When fans saw the trailer for the second season of Daredevil, many expected it to be a 13-episode battle between him and Frank Castle, the Punisher, mainly over what’s the best way to protect Hell’s Kitchen. Adding a deadly old flame named Elektra, who’s also like the Punisher, would make things complicated.
Daredevil had both of those and more in an action-packed season two. It also had a couple of plotlines that weren’t really needed. For one thing, why did those zombie ninja guys from the Hand make that big 40 story hole, and need all that blood? Two other familiar faces returned, but the overall story would have been smoother without them.
Charlie Cox again does a fine job as Matt Murdoch, the blind lawyer who is also the famous “Devil of Hell’s Kitchen” and Man Without Fear. He does his best balancing both roles, but it’s starting to take its toll. Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson), his law partner, is getting more and more worried Matt may not come back, especially alive. They’re also having problems paying the bills when their clients usually pay them in food, and keeping DA Samantha Reyes (Michelle Hurd) from trying to close them down if they interfere with her plans to be Mayor by getting rid of vigilantes like Daredevil and Jessica Jones (who Reyes wanted to lock up for killing Kilgrave last year). Karen Page, their secretary and legal assistant, is starting to fall for Matt, and they even date. She is wondering what he’s hiding, because it’s forcing him to neglect his job along with her.
He hears about someone who’s been attacking Irish gangsters, a biker group called the Dogs of Hell and members of the Cartel. That someone is Frank Castle, the Punisher, played with menace and a bit of humanity by Jon Bernthal from The Walking Dead. Very quickly, they are at odds over how to battle crime in Hell’s Kitchen. Frank believes in killing those who deserve it, but Daredevil prefers the legal system that he’s part of. In that battle, Frank wins the first round when he kills a guy named Grote who witnessed the Punisher’s massacre of the Irish gangsters.
Then there’s Elektra Nachios, played by Elodie Yung. She first acts like a classic femme fatale, proud of being as beautiful as she is dangerous. She doesn’t think much of Matt’s career, and thinks he’ll drop everything for her. Of course, she’s right, as he’s quickly involved in her efforts to expose some bad things that Roxxon (which she says specializes in oil, mac and cheese and slave labor). That leads to a connection with the Yakusa and the discovery of a 40-story hole in the middle of Hell’s Kitchen. However, that’s all dropped in favor of the arrival of a ninja cult known as the Hand. It wants Elektra to fulfill some destiny called the “Black Sky”. It also involves kidnapping people and draining their blood. It would have been better to drop the Roxxon connection and just focus on the Yakusa and the Hand trying to take over Hell’s Kitchen along with the other gangs. We don’t know why the hole was made.
Between both of them, Daredevil is able to maintain his code, but has a tough time trying to get Elektra and Frank to see things his way. At one point, Frank puts Daredevil in chains to keep him in check. Elektra, meanwhile, thinks she’s helping Matt by beating up an uncooperative witness. She’s shown as a sexier version of the Punisher, and one that Matt has a tough time resisting.
The show makes a wise choice by putting Frank through the system when he is caught and prosecuted for his crimes. It exposes a lot of flaws in the system, and in unexpected places, that may argue that his brand of “killing his way to justice” may be needed. For example, the tragic event that killed his family and led him to being a vigilante was actually an undercover sting that went wrong. The person who made this happen is a bigger surprise, along with the effort made to cover up the mistake.
The show also decided to bring back Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) for a couple of episodes, although it didn’t have to. Fisk is involved in Frank’s quest for justice in a way, but it’s actually part of his efforts to get back his power while in jail, and especially outside of it. There is a great scene between him and Matt over how he helps Frank escape, and it sets up a future rematch. Still, just using Fisk for two episodes to slightly advance Frank’s story is a bit of a waste. It could have been better to save Fisk for 2017.
Some other story arcs worked very well, especially the paths of Foggy Nelson and Karen Page. While Matt is distracted with Elektra and the Punisher, Nelson has developed more confidence in his legal skills and himself. Having a TV show about him would be cool, mainly about his new job with a familiar-looking attorney.
Page, meanwhile, is literally in the crosshairs through much of the season for one reason or another. Deborah Ann Woll does a wonderful job as a woman who is scared, but has enough determination to be a hero, even more so than Matt. She works very hard to understand how a family man and a war hero became a deadly vigilante. She digs through records and old newspapers to find out about that drug sting.
Page’s opinion about the Punisher, though, also shifts. At first, she tells Matt that maybe Daredevil may have helped create him, and also that “he could be any one of us.” Actually, that’s connected to her being forced to kill James Wesley, one of Fisk’s men, last season. She still doesn’t tell anyone about this. At one point, she even admires the Punisher because he’s honest, as opposed to Matt being forced to lie to her to keep her away from his secret life. When she sees how far Castle will go for revenge, though, she decides to stay out of his way. Still, her work not only shows everyone who the Punisher really is, but it gets her a job as a reporter at the New York Bulletin. She even gets Ben Ulrich’s old office, which means she will play that role, if a third season is approved.
Rosario Dawson is also back as night nurse Claire Temple. She is also caught in the crossfire when she has to treat the victims Daredevil and the Punisher…and others…are producing. She spends much of her time talking to Foggy about their “mutual friend”, and how helping out Luke Cage in Jessica Jones got her the night shift permanently. It wouldn’t be surprising if she was back this fall when Luke’s story begins.
There are also excellent scenes throughout the season. There’s another incredible hallway fight for Daredevil against bikers and gangsters. There’s also a great scene where the Punisher recalls the day he got home from Afghanistan and was reunited with his family. He does this in a graveyard, and the way he tells his story is heartbreaking.
How the season ends will probably disappoint people who hoped Matt and his gang would stick together against any threat. However, Matt shows some hope that he still wants people in his life when he makes a momentous decision. As for Elektra, her fate in the final episode may sadden some, but those who know her story through the comics know it’s nowhere near the end. She might become Daredevil’s ultimate enemy, and that means one more hard choice. Indeed, Daredevil’s mission is far from over.
Both seasons of Daredevil are now available to stream on Netflix.com