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.
- 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.