Season one of the Netflix series “Marvel’s Daredevil” was one of the most surprising hits of last year. It had a great story, villain, action set pieces and an interesting lead character in the form of Daredevil, the blind crime fighter.
It was no easy task to repeat such success with this new season, and while it wasn’t as good as last year, season two of “Daredevil” is still a great watch.
Season two picks up a few months after the first season ended. Wilson Fisk is in prison. Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) is easily and confidently fighting crime at night as Daredevil, and the city of New York is rebuilding from the events of the first season. However, any sense of stability quickly comes to an end when the Punisher enters the fray.
From the first episode, Frank Castle/the Punisher (Jon Bernthal) comes to the scene intent on taking down the criminal element within Hell’s Kitchen. He single-handedly eliminates three major gangs in the course of a few days. From that moment on, we see Daredevil try to track down and stop the Punisher.
In reviewing this season (avoiding major spoilers), what becomes really clear is the narrative that the showrunners are trying to set up. In the first season, Hell’s Kitchen saw a vigilante rise in the form of Daredevil, working to take down the pervasive nature of crime that had been running rampant since the events of “Marvel’s the Avengers.” Daredevil was seen as an enemy at the time but by the end of the first season, he was viewed more favorably by both the public and law enforcement.
Season two shows the people of New York begin to question vigilantism due to the specific way in which the Punisher carries out justice. Daredevil and the Punisher have different lines of morality when it comes to crime fighting. What makes Daredevil acceptable to the public is that he refuses to kill. He may usurp the law when it comes to the apprehension of criminals, but when it comes to the sentencing of them, he lets the justice system play its part.
The Punisher is judge, jury and executioner. That gives the city a bit of pause because the Punisher is a citizen taking all stages of the law into his own hands. The writers create an interesting juxtaposition between Daredevil and the Punisher, with two men with two very different moral codes fighting crime becoming the focus of philosophical debate.
Did Daredevil have a hand in creating the Punisher? Is it okay for Daredevil to fight crime and not the Punisher? One refuses to kill while the other finds it necessary. Should both men be hunted down for breaking the law? These questions and ideas are explored in the second season of Daredevil, and the merits of those questions are contemplated deeply by Murdock/Daredevil.
At every moment, we see Murdock fight against those who would see him break. In a scene between the Daredevil and the Punisher, the Punisher calls Daredevil a “half-measure.” The idea that Daredevil’s actions aren’t enough to stop crime is carried through the 13-episode season, with many characters calling his methods into question.
Daredevil believes that killing criminals serves no purpose and that everyone can ultimately be redeemed. Even if they can’t, he still believes they should have a chance at redemption.
Through the first few episodes, we see that the Punisher has a reason for his actions. The three gangs that he targeted had a hand in the death of his family. The murders are personal for him, and that adds depth to a character that on the surface may seem one dimensional. Bernthal plays the Punisher with depth and humanity, which ultimately makes him the most interesting and fascinating character of season two.
Every moment Bernthal’s Punisher is on screen is a moment that will end up being a highlight of the episode. In the comics, the Punisher has two main traits that compose his character: he never compromises who he is, and everything he does is in deference to his murdered family.
Bernthal does an excellent job presenting a character haunted by watching his family die. The people he kills are killed with purpose, and the purpose is to prevent them from affecting other families the way they devastated his.
Berhtnal’s presentation of Frank Castle is exemplary. He never backs down, even when his situation is most dire. Never apologizing for his actions or the way he is, Bernthal’s Punisher is fully actualized. He knows who he is and will not surrender. At the core of this character is someone who has experienced a loss so devastating that his method of dispensing justice is the only way he finds a way to cope with it.
There is an interesting quote the Punisher uses when debating the merits of killing with Daredevil. He says, “You don’t get to choose what fixes you.” Killing those who murdered his family is essentially the medicine that the Punisher needs, and he is unwilling to apologize for it. Bernthal’s particular portrayal of the Punisher adds to a narrative that would probably crumble without it.
As for the story, I don’t want to get too specific because that would lead to spoilers, but the story evolves beyond Daredevil-versus-Punisher fairly substantially. When that happens, the story begins to lose its strength and interest a bit. I found myself still wondering about the tension created between Daredevil and the Punisher’s contrasting ideologies and less on the new direction the story was trying to go.
The first four episodes are great, with the fourth being the best between both seasons, in my opinion. After those initial episodes, the main narrative starts to slow down a bit for the next three, while the secondary narrative still holds strong right through to the end. The season starts to pick up again with episodes eight through 12.
The last episode was a bit underwhelming. The villain for this season (not the Punisher) is fairly mundane at the end, which is a letdown considering how great a villain Wilson Fisk was in season one. It would be more accurate to call it the main antagonistic force than the villain, however, and if you watch the series, I believe you’ll understand why I make that differentiation.
The main story also becomes victim to a fairly apparent plot hole once certain elements are revealed at the end. That said, the action sequences are top notch, surpassing those from last season. Jon Bernthal has a grisly fight scene in a cell block that is worth watching all on its own. This series is definitely not for children, as the show presents rampant violence that includes the action sequences mentioned earlier and multiple torture scenes that it gruesomely presents on screen.
At times the sound editing gets a bit wonky, with the score’s volume dropping for no reason at all. But other than that, the sound mixing and sound design were really good. The lighting was just as good as the first season, and the costume design was well done, which is important since this is a superhero show.
All in all, “Daredevil” season two was an enjoyable experience. Jon Bernthal’s performance as the Punisher made this season special and was absolutely the highlight. The story gets off to a great start but does tend to get in its own way at times, but it at no point makes the show bad. If you are a fan of superheroes, crime noir or action flicks, this show is definitely for you. If you have an issue with violence and gore, you should probably steer clear.
I would give “Daredevil” season two an 8.25 out of 10