The first season of Daredevil was a surprise for many. Before it’s release, fanboys complained about the lack of the character’s red suit and the lamented the lack of more traditional elements such as Bullseye and Elektra. Others were more optimistic given that the Netflix platform allowed for more darker storylines and more of a rough gritty street-level take on the Marvel Cinematic Universe that gelled well with the universe that Frank Millar and Brian Michael Bendis had operated in. The only consensus that existed was that it was sure to be better than the character’s 2003 film that starred Ben Affleck. Few thought that the series would end up being not only one of the greatest pieces produced by Marvel Studios but one of the greatest comic book adaptations out there. Daredevil wasn’t meant to have a second season this soon, if any at all. We were supposed to wait until after The Defenders mini-series to receive a follow-up, but critical acclaim forced Netflix’s hand and that presented its own concerns with regards the speed at which it was put into production and the necessary change of show-runner. Now, all thirteen episodes of Season 2 have dropped with new characters, mysteries and suits to admire.
“Bang” is an apt title as the first episodes starts and ends with one. Matt Murdock, having finally embraced the mantle of Daredevil, has become a legend in the community. The people know that a devil haunts Hell’s Kitchen. Daredevil inspires the righteous and terrifies the wicked in equal measure. Over at Nelson and Murdock, things aren’t going quite as well. The two attorneys-at-law are as busy as ever, but their clients often lack the means to pay them properly. As such, Matt’s fancy suit isn’t the only thing that’s in the red. There seems to be a concerted effort focus on Matt and Foggy’s roles as lawyers. Some may argue this is boring; I would say that it’s one of the most interesting things about their characters and should be exploited as much as possible. The contradiction between Matt’s bona fide belief in the justice system can work and his extrajudicial activities as Daredevil is something that tears at him and is rife with storytelling potential. Elsewhere, Karen is still struggling to overcome her own demons as the lingering impact of Wesley’s death begins to show itself.
Each of the three leads continues to do a fine job in their roles. Charlie Cox maintains the dignity of a local neighbourhood lawyer as Matt Murdock, but there is a little bit of extra confidence in his performance as Daredevil this season. He is shown to enjoy being a vigilante rather than being compelled to by duty alone. This evolution of his character is indicative of the character’s swashbuckling roots and is what makes Daredevil’s occasional dissents into darkness all the more saddening. Elden Henson plays Foggy wonderfully, carefully balancing the character’s need to mask his self-doubt with humour with the most serious moments of concern for Matt and their firm. He ups his game from last season where often he was limited to comic relief and unable to develop his character himself. This season gives him ample room to work his acting chops. We all know there is a darker side to Karen Page that she has yet to reveal to her friends and Deborah Ann Woll portrays that beautifully. Last season, she proved to be the heart of the show, and it’s clear that Karen will be given a lot more room to develop this season.
On a side-note, a lot of criticism was made towards Daredevil’s red suit, when it was shown in last season’s finale, but the naysayers should be silenced after watching this episode. The suit looks a lot better in motion and is portrayed in more elegant ways than in its last outing. This could be a result of the audience getting more used to seeing Daredevil in his traditional costume as opposed to the black ninja suit that we had grown accustomed to, but there is a certain way to how this episode is shot that allows it to distinguish itself from what has come before.
One of the key selling points of this season was the introduction of Frank Castle aka The Punisher(played by Jon Bernthal) to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and his debut does not disappoint. The Punisher enters the story as a force of nature, rather than a fully-fleshed out character. Throughout most of his appearance in this episode, his face is never clearly shown remaining off-camera or obscured. Indeed, up until the closing act, all we are shown is what is left in his wake: utter destruction. Hints are given to his backstory, with the police and those investigating his attacks all hinting at his ability to carry out raids with military precision. Such is his skill that many suspect this to be the work of a paramilitary group rather than a lone gunman. The cinematography presents us a man engulfed in shadows, who blasts through anything that he comes across and is unperturbed by anything that tries to stop him. The Punisher is a different sort of antagonist to intellectual machinations of Wilson Fisk and presents Daredevil with a more physical challenge. This set-up allows him to appropriately act as a foil for “The Man Without Fear”. One of the best things about Season 1 was its ability to portray Fisk and Matt as two-sides of the same coin. Both wanted Hell Kitchen’s to be a better place but had to radically different ways of achieving that goal. Ultimately, Matt’s moral philosophy won the day, but Season 2 has now cleverly allowed this theme to continue through his conflict with The Punisher. If vigilantism is justified, then to what extent is there a clear distinction between one who uses lethal force and one who doesn’t?
Daredevil continues to be one of the finest shows around. This isn’t a show where you switch your brain off and just enjoy the pretty pictures; it’s a series that demands you engage with it on an intellectual. It’s The Wire with superheroes and Daredevil demonstrates how to elevate yourself above the limitations imposed on your genre by the hive-mind.