Daredevil: Season Two Review
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Over several decades of comics, the best Daredevil stories tend to fall into two categories. There are the urban thrillers, in which a principled defense attorney spends his days practicing law and his nights breaking it as a costumed vigilante intent on cleaning up Hell’s Kitchen the hard way. Then there are the fantasy adventures, where the supersensitive blind martial artist takes on ninja armies and colorful assassins. Rather than trying to embrace both at once, the second season of Marvel and Netflix’s Daredevil splits the difference with a season divided between the two.

The first half of the season picks up not long after season one. Without a neighborhood crime boss, Hell’s Kitchen has become a hotbed of competing gangs—or it would be if someone weren’t steadily eliminating them with military firepower and tactics. The investigation brings Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) up against the Punisher (Jon Bernthal) in a battle of fists, guns, and competing ideologies. Midway through, the focus shifts as Murdock gets caught up in an ancient ninja feud involving his mentor, Stick (Scott Glenn), and ex-girlfriend Elektra (Elodie Young).

Daredevil came strong out of the gate with an extended origin for Matt’s transformation into the costumed Daredevil, along with his conflict with the charismatic Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio). As rewarding as it is to see the hero in the full swing of it, this season overall suffers from a lack of focus that such stories provide. The split between storylines and their respective modes adds to that feeling of disjointedness.

Between the two halves, the Punisher material easily proves the more involving. Bernthal gives a great performance as the former soldier whose personal code considers more traditional heroes an ineffective “half-measure.” Even as he nails the Punisher’s brutal action style, his season high-point comes during a fourth episode monologue, where he intensely describes the loss that drove him to his violent quest.

And if the second half doesn’t match the drama of the first, it certainly does try to make up for it with the sheer number of ninjas. So many ninjas. It’s so great to see them really starting to address this side of the comic, and Glenn is such a treat to watch as the toughest septuagenarian ever, but it’s just a damn shame that the plot is such an unholy mess that leaves so many unanswered questions. From the hot-cold-hot relationship between Matt and Elektra to the still-mysterious “Black Sky” prophecy from season one, it’s all great action and no sense.

Thankfully, running through both half-seasons are solid arcs for Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) and Foggy (Eldon Henson). Each of the other members of Nelson and Murdock find themselves struggling to keep the law firm running while questioning their connection with Hell’s Kitchen’s notorious vigilante. Henson gets some especially strong material this season, reminding viewers why Foggy has always been the heart of some of the best Daredevil stories.

While it lacks the compelling antagonist that helped drive season one, Daredevil maintains a high level of quality while broadening its scope. The addition of the Punisher and Elektra both work in their own ways, and while one gets a much better, more complete story, the other lays some groundwork that could pay off down the road. Drawing from the comic’s long history, the series continues to deliver some of the superhero TV action around—this time with more ninjas.

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