Friday, March 18, 2016

Conspiracies And Complicated Characters Rise In Daredevil Season 2!

The Good: Performance, Moments of direction, Character development, Plot development
The Bad: Predictable plot development, Most of the lighting, Off-putting graphic violence, Plot lulls, Soap opera moments
The Basics: The second season of Daredevil manages to explore conspiracies and mysticism without entirely being overwhelmed by the additions of Frank Castle and Elektra!

When Netflix first announced the second season of Daredevil, I was filled with an uncontrollable feeling of apprehension. The first season of Daredevil (reviewed here!) killed off two major characters in the Daredevil universe and saw the primary Daredevil villain incarcerated; the second season was announced with The Punisher being the season's main adversary. My concern was that it would be hard to recreate and reinvent the chemistry from the first season of Daredevil and that The Punisher would entirely overwhelm the narrative of the second season of the show. I'm a fan of Daredevil, not The Punisher (and, commercially, there has not been a viable cinematic rendition of The Punisher ever . . . yet, the studios keep making the attempt!), so I was understandably apprehensive.

And the second season of Daredevil manages to assuage most of the concerns a viewer might have about the presence of The Punisher by the fourth episode of the thirteen episode season. While the early appearance of Frank Castle instantly dominates the narrative, digging into the character quickly builds a plot that explores a conspiracy surrounding drugs and politics in Hell's Kitchen. Netflix smartly intertwines the second season of Daredevil with Jessica Jones (reviewed here!). Sly references and the use of the character of District Attorney Reyes to help create the character of Frank Castle help tie the new season of Daredevil to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe and move the series toward the inevitable The Defenders television series.

Hell's Kitchen is exploding with heat and the almost inevitable crime that comes with it, but Daredevil is keeping things under control at night. The law firm of Nelson & Murdock is floundering, though, Nelson, Murdock and Page continue to be good friends. Soon, however, everything in Hell's Kitchen begins to fall apart when the Irish mob is targeted by an assassin who has clear military training. The assassin soon goes after the Dogs Of Hell motorcycle gang and Daredevil finds himself in direct conflict with him as the new vigilante has no qualms about killing his victims. The fight between Daredevil and the vigilante codenamed The Punisher quickly comes to an end when Daredevil manages to take him down.

The capture of Frank Castle becomes a point of contention for the members of Nelson & Murdock, though the firm takes the defense of Castle when the District Attorney continues to threaten the firm. Karen Page, especially, is focused on exonerating Frank Castle given that it appears he has brain damage, trauma from watching his family die, and there is a conspiracy built around how his past is being reported in the media. Matt Murdock quickly finds himself sidetracked when Elektra pops into Hell's Kitchen and asks him for help in taking down the ninja organization The Hand. While Nelson and Page desperately attempt to try the trial of the century in Hell's Kitchen, Murdock finds himself wrestling with his past and adversaries who threaten to unleash a massive, mystical weapon on Hell's Kitchen.

The second season of Daredevil generally builds well, quickly exchanging the immediate violence of The Punisher for a complicated conspiracy and character narrative. The twin threads of exploring the psychological aspects of what makes Frank Castle do what he does is deeply intertwined with the characters digging at the specific incident that created Castle as a homicidal vigilante. The Frank Castle narrative is subtle contrasted with Elektra's narrative and the stark reality of Castle's experiences play off the rising mystical aspects surrounding The Hand and Elektra's unfolding backstory. Elektra's story is clearly setting up a future incarnation of Shadowland (reviewed here!) for the Marvel Cinematic/Television Universe and the second season of Daredevil wisely does not leap right into committing to the supernatural elements Shadowland would require. Instead, the second season of Daredevil quietly introduces a supernatural element by resurrecting Nobu from the prior season and inserting - but not explaining fully - a subplot that involves exsanguinating young people to nourish an ancient evil.

Daredevil season two has erratic plotting. There is a delightful surprise near the midpoint of the season that will make fans squeal and the stairwell scene in one of the earliest episodes is amazingly crafted. But there are soap operatic exchanges and at least two lulls in the plots that are filled with unremarkable scenes that feel like filler (Jessica Jones has lulls in its first season that it filled with entire bottle episodes that broke up its otherwise serialized narrative). The second season of Daredevil might not be flawless, but it is a strongly serialized story and - for the most part - it manages to bounce between its focus on the Castle-themed conspiracy and Elektra's actions in Hell's Kitchen; when one plotline gets a bit stale, the show refocuses on the other story, with strong character interactions from the primary trio of characters throughout.

In its sophomore season, Daredevil continues the arcs of the core characters from the first season, while introducing key, new, characters. In the second season of Daredevil, the primary characters are:

Matt Murdock - The blind lawyer by day, an armored vigilante by night, he struggles to find the balance between his professional life and his nocturnal activities. Murdock quickly develops a relationship with Karen Page, which is threatened by a philosophical difference the two have on the role of vigilantes in Hell's Kitchen. When Elektra pops back up, he discovers his feelings from their relationship ten years prior are still simmering. But Murdock's strict no-kill rule leaves him in conflict with both Elektra and Frank Castle, as well as Stick (his blind mentor), who returns as well,

Foggy Nelson - Matt Murdock's best friend and an amazing lawyer in his own right. Nelson has a clear affection for Page, but he steps aside when he sees how Murdock and Page are getting close. Nelson is the only person who knows Murdock's dual identity as Daredevil and he constantly worries about Murdock,

Karen Page - The paralegal at Nelson & Murdock, she continues to feel guilty about murdering in the first season. Her guilt leads her to be sympathetic to The Punisher. After Frank Castle is apprehended, she begins to investigate the facts surrounding his family's murder. That puts her in bed (metaphorically) with the editor of the Bulletin and she takes up the legacy of Ben Urich,

Frank Castle - A violent vigilante, he arrives in Hell's Kitchen with a small arsenal and a mission to take out multiple gangs. A former Marine, he lost his wife and two children in an act of violence and is determined to put down those involved. After he is captured, he puts his trust in Karen Page and Nelson & Murdock, before hedging his bets on a mysterious offer. The offer puts him in league with someone who has information which leads him to the final pieces of the puzzle for the incident that turned him into the killer he has become,

Claire Temple - A medic at Hell's Kitchen's hospital - working at the outset to pay off the "debt" that arose when she removed Luke Cage from the hospital - and ally to Daredevil. Temple wants to do right in the world filled with vigilantes and super-powered people and she remains principled even as new horrors arrive in her hospital ward,

and Elektra Natchios - A mysterious woman from Murdock's past, she was a rich dilettante. Elektra is in Hell's Kitchen ostensibly to divest her portfolio of Roxxon stock, but she quickly draws Murdock into armed conflicts with the ninja collective The Hand. Elektra finds a strong connection between her assets and the Japanese mob, which makes her a potential ally to Daredevil. Her methods, however, offend Murdock's sensibilities and she finds herself in conflict with him and her feelings for him.

The second season of Daredevil recreates much of the chemistry of the first season by having strong relationships between Murdock, Nelson and Page. Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, and Elden Henson have amazing chemistry and they play off one another exceptionally well. Henson is given great lines with snappy dialogue and cute asides that make Foggy Nelson the character to watch in Daredevil's second season.

Jon Bernthal joins the cast as the almost perpetually-angry Frank Castle and he nails the role. Bernthal manages to not simply retread his character of Shane from The Walking Dead in his portrayal of Castle. Bernthal plays off Cox, Woll and D'Onofrio expertly, with a weight and presence that makes him unsettling to watch.

The second season of Daredevil is unsettling for more than the performances. The level of violence in the second season of Daredevil is a step up from the first season and it is far more graphic than the gore and violence in the first season. More than that, many of the fight sequences occur at night and in dark rooms, making the show surprisingly unwatchable for some of the action sequences.

That said, the second season of Daredevil tells a (mostly) engaging story that effectively builds a long arc for Matt Murdock and his friends.

For more information on this season, check out the reviews of each episode in it at:
"Dogs To A Gunfight"
"New York's Finest"
"Penny And Dime"
"Regrets Only"
"Semper Fidelis"
"Guilty As Sin"
"Seven Minutes In Heaven"
"The Man In The Box"
"The Dark At The End Of The Tunnel"
"A Cold Day In Hell's Kitchen"


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2016 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
| | |

No comments:

Post a Comment