Last weekend the wife and I started on season two of the Netflix show Daredevil. We only got a couple of episodes in, and so this weekend we marathoned the rest of them and finished the season off. This was one of the great new series that Marvel has been putting out, and I really enjoyed season one last year.
So how did the second season measure up, especially since we now have Jessica Jones to complement the same universe as well? Unlike last year’s quick review, this one will contain spoilers, so I’m going to ramble through this sentence before putting in a break to keep all the spoilers off the top of this review. You’ve had your warning, so here we go.
Season two focuses on the reality of Hell’s Kitchen after the removal of Wilson Fisk at the end of season one. Nelson and Murdock made a name for themselves by putting Fisk away, and they’ve been serving the helpless ever since. In the courtroom by day, and Daredevil taking out criminals at night, bringing them to lawful justice. One of the biggest introductions to this season was the character of The Punisher, Frank Castle, who has taken on the mission of ridding Hell’s Kitchen of it’s criminal filth, but with bullets and assassinations, rather than beatings and judicial proceedings. The philosophical differences of Matt and Frank are a key component of the season, with both of them learning more about who they are, and why they do what they do.
All of this is complicated by the introduction of Elektra, Matt’s old girlfriend, and a fellow disciple of Stick. She’s a killing machine, but unlike Castle who kills as a way to bring about punishment, Elektra enjoys the act of killing at a raw emotional level. One of the things I really liked about these two characters, Elekrta and Frank Castle, is that both presented a different world to Matt that he was positive he could rise above. In a simplistic worldview, both Elektra and Castle killed people. They were both murderers, despite usually killing only when needed. Yet, they often were the ones who got the job done, when Matt’s brand of pacifism failed. The fact that Matt left Wilson Fisk alive at the end of season one came back to haunt him in a big way, and will continue to complicate his life in the coming seasons.
One of my complaints about the first season was that Matt often got his butt handed to him. This season he seemed much more capable, despite still having some tough fights. However, I never felt like I was watching someone who could never be as good as the bad guys. Daredevil pulled off some incredible victories in his fights, and never ended up on death’s door the same way as season one. However, this doesn’t mean that Matt was any smarter than in season one.
In fact, if I have one major complaint about season two, it’s that Matt Murdock never really “got it” throughout the whole season. One of my Facebook friends posted a comment last week that read “The poor life choices of Matt Murdock will be back after these messages.” That theme seemed to resonate throughout the entire season. Matt simply couldn’t get over his own martyr complex to realize how badly he was messing up every situation he was stepping in to.
Unlike Jessica Jones, who often seemed forced into bad decisions by her desire to correct a single mistake, Matt Murdock seemed compelled to do whatever it took to be a lone vigilante, even if it meant the cost of his life. In stereotypical fashion, Matt was the epitome of Catholic guilt. He felt that the burden of all the evil in Hell’s Kitchen was his mission, and his alone. He had to give all of himself to make the bad stuff go away, no matter how much it cost him. And, in this season, it cost him everything. He lost his legal firm, two girlfriends, and damaged his longest friendship. He also had to compromise his morals to allow others around him to kill, despite his distaste for it himself.
The continual bad choices by Matt made me feel a lot less empathy for him as a character. I loved how he spent time in conflicted contemplation with his priest in season one. This time around, when the writers could have really tackled the philosophical issues around lethal vs. nonlethal vigilantism, we were left with only one deep conversation that didn’t really feel like it mattered.
I also felt like other characters, such as Foggy and Claire, who were wonderful balances to Matt in season one, simply got ignored by Matt as the season wore on. Claire was one of the most level headed friends that Matt had, and yet everything she said just seemed to go in one ear and out the other. In the episode where Daredevil is protecting the hospital, and Matt and Claire have a conversation on the rooftop, all I could think about is how much I wanted Matt to have his ass handed to him for being such an idiot.
His desire to be self-sacrificial became a badge of honor and pride that Matt wore proudly on his chest. It made me start to wonder if Matt’s desire to save the people of Hell’s Kitchen was really about saving lives, or about proving to himself that he was important? At the end of the day, lives were saved, but was the purpose and motivation about sacrifice, or about the good feelings that the sacrifice gave Matt. After all, he ended up willingly throwing away all the things in his life that brought him real joy.
At the end of the story it seems like Matt’s passion for justice cost him his one true love in Elektra. But, throughout the entire season we were shown just how bad she was for him. Despite feeling like Matt and Elektra had way more on-screen chemistry than Matt and Karen, from a philosophical standpoint, Elektra was horribly bad for Matt. Her wanton greed for power fed and fostered Matt’s desire for being a hero. At the end of it all, Matt’s morals were so compromised that he didn’t even bat an eye as Elektra and Punisher slaughtered dozens of Hand ninjas. When Elektra dies in Matt’s arms and he marches towards Nobu to exact revenge, I just didn’t care, because I think deep down, Matt didn’t care. Then, when he sorta, kinda, throws Nobu off a roof, it doesn’t even feel like Matt had really crossed the line he said he would never cross. It was a hectic fight, and the edge of the building just happened to be there as they were leaping around each other and tossing each other to and fro. In the end, Nobu didn’t even die, and Stick had to finish the job once and for all.
In the concluding scene, Matt reveals his identity to Karen. Yet, I’m left wondering about his motivations. Is he revealing himself because he feels he owes Karen an explanation? Or is because he wants one more person to look up to him as the hero that he wants to be seen as. I wish, and hope, that it’s because he’s starting to realize how much pain his hero-complex has brought to those in his life that he cared about. But, a small part of me worries, that it’s just another bit of food for his pride to chew on.
Despite my long rant about Matt’s character flaws, the second season of Daredevil was quite good, and the production and storytelling was just as good as Daredevil season one as well as Jessica Jones. The fight scenes were awesome and really well produced. I loved the single-cut scene in the stairwell in particular. I also really loved seeing Foggy and Karen come into their own persons. It feels like they’re no longer under the shadow of Matt, but are learning to explore lives of their own. These lives with undoubtedly be intertwined with all of the superheroes in Netflix’s various series, but it seems like they now have a chance to do something powerful on their own, with their own talents and abilities.
From what I have heard, Luke Cage is the next series coming in the Defenders cycle. I’m anxious to see more crossovers like the ones in season two of Daredevil. I think it creates a wonderfully complex world that we all get to view through different vantage points. I’m excited when all four of them come together in the super-series, and how all of their different personality types gel and click with one another. I have a feeling it won’t be all roses and sunshine when it’s all said and done, but perhaps they’ll all find something in each other that makes them all better heroes in the end.