really only one courtoom based episode, and it was fantastic.
It’s refreshing to see something other than bad guys getting the beat down, especially as the courtroom cases act as a useful, and intriguing method of showing how Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson feel about law and crime. Moreover it serves as a medium of bringing in, and clearly vocalising the audience (through talking to the jury) and the characters views on morality and justice. My main criticisms is that there was not enough ‘law’, there is an easy opportunity to create some law-procedural-esque TV, and I think Netflix missed a trick.
With that, onto Daredevils strengths. Oh my goodness the action, for anyone that is unfamiliar with Daredevil, you’re missing out on the best action scenes in TV, if not movies. An iconic, innovative scene from the first season was a fight scene that took place in 3-4 rooms and a hallway, all in one shot. This next season had a high bar to beat, and the scene they focused their efforts on is clear. The second season delivers this in one long scene that takes place down a set of stairs, in my opinion it wasn’t as good, but that may be because I had incredibly high expectations.
The action in this season had different strengths and weaknesses. The new characters, different locations and number of fight scenes was greater, but this also led to new weaknesses. This bad organisation ‘The Hand’ seemed to have infinite ninjas that Matt and buddies have to fight. Frankly it got tedious, the last ¾ episodes was mainly fighting ninjas, the action and quality was still incredible but it felt a bit more like a non-netflix TV show. For anyone familiar with ‘Arrow’, the back half of Daredevil felt a lot like when the green Arrow keeps fighting ‘Ra’s Al Ghul’s league of assassins.’
In short, Daredevil’s second season continues to deliver interesting characters, and strengthen existing ones, as well as delivering some of the best action sequences in the world of TV and Film. It is let down by sporadic story-lines, and keeping to much focus on the vigilante part of the character, as opposed to both halves of its protagonist.