The second season of Marvel’s Daredevil is finally on Netflix — and it is good. Correction: It is great. The writing is so strong, in fact, that it is hard to fathom how the creative team will be able to live up to expectations going forward. It is rare to find a show that is about friendship, family, honesty and the importance of holding fast to core principles, but Daredevil delivers on all counts.
This is a spoiler-free review, so I will try to only address the overall themes going forward.
In short, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung), Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) and pretty much every actor with decent screen time fires on all cylinders. What makes the series so good is that each character has a clear idea of his or her ideal self, but the fierce pursuit of those ideals put them at odds with friends, family, co-workers, fellow citizens, and even the rule of law.
What would you do for your core principles?
- Would you be willing to quit a job?
- Would you walk away from someone you love?
- Would you be willing to shed blood and die?
- Would you kill?
- Would you be willing to be hated by society?
Over and over again the writers of Daredevil look at the cast and say, “Okay, what defines these characters and how do we put them in situations where their fidelity to core principles is tested?”
The series explores big questions about life, death, truth, justice, loyalty, honesty, integrity, redemption and friendship in every episode — but it does so with intelligence and grace.
Finally, without a doubt, Jon Bernthal nails his performance as Frank Castle (aka: The Punisher). He was given a tough role, and he crushed it. There are not really enough good things to say about his take on the character other than to tell the man to take a bow. One can only hope he makes an appearance in Luke Cage.
If you do not have a Netflix account, then you may want to consider getting one to watch Daredevil. At this point the only question is: When will Charlie Cox’s version of Matt Murdoch make an appearance on the big screen? He certainly deserves it.
I haven’t watched season 2 yet, really looking forward to it. I thought season 1 was great.
What’s interesting is that no one is concerned with arguing about how faithful this show is. When you really look deeply at the source material, take it seriously, and see what potential it has for drama and good storytelling, then what you come up with tends to make people happy. This show is very different from any incarnation of the comic that I’m aware of, and yet it feels incredibly faithful because it focuses on the core principles and conflicts for each character. And when it strays, it does so for reasons that are obvious and rewarding.
In that vein, I’m really curious to see what they’ve done with The Punisher, a character who I thought was fantastic in the fairly recent Garth Ennis run. I’m sure this version isn’t as sympathetic to the writers as that one was, but there’s a lot of interesting stuff there. Fighting crime like you fight a war is an interesting concept. The questions about how far you can go, and who should get to play executioner can be quite interesting. There’s never been a live-action version of the Punisher that really looked at those questions, so I’m excited to see how they approached the character here.
“In that vein, I’m really curious to see what they’ve done with The Punisher, a character who I thought was fantastic in the fairly recent Garth Ennis run.”
I’d like to hear your thoughts after you finish the season. I have made no secret about my feelings about The Punisher, anti-heroes, etc., but in this case I think they wrote him with enough layers to shine and then Bernthal rand with it. My main thing with television and film adaptations is that the “core” of the character needs to remain intact, even if some details are changed to better fit the needs of the project.
Great analysis, Doug, and I’ve really enjoyed this season, as well.
In the past, I’ve usually regarded the character of The Punisher as very two-dimensional, so I’m so impressed how Jon Bernthal brought some honest-to-goodness humanity to Frank Castle, especially with to episode 4 and the scene in the graveyard where talks about the day he came home from Afghanistan. Also, I like how the show is using Karen Page as an audience surrogate with regards to how viewers might view The Punisher and his actions, in that even as you pity him, the show doesn’t let you forget that he’s a unrepentant killer–one who kills other murderers, yes, but a killer all the same.
And I also liked how the show reminded the audience that, like Matt, Frank is also a Catholic–albeit one who has lapsed for obvious reasons–just to hammer home the point that, were it not for Matt’s own Faith and strict moral code that only God and the justice system gets to decide who lives or dies, he could just as well become just like Frank if pushed too far. After all, we saw how close Matt was to edge of crossing the line quite a few times in Season 1 like with his interrogation on the rooftop or with whether or not he should kill Fisk. And this season, he’s got the added temptation in the form of Elektra. That, in itself, is compelling as you can see in their relationship that both are trying to “convert,” for lack of a better word, each others core principles. That and how she represents another path Matt could have headed down. Clearly, both Frank and Elektra test Matt, and the audience, with regards to mercy, forgiveness, and “loving one’s enemies” in the face of also wanting retribution or vengeance when one has been clearly wronged. Not sure if I mentioned this comparison before, but the show does present a very good argument on why Daredevil is the Graham Greene of superheroes.
“And I also liked how the show reminded the audience that, like Matt, Frank is also a Catholic–albeit one who has lapsed for obvious reasons–just to hammer home the point that, were it not for Matt’s own Faith and strict moral code that only God and the justice system gets to decide who lives or dies, he could just as well become just like Frank if pushed too far.”
Thanks for bringing this up, Mike. I debated whether or not I should tease this out in the review, but then figured I would refrain from getting up on my Catholic soapbox for a bit longer. 😉 Sasoc and I had a little bit of a back-and-forth over this very same question when I discussed the Daredevil trailer not too long ago. I thought the way the writers addressed these questions was superb.
The fact that we are discussing all this on Palm Sunday is fitting. I’ll share a bit from today’s Gospel. I mentioned the thief on the cross with sasoc, but I will talk about it in more detail here:
“Now one of the criminals hanging there reviled Jesus, saying, ‘Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us.’ The other, however, rebuking him, said in reply, ‘Have you no fear of God, for you are subject to the same condemnation? And indeed, we have been condemned justly, for the sentence we received corresponds to our crimes, but this man has done nothing criminal.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied to him, ‘Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.'”
The reason why Daredevil does not want to kill is because, like all practicing Catholics, he understands that redemption is possible in all men up until they take their dying breath. There is hope for every man — even the worst criminal — if he repents for his sins and turns to Christ. Even people like Frank Castle or Elektra can save their souls if they turn to Christ. This may make absolutely zero sense to a non-Christian (I’d be happy to explain to readers if need-be), but it’s one of the reasons why I love Matt Murdoch so much. He is very much torn between the “earthly vengeance” we all desire for criminals and the mercy/forgiveness his faith demands.
I’m going to need to find the time to watch this show. To me, Punisher has always been nothing more than a hypocritical supervillain (he claims to fight crime despite the fact he himself is a mass murderer, and is just as bad, if not worse than the people he murders in cold blood). If they took this and made a more complex character, that would be really interesting.
Am I the only one who would love to see some of these characters (Daredevil, Kingpin, Elektra, Punisher, etc.) in a “Spider-Man” story? “Ultimate Spider-Man” comics did a couple of neat “gang war” stories involving these characters. Since the past movies have involved
(It’d also be neat to see some of the MCU TV characters make theatrical appearances. I would love if in the “Infinity War” series the Avengers are forced to turn to Coulson’s S.H.I.E.L.D. for help with the Infinity Stones, esp. given that S.H.I.E.L.D. is dealing with space, the Kree, etc. I could see Iron Man and any other techie members getting in a disagreement with Fitz, Simmons, and Mac about how the properties of the Stones and how to nullify them, since they didn’t solve it today. 😉 Besides, now that I think about it, I REALLY want to see Iron Man using armor with a built-in 0-8-4 gauntlet and mini-Overkill device.)
“If they took this and made a more complex character, that would be really interesting.”
The writers are guilty as charged. 🙂 Frank is certainly a complex character in this series. Hopefully the same creative team will stick around for awhile.
Let me be one of the first to congratulate you for making the Rabid Puppies Hugo Recommendations for Best Fanwriter!
You’ve been on my ballot for weeks, but some other folks may be taking notice too.
Thanks so much, Cirsova! I really appreciate it. I’ve met a lot of really cool people through this blog over the years, so I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. The plan is to continue to meet — or exceed — your expectations going forward. 🙂
I liked this season. It was quite well-written, and a worthy successor to Season 1. However, I didn’t like how the Elektra subplot took time away from the Punisher (whom I found more interesting) and I disliked the Elektra character in general for how she just burst in and ruined Matt’s life like a plot tumor. I also noticed that they didn’t do a good job of linking the Punisher and Elektra/Hand subplots, so it felt a little disjointed.
After reading your review, however, I understand what they were trying to do: go off of a thematic connection between Punisher and Elektra. Elektra’s philosophy is very similar to the Punisher’s despite her different methods of achieving it. And like you said, Daredevil and Elektra tried to convert each other to the other’s point of view. Taking that into consideration, I don’t feel quite as bad about Elektra anymore.
On that note, Season 2 of Daredevil is quite good and highly recommended to fans of the first season.
I sort of looked at Elektra as a “slow burn” in terms of liking her. True, she did sort of just bust onto the scene…but I thought they did a good job putting all her puzzle pieces together by the time the 13th episode was over.
The stand-out for me this season really was Frank Castle. He took the level of acting in a Marvel Netflix series and really kicked it up a notch. I was really happy with the cast overall to begin with, but Bernthal delivered in a big way.
Indeed. The Punisher was my favorite part of that whole series. I really wanted the story to focus more on him, but what we got was pretty good.
Had to leave this blog and a couple other sites alone for a week didn’t want any spoilers for season 2 till I finished it last night.
This was the best Marvel Netflix season so far thanks in no small part to the Punisher but there was just too much gore. One of my friends is abandoning the Netflix shows because of it and though I’m probably still going to watch them it’s got me seriously reevaluating the time I spend viewing all the superhero live action shows out now.
As for the redemption comment yes anyone can be redeemed if they turn to christ provided they don’t sin against or blaspheme the holy spirit.
“This was the best Marvel Netflix season so far thanks in no small part to the Punisher but there was just too much gore.”
This is a fair criticism and I wondered myself how many people would be turned off by it. I guess that’s one of the reasons why I think it’s appropriate for Netflix. Doing The Punisher on network television would probably fail spectacularly because it would be too sterile, but then again it is possible to be unnecessarily dark.
“I’m probably still going to watch them it’s got me seriously reevaluating the time I spend viewing all the superhero live action shows out now.”
I’m not sure if you watch the DC television shows, but that’s one of the reasons I do not — there is simply too much out there. I could spend my entire life just watching comic book shows at this point. I’ll follow the Marvel shows that are out now, but I don’t think it would be wise to make room for much more.
The only DC show I watch is The Flash, but I haven’t heard too many spirited things about season two. I tried watching Legends of Tommorow and it feels like it was written for three-year-olds.
NateWinchester is going to get you for that one, Zariusii! 🙂
My wife has watched a few episodes of Legends of Tomorrow but I’m not sure how exactly she ranks it in terms of quality.
Death to the infidel!
Nah, while you’re welcome to come over to TV4tRoU for more discussion, I’ll admit LoT has been one of the weaker DC shows (well it and Supergirl), I keep holding out hope it’s going to get it’s sea legs finally and start being the show I know it can be.
Flash S2 is just great, I don’t know how you could have heard anything bad about it. (ok… it was weaker earlier in the season when it had to devote time to set up LoT but after that it’s back in top form)
THE best DC comic show right now (though the definition is loose) is actually iZombie. ;D
Agreed it’s reached market saturation I’m dropping all the DC shows save Supergirl (still can’t stand the liberal preachiness) and Gotham (probably dropping it when season 2 is over) we only have so much expendable time so I suppose it’s make ours Marvel.
Up to episode 7 now. Book marking here to comment later.
“Up to episode 7 now. Book marking here to comment later.”
Nice. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
Alright, finally finished and pretty darn good. While I’ll admit I think S1 was maybe just slightly better written and structured (sometimes you can see the seems in S2) I found myself liking S2 better in the general. And credit to the actor and writers for turning Punisher from a character I was always just “meh” about to one I actually cared for.
I also admit I just hate Wilson Fisk (but in the way I’m supposed to) and really wish I could watch Frank gun him down.
I also liked that the show DEMONSTRATED why vigilantes might want to avoid killing rather than just talk and preach about it. We actually see it where the streets and common man are against the Punisher while most are for Daredevil (and it makes it easier for the Punisher to be framed later on while it seems pretty hard for anybody to ever frame Daredevil).
Part of me can understand why they put Elektra in this season – she is the temptress to pull Matt onto the Punisher’s path – but I wasn’t always fully sold on what they were trying to do with the character.
Otherwise pretty good and I’m generally pleased with the fight scenes though annoyed they lit them all to the point one could very easily lose track of the fighters. Especially now that I’ve watched THIS:
It’s hard not to be a bit of a fight scene snob. 😉
Did you see raz0rfist’s review of it?
“Part of me can understand why they put Elektra in this season – she is the temptress to pull Matt onto the Punisher’s path – but I wasn’t always fully sold on what they were trying to do with the character.”
I think part of the problem was that Punisher was so good that it seemed a bit deflating when they started to concentrate on Elektra. Something was certainly a tad off with her, but not to the point where I’d give anyone a hard time about it.
“Did you see raz0rfist’s review of it?”
Probably, but I can’t remember at this point. I’ll have to circle back to his YouTube channel. I’m sure he did a good job.