Last Friday saw the release of the new season of one of Netflix’s flagship Intellectual Properties, Daredevil. Not only that, but it also brings new characters to the fold—the Punisher and Elektra. Strangely enough, 10 years ago, this would be an unwanted crossover between lukewarmly received superhero movies. While today, it’s not only crowd-pleasing, but a well reviewed series that will be building into a larger superhero universe, Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Defenders. So, does this second season live up to the hype, making up for the mistakes of its early 2000 predecessors?
Well, I’d have to say yes and no in that regard. It’s a bit tough for me to review this season of Daredevil because it seems to me to be two stories that are almost completely separate: the story of the Punisher and the story of Elektra, and how Matt Murdoch as the Daredevil deals with both of them. If you want a short synopsis of who the Daredevil is and how he works, you probably shouldn’t be reading the review for the second season of this show, but I can tell you about the Punisher and Elektra, two important comic book characters. The Punisher is somewhat of the antithesis of the Daredevil, believing in capital punishment as the method of justice rather than a trial, using his vigilante status to seek revenge against those that wronged him. On the other side, Elektra is a woman from Murdoch’s past, dragging him into a dark underworld lying beneath Hell’s Kitchen.
I’m not sure if this comes across from my descriptions, but the Punisher and Elektra both represent not only selfishness, but also two parts of the Daredevil. One side is his duty to this city, keeping it safe, a job the Punisher implies he neglects by not killing criminals. The other half is his obligation to protect the world by crushing a secret organization, whose destruction Elektra implies may require human deaths that Murdoch is unwilling to allow. It’s an interesting back and forth, but unfortunately, these stories feel so separate it’s almost comical.
First, the best part of this season has easily been the Punisher’s story. Jon Bernthal, who some might know as Shane from The Walking Dead, is incredibly intense and passionate as the Punisher. He ramps the dark, gritty, and especially gory moments way higher than last season, and the fight scenes involving him are just as great. Partway through the season, the Daredevil has to fight through a building while being attacked by gangsters after a compromising confrontation with the Punisher, and in a scene rivaling the one from early last season, the Daredevil kicks ass while having a chain in one hand and a duct -taped empty gun in another. But, on the not-so-good side, Elektra’s side, Murdoch comes off heavy-handed and weak while hoping to be more personal. The fight scenes, with ninjas doing superfluous and theatrical flips, seem so dramatic and jarring when you compare to just earlier in the episode when he’s having a scrappy run-in with bikers. In truth, it just seems like a step back in terms of tone, even though this story should be truer to the actual comic book Daredevil. These two stories barely intersect, and I’m sad to say that these two stories are not equal. During my viewing, I was finding myself just wanting to watch more of the Punisher.
That last sentence might seem a bit extreme. I’m not saying that the Elektra side was necessarily bad. Élodie Yung, who plays Elektra, is magnifying to watch, and her story is very entertaining, just not as gripping as the Punisher’s. And while the ninja fights are jarring, they are still well-choreographed and fun to watch. Aside from Elektra, my other criticism of this season lies in the sometimes cliché lines that just seem like padding or boring segues so people can conveniently be at the right place or something cool can happen, which just comes off as poor writing. On the plus side, expect to see some great returns from first season characters, which happily bridges the gap between the two seasons, and look forward to some Jessica Jones connections too.
After having a lukewarm opinion of the jumbled mess of good and bad from my favorite door knob-destroying hero Jessica Jones, Daredevil season two shows me that the first season was not a fluke. Netflix has upped their game in a lot of regards with respect to the Punisher story, and while the Elektra half is a bit of a letdown to me, I still think this past season is worth a watch for any fan of the first.