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

Elektra

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.

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