People always say how Marvel’s TV series are so much darker, more serious and ‘better’ than their movies, and Daredevil isn’t helping us prove them wrong. The second season of Marvel’s Daredevil was released on Netflix on Friday and to put it simply, it is still awesome.
The premiere season began with Matt (played by Charlie Cox) struggling to answer if what he does – fight crime and criminals as a vigilante – is right. He was doubtful so often and occasionally sought guidance from his priest. In season 2, Matt’s moral compass wavers less. He smiles when he beats thugs to a pulp and takes a firm stand when someone compares him to other wannabe heroes.
Trailers indicated that Matt faces the Punisher, but whether or not he does is for you to watch and find out. All we can tell you is that the way the story unfolds and the Punisher’s story arc is built, the creators have given us enough reasons to either love or hate him.
The stunts and choreography follow the same style, but the directors have successfully upped the excitement. Action sequences are longer, more complex and set in a larger area with more scope for movements. But somehow, they are still very crisp and believable unlike the highly flamboyant skills we see on big budget movies with wire cables and other paraphernalia. This is pure but not-so-simple fighting at its best.
Cox is still great as the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. After earning acclaim for his portrayal as a blind superhero last year, he keeps up the good work this year too. Jon Bernthal complements this with a stellar performance as the Punisher. If he’s frightful and overpowering in frame, two episodes later he’s equally engaging as a vulnerable and innocent man. His attention to detail – swallowing too much while crying or licking the blood off his lips while speaking – works so well.
If you’re looking forward to the experience, then stop here, for further ahead is a minefield of spoilers. If you’d like to know how the season is, then following is my review of the first six episodes.
The first scene has to be a fight. In the last season as well, we saw Matt Murdock knock out a few human traffickers. In this season, the initial few minutes are important for they show a smiling Matt, satiated with his work. He’s just beat up a few men and shows no feelings of guilt anymore. Daredevil has evolved into a confident vigilante, and is sure of his intentions and method of delivering justice.
On the other hand, Foggy is coming to terms with the fact that his blind best friend is a superhero, and rather well. Karen is still in love with Matt and that heartbeat seen by the pool table was just so well thought and... hot.
On the action front, there’s a great scene where the Irish gang gets shredded to pieces. Just when we thought that they would be the ones to cause trouble this season -- Pew! Pew! Pew! Everyone dies like it’s a Martin Scorsese movie. We’re not left wondering who brings the conflict for too long: At the end of the episode we get a small fight between Matt and the Punisher. This is a surprise because took a whole half season earlier till Matt meets Wilson Fisk.
Everything seems great so far including the stunt choreography (which we didn’t get to see a lot of but it’s OK and we’ll wait for later). Matt seems to have taken a bullet but it doesn’t look like a lot of harm’s been done.
Umm, that bullet did kind of harm him. Matt is going deaf! Charlie Cox and the director do a stellar job of freaking us out when Matt inaudibly shouts out and panics when he can’t hear himself. Who would believe this is the same obnoxious rich smug we saw on Downton Abbey all those years ago?
Also, Foggy is no longer going to be a useless sidekick. He goes out of his way and risks his life for the greater good. Perhaps this is to prove that he not at a disadvantage just because he doesn’t have superpowers.
Matt has a showdown with Punisher again (twice in two episodes; aren’t they leaving anything for later?) and it looks like the Punisher abducts him. Maybe in the next episode, we will see them debate whose version of justice is right.
Best scene: The one where Punisher walks into a shady-looking shop. The man behind the counter is scared of him at first, but as the seconds tick and you’re waiting for the other shoe to drop, you start thinking: Maybe he only harms the bad guys. As soon as the vendor suggests some child porn to him, you go “Uh-oh”.
The scene beautifully sets up the debate between Daredevil and the Punisher. A lot of us will think that the shopkeeper had it coming – he’s selling child pornography, obviously he deserves to die. But then, why is the Punisher a villain and not a hero?
Two words: Hallway scene. As soon as the lights go out, you know you are in for another one of true, Daredevil’s brand of action that puts so many great action scenes to shame. Last season, they gave us a long, uncut and brilliant fight scene that’s burned into my memory. This time, the creators didn’t limit themselves to a hallway, but also went down a few flights of stairs.
The entire sequence is made up of smaller scenes blended so perfectly together, almost like watching an eloquent, elegant dance routine with a beginning, middle and an end. What I loved so much about last year’s scene was how Matt would pant and huff after fighting a few thugs, making it look like it was all real. This time, he gives out just one heavy breath at the very end.
However, until that scene I thought the best part would be the rooftop conversation between Matt and Punisher. At the beginning of the argument, you’re rooting for Matt (Duh! He’s the hero), but by the end when Grotto comes into the frame, you don’t really know what to think anymore. He killed an old lady for heaven’s sake. But Grotto did seem like he was sorry about it all and that he really did not have a choice. But Punisher’s argument that he ‘just knows’ there is no hope in people is not working for Matt. Still, he is still not a villain in the truest sense of the word. Or is he?
We finally have a villain!
Gotcha! He dies in just one episode.
That ice-shaver wielding Irishman on a scale of 1 to 10 – 10 being King Joffrey evil – was a solid eight, but it’s a shame he got his face blown up in the very same episode he was introduced in.
By this point, I’m not so sure who’s the hero – Punisher or Matt, judging by a tear-jerking monologue Punisher gives at the tombstone. That is some great acting by Bernthal that you do not want to miss. I could not take my eyes off his Adam’s apple as he pretended to swallow while crying. I don’t think we have seen the last of Punisher though.
Some bad stuff is going to go down – a bigger, meaner villain – requiring the combined forces of Matt, Elektra and Punisher to bring him down, but four episodes in and things seem sorted already.
Yes, just four episodes isn’t enough time to pass judgements but if there was supposed to be a big bad villain all along, maybe they should have given us a thread to follow from the first episode.
PS, I don’t know who Elektra is and don’t really care right now either.
Maybe I should care who Elektra is. Matt has a crazy ex-girlfriend! The episode was the first slow ones of the season and even then I was anything but bored. Yes, I know, a lot of guys would have groaned a bit at the more than necessary amount of romance but I guess it fit in well with the script.
It was important to show Karen and Matt’s budding romance because they are the two central characters. Also, because I am sure it’s going to crash and burn soon. It is necessary to show them as these blissful, happy-two-puppies-in-love so that we feel the sadness too when (mind you, not if) something goes wrong.
And for a moment there I really thought that Matt really did kill the guy and maybe that’s why he is so guilty all the time. But no thanks to Elektra, he didn’t. It was rather unsettling how she made those orgasmic faces when he punched his father’s killer’s face in. It should be safe to assume that she is selfish and doesn’t give two cents about Matt but I CAN’T WAIT for the showdown with the Japanese guys chasing them.
Well, that showdown was a dud. It was the shortest, most ‘blehhh’ fight sequence so far in which a few Japanese men and a woman in blue lipstick attack Matt and Elektra one by one for two boring minutes. We have a new villain, a Japanese collector of human fingers, and he isn’t very intimidating at all.
To be honest, this may have been the only not-exciting-enough episode of the season so far, but I guess Matt and Elektra’s sleuthing around at the expensive party was fun enough to not let us lose hope.
If we’re to go by their suspense-building skills so far, I’m inclined to wait for the next episodes to follow. I hope they are just as good as the first, if not better.
Watch this space for my take of Episode 7-13 (to be uploaded on Sunday).