Season two of Daredevil dropped onto Netflix yesterday and I watched all 13 episodes in a binge. To the show’s credit, the time flew by pretty damn quickly. I was a huge fan of season one, being most impressed by Marvel finally willing to go a little darker. The characters were compelling, the fights exhilarating, and Vincent D’Nofrio made his mark as the most interesting villain to ever come out of the MCU. Obviously, I was excited to sit through season two. Increasing my excitement was the knowledge that a large part of the season would focus on my favorite comic book character: Frank Castle aka The Punisher. I’ve made it no secret on this site that I am an unabashed Punisher fanboy. Like most Punisher fans, I was distinctly underwhelmed by all previous adaptations of the character. So, did they finally get him right? Find out below!
I’ve decided to formulate this post in a series of questions that most people probably want answers to before diving into their own personal binge. I’ll keep things as general as possible and I PROMISE there will be no spoilers beyond what’s already been revealed in trailers and posters.
Did They Get The Punisher Right?
Yes. 100 percent. I had my doubts about Jon Bernthal in the role but he absolutely nails it. He’s introduced almost as a slasher villain, sort of a Jason Voorhees for the Mob, and this makes his early scenes brutal and frightening. As the season progresses, Bernthal and showrunners Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez add layers to the character, giving him an excellent level of humanity and pathos. He has a speech in episode four that covers his entire backstory and it’s nothing short of riveting. It’s a testament to Bernthal that the series doesn’t utilize flashbacks and simply lets him talk for close to ten full minutes. In those minutes, he’s able to humanize the character in a manner even the best comics have failed to achieve.
Later on, there’s a brutal beyond brutal sequence where Frank Castle dies and The Punisher is born. Much of the season serves as a Punisher origin story and if that idea makes you groan, don’t fret. They’ve updated and added depth to the character in a very refreshing way. He’s funny too. Not cuz he’s a wisecracking clown but because he always says exactly what’s on his mind, just like he does in the best comics. The moral conflict between him and Matt Murdock works quite well because the show fully understands the perspectives of both men. Charlie Cox is at his best when playing opposite Bernthal. Bernthal makes every actor step up a bit, especially Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page. His inclusion is the biggest success of the series and if they don’t give him his own spinoff, they’re idiots. He’s more than capable of standing on his own. In fact, he’s so compelling the rest of the show frequently suffers. I feel like the writers were so focused on getting him right that other characters and plot lines fell by the wayside, but we’ll get to that later. Bottom line: Punisher fans get rest easy. This is the onscreen Frank Castle we’ve always dreamed of.
Really good!! Elodie Young delivers strong work as the deadly assassin and former girlfriend of Matt Murdock. They have chemistry that’s severely lacking between Murdock and Karen Page. The problem is that her storyline is woefully underdeveloped and far less engaging than everything else going on. When she first shows up, she’s used as little more than a distraction for Matt/Daredevil. Their backstory is told in a series of illuminating yet not wholly engaging flashbacks. When she takes center stage in the back end of the season, as her inner turmoil becomes the main point of focus, Young shines but is brought down by the less than compelling action around her. She’s not half as developed as Castle and that really shows. Bottom line: the character and performer is solid but the show either gives her too little to do or places her in a poor storyline. Young deserves better.
Do The Fights Still Kick Ass?
Oh God yes!!! There are more than a few sequences that rival the famed hallway scene from season one. The highlight for Matt occurs early on and as Mike Staub so aptly said, “it’s literally off the chain.” As for Frank, his scenes are choreographed in an entirely different and much more vicious style that suits the character perfectly. I mentioned the scene where he fully becomes The Punisher and am not ashamed to admit I watched it twice. As for Elektra, her fight style is more or less what you’d expect and that’s fine. Bottom line: Each fight sequence is always well done and energetic even when the reasons for it are less than clear.
I Hear The Hand Has A Bigger Role To Play This Season?
Oh No. What’s The Problem?
Well, let’s see, how to break this down in a clear concise way…hmmm…oh fuck it…THE HAND IS FESTERING GARBAGE. Jesus Christ, they suck so bad. I know very little about this organization of ninjas in regards to the comics but if THIS is an accurate depiction of them, I don’t wanna know more. They never emerge as a credible or even understandable threat. Their end goal is absurdly and annoyingly vague and they’re as much of a danger to Daredevil as the Putties were to the Power Rangers. They’re mere fodder for he and Elektra to knock down. Mysteries about them are brought up and then dropped without a second thought. And I don’t wanna fucking hear, “Oh but it’ll be explained next season.” That’s bullshit. If the mysteries were intriguing that’d be one thing, but they aren’t. And the mysticism surrounding them feels largely at odds with the more grounded aspects of the show. Bottom line: The Hand sucks and comes damn close to ruining the entire series.
What About Stick?
FUCK STICK. I HATE STICK. HE’S THE WORST.
But I Like Him!
Fine. Bottom line: If you liked him in season one, if you enjoyed his creepy vibe, his refusal to talk about anything besides the “coming war” that never comes, and his bland, expository dialogue that goes on forever and yet somehow explains nothing, then you’ll absolutely LOVE him in Season 2.
Isn’t That A Little Harsh?
Okay Then. How’s The Supporting Cast?
Great! Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll are the unsung heroes of this show. Henson in particular steals every scene he’s in and I would happily watch a spinoff about him called “Better Call Foggy“. SIDE NOTE: How fun would it be to watch Foggy face down Jimmy McGill in a courtroom? Make this happen AMC and Netflix. If Sony and Marvel can make out a Spider-Man deal then there’s NO reason this can’t happen. Well, beyond the fact that it wouldn’t make sense at all. END NOTE. There are many points in the series where we wanna scream at Matt in frustration and Foggy gives voice to our rage. It’s also so much fun to watch him being a kickass lawyer and wipe the floor with the venomous DA. As for Karen, her scenes with Matt aren’t great but she is given a lot to do otherwise. She develops a surprisingly sympathetic relationship with Castle and takes up the investigative role left behind by Ben Urich. Woll is never less than engaging so it’s a bit of a shame the writers let her down in her scenes with Matt. Bottom line: Foggy and Karen rule.
So, How’s The Season As A Whole?
Overall, the high points are higher than season one but the low points are lower. It’s a decidedly mixed bag. Matt Murdock frequently seems adrift despite Charlie Cox’s consistently great performance. There are a few terrific surprises I can’t talk about that wind up elevating the show. Frank Castle is the best element, supporting cast is great, and Elektra is solid. It’s the goddamn Hand that almost sinks the ship.