The People V. 'Daredevil' Season 2: Marvel's Netflix Series Is Back And (Mostly) Better Than Ever

Daredevil season two is very, very good. It's not quite Jessica Jones-good, but it's a significant improvement over the wildly inconsistent first season and a sign that Marvel Studios is really getting a handle on this whole Netflix series thing. The streaming corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe truly feels like it's in a good place.

Have you watched the second season yet? I certainly hope so, because we're going to take a deep dive into the season to explore what it does right, what it does wrong, and why Foggy sucks so very much. Naturally, spoilers of all kinds lurk below.

daredevil season 2 reviews

The Netflix Problem

The first season of Daredevil was finely produced and directed, well acted by a solid ensemble of game actors, and did a fair job of translating the grim world of Matt Murdock to the small screen. It was a good season of television and a strong start for the Netflix corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Except that it suffered from the Netflix Problem, an issue that plagues more than its fair share of the streaming giant's original series, particularly House of Cards. But Daredevil season one was the worst offender, by far.

The Netflix Problem goes like this: freed from the restraints of regular network television, streaming-only shows are built to be "binge-watched" in a few settings, meaning that their creators treat them like a 13-hour movie instead of a television show. Ironically, the resulting shows aren't nearly as easy to binge as shows that were produced for regular television. Look at Breaking Bad, where each hour stands alone, digs its hooks into you, and propels you into the next episode. It does this because the show had to convince audiences to return the next week, to stay excited and invested. Free of having to keep interests up for a week, Netflix shows stagnate, spin their wheels, and often have the bad habit of just ending rather than climaxing. After all, the next episode will auto-play in a few seconds anyway.

For the first season of Daredevil, this was a huge problem and for many viewers, a killing blow. There were about seven hours of great story in those thirteen episodes and they were stretched thin. The show was always more interesting than gripping. How many people would have stuck around if it aired week-to-week?

Daredevil season two has a rough start, but it soon overcomes the Netflix Problem in a big way, building its episodes around contained stories and concluding with scenes and shots that have you scrambling for the remote so you can beat the auto-play to the punch. Simply put, there is more story in the second season and that story feels shaped and crafted into bite-sized chunks rather than spread across thirteen hours. While not quite as propulsive as Breaking Bad or Lost or even The Walking Dead, Daredevil is more satisfying this season in every way.

The secret ingredient here is actually incredibly simple – the season has two major plots and can freely jump between the two when necessary. By juggling the story of Frank Castle's war against the criminals of Manhattan and Elektra's war with The Hand, the season always has something to fall back on. It's never about one thing. While the first season's battle against Wilson Fisk was compelling enough, it simply didn't offer enough material to fill out an entire season on its own. To the credits of new showrunners Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez, they looked at what didn't work about season one and they fixed it, which certainly bodes well for the inevitable season three.

Daredevil Season 2

Daredevil the Superhero

Can we take a moment to talk about how good Charlie Cox is on Daredevil? When he's Matt Murdock, blind lawyer, he brings the perfect amount of charm, smolder and humor to the role, selling us on why his friends stick by him, even when he vanishes at inopportune moments and returns with mysterious bruises. As Daredevil, he elevates a more thankless task, lending the barely restrained fury of this superhero a shot of Irish rage and a healthy dose of Catholic guilt. Daredevil punishes and he gets punished. Matt pays for his sins in the light of day. Cox, so inherently charismatic, sells this dynamic beautifully.

So why the hell is Daredevil so afraid to make its title character a proper superhero? Time and time again, the series downplays his super-senses. Sure, he can hear a beating heart and detect enemies a block away, but everything that makes him super has been pushed to the side. We're talking about a character whose sense of touch is so powerful that he can read text by feeling the imprint left by ink on a page. He can pick apart the make-up of complex chemical mixtures with a single sniff. Most importantly, his "radar sense" allows him to "see" in 360 degrees, giving him an edge in any fight sequence.

Instead, the show frequently treats Matt like a well-trained blind warrior, a Zatoichi-type instead of a superhuman capable of trading blows with the likes of Captain America and Spider-Man. This may sound like fanboy nitpicking, but it so often feels like a missed opportunity. When Daredevil eventually teams up with Jessica Jones and Luke Cage for The Defenders, he's going to look awfully outclassed unless his own series starts playing up what really makes him unique. He's not a blind guy who's good at punching and absorbing punishment – he's a blind guy whose superhuman senses allow him to literally experience the world unlike anyone else. It's time to break out that radar sense and it's time for the show to start visualizing it. Why strip a superhero of his coolest power?

If the series can introduce Daredevil's trademark weapon, his retractable billy club, in the final episode of season two, then it is not too late to correct this.

daredevil season 2 teaser

The Punisher

Jon Bernthal is the fourth actor to play Frank Castle on screen and, while I have a soft spot for Ray Stevenson's stone-faced wacko in Punisher: War Zone, he is arguably the best. Although the season takes far too long to maneuver him into position as the vicious vigilante we know and love (he only gets his iconic costume in the last episode!), Bernthal certainly makes it interesting. If we have to go through a step-by-step origin story for one of the Marvel Cinematic Universe's most straightforward characters, this is how you do it.

There is a rawness to Bernthal's performance that is nothing short of terrifying. In another context, his Frank Castle could be a serial killer, a slasher movie villain, a boogeyman. He's ruthless and he's efficient and he works fast and dirty. Daredevil rightfully treats his acts of vigilante justice as horror shows. To do anything less would blur the line that separates the Punisher from Daredevil, and these two need to exist on opposite ends of the superhero spectrum for their dynamic to work.

In a season with many new highlights, Bernthal shines the brightest. It takes an actor of great skill to make "vengeful soldier sets out for revenge" interesting, but he finds an angle. Even when his face isn't a mask of bruises, his Frank Castle looks like he's in constant pain, a twitchy mess looking for someone, anything, that will bring order to his broken world. And in his case, that anything happens to be violence. There's a dark nobility to his performance, a single-mindedness that lets us know (long before the characters onscreen know) that the Punisher may be the sanest guy in Hell's Kitchen. And that makes him all the more frightening.

Daredevil Season 2 Trailer


Daredevil's take on Elektra is a breath of fresh air for comic book fans who still ache from Jennifer Garner's ill-suited time with the character. Like with the Punisher, the series picks and chooses aspects of her character from various comic incarnations (while also crafting some new developments out of nowhere), creating a cocktail that is familiar yet just different enough. But most refreshing of all is Elektra's ruthlessness – she's a highly trained assassin, a vicious killer, and the show refuses to back down or transform her into someone more palatable.

Because that's Elodie Yung's job. While her storyline isn't quite as gripping as the Punisher's (more on that in a bit), Yung has terrific chemistry with Charlie Cox and every Matt/Elektra scene is dynamite. Sexy, bloody, slightly uncomfortable dynamite. You can cut the tension between these two with a razor-sharp katana. She brings out a side of Daredevil that is often missing on his solo adventures...he often enjoys this superhero thing, especially when he's got someone to kick ass with.

Yung is so good at playing a charming sociopath, creating a character we like even when she has no problem killing every single person who crosses her path. She brightens every scene she's in, bringing vicious life to the murkiest corners of this season's occasionally cumbersome final chapters. She's a blast, a vivacious presence whose particular brand of crazy is different enough from Frank Castle's to bring some serious variety into the season. She may end the season dead, but she'll be back. Elektra has a habit of getting resurrected and this show will be all the better for it.

Daredevil Season 2

Action and Aesthetic

Simply in terms of staging and choreography, Daredevil has some of the best and most varied action sequences on television (or whatever we consider Netflix to be these days). Every punch looks like it hurts and the show's sound designers spare us no grisly crunching and popping as Daredevil and his allies shatter ribs and pulverize spines all across Hell's Kitchen. Although the show does occasionally go nuts with its big, theatrical action sequences that exist to elicit wows, the entire series is impressive. Even the bread-and-butter encounters that are sprinkled into every episode, the smaller battles between Daredevil and a handful of henchmen, are impressively put together.

Everyone is rightfully talking about that big stairwell fight, but I actually prefer Frank Castle shiving his way though an entire cellblock. After all, we've seen Daredevil take down a small army before, but this was a grisly showcase for this Frank Castle's swift and merciless efficiency as a killer.

So why is the whole damn show so dark? Daredevil isn't just shadowy – it's occasionally incomprehensible. Too many scenes require too much squinting and the cinematography is often muddy, looking more like a direct-to-DVD action movie than an expensive Netflix series. It doesn't help that much of the series takes place in an endless series of tunnels, decrepit hallways, boring docks, and empty lots. For a show with such strong action, Daredevil often fails to place its action in interesting places and it often forces the audience to comprehend everything through thick shadows. You know you have a problem when your main character has a red costume (Frank Castle even takes to calling him "Red") and his outfit never looks anything other than black.


The Supporting Cast

Foggy is still a problem. It may seem cruel to single out one actor in a large ensemble, but Elden Henson was woefully miscast back in season one and he remains woefully miscast now. He could be a fine actor in the right role, but he feels hopelessly lost at sea as the loyal, witty, and dapper Foggy Nelson, one of the great "sidekick" characters in all of Marvel Comics. The friendship between Matt and Foggy is one of the most defining aspects of the Daredevil mythos, the only tether our hero has to the ordinary world, and Henson simply can't wrap his mouth around his dialogue. His chemistry with Matt is nonexistent. The threat of their friendship ending, which should feel like the end of the goddamn world, doesn't register at all and this is a huge problem.

Also a huge problem: season one stupidly killed off investigative journalist Ben Urich and Vondie Curtis-Hall is painfully missed here, especially since a key subplot could have benefited from his presence. Urich is one of the Marvel universe's great ordinary people, a fully realized character who knows how to navigate an insane world. Dispatching him so early is going to haunt the MCU for as long as it exists.

Thankfully, Deborah Ann Woll's Karen Page rises to the occasion. Matt and Foggy's whip-smart paralegal was fine in season one, but she's nothing short of great in season two, proving herself to be an invaluable member of the ensemble. She's so good that she makes Foggy scenes watchable. She's so good that we can understand why Matt would be torn between her and the the seductive, elusive Elektra. One of the show's great masterstrokes is making her the eyes through which we discover Frank Castle. Through her, we can witness his torment and through her, we can question his descent into violence. Daredevil fans know that Karen has a large role to play in one of the character's most infamous storylines, "Born Again," which means we may be in for some serious heartbreak. There is no way this show doesn't eventually go there and there's no way Woll won't just shatter us.

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise of the entire season is the all-too-brief return of Vincent D'Onofrio's Wilson Fisk, who has been biding his time behind bars and transforming every prisoner and guard into his personal henchmen. His role is brief this time around, but it allows this season to deeply connect to what came before – the consequences of Daredevil's previous adventures will soon come to bite him in the butt. Plus, D'Onofrio is still tremendous, playing the "Kingpin" as an overgrown child for whom every audible sentence is chore. It's such a weird, masterful performance and I can't wait for him to return in a larger capacity.


The Larger Marvel Cinematic Universe

Hardcore Marvel nerds may be disappointed by the lack of connective tissue on display in Daredevil season two. Other than a quick reference to Jessica Jones and an appearance by Carrie Anne Moss's Jeri Hogarth, this season might as well take place in its own pocket universe. Heck, if the "Battle of NY" article wasn't still framed and hanging in Ben Urich's office, it would be easy to forget that the Avengers are across the planet, accidentally destroying Sokovia.

But while the season doesn't offer up too many Easter eggs, it does expand the Netflix corner of the MCU in some pretty wacky directions. The focus on the war between The Chaste and The Hand is the show's biggest left turn into mysticism yet, suggesting that Daredevil's "realistic" approach isn't going to last too long. This is the season where characters were being brought back to life through strange magic and our heroes decimated countless ninjas. There's no turning back now.

Much of this seems to be laying the ground work for the upcoming Iron Fist series...and maybe, possibly, The Defenders. If you'll indulge my desperate need to shout about Political Correctness and Social Justice for a moment, it is frustrating that every Asian character encountered in this season was a ninja or a mystical warrior, each of whom was defeated by a team of mostly white heroes (Elektra is ethnically ambiguous, after all). The fact that Iron Fist himself will be played by the impossibly white Finn Jones suggests that the MCU needs to play close attention to the racial make-up of its heroes and villains. Does anyone want a Defenders series that consists of three white people and a black guy beating the stuffing out of evil Asian stereotypes?

Daredevil Season 2

The Hand, the Kingpin, and the Road Ahead

So...where do we go from here?

Daredevil, Stick, Elektra, and the Punisher all play a part in dealing a major blow to The Hand, but they're still around in the final moments of the episode, plotting to bring the deceased Elektra back from the dead. There's no way Elektra doesn't come back and there's no way she's not leading an army of ninjas when we see her again.

As for the Punisher, it would be cool for him to keep on popping up in Daredevil's world, but Bernthal is too good to be a regular guest star. Is it time to start hoping for him to get a spin-off series? After all, one of the last things we see him do is fetch a hidden CD with the name "Micro" on it, which is certainly a reference to "Microchip," his regular arms dealer from the comics. I'm personally fond of Mark Rucka and Marco Checchetto's run with the character, which was told almost entirely thorough the POV of the cops and criminals who get in his way and the vengeful female soldier whom he takes on as a protege. That angle would certainly keep things fresh and allow for multiple characters to co-exist alongside the character.

Perhaps most important is the continuing rise of Wilson Fisk, who is set to return more powerful than ever. Could next season see the Kingpin of crime get out of jail and begin his mission of revenge against Matt and Foggy? More importantly, could season three bring us "Born Again"? Maybe. I'd put money on it.