After belatedly catching up with Season One of Daredevil earlier this month, here’s a look at the brand-new Season Two. Did it live up to the first?
Daredevil’s first season arguably surpassed The Avengers as Marvel’s most acclaimed output yet. However, whereas that movie was a wisecracking fantastical blockbuster, Daredevil was a grounded mediation on the nature of heroism (with a lot of brutal fight scenes thrown in). The pressure was on the second season, then, to match it. On the whole, it continues on in the same spirit but doesn’t manage to better the first run.
To make up for the absence of previous Big Bad Wilson Fisk, this season introduces two new characters into Matt’s life; the criminal-killing Punisher and Elektra, Matt’s enigmatic and martial artist ex. Both serve to strengthen the show’s core themes: the notion of what makes a hero and how we identify ourselves and others in terms of heroes and villains. The Punisher is seen by society as a villain whereas he sees himself as a hero. Elektra sees herself as a villain but Matt believes she can be a hero.
As these two new characters, Jon Bernthal and Elodie Yung are both terrific additions to the cast. Meanwhile, series regulars Elden Hensen and Deborah Ann Woll continue to do fantastic work as Foggy and Karen. A lesser series would cast the pair as simply the comic relief sidekick and love interest/damsel in distress but both are fully-dimensional characters. The performance that glues the whole show together, though, is Charlie Cox, who is just as good as in Season One. There are a lot more characters running around Hell’s Kitchen in Season Two but Cox ensures we don’t forget who the main character is.
As was the natural choice after Season One formed the origin story of Daredevil and his city, this season focusses much more on building up that world. The showmakers clearly have big plans, particularly involving the mystical ninjas the Hand (who were alluded to in the first run). While this foresight is impressive and I’m sure their inclusion pleases hardcore comic book fans, I have to admit I found the Hand too nebulous to properly invest in, especially compared to Season One’s much more grounded threat in Fisk. While I don’t think the introduction of this more fantastical aspect hurt the tone of the show, I am just not sure it was as well-handled as other elements.
Likewise, in going for a ‘bigger is better’ mentality this season, I think the show might have lost the simplicity of the first season that made it so watchable. There were a few offshoots but the main thrust of the plot was simply Daredevil vs Kingpin. By the final episodes this season, however, you can hardly count all of the subplots that are unfolding on one hand. The result is that, while the Punisher and Elektra’s story are compellingly told to start with, the show runs out of time before they can reach a completely satisfying end. That said, the finale is terrific entertainment and makes up for some of the other deficiencies.
Overall, this season might have more issues than the first season but the biggest is only that it spreads itself a bit thin, with a little too much ambition and content for the 13 episodes to handle – an abundance of good ideas, though, isn’t something that should be lambasted. Daredevil remains one of the strongest TV shows around at the moment. It is an interesting omen of the future of the medium when the best series aren’t even on television.