The Devil is back in Hell’s Kitchen in season 2 of Marvel’s Daredevil on Netflix.
No one quite knew what to expect when the first season of Daredevil debuted on Netflix in April 2015. After years of blockbuster movies and couple of forays into network TV it was a new departure for the property – taking advantage of the freedom of the streaming service to bring a few lesser known characters to life in an ambitious multi-tiered plan.
And it turned out to be pretty spectacular, crafting a mature, dramatic and action packed 13 episode run telling the tale of a blind lawyer from Hell’s Kitchen who is drawn out to fight in the shadows against the forces of evil. The smaller scale and longer running time helped make it a real character piece, and strong performances sold these parts as more than costume wearing superheroes.
The ante was upped again with the release of Marvel’s Jessica Jones in late 2015 so anticipation is high for the return of Matt Murdoch for a full second season.
The good news is that it’s still high quality entertainment and also manages to keep its own identity, especially in contrast to a very different show like Jessica J. Daredevil’s journey remains concerned with justice, faith and the important relationships with those close to him, even as the scale of the show expands in many different ways.
There are still plenty of new elements including the introduction of Frank Castle aka The Punisher – as played with presence and depth by Jon Bernthal. He comes along in the very first episode and makes quite the entrance as his efforts to cleanse the city are in danger of inciting an all out war. Castle is the perfect foil to Murdoch – a man with nothing left to lose who will do anything to make the evil forces of the city pay.
The two quickly enter into a complex tête-à-tête – there’s nothing so simple here as hero and villain and the show does a brilliant job of balancing our allegiances. The Punisher saga is the driving force of the opening episodes here and the arc for these duelling characters remains consistently compelling and surprising.
Another new addition comes in the form of Elektra (Elodie Yung). She and Matt used to be in a relationship, a past which is examined in several flashbacks revealing their complicated history. There’s a deep and intense connection between these two, making their tenuous alliance all the more challenging and, I suspect, especially complex in the future.
Yung is a great addition to the cast, mainly because her character is one of the few allowed to have fun. Elektra thrives on action and danger but doesn’t take any of it too seriously and she has sizzling chemistry with Charlie Cox’s Murdoch on screen.
Away from the costumed sorts, there are some familiar faces and fairly few new additions. Elden Henson returns as Foggy with a few less punch lines and slightly stronger character who finally steps up and does some lawyering. Deborah Ann Woll is back as Karen Page and has more to do – chasing an investigation, dealing with the fallout of last season and tip toeing towards a romance with Murdoch. The character is still frequently sidelined in her secretary role which feels like a backwards step next to the likes of Jessica Jones and Elektra.
As for the story itself, it proceeds at the fairly deliberate pace we’ve come to expect from Netflix. With almost 13 hours of running time there’s really no rush and revelations are doled out rather languidly. Occasionally there’s a feeling that events are being padded to keep the audience watching, especially in the middle episodes, but overall there’s plenty to see and lots of potential for the future.
Season 2 ups the action ante, especially in terms of scale and with a whole lot more gunfire – mostly down to The Punisher. The many hand to hand encounters are still brilliantly choreographed and often just as impressively shot by new DP Martin Ahlgren. The careful use of colour in the backgrounds and frequent splashes of shadow and silhouette really help the show to stand out from the crowd.
Fighting fans can look forward to a number of standout moments, with special mention for episode three. It’s probably the best overall ep of the season for a whole bunch of reasons, all capped off by another long flowing set piece which takes in multiple levels, dozens of enemies and some excellent chain and stuntwork. Expect to see videos popping up online soon.
Daredevil season 2 handles drama and action wonderfully, and manages the difficult task of making costumed heroes feel grounded and in real danger on the streets of modern day New York but it’s not a total slam dunk.
After the seven episodes I was sent for review, there’s a lack of forward momentum and drive and partly that’s down to there being no discernible villain. Shades of grey and shifting alliances are all well and good but the audience also needs to know who they’re rooting for and why, especially as the midpoint approaches. There are some shaky performances to be found and a little less time spent on an important character than I would like – no spoilers here.
All that said, there’s still plenty to like and no doubt that there’s more to come in the remaining six hours including the return of Scott Glenn and hopefully a little more background on those mystical elements which were teased in the first season. It’s all super slick and eminently binge-worthy, and I can’t wait to watch the rest in quick succession. I just think it’s not quite as good as Jessica Jones.
Marvel’s Daredevil Season 2 will be on Netflix in its entirety on the 18th of March 2016 at 8am Irish time.