Marvel’s Daredevil has returned to Netflix for its second season and it’s an exciting, violent return to Hell’s Kitchen. In particular, Daredevil’s second season benefits from being able to build off of the origin story of the first season and offer up a Daredevil who is more confident and accomplished than he was when we last saw him, but also drowning in a whole new set of problems. Right now it’s debatable whether the second season is better than the first, but there are some definite areas where it bests what came before, with the following elements representing the best parts of the second season. One thing’s for sure: Luke Cage is going to have a hell of a time trying to outclass this season when it hits Netflix this September!
Warning: This post contains MAJOR SPOILERS for Daredevil season two.
10. The Attempts To Make Side Characters More Important
When it comes to Daredevil‘s side characters, most notably Foggy Nelson and Karen Page, the second season does a much better job of giving them a purpose than the first season did. The show’s momentum still slows down whenever the scene switches from something Daredevil-related to these two, but overall, Foggy and Karen actually feel like they deserve to be part of the ensemble this time around. Foggy in particular benefits from some stronger writing, as the schlubby co-proprietor of Nelson & Murdock has some honest-to-goodness character development this time around as he learns to get out from under Matt’s shadow and become his own man. Karen is much more of a mixed bag, as Deborah Ann Woll’s performance is easily the weakest element of the entire ensemble, but she displays some interesting connections with The Punisher and is also given more to do than figure things out long after the audience already has. That has to count for something.
9. Shorter Arcs = Better Pacing
Although Daredevil still suffers from being a bit overlong in parts (these 13 episode seasons could really be cut down a bit) the overall pacing of Daredevil’s sophomore season is much improved over the first. A lot of this has to do with the wise decision to split storylines into shorter arcs; just when you might think that Daredevil’s initial confrontation with The Punisher is in danger of getting stale (okay, no one actually thought this) the show changes things up dramatically by putting Frank Castle’s plot aside for a bit to introduce the Elektra arc. It’s an impressively confident move on the part of showrunners Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez, as the overall pace of the show benefits from these shorter arcs. Although the season ultimately stumbles in trying to tie all of these arcs together near the end (the stuff with The Hand never really syncs with the rest of the plot), Daredevil season 2 is a vast improvement over Dardevil season 1 and even Jessica Jones in the pacing department and is a more enjoyable viewing experience as a result.
8. Rain Romance
While the Matt-Karen romance kind of fizzles before it can even get off the ground, it at least leads to some decent courtship scenes, particularly the excellent rain scene at the end of episode four that offers a nice callback to the Daredevil movie of all places. It’s never really explained in the show, but the pouring rain gives Matt Murdock the ability to see (sort of) which he uses here to trace a single raindrop as it beads down Karen’s arm. It’s a touching moment that taps into Daredevil’s superhuman abilities without going too far over the line and is a beautiful bit of visual design that helps give the show some character outside of the usual tapestry of blood and broken bones.
7. Elodie Yung’s Elektra
The strange thing about Elektra in Daredevil’s second season is that I’m not even entirely sure if I like her or not, but that’s through no fault of actress Elodie Yung’s performance, which is delightful. Yung’s chemistry with Charlie Cox eclipses the latter’s pairings with Deborah Ann Woll in almost every way, and there’s just something inherently likable about the way Yung characterizes Elektra as a playful, sexual femme fatale. Even though Elektra’s story is a definite weak link in season two’s chain — especially compared to all the Punisher stuff — it’s hard not to get excited every time Elektra is on screen because Yung just sells the hell out of the character. It’s just too bad Daredevil never quite figures out how to make her fit organically into the overall plot.
6. Actual Lawyering
One of the most satisfying parts of Daredevil’s second season is how the show tries to double down on the non-vigilante side of Matt Murdock’s life, namely the fact that he is a practicing lawyer with an actual firm to run. Season one did a pretty terrible job of working in the law firm of Nelson & Murdock into the A plot, but here it takes center stage in the middle of the season when Matt and Foggy decide to represent Frank Castle in court. Like a lot of things in Daredevil, the idea is a bit better than the execution, as the trial storyline never really lives up to its potential but it gives both lawyers — especially Foggy — a chance to shine in court and actually gives some credence to the other side of Matt Murdock’s persona. If there is a third season, we can only hope that Nelson & Murdock continues to play an important role in the ongoing story.
5. Difficult Moral Questions
The morality of Daredevil’s actions is one of the character’s most intriguing aspects, as tortured Catholic Matt Murdock is constantly questioning whether he’s doing the right thing with his vigilante brand of justice. Daredevil takes things up a notch in season two by directly challenging the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen’s crime-fighting policy with the ruthless, but effective methods of The Punisher. One of the reasons the third episode, “New York’s Finest,” is such a standout of the season is because of the ideological conflict between Matt Murdock and Frank Castle that informs not only the rest of the episode’s events but the entire season. The show holds up a mirror to Daredevil’s refusal to kill his enemies and asks some tough questions of the viewer in the process, which is something that the very best superhero stories should do.
4. The Prison Fight
Frank Castle’s brutally-violent brawl with a mob of prisoners is one of Daredevil’s late-season treats and an absolute knockout that rivals the hallway fight from season one or the stairwell fight from earlier in this same season (more on that later) in terms of intensity and craftsmanship. No other scene quite displays Frank Castle’s ferocity as effectively as this one, which is pretty incredible when you consider what we get to see The Punisher do with guns early on in the season. Along with Wilson Fisk’s reintroduction (who coincidentally is directly responsible for making this fight happen in the first place) the prison brawl helps Daredevil refocus in its back half and is a much-needed jolt of excitement in a season that was dangerously close to becoming dull.
3. Fisk Cameo
Daredevil really starts to lose some steam in the middle section of season two, as the Frank Castle trial never lives up to its potential and the Elektra arc fails to excite outside of a few thrilling fight scenes. Thankfully, things switch back into high gear for the home stretch and a lot of the reason for this course correction can be laid at the feet of one Wilson Fisk. Simply put, bringing The Kingpin back for an extended cameo was a stroke of genius, as it not only helps set up the plot for the last few episodes but also lays the groundwork for events that will carry over into season three. Plus, enough good things can’t be said about Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance, who doesn’t miss a beat here in his depiction of Fisk’s attempts to take over the prison hierarchy, leading to one of the best scenes of the entire season between D’Onofrio and Jon Berenthal’s Punisher.
2. The Stairwell Fight
It was pretty much a given that Daredevil would try to outclass the memorable tracking shot hallway fight from season one and season two doesn’t disappoint, offering up an epic stairwell brawl that clocks in at five minutes in length. It’s pretty much the perfect kind of Daredevil fight scene, showing off the hero’s full range of moves while cleverly incorporating elements from previous events in the episode, most notably the way Daredevil utilizes the chain that’s still attached to his arm courtesy of The Punisher. While it will get pretty repetitive if this show simply tries to outdo itself every year with a similar “no cuts” fight scene, the stairwell fight still blows the hallways fight out of the water and is one of the most thrilling melee brawls in any live action superhero film or TV show. This is one of Daredevil season two’s greatest pleasures.
1. Jon Berenthal’s Punisher
If Daredevil’s second season proves anything, it’s that this is a show that excels at casting, especially when it comes to antagonists. Vincent D’Onofrio absolutely stole the show in season one as Wilson Fisk and Jon Berenthal accomplishes something similar with his showstopping performance as Frank Castle AKA The Punisher. Berenthal is easily the second season’s strongest element and his Punisher continues to display layers long after you think you’ve got him figured out. In particular, his scenes with Karen are surprisingly strong, especially a late-season diner visit where Castle actually starts to dole out relationship advice before he murders two guys in cold blood. While there are a few things to quibble about when it comes to The Punisher’s characterization (it’s a bit disappointing that his violent brand of vigilantism is explained away by a bullet to the head) but Berenthal makes such a strong debut in the role that we can only hope he gets his own TV show down the line.