This spoiler-free Daredevil season 2 review is based on the first seven episodes.
The good news is that if you enjoyed the first season, Marvel’s Daredevil season 2 is a return to nearly everything that brought you into the fold in the first place. We have a perfectly cast core of leads, some extraordinary new characters (more on them in a minute), and a more cinematic look than some of Marvel Studios’ big screen efforts. Rest assured that what follows is spoiler-free.
Matt Murdock is now even more fond of fighting impossible odds in his day job, as the Nelson & Murdock law firm has a knack for finding work that can’t pay the bills. When the team lands a high profile case for the first time, we get a little bit of courtroom drama injected into the show’s genre mix. It works quite well (Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson really shines in these scenes), and the sight of two idealistic lawyers making a hopeless case coincidentally recalls Netflix’s recent surprise hit, Making A Murderer. Charlie Cox, Elden Henson, and Deborah Ann Woll are more settled into their roles, and without the necessary clutter of origin stories this time around, we get to enjoy their natural chemistry a little more.
Are you worried that a red-costumed Daredevil would somehow detract from the street level vigilante justice of season one? Don’t be! This is the most effective and practical superhero costume I’ve yet seen in live action. Daredevil moves better than any big screen Batman has managed to, and the attention to detail in the action sequences is all in place. It even looks like Daredevil’s fighting style has evolved to account for his heavier, more protective gear. Those fight scenes are every bit as spectacular as you would hope (although one, clearly an attempt to one-up the incredible corridor fight from season one, feels a little self-conscious in its intentions…it’s still damn cool, though).
Jon Bernthal’s Punisher provides enough unhinged menace to help make up for the lack of an obvious central villain. Bernthal is terrific, and there are a few moments where you can see hints of the man Frank Castle was before he decided to make it his business to slaughter gangsters. This isn’t a charming leading man angling for his own series, it just serves to make Castle’s story all the more tragic. The show strikes an impressive balance between generating enough sympathy for Frank without glorifying his particular brand of vigilante justice. There’s no attempt to soften the visuals of what happens when your average criminal gets shredded by military grade hardware, and the effect is deliberately unsettling.
Elodie Yung’s Elektra Natchios is the character to watch, though. The mysterious woman from Matt’s past is not only clever and cold, but every bit the physical match for Daredevil, as well as everyone else she crosses paths with. Elektra’s motives are unclear, as are her intentions towards Matt, which makes hers the more compelling of the many stories the season is juggling. Just as surely as the first season of this show effectively erased the 2003 film from everyone’s memories, Bernthal and Yung can safely be considered the definitive versions of these characters.
The bad news is that Daredevil season 2 fails to address some of season one’s weaknesses. I can’t really say that there’s a supporting character who has emerged to take the place of Vondie Curtis-Hall’s Ben Urich, so that’s a presence that feels a little missed. The pacing, handily season one’s biggest flaw, hasn’t improved, and there’s no shortage of overwritten, overwrought dialogue, often delivered in long chunks. Sometimes it’s expository (which is little excuse), and other times, well, it feels like these characters just want to hear themselves talk.
The pacing does benefit somewhat from fewer flashback sequences. While season one had to spend a fair amount of time throughout its run establishing backstory for Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk, Daredevil season 2 dispenses with most (not all) of that, which should lead to a more immediately compelling narrative. The show juggles the Punisher’s rampage, the intricacies of Nelson & Murdock’s feud with an ambitious and possibly corrupt DA, the introduction of the mysterious Elektra (who has an agenda of her own), and the lingering threat of the Yakuza, and it’s a lot to take in. Any two of these might be able to fuel an entire season, and this is just what they hit us with in the first seven episodes. It’s going to take some work to bring this all together for the final six, but I can’t wait to see how they do it.
All Daredevil season 2 lacks is the sense of heart-pounding urgency that Jessica Jones delivered in its best moments. Daredevil is a far more deliberate affair by design, and it suffers a little for it (but only a little). On the other hand, Daredevil is more cinematic in its visual approach, so the whole Netflix “urban superhero drama” genre isn’t supposed to be a one size fits all affair. Flaws and all, Daredevil is still the most ambitious live action superhero project around, and even the things I don’t love are the result of a series willing to take risks that I can’t imagine other franchises would.
Oh, and don’t worry, while this season doesn’t rely on knowledge of any other Marvel Studios productions other than Daredevil season one, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of fun stuff to keep an eye on. There are plenty of Marvel Comics references to keep the hardcore fans paying careful attention. But let’s save those until it premieres…
Daredevil season 2 premieres on March 18th in the US and UK.