It is very rare that a TV show can match the quality in its second season, even rarer that it is able to surpass its predecessor. Daredevil Season 2 is one of these rarities because it is somehow able to offer us something even more thrilling, engaging and, dare I say, violent than it’s incredible first season.
In my review of Season 1 I was not shy in highlighting the grittiness and darker tones that Netflix were able to offer in their arm of the MCU. It really managed to draw out great characters and a realism that is so often missing. All I will say in this regard is that this same tone is carried throughout this second season and, debatably, with even greater effect.
It is probably a good idea to start with the elephant in the room; the Punisher. Just like Daredevil before Netflix, the Punisher had never been done justice in the cinema. Whether this is because, just like Matt Murdock, his character is simply too complex to flesh out in such a short time, I’m not sure. Maybe it is because he had not fallen in to the hands of the right people. But, just like with Daredevil himself, Netflix have finally given us the Punisher we all deserve. The character is a small screen triumph, and much of that can be placed securely at the feet of the fantastic Jon Bernthal. I had seen him in the Walking Dead, as I’m sure many of you have as well, and I have to say that I wasn’t sure he was the right choice. Now it appears he is the only choice because I don’t think anyone else could have given us such a brutal, yet still unerringly human, performance as Bernthal did. He is one of the main reasons this season was SO good.
You may think, after reading that, that the Punisher steals much of the limelight from the rest of the cast. This is not the case. Every character that we grew to love in the previous season is developed even further here. None more so than Matt Murdock himself. The first season may have been his origin, watching him struggle with the balance between lawyer and vigilante, man and myth. This time we see the toll it takes on him as he veers near the edge of a precipice; one that if he falls down, he will never be able to climb back up. There is a conflict within him over whether what he is doing is right, and the defeat that comes with the inevitability that, even if it is not, he cannot change what he is.
Much of this conflict is presented to us in the way he interacts with Elodie Yung’s Elektra, another stellar introduction to an already excellent cast. She proves to be Matt Murdock’s foil, as well as his muse. She brings to us a charm that urges us to push Matt Murdock in to her arms, while at the same time a danger that screams for him to stay away. The oxymoron of her deadliness and frailty screams through her nuanced performance.
Whereas Elektra is our anchor to Daredevil, Karen and Foggy are our tether to Matt Murdock. They are both just as reliable and endearing as they were last time, but their experiences have given them more bite. They are not used as simple weaknesses for our eponymous hero, but are in fact heroes in their own right. It would have been so easy to just put these characters on the back burner when trying to focus on the new additions, so it screams volumes to the skill of new showrunners Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez.
And it is not just the characters that are carried over to the new season as confidently as before. The fight scenes are also once again a standout. Without the proven Steven DeKnight at the helm, I was a little concerned about whether the same balance between realism and brutality could be achieved. This concern was unfounded as the fight scenes are just as numerous and impressive as before. In fact, there may even be more of them. But never did I feel the need to skip a single one because the choreography was so tight and well thought out that each of them seem as relevant and exciting as the last. And just like season 1, there are 2 real standout scenes, along with a climactic battle that will simply leave you agog.
The one area where this series really does seem to improve over Season 1 is in the pacing. Not only do we get fast paced battles, but we also get a tense court case, an intriguing “who dunnit” style scenario, and some clever links back to the first season, all spaced perfectly amongst the episodes. There are a few story arcs altogether, each interweaving seamlessly and, while it is very different from season 1, is shows that the showrunners are not afraid to stray from the proven formula and this actually prevents the show from becoming stale.
With some new characters and a perfect example of how to pace a series, Daredevil Season 2 has done the impossible and managed to eclipse its predecessor. It’s exciting. It’s heart wrenching. And I challenge you to not watch half a dozen episodes in one sitting. Even with the excellent Jessica Jones setting a benchmark, this has managed to become my favourite product of the MCU so far.