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Drinking game idea: take a drink every time Matt refers to New York as “my city”.

A lot has changed in Hell’s Kitchen. Wilson Fisk is in prison, Daredevil is now a well known vigilante, and many of the previous gangs plaguing Matthew Murdock’s corner of NYC are gone. Things must be looking good for Daredevil right? Wrong. Season two of Marvel’s Daredevil spends its season tearing down everything Matthew Murdock built previously in a less focused but equally satisfying story.

I enjoyed the hell out of season two. Unlike the first season, which I watched over the period of about a week, I binged season 2 in about two days. I was hooked. Season two is a marked improvement over the first season in a lot of ways, and a step back in a few areas. While the season does lack a strong central villain, it more than makes up for the fact with the newest additions to its vigilante roster.

Season two introduces us to the current world of Daredevil: a Hell’s Kitchen without Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’onofrio). After his arrest at the end of last season Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) has been at the top of the food chain in his section of New York. By the time season two picks up Matt has fully embraced the Daredevil persona, and has made a name for himself cleaning up the streets of Hell’s Kitchen. Matt can only remain at the top for so long before trouble starts to brew once again when Jon Bernthal’s The Punisher enters the scene, committing acts of extreme violence against NYC criminals. His goals are the same as Daredevil’s, eradicating crime from New York, but their methods are polar opposites. While Daredevil is strictly against killing, The Punisher feels the only way to truely stop crime is to put criminals down for good. Daredevil must find a way to stop The Punisher without succumbing to The Punisher’s own methods. Around this time, and old and dangerous flame from Matt’s past in the form of Elektra (Elodie Yung) reemerges to complicate matters even further.

It’s a hell of a set up, and season two lives up to it’s promise, for the most part. Where season one of Daredevil was structured much more like a 13 hour long movie, season two feels more like an actual comic book in the way its story is put together. This leads to a much less focused narrative than the previous season. Season one of Daredevil focused primarily on one main goal, taking down Wilson Fisk. To be honest, I can’t really tell you which plot thread from season two to consider the main plot. Season two is more ambitious than season one, creating multiple mini arcs throughout the season that are tied together in some way.

Daredevil is now a fully fledged superhero, improved costume at all, and the tone the show takes on reflects that. While season two is still as dark and gritty as season one, this season feels much more comic booky and fantastical. Daredevil doubles down on the violence from season one, exhibiting violence so over the top it almost reaches Tarantino levels. This isn’t a negative mind you. The excessive (and at points cartoonish) violence helps contribute to the overall pulpiness that season two embraces.

Daredevil’s adversaries form season one were grounded in reality, various gangs, mobs, and street criminals. Season two features the aforementioned Punisher and Elektra, as well as an army of mystical ninjas known as The Hand flooding New York City. The image of hundreds of ninjas running through the streets of New York is so ridiculous and comic book-y, I love it. The influence from Frank Miller’s run on Daredevil can be felt, and at times the show feels like a direct adaptation of that comic.

The show continues to have the stunning cinematography that season one had. Daredevil’s vision of New York is almost contradictory at times. Its dark, but its colorful. Lot’s of reds, purples, and yellows that really shine on screen. It’s almost worth watching the show based on pure eye candy alone.

The fight choreography has somehow improved over the stellar season one. Based on pure action alone, Daredevil is the best out of the various comic book TV shows, showcasing some of the best hand to hand combat I’ve seen since The Raid. They’re visceral, easy to follow, and wildly entertaining. One scene in particular trumps the famous “Hallway Fight” tracking shot from season one. It’s another tracking shot that takes place in both a hallway and a stairwell, and his Daredevil channeling his inner Ghost Rider with the way he utilizes a chain to his advantage. Daredevil continuously finds new and inventive ways to portray its fight scenes, which helps emphasize Matt’s improved fighting skills. Once The Hand’s ninjas begin to show up, the show divulges into sensational martial arts action.

Both The Punisher and Elektra act as foil to Matt’s moral barometer. Punisher and Elektra both provide compelling reasons as to why Matt’s no kill policy is ineffective, and its this struggle of Matt’s that is the core focus of the season. The dichotomy between the characters motivations and ideals are compelling, and Matt’s struggle is one that holds real emotional weight.

The first chunk of the season focuses primarily on the ideological conflict between Daredevil and The Punisher. I will assert that this four episode arc of the season is absolute perfection. The conflict between Daredevil and The Punisher is exceedingly compelling. This arc of the season has the most drive, the best writing, and the best action out of all thirteen episodes. The dynamic between Daredevil and Punisher is ripped straight out of the comics, and provides an interesting dynamic for both Charlie Cox and Jon Bernthal to play off of.

Jon Bernthal’s portrayal as the iconic Punisher is the definitive live action version of the character. Bernthal is the standout performance of the season in the same way D’onofrio was from season one. Bernthal has such a presence whenever he is on screen, and you feel that The Punisher is really a force to be reckoned with. The first time Bernthal makes his appearance on screen is reminiscent of The Terminator as The Punisher feels like an unstoppable force of pure vengeance.

The middle of the season focuses on Matt’s relationship with Elektra, and while it is still really good television, it is not up to par with the Punisher arc. I really enjoyed Elodie Yung’s take on Elektra (certainly miles ahead of the Jennifer Garner version) and she has great chemistry with Charlie Cox. Her character is a classic femme fatale, but it works in the context of the story, and you can understand why Matt would feel conflicted between Elektra and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll).

A major theme throughout this season focuses on the balance between Matt’s vigilante life and his civilian life, or  more accurately, the lack thereof. Foggy (Elden Henson) continues to clash with Matt due to what are in his mind unnecessary risks he takes. Honestly multiple times throughout the season I found myself siding with Foggy in his arguments with Matt. Murdock is continuously neglecting his life outside of Daredevil, and the audience shares in Foggy’s frustration. It provided for a lot of captivating drama, and I really cared about the friendship between the two lawyers.

I won’t go into any detail about what the final act of the season focuses on, but it’s as solid as the middle portion. It never quite lives up to the standard set by the first four episodes, but nevertheless delivers a satisfying and extremely enjoyable conclusion to Daredevil season two. Both The Punisher and Elektra are given their due, and I can’t wait to see where the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is taken next.

Probably to the roster of The Defenders.

9/10

 

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