Daredevil Season 2 In-Progress Review
Last year Daredevil was probably my favorite 13 hours of television for all of 2015, and that's saying a lot since I typically prefer more outlandish, cosmic stuff and DD is about as street-level as it gets. Knowing that, how could I not be excited about season two with its promises of Elektra, the Hand, and the Punisher?
Episode 1 ("Bang"): The first episode starts off with one of the coolest scene in a superhero series since Flash summoned a mini-Justice League to fight the Reverse Flash: Matt Murdock, looking down on Hell's Kitchen and using his enhanced senses to find crimes in the city. It's execution is reminiscent of a certain Last Son of Krypton, but moments later we're brought back down to reality as Matt chases down a group of criminals on foot. It's not as visually interesting as him swinging in on his baton like his comic book version, but it's definitely more logical. (And with Spider-Man back with Marvel there's a good chance they want to keep the similarities between the two characters to a minimum.)
Afterwards, we pick up with the main cast of Matt, Foggy, and Karen--beating the Kingpin has granted them a full office of potential clients, but seemingly less actual income than ever--but it's not long before the main "villain" of the series makes his appearance. The episode introduces a group of Irish mobsters, planning to "take the City back" with Kingpin locked up, but it's not the least bit surprising when the lot of them are riddled with bullets only minutes after being introduced.
What is surprising though is how quickly Daredevil and Punisher actually come to blows. In sharp comparison to last season, where it took episodes before anyone would even speak Wilson Fisk's name let alone show us who he was--here in the first episode we not only get a look at Frank Castle's handiwork, but the two get in a bit of hand-to-hand to close out the episode. It could be taken as a sign that the creative team behind the series don't want to repeat the slow, methodical pacing of the last season, or equally likely--it could be that there's so much to get to this season they can't waste time taking three episodes to actually introduce Frank. Speaking of which, his actual introduction is terrifying--tracking down the last survivor of his first attack to a hospital and leaving the place riddled with bullets in an insane attempt to finish what he started. It's a chilling scene that's even more suspenseful than the ending of the episode, where Matt seemingly takes a bullet after a hard-fought battle.
Speaking of which, to nerd out a bit: it's concerning that Matt had such trouble with Frank in a one-on-one confrontation. Matt's basically a ninja--if that wasn't obvious last season, it'll become so when he starts hanging out with Elektra and fighting the Hand--which means it's going to look a little weird when he's basically doing impossible physical feats when he just barely avoided getting pasted in his first encounter with the Punisher. It's a small complaint though, and trumped by the obvious need to build drama.
Episode 2 ("Dogs to a Gunfight"): One episode into the new season and already the "dream team" of Matt, Karen, and Foggy are starting to show some fractures. This season lacks the subtle machinations of the first, instead going for gut-punches as Punisher continues to tear his way through Hell's Kitchen: Daredevil having barely escaped being shot in the face (more on that in a bit), and Karen and Foggy attempting to protect their mob-related client from being brutally murdered by Frank Castle.
Probably the most unexpected part of the episode happens during one of the episode's quieter moments, though. Literally, as after narrowly escaping with his life, Matt starts to lose his hearing. It's a shocking moment, and the way the series plays with the viewer's senses (when Matt becomes deaf, so do we) is great. Our hero's newest problem lends even more credence to Foggy's argument that he should just give up and leave the crime-fighting to the cops. It's an old plot point from season one, but it's one the series never quite closed the door on then, and while it resurfaced briefly in the first episode, here it's on full display. And alhough the stakes of Matt's reckless behavior have always been clear, in "Dogs to a Gunfight" the writers have found new ways to highlight it--with Foggy having to actually see Matt put his life at risk not only fighting the Punisher, but nearly being killed by the cops when a planned trap goes wrong.
And Jon Bernthal continues to play a truly terrifying version of the Punisher. He barely speaks. He looks completely unhinged. And so far, he's literally never been on screen without brutally murdering someone...unless its to get in a fight with Daredevil. His very existence brings up a great point that the series had to tackle sooner or later. With Daredevil being an example of vigilante justice helping a city, how long could it be before copycats arose? And what if those copycats don't have the same sense of morality and Catholic guilt that drives Matt? What kind of havoc could they wreak, and more importantly how does that affect everyone's perception of Daredevil, technically the "originator" of all this?
Fortunately, even with all this superhero drama they don't lose the characters of Foggy and Karen. The two have almost as much to deal with as Matt this episode: keeping their client safe, dealing with overbearing DAs, and there's still Karen's hidden backstory, which while often sidelined always feels just slightly out of view, and like it'll hit them all when they least expect it.
While last episode I doubted the suspense of the ending, the ending of "Dogs to a Gunfight" makes that all but impossible, with Matt having disappeared along with the Punisher right as he loses his hearing once more. One can only imagine what sort of situation he'll find himself in next.