Review - Daredevil (Netflix), Season 2

Daredevil (2015), Season 2, TV-MA, 13 Episodes - I feel that this should go without saying but just to be safe: if you have not seen Season 1 of Daredevil stop reading right now.  While this is as spoiler free as I can be in regards to Season 2, the discussion does reveal some spoilers for Season 1.  Seriously.  I love that you came to my blog, but leave now and watch Season 1 (at the very least) before reading any further.

When Marvel unleashed a grittier, rougher, tougher corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) via Daredevil on Netflix last year I (a long standing Daredevil fan) was beyond pleased with the outcome.  Within days, it was announced that the show had been so successful (and critically acclaimed for that matter) that a second season had already been green-lit.  The only thing that caused me the slightest bit of trepidation was the fact that Season 1 showrunner Steven S. DeKnight would be unavailable for Season 2 due to previously scheduled projects.  Would the same high quality be able to be recreated with this fledgling series in someone else's hands?  It turns out that Marvel had already taken this into consideration and handed co-showrunner duties for Season 2 to Douglas Petrie and Marco Ramirez.  The two had not only written for Season 1, but had also collaborated with DeKnight on prior project.  Just minutes into my binge session of Season 2 this past Friday (release day), I realized that I there was nothing to worry about and that the show was in more than capable hands.

Thanks to the excellent first season, we are already familiar with the characters and locales populating Hell's Kitchen, which allows Season 2 to hit the ground running, and quickly introduce new threats to Matt Murdock/Daredevil's (Charlie Cox) city.  Once again, organized crime (of varying levels) plagues Hell's Kitchen.  Where it had previously functioned under the watchful eye of Wilson Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio), it is now on the verge of a gang war as differing factions attempt to fill the void left by Fisk's imprisonment.  An increase in blatant criminal activity also leads to a stronger, more violent form of vigilantism in the city as well.  Particularly concerning are the actions of a brutally no-holds-barred man named Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), a man who has lost his family, is unafraid to take lethal measures in eliminating his targets, and whom the press has dubbed 'The Punisher'.  As the season progresses the mystical side of Daredevil's world (previously alluded to in Season 1, Episode 7) makes its presence felt and is explored in greater depth thanks to the introduction of Matt's lethal, martial arts trained ex-girlfriend from college, Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung).  Both The Punisher and Elektra illustrate more extreme forms of vigilante justice than Matt employs as Daredevil, causing him to question whether the combination of his actions and his belief in the justice system can truly get the job done in a world filled with violence and corruption.

The cast assembled for Season 2 is spectacular, which doesn't come as any surprise considering Marvel Entertainment's track record.  Series newcomer Jon Bernthal embodies Frank Castle like no one on-screen has before (and it has been tried three other times).  He absolutely nails Frank's no nonsense, uber-violent quest for revenge, which is guided only by his own sense of right and wrong.  Generally cold and unflinching, Frank's scenes opposite Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) allow his humanity to scratch the surface, and are particularly affecting.  Bernthal, Cox and Woll give the strongest, most heartfelt performances of the season.  All three are deeply nuanced and run the gamut of emotions.  We've also seen a prior film incarnation of Elektra, but Elodie Yung's portrayal here is much more faithful to the source material.  She's exotic, dangerous, whimsical, and represents a time in Matt's life he thought long left behind.  Season 2 sees great character development across the board, not only for main characters such as Matt, Karen, and Foggy (Elden Henson), but for a number of secondary characters as well.  Many of which carry over from Season 1, which helps to provide even more depth to Hell's Kitchen.

Season 2 is equally as dark and violent as Season 1 (maybe even more so), so the TV-MA rating shouldn't be any surprise.  If you've seen either of Marvel's previous Netflix entries you should have a pretty good idea of what to expect tonally.  And honestly, if you haven't seen them, you'd be doing yourself a disservice to start here.  You'd be better off beginning with Season 1 of either Daredevil or Jessica Jones.  I personally loved the balance between the noir and mystical elements in this season.  Where else can you find a burgeoning organized crime war in which one of the factions is a clan of immortal ninja?

I've kept this as vague as I could because I hate to be too spoilery in my main review so you can find more detailed, nerdy comments and facts in the spoiler section below the trailers (each provides a feel for the differing elements found in Season 2).  In short, any long time Daredevil fan will absolutely love Season 2.  And anyone who has enjoyed the previous Marvel/Netflix collaborations will likely get a kick out of it as well.  It provides a nice continuation from Season 1 along with solid character development, while also providing closure on this chapter at the same time as planting seeds for potential future story lines.  I guess it's now time for a second viewing while I impatiently await news of the show's future.  Here's hoping it comes just as quickly as it did following last season.













*****SPOILERS*****

- The Punisher was created by Gerry Conway and John Romita, Sr. and first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #174 in February of 1974.

- The three previous on-screen incarnations of Frank Castle/The Punisher were: Dolph Lundgren in 1989's The Punisher, Thomas Jane in 2004's The Punisher, and Ray Stevenson in 2008's Punisher: War Zone.

- Elektra was created by Frank Miller, first appearing in Daredevil #168 in January of 1981.

- The previous on-screen version of Elektra mentioned earlier was played by Jennifer Garner in both 2003's Daredevil and 2005's Elektra.

- I didn't realize this last season but Sgt. Brett Mahoney (Detective after The Punisher is apprehended), played by Royce Johnson is also based on the comics, originally appearing in Marvel Comics Presents (2007) #1.

- Assistant District Attorney Blake Tower (Stephen Rider) also has ties to the comics (although he was white there), first appearing in Daredevil (1964) #129.

- Grotto (McCaleb Burnett), the man that seeks out Matt and Foggy at Josie's is based on a minor character from Frank Miller's run on Daredevil.  Grotto never got into this kind of trouble in the comics though.  He was a small time criminal associate of Turk's (Rob Morgan).

- Nesbitt (Andy Murray) and Finn (Tony Curran), the two different characters to lead the Irish early in the season are based on characters from an arc titled 'Kitchen Irish' by Garth Ennis and Leandro Fernandez in Punisher (2004) #7-12.

- While he differs a bit from his comic book counterpart, Hirochi (Ron Nakahara), the Roxxon Executive with ties to The Hand, is based on a character created by Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark that first appeared in Daredevil (1998) #113.

- Roxxon is a classic corrupt organization in Marvel comics and has been referenced in a number of other MCU properties.

- The Blacksmith/Colonel Ray Schoonover - as far as I know there is no comic book precedent for this character who turned out to be the new source of heroin in the city and that was front and center in the gang war that led to Castle's family being killed.  I thought this worked well, tying back to Frank on a personal level via his military history.  Also, it certainly never hurts to have Clancy Brown in your show.  *UPDATE: I have learned that Schoonover was Frank's Commanding Officer in Vietnam in the comics, appearing in Punisher War Journal (1989) #4.

- *UPDATE: I never would have made this connection myself but my friend Robbie informed me that the CD labelled 'Micro' that Frank grabs from behind a photo in his house, could be a link to Microchip from the comics.  Microchip is a known associate of Frank's (often providing him with guns and intel).  Micro was also referenced on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as having been one of Daisy's hacker friends.  Thanks for the info Robbie!

- Two story arc titles from the comics are referenced by Frank Castle's trial: 'Trial of the Century' from Daredevil (1998) #38-40 by Brian Michael Bendis and Terry Dodson (although this arc actually had nothing to do with The Punisher), and 'The People vs. Frank Castle' from Punisher: The Trial of the Punisher (2013) #1 by Marc Guggenheim, Leinil Francis Yu.

- When the season begins the law firm of Nelson & Murdock is successful.  Well, successful in that they have many clients and have developed a great reputation in Hell's Kitchen.  Unfortunately they are broke (as are their clients) and are often paid in food for their services.

- I like the little things that help convey every day life for a blind person such as the braille tags on the hangers in Matt's closet.

- Ok, I can barely contain myself any longer...Wilson Fisk is back!  This came as a complete (and very welcome) surprise when we appears in the prison yard at the end of Episode 8.  Kudos to Marvel for keeping Vincent D'Onofrio's return under wraps.  We knew that we would see The Punisher and Elektra this season, but more Wilson Fisk is an added bonus!  I loved his continued evolution while in prison.

- The phrase 'Kingpin' is used for the first time in the series by Dutton (William Forsythe), the inmate currently running things in prison when Fisk arrives.  I am not aware of any previous comic book history for this character.  Does anyone know if any exists?

- Add Vincent D'Onofrio to my aforementioned list of strongest performances of the season.  I didn't want to mention D'Onofrio in my main review and spoil the surprise of his inclusion.  He is only in three episodes, but is every bit the force he was in Season 1.

- In the comics, Frank's family was gunned down by the mob in Central Park.  Here they were caught in the cross-fire of a botched sting on a drug deal taking place by the carousel.

- Castle's service history in the comics began as a Marine in Vietnam.  In the show, he says he served in Iraq and Afghanistan.  This change works well in keeping the character more modern to fit the story being told.  The old man that he speaks with on the roof top when he has Daredevil chained up was a Vietnam veteran, which is a nice nod to Castle's original comic history.

- The Punisher gives Daredevil a 'shoot me or I'll kill Grotto' ultimatum.  This is reminiscent of a number of instances in the comics in which Punisher puts DD in a similar situation.

- In case you were wondering, yes we do get the obligatory Stan Lee cameo!  It isn't quite as obvious as in Season 1, but his picture is still on the wall behind the front desk of the 15th Precinct.

- The Dogs of Hell motorcycle club previously appeared on Season 1, Episode 15 of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

- Castle and Fisk were being held in Cell Block D.  In the comics there was a story arc Ed Brubaker and Michael Lark from Daredevil (1998) #82-87 titled 'The Devil in Cell Block D'.  The story in the comic arc differs but this is a nice little nod to another highly regarded run from the comics.

- Episode 3 opens with a nun taking care of a young Matt - could this be Sister Maggie, Matt's mother?

- Foggy continues to provide bits of comedic relief (although he can get serious with the best of them as well) in what is primarily a very serious and dark series.

- Although it was a small part again, I absolutely loved that Melvin Potter (Matt Gerald) made another appearance.  A couple more nods to his comic book history are made as he picks up a saw blade when Matt startles him and when he shows Matt the body armor he is wearing so that he 'can be safe for Betsy' (same design as his Gladiator armor in the comics).  We can also still see Stilt Man's armor in the background of his work shop, AND last but not least, he provides Matt with the classic comic book extension cable billy club!  In the comics, Matt originally makes his billy club himself, but this fits in so well with Potter being his armorer.  Potter also mentions having heard from former contacts looking for him to produce armor but that he hasn't because he told Betsy that he wouldn't get in trouble any more.  Nice nod to his questionable, and so far un-explored past.

- And that leads me to this: it doesn't come until very late in the season, but we finally see, real, honest to God billy club swinging action!  This may seem stupid to some, but this is a comic book element that made me geek out when I saw it.

- There is also much more throwing of the billy club as a weapon this season which is awesome.

- We get a good look at Frank's moral code when he make a purchase at a pawn shop.  He has no problem doing business with a shady pawn broker to acquire a stolen police band radio and a sawed off shotgun, but as soon as the broker offers to sell him under age porn, Frank flips the 'closed' sign on the door and kills him.

- The Hand!  Another Frank Miller creation with very long and strong ties to the Daredevil mythos, we had teases of The Hand in Season 1 when a ninja-clad Nobu (Peter Shinkoda) fought with Matt, but he was thought to have been Yakuza at the time.  We officially learn of the mystical clan of ninja with the power of resurrection this season.

- After Elektra is nearly killed in a battle with The Hand, Stick (Scott Glenn) finally explains the 'war' he keeps referring to, telling Matt the interwoven history of The Hand and The Chaste.  The Hand took out a village hundreds of years ago, but a lone surviving child killed many of their men and was then referred to as 'The Chaste'.  Stick was that child.  I'm a little foggy on my Chaste history, but I don't think Stick was the creator of the group in the comics.  Can anyone confirm or correct me?  Oh by the way, Scott Glenn continues to be the perfect Stick.

- When Elektra first appears in Matt's apartment, she makes a comment that his beer 'tastes like piss'.  Stick said the same thing to Matt in Season 1.

- Nobu returns!  Showing that The Hand do have some sort of regenerative/immortal capabilities, Nobu is revealed to be the leader of The Hand and is still working in the shadows despite his supposed death.

- Nobu reveals that Elektra is The Black Sky.  Sound familiar?  The Black Sky is prophesied as being The Hand's 'greatest weapon'.  Season 1 led us to believe that the boy in the shipping container that Stick killed was The Black Sky.  This season, Stick reveals that he has known Elektra to be The Black Sky all along. So...is The Black Sky a legacy?  In that its power could inhabit different hosts over time?  Otherwise, why would Stick have been so determined to kill the child last season?

- Frank Miller has stated that he has no interest in seeing any version of Elektra other than his own.  I know that he created her and has some animosity towards Marvel due to her continued resurrection in the comics (he was led to believe that when he killed her that she would stay dead), however I would like to think that he would appreciate this Elodie Yung's take on Elektra if he were to see it.

- Elektra and Matt leave the party that she keeps him from getting kicked out of (when they first meet) and they speed off in a bright red Lamborghini, which is reminiscent of a scene out of the Frank Miller/John Romita, Jr. Daredevil: The Man Without Fear series from 1993.

- When Daredevil and Elektra first come across the pit below the old tenement building controlled by The Hand (property given to Nobu by Fisk in Season 1), I thought that things may lead to 'The Beast' from the comics.  Instead, it was the location in which Nobu was storing the strange coffin that turned out to be The Hand's means of resurrection.  'The Beast' may have taken things a little over-the-top on the mystical front at this point so I'm ok with that not turning out to be what happened.

- District Attorney Samantha Reyes (Michelle Hurd) is a nice connecting thread to the Jessica Jones series.  She first appeared in the last episode of that show.

- Speaking of ties to Jessica Jones, Jeri Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) also has a cameo, interviewing Foggy for a position with her firm after Nelson & Murdock part ways (if Matt and Foggy's split is anything like the comics, it will only be temporary).

- So with Foggy joining the firm of Hogarth, Chao and Benowitz, do you think that he and Marci (Amy Rutberg) - who recommended Foggy to Jeri - will appear in Season 2 of Jessica Jones?

- Rosario Dawson's Claire Temple again plays an important role.  In limited screen time (just as in Season 1), she is a trusted confidante and a respected voice of reason for Matt.  She also quits her job at Metro General Hospital due to their attempts to cover up the incident with The Hand.  We already know that she is supposed to have some involvement in the upcoming Luke Cage series (set to debut on September 30).  She also referenced Luke early in this season, albeit not by name.

- Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie) presides over Grotto's funeral which is attended by only Matt, Foggy, and Karen.  He plays an even smaller roll this season than in Season 1, but provides a connection to Matt's Catholic faith which is such an important part of the character.

- Elektra obtains her comic book signature sai after killing the assassin sent by Stick to take her out when she refuses to join him and stands by Matt's side instead.

- Wai Ching Ho reprises her role as Madame Gao for a short appearance in Episode 11.  I still believe that she will tie to the upcoming Iron Fist series somehow (based upon the Steel Serpent logo affixed to her heroin).

- I really liked Ellison's (Geoffrey Cantor) involvement in this season.  After being such an obstacle for Vondie Curtis-Hall's Ben Urich to overcome last season, this was a nice turn for Ellison.  He basically took over the roll of mentor to Karen, and for all intents and purposes was Ben Urich this season.

- It's still a shame that Ben was killed off last season, but Karen working out of his office and doing more investigative work was a nice touch.

- We get a little more background on Karen this season.  Speaking to Matt she says that she has a brother and that she's from a small town in Vermont.  Then when Ellison told her she could use Ben's old office, he gave her the file that Ben had on her and it included a clipping with the headline 'Mystery Accident Causes Teen Fatality'.  Maybe Karen was responsible for her brother's death?

- The meeting between Matt and Fisk in prison really escalates their animosity to outright hatred.  Matt threatens to manipulate loop holes to ensure that Vanessa can never enter the country again and Fisk threatens to dismantle the lives of everyone Matt cares for.  Matt even takes a pretty decent beating in the process.  Does this set up the potential for a 'Born Again'-like like story arc on the show?  'Born Again' is the classic Frank Miller/David Mazzucchelli story arc appearing in Daredevil (1964) #227-233.

- Just as Daredevil didn't appear in his classic red costume until the last episode of Season 1, neither The Punisher or Elektra are seen in their final television looks until Episode 13.  Frank's look doesn't change much other than the addition of body armor taken from Schoonover's shed that he spray paints a skull on and Matt enlists Melvin's help in making body armor for Elektra.  Both looks are revealed during the final confrontation with The Hand.

- Ok, so Elektra dies in Matt's arms after being stabbed with her own sai.  Very similar to the comics, although there, Bullseye did the stabbing.  Here it is Nobu.  As a fan of the comics, I was mildly disappointed that this was different, but it works for the story being told.

- I really enjoyed the evolution of the relationship between Matt and Karen.  Ups and downs, but especially the look on Karen's face when Matt reveals that he is Daredevil is great.  It's a look of both understanding and confusion and leaves the door wide open for their relationship to go in a number of directions.

- The Hand dug up Elektra's grave!  They're going to resurrect her like they did in the comics! The red wrap that she's in when The Hand's resurrection 'coffin' is closed is reminiscent of her classic look in the comics.

- Holy crap, I hope that we get news of a third season as quickly as the news for the second season hit last year.  I've been geeking out so hard it has been difficult putting this review together!

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