Daredevil Season 2 Review — The Devil v. The Japanese

After some thinking, I decided to give this thing a full written review and break my schedule a bit because ERASED will be taking up a lot of focus next week.

Christ, the superhero boom is getting even bigger than before, isn’t it? From the new DC expanded film universe to the number of well-received TV series to anime itself wanting a piece of that superhero pie, they’re pretty much our generation’s 80s/90s action films bolstered into legendary status thanks to the Internet age. I’m not a fan of the genre personally, but it was a big part of my childhood and I do enjoy when superhero stories are actually used for interesting storytelling the same way I can enjoy shonen action and mecha (which are sort of superhero) when they’re used the same way. And so, like many others, I fell in love with the first season of Daredevil when it first came out.

A far cry from those Marvel films and the Agents of Shield stuff, Daredevil was basically The Dark Knight as a TV show in that it actually explored what it meant to be a savior whilst giving us a really compelling villain who was basically a modern-day Al Pacino in terms of charisma and violence. But the big problem of course is that the first season ended in a way that didn’t leave much room for the story to continue, so the sequel had to make up a new one. And with a new story comes new characters. Enter The Punisher, Marvel’s less popular killing machine who is apparently getting a series focused exclusively on him in the future, and Elektra, Daredevil’s Catwoman-ish love interest who is treated with much more dignity here than she was when Jennifer Garner played her. Both have philosophies that contrast with Daredevil’s own, and Daredevil must deal with the activities of both whilst balancing his public life in the process.

There are a lot of reasons to like Daredevil, but what I like the most about the show that you can’t get from Marvel’s film line-up is that our main character actually has a personal story rooted in all the philosophies that litter Hell’s Kitchen. It actually gave its character something to do besides beat some random inconsequential scientist/villain on the street who may or may not have an animal gimmick. So you can bet it’s a major strike against the sequel that Matt unfortunately does not get much to do this time. Most of the character arc stuff is given to our newcomers whilst Matt mostly just reaffirms his beliefs whilst wrecking his personal life hanging out with them. It’s nowhere near Iron Man 2 levels of bad, but when the stuff he’s going through was clearly written so that he could reveal to his friends who he is by the end, I think something has gone horribly wrong.

And it’s not like either Punisher’s or Elektra’s character arcs are that well-written either. Everyone who’s familiar with the characters know that they’re not going to change their ways and they don’t, apart from increasing the intensity of their beliefs. That’s sort of compensated by the fact that said beliefs are a good contrast to Daredevil’s and a good chunk of the story is devoted to said contrast, but the problem is that Daredevil is the main character we’re supposed to be following and without growth, it gets really grating to hear him talk about his “no-kill policy” over and over, especially when he doesn’t have a good reason for it. Remember how in Man of Steel when Superman learned the value of taking someone’s life after killing Zod? I don’t recall Daredevil ever going through that in the past. Yes, I know in real life it’s obvious that killing people is wrong, but that does not translate well to fiction in the very least, even when your main character is a lawyer. If you’re going to make your character a technical pacifist, you have to give him a good reason for it.

Not helping at all is the fact that the villains that our three leads have to face are all a bunch of faceless goons with no names, apart from that one ninja from the first season who survived his burning and is back for more. He worked as an elite mook that gave Daredevil a real challenge, but as the big bad, he’s incredibly hard to take seriously on account of just being a Japanese dude who can outfight Daredevil, which isn’t a character at all. It’s an artificial challenge I could have written by way of inserting an evil Colossus clone. There is one villain in The Punisher’s storyline that’s sorta interesting, but so little time is spent on him that he ended up having less of a presence than the elite ninja dude did in the first season. I guess Stick, Daredevil’s mentor, sort of comes close to an interesting villain, but he’s ultimately on the side opposite the ninjas that make up the majority of the show, so we’re left without a Wilson Fisk this go-around.

Okay, that’s a lie. Wilson Fisk does show up here, and that’s when the show gets life into it again. Although he doesn’t play a big role in the ultimate conflict, his plans to control the prison system and play the waiting game are really damn cool. There’s a scene where he meets with Matt in his public persona and it actually works because their conflict is about more than just whether or not it’s right to kill. It’s about how both are willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that the other suffers, and Matt finally shows traces of new development in those few minutes. I’m not really for re-using villains in sequels, but if you’re not going to bring someone on who can create an interesting story or make Matt grow as a character, then you might as well have made the whole season about Fisk again.

But let’s not think about that. You want to know how Karen and Foggy are doing, right? Well they do go through character arcs too in a way, but most of Foggy’s screen time is just spent on giving him badass things to do in order to utilize the development he got last season. Which is cool to see, but at the end of the day, he’s not very important to the narrative so there’s a limit to what you can accomplish with those scenes. Karen fares a little better into making herself important. It’s just too bad she showcases said importance in all the typical “female heart” ways, except with more initiative. And ultimately, she doesn’t do much for the narrative either, especially compared to Elektra.

So Daredevil’s second season pretty much reeks of obligatory “increase intensity at expense of actual substance” superhero sequel. Which isn’t the worst thing in the world, but decreasing in quality is something you should not support because that sends the message to the creators that you want them to continue doing so. While the narrative has its moments and the action/characters remain high-quality for the most part, this is not the Daredevil that evolved the TV superhero format a year ago. This is just another show about a man dealing with bad things that come into his life and having it wrecked by the end. Only said man wears a silly costume and the bad things that come into his life are ninjas.

Minor Quips

  • Fucking Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor had more presence in his movie than the Japanese did here.
  • Who did not see what happened to Elektra coming?
  • Reminder: Batman v. Superman review won’t be out for another two weeks.
  • I was gonna post this today at my usual 6 AM CST time, but I fell asleep and I didn’t want to postpone until Sunday or Tuesday.

10 responses to “Daredevil Season 2 Review — The Devil v. The Japanese

  1. “Remember how in Man of Steel when Superman learned the value of taking someone’s life after killing Zod?”

    Um, he didn’t learn anything lol. He yelled for a few seconds, hugged Lois, and the scene cut to him destroying satellites and joking with the military.

  2. I wanted to like Daredevil more than I actually did, so I never made it past the halfway point of season one. (I did really dig the opening credits though.) I think at this point I’m just superheroed out – the only very recent superhero-related movie or TV show I can think of that I thoroughly enjoyed was Jessica Jones.

  3. Bringing in Electra and the Hand was a mistake. The entire arc should have focused more on the Punisher and the power vacuum left behind by Fisk. The Blacksmith could have been a much better and more flesh-out villain, and for a little bit, you felt his menacing presence when the D.A. and the coroner were assassinated. The first four episodes were by far the best, followed briefly by the Seven Minutes in Heaven episode. The rest were much weaker, and non-coincidentally, they focused heavily on Electra and the Hand.

    Oh, and the Punisher is about a thousand times more awesome than you give him credit for. He’s at his best when he’s used as a foil against other Marvel heroes. Iron Man, Spider-man, Captain America, Daredevil…they all absolutely hate the Punisher, and moments when they’re either pit against each other or forced by circumstance to accept each other’s help are some of the best moments in comics. The Punisher doesn’t get enough recognition or respect from people who don’t know the character well.

    Let me put it this way: the Punisher is basically Batman, if Batman had a military background instead of a background in martial arts, and had no problem with killing. He’s not a mindless brute – he’s a cold, calculating, ruthless, vengeful, extremely highly trained soldier who is actually a brilliant tactician. He has to be, or he couldn’t go toe-to-toe with superpowered characters and hope to survive.

    • I don’t recall saying anything about my opinion of the Punisher as a character. I said his arc wasn’t all that. And I’ve seen those films, so I know a little about his background.

      • I thought his arc started out amazing, but it felt unfinished. Episodes 1-4 were fantastic, and I loved seeing Daredevil and Frank work off each other. I wanted more of it. I also feel like they could have spread out all the tension and buildup in the first episode into three or four, similar to how the Kingpin wasn’t even revealed until the end of episode three.

        The first episode did an amazing job of portraying Frank as the ultimate boogeyman, and the fact that he kicked Daredevil’s ass twice set him up properly as a worthy opponent. If only they took their time a little more…and didn’t introduce the Hand.

  4. I think the most grating thing about Daredevil’s no-kill policy in this show is how arbitrary and self-righteous it is – especially when he demands that others apply it too. Not killing in cold blood makes sense. Not killing in combat against a clearly outmatched enemy makes sense. Stopping Elektra mid fight because she’s about to stab one of the half dozen goddamn ninjas who are each probably almost as good as them and armed to the teeth, promptly getting her stabbed instead, is idiotic and really wears one’s patience thin. Also because anyway when shit gets really dire he stops caring about that stuff (like any sane person trying to escape with their life probably would) and doesn’t object when Stick snipes goons with his crossbow willy nilly.

    Or even more absurd, when in episode 4 he gives his lesson to the Punisher, then proceeds to fight bikers, one of which he yanks around the neck with a chain, then slams on a staircase from a 3 m height. That shit kills people IRL. His entire no kill policy basically relies on “I’m not shooting them hence they will survive. Also killing is bad but torture is a-okay”.

    I mean, I liked the season, though of course not as much as the first one because Fisk was that good. But its best moments were provided by Foggy giving badass court speeches, by Frank Castle being his scary self, by Elektra being good at killing and also looking damn sexy all the while. Not by Karen Page turned Erin Brockovich and most definitely not by exhausted, sleep deprived Matt Murdock whose only contribution in most episodes is equally split between fortune cookie ethics and punching people in totally-not-lethal ways.

      • I think if you counted screentime with a stopwatch it’d probably be a lot. It just doesn’t feel that way because he spends most of that time going through the motions. He never does something that makes you go “fuck yeah, this is awesome, go hero!”. Most of the times you either watch him fight battles you know the plot dictates he has to win or yell at him for doing stupid and/or hypocritical shit.