Daredevil Season 2 Review
Matt Murdock could be accused of many things, but you can't fault him for lack of ambition. The same can be said of Netflix's Daredevil, now in its second season and still one of the best television shows in recent memory — even when its reach exceeds its grasp.
Season 1 was tremendous; quite possibly the sleekest, most gratifying first season of any show I've watched (I sang its praises here and here). My expectations for Season 2 were high, and all things considered, I was not disappointed. Some thoughts...
“You're a half-measure. You hit 'em and they get back up.
I hit 'em and they stay down.”
Jon Bernthal and Elodie Yung join the cast as Frank Castle and Elektra, respectively. Both are capable additions. Bernthal, however, is truly fantastic: the perfect embodiment of everything one would expect of a man whose alias is 'The Punisher.' His performance is raw and menacing — the personification of an open wound — but he shines in the quiet moments, too, when the tragedy of Castle's past comes into focus. In lesser hands, a phrase like “one batch, two batch, penny and dime” would come off as trite; in Bernthal's hands, it's heart-wrenching.
My favorite scene of the season is a short one with no dialogue, just Castle seated by himself at a table full of breakfast dishes. More emotion is packed into those few frames than I've seen in two-hour films. It's beautiful.
As Castle and Murdock butt heads over irreconcilable notions of justice, the writers tease a fascinating ethical debate — one which I'm sad to say never really matures. It's there, and it raises some good questions, but most of these fade into the background as the story hurtles forward.
In my review of Season 1, I likened Daredevil to Christopher Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy, in that it seemed just as interested in the philosophical implications of its story as it was in delivering thrills. This time around, the show bears a closer resemblance to its Marvel siblings: slick, exciting, smart, but not particularly deep, and not something you stow away for serious reflection. This is not a bad thing in and of itself — I happen to love Marvel's cinematic universe — but I can't say I wasn't disappointed at the missed opportunity to dig a little deeper.
That said, the show is consistently engaging. I only narrowly overcame the temptation to binge watch all 13 episodes in one sitting. It also benefits from a memorable score by John Paesano. And since it's impossible to talk about the show without praising the action, yes, those sequences are insanely good. The primal physicality is refreshing in an age of CGI and overindulgent stunt work; and though it's a small thing, I must admit I loved the effort made by the choreographers to give Daredevil and the Punisher fighting styles that differ almost as much as their ideas of justice. It's like watching a katana and a sledgehammer come to life and put the hurt on every ne'er-do-well in Hell's Kitchen.