Taking notes from shows like Law & Order and The Wire to layer up its comic book-layered thematic storytelling, the first season of the Marvel series adaptation, Daredevil, proved uniquely entertaining, as well as fundemental in realizing how studios and directors could better flesh-out superhero source material. I had my own doubts about this kind of thing long before this show existed, and my doubts were personally regarding programming decisions with some networks and not so much as creative direction, but that’s another can of worms I won’t get into right now. Netflix is center stage this week for all things comic book in entertainment, and the second season continues to brim with grit and a high caliber vision that takes the comic book TV genre to an impressive level.
Actor Charlie Cox is back in uniform as our title hero with a story that otherwise continues the events of last season, moving things further into the conflict he struggles in taking on the darkness and danger of having dual identities while fighting crime. Needless to say, Murdock’s life continues to be an issue for long-time best friend, Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) who, unlike their legal assistant Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), knows his secret, while Page and Murdock slowly deal with a potentially flourishing romance of their own.
Amid all this is the brewing intensity surrounding the events of an elusive gunman targeting gangs and thugs, discovered to be none other than Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) whose actions make him the center of society’s reactionist fervor, thanks in part to the media’s embodiment of him as “The Punisher”. Murdock and Castle eventually clash several more times and it’s not long until Castle is finally caught and apprehended, but not before trading words with Murdock in a debate on vigilante justice that ultimately becomes the highlight of the show.
Just as the first season, the plot thickens ten times more with the addition of Elektra Nachios (Elodie Yung) whose remergence into Murdock’s life for reasons all her own are things he could care less for. Still, a reluctant partnership with Murdock ensues as her agenda becomes clearer, triggering a series of events that will ultimately force both to challenge their histories surrounding Murdock’s post childhood-injury mentor, Stick, as well as unrequited feelings, all while uncovering the possibility of a looming war that could put the city in danger.
I spent all of my Friday watching season one and it’s definitely a lot to take in, but it doesn’t make it any less rewarding. The first season felt a lot slower than preferred which made me question the idea of stretching out a show like this to thirteen 45-minute episodes on average. That critique points much more to the streching out of the drama with much of the dialogue feeling more long-winded than preferred. You could say that more needed to happen or there could have been more characters to add to the mix to help carry us further, or maybe include some better writing to help the script feel less repetitive – which substantiates some of my feelings a bit on why feature films feel a lot better in invoking certain storytelling elements.
With all this in mind and taking season two into consideration, the lingering is slightly minimal, saved only by many of the redeeming qualities it bares this time around. First and foremost is Jon Bernthal’s performance as long-running Marvel favorite, The Punisher, further lending Daredevil another characteristic evolution of origin comic book storytelling. Having already had three live action films with diferring angles of their own, Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez have done fantastic work in inserting the Punisher into the mix with Bernthal owning every minute he’s on screen, and with an angle that is much more cerebral and concentrated than iterations of yesteryear, and a route that takes the caveats of a Punisher story into much more human territory.
One other high point of this series delves right into the arc involving Murdock’s romances with our hero’s interest in Page as she struggles to balance herself amid his turmoil with Nelson. I have to say, Woll surprised me in the first season and I’m really glad that Marvel kept her character involved in the story with a script as pivotal as it made her in bringing things full circle for the second season. The relationship her character aspires for with Murdock lends a much-needed dimension into Murdock’s own character development beyond a charming lawyer whose habits also prove to be as problematic as they did in the first season, habits that surely enough weigh in heavy on the Murdock/Nelson bromance, as well as the history we observe between Murdock and Yung’s stunning and brilliant performance as the elusive and presumably cold-blooded Nachios.
With respect to the comic book nature and the presence of our heros, what’s become quite clear in all this is the brewing divide between many of our characters with so many moving pieces and elements in constant flux. You simply don’t know who will turn evil or good, and you don’t know how things will end for our characters with so much riding on them in the face of pure evil. Many of our characters are intergral in this effort, including Glenn and actress Wai Ching Ho whose respective and unassuming up-in-age appearances as Stick and Triad leader Madame Cao continues to surprise with little limitations; The best of all, of course, is actor Vincent D’onofrio whose brief reprisal as the villainous Kingpin with an angle that delightfully perpetuates the hypnoticism, suspense and excitement reminiscent of season one.
Above almost all else about the story we witness here is the changing nature of the series as well, even for the supporting roles circulating Netflix’s Marvel world, including Geoffrey Cantor, Rosario Dawson and Royce Johnson, in addition to Stephen Rider and actress Michelle Hurd who play our two antagonstic legal eagles in the first half of the show. Shinkoda’s return as Nobu proves equally instrumental in the intrigue of the show as it evolves its otherworldly millieu of ninjas, gore and sorcery, with kinetic fight choreography by Philip J. Silvera fresh off of blowing minds with the action in director Tim Miller’s Deadpool.
Outside of Netflix, you’d be forgiven if you simply didn’t know how awesome and well put-together this show has been in the last two years, or were even the least bit skeptical. The show lit a huge torch in 2014 for a new era of comic book on TV with Marvel and ABC spearheading the programming and continues to be exemplary in contrast to its 2005 feature film predecessor from Fox. We’ve come a long way since then and with more shows lined-up in lieu of a Defenders series, this show is defintely something you want to pick up on, and if you have a friend in diar need of this experience, invite them over and show them this series at once. It’s a great series that is still building itself from the outside-in, and if you love comic books and wish to see them bloom, this one is not to be missed.