Daredevil season two continues Netflix’s unexpected winning streak with the Marvel property
A buddy of mine instantly fell in love with the opening five minutes of Daredevil‘s second season premiere. An unexpected ode to Tim Burton’s Batman, the sequence pans across the troubled Hell’s Kitchen playing with visuals and focus while producing a menagerie of New York sounds. The effect is meant to illustrate the blind Daredevil’s enhanced hearing. Later, he picks off random criminals by lurking in the shadows. As the sequence closes, Daredevil stands high on a rooftop staring over his city, smiling.
It’s probably the only time in the entire series you’ll see Daredevil smiling.
And there’s little reason for our beleaguered title character to smile. This season brings the near-mute vigilante The Punisher, old flame Elektra, and the return of the Asian gang The Hand in an orgy of blood and violence. I’ve only seen the first two episodes, and things are looking just fine. I’m slightly worried that the intersection of all these dangling plot lines will rip the series apart. But not just yet. For now, Daredevil returns in fine form as one of the more challenging and engaging comic book properties to date.
Isn’t it interesting how the best Marvel properties (Daredevil, the Captain America films) focus on humans first over dramatic special effects? Is the human interest that appropriately anchors the Netflix series. Our title character, Matt Murdock in his non-combative form (Charlie Cox), has to juggle between his nights as a shit-kicking super hero and his days as earnest legal eagle, defender of the penniless. He’s aptly supported still by Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), his best friend who knows Murdock’s secret, and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), his love interest who wants inside his heart and mind.
At night, though, Daredevil fights alone, eventually falling to The Punisher (The Walking Dead‘s Jon Bernthal) not once but twice. The fights continue to be choreographed violent ballets between the two men. No, nobody’s wearing tights or tutus. It’s the amazing display of athleticism and nimbly constructed fight sequences that really drives the series into high gear. They’re lightening fast and violence as hell. Despite my appreciation for the human sequences, I can’t deny that the fights are the reason I keep coming back to the series. It’s just easier to justify on an intellectual level thanks to the human interest and on-going Catholic guilt. You can thank director Phil Abraham (Mad Men, Bates Motel, The Sopranos) for keeping things moving swiftly and visually intriguing. There’s one great shot that appears to start in a bloody window but, as the camera pulls back, it’s revealed to be a gun entry/exit wound on a corpse.
Gotta love it.
The performances continue to be serviceable with Charlie Cox aptly embodying the title character while remaining strangely vacant in the role. Bernthal is convincingly brutal in the role of The Punisher even if he seems to be hitting nearly identical beats from The Walking Dead. Season two, after the two episodes I’ve seen, seems to be lacking that central great villainous performance that Vincent D’Onofrio brought as Wilson Fisk, a.k.a. Kingpin. Still, no one is really coming to Daredevil for the acting. But D’Onofrio’s great performance was the bloody cherry on the body-filled sundae.
Overall, I’m intrigued with Daredevil season two. I’m highly anticipating the addition of Elektra later in the season. I’m interested in how the two currently at-odds characters will reconcile and, presumably, work together. It’s difficult to fully consider a series in progress (unless they’re complete stinkers out of the box), but color me happy that Daredevil has returned.
Thanks, Netflix, for keeping it classy. And bloody.
Daredevil season two is currently streaming in its entirety on Netflix. For a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at how Netflix streams this and other series, take a look at this Variety article.