Airtime: Friday, March 18th on Netflix
Episode: Season 2, Episodes 1-4 (S02E01-04)
Tweetable Takeaway: .@Daredevil’s second season starts strong with Punisher & vigilante ethics debates
I got in trouble with just about everyone last year for daring to find Daredevil lacking. So far this season? I adore it. It’s fabulous. They’ve adjusted basically everything that I was generally “whatever” on and kept everything that I loved. It’s golden. I’m all in.
I could tell just from the trailers that the Punisher would be my downfall. It’s not just that he forces Matt to examine his own motivations, it’s that a character like the Punisher also forces the series to address the implications of masked vigilantes running around New York City. I was always a little put out that Daredevil’s first season just sort of hand-waved that it existed in the MCU with a few throwaway lines. If you’re going to set yourself up as a superhero in a universe where there are legitimately people in brightly colored costumes enacting global justice then that’s a conscious decision. Matt’s presumption that he is inherently righteous is tested by Frank Castle. Castle/Punisher is also determined to bring justice raining down on the heads of organized crime but because he kills people instead of just getting them thrown in jail, Matt et al try to frame him as a monster. Which, by extension, frames Daredevil as one too. The entire third episode is basically Daredevil and Punisher having a shouting match about the morality of vigilante justice which was so good. It addressed everything I could ever have wanted them to on the series level while providing heaping piles of character development in the process.
I also loved that their cop friend Brett took Daredevil to task for making people view the justice system as obsolete. It’s all very Batman, where social systems are inherently so corrupt that only an external force can save the innocent normal people from exploitation. Except in Daredevil’s case, Matt never set out to tear down or replace the corrupt system. He insists that Brett take the credit for Castle’s capture because that would prop it back up. I love that because it demonstrates what an absurdly rash thing it is to just set yourself up as a superhero. Even positive intentions can have negative consequences. I also loved the different organized crime organizations rushing to fill Fisk’s power vacuum. Where the upper-level of this world has the Avengers “saving” everyone, on a more granular level if you decide to take the law into your own hands you start unraveling the fabric of society and do more harm than help. It also underscores the difference in DC’s and Marvel’s worldviews without even meaning to, and I’m an avowed Marvel girl so just ignore that low cackle you hear in the back of your mind. It’s only me. What’s even cooler about the Punisher plot (yes, things can get cooler) is that the first third of this season is a discrete Punisher arc. There’s no meandering, and no random sidetracks. It maintains both engagement and suspense, and is consistently on-topic. It’s tight. Love it.
Additionally, the fight scenes in these episodes are all superb. That was always one of the show’s strengths. Action sequences and a gorgeous aesthetic palette (both visually and aurally) were the first season’s primary appeal. Here, every fight sequence is just as tightly choreographed as before, but each fight also has a piece of the plot at stake. The outcomes aren’t a given which leaves open surprises like the ending of “Bang.” Even when the outcome is kind of a given like when Daredevil takes on all the Dogs of Hell, the whole sequence furthers the plot. Is Castle going to get away? Is he going to help? A lot of times action in the MCU is used to liberally cover up a lack of substance in the writing. When it’s good is when it fits so well in the story you can’t imagine the movie or episode without it. That’s the kind of goodness going on in these first four episodes.
Even beyond all the plot business, and pretty business, all of the characters are constantly relevant and necessary. Everyone shows off their strengths. Just over the course of these first four episodes, everyone has a more defined personality and experiences character growth. It’s magical. Karen is compassionate and dogged in her determination to seek justice and help others without dressing up and punching people at night. Karen felt peripheral to me last season and in season 2 she’s already skyrocketed up my favorites list. She wants to help people but she never goes on preachy rants and she is definitely not a paragon of moral perfection. I especially love how composed she is in questionable situations like when she playacts that she and Grotto are married at the ER and then has to escape the gun-happy Punisher. Foggy whips out his legal prowess in every episode, keeping the DA from railroading his client and getting two gang members to stop fighting in the middle of the ER. Foggy’s words have about as much power as Matt’s fists at this point which makes for a much more balanced narrative. In fact, it’s Matt who is the most useless in the mundane world because he’s constantly getting so thrashed at night that he has to take “sick days.” Together, all three of them are holding up their respective tent poles and the entire story feels stronger for it.
Here’s what I’m most tickled about: Daredevil season 2 deliberately and almost unintentionally has finally positioned itself in the MCU at large. If you’re new to my reviews, I also handle Agents of SHIELD, Agent Carter, and every other Marvel TV thing here and I am, to put it diplomatically, obsessed. I love the intricacies of how they all provide different pieces of a huge on-going story. Altogether, they create the universe next door. It would take much too long to work through here, but the first season was just kind of floating nebulously anytime between Avengers and Jessica Jones. If this is about a year after the first season and Claire got in trouble for helping Luke in Jessica Jones that sets this during the summer of 2015 and the previous season sometime spring or fall of 2014. Which also makes sense with the limited data. Not only does this season bother with tethering itself to other stories in the universe (with mighty help from friend Jones), but there’s also a shady and nefarious organization mysteriously behind whatever is going on with Frank Castle. There are a lot of shady, nefarious organizations in the MCU, but the Netflix series have their own undercurrent of weirdness that I am absolutely dying to figure out. These are the street-level peeks into the world of the MCU, but now that Daredevil is done being an impressive experiment, it’s actually set about properly telling its story in relation to all the others. This pleases me immensely. Also, the self-contained Punisher storyline was so engaging that I didn’t really care whether this was connected to anything else or not. Major kudos on that feat!
Everything is in place. So far there are no lulls in action or plot. There’s been all kinds of moral hemming and hawing. The story recognizes all the ramifications that it would have on the world around it instead of just focusing on being a flashy, impressive show-piece. And it’s also still a seriously gorgeous stylistic feast. Yay! Everything looks promising! Onward I go!
READ DANA LEIGH BRAND’S REVIEW OF DAREDEVIL – SEASON TWO, PART TWO
READ DANA LEIGH BRAND’S REVIEW OF DAREDEVIL – SEASON TWO, PART THREE
Dana Leigh Brand is a digitization archivist by day and a masked pop culture avenger by night. She spreads the gospel of science fiction and fantasy wherever she goes.
Keep up with all of Dana’s reviews here!
Follow all of our TV content here!