Review of Marvel's Daredevil

60 minutes

Blinded as a young boy but imbued with extraordinary senses, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) fights against injustice by day as a lawyer, and by night as the Super Hero “Daredevil” in modern day Hell's Kitchen, New York City. Produced by Marvel Television and ABC Studios, with executive producers Steven S. DeKnight (Spartacus), Jeph Loeb (Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) and Drew Goddard (Cabin In The Woods), the series also stars Rosario Dawson, Vincent D’Onofrio, Deborah Ann Woll and Elden Henson.
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by Lucy
May 2, 2016 8:38AM EDT

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After season 1′s fantastic villain Wilson Fisk is incarcerated, Hell’s Kitchen’s underworld is ripe for the taking and the season starts with several gangs fighting for territory, which was very realistic and immediately gave us a sense that the danger is far from over. It soon emerges that the one to watch is Frank Castle aka The Punisher, who obliterates all the competition quite literally using a range of semi-automatic weapons with precision accuracy.

The Punisher himself is a complex character (amazing acting from Jon Bernthal, truly a captivating performance) who the audience begins to like very early on in the series, by episode 3 or 4 I was sold on the goodness that is somewhere inside The Punisher. His tragic back story and internal rage parallels nicely to the original comics and his transformation from page to screen is almost effortless. Whilst Wilson Fisk was at times a little larger than life (excuse the pun), The Punisher feels very down to Earth and a genuine person of interest whose goals side effects terrify the city in a eerie echo of modern terrorism. A truly powerful force in the show.

Despite all the makings of this, The Punisher is apprehended in EPISODE 4?! I understand that the series wanted to get his trial, escape from jail and revenge all in one series but it did feel a very rushed story arc. Thank goodness Jon Bernthal is such a capable actor, I doubt many others could pull off the speed and deepth of The Punisher’s emotional story arc without making it feel shallow and fake. He’s also helped by having great on screen chemistry with Daredevil (as well as some spectacular fight scenes) and surprisingly Karen Page, where they have a sort of respectful friendship over the course of the series, helping each other to ultimately keep New York safe.

The overall storyline for this season is a real mixed bag of chop and change story lines that only really pull together after episodes 9/10, which is a good two thirds of the way into the season. Not ideal, and the middle section (episodes 5-8 in particular) suffered from hanging in limbo as lots of slightly dull legwork had to be done to get the main trio from being The Punisher’s attorneys to tracking him down after his escape from jail.

Thank goodness for the introduction of Elektra at this point! She was a fantastic addition to the show and her and Matt’s history was shown in some great flashbacks, grounding her as a major player in the series. I loved the mystique surrounding her, I was not sure for a long time whose side she was on, but I knew I loved her kick ass take-no-prisoners attitude to everything. Having her and Matt sneak around New York like a crime fighting superhero team was a great nod to the comics and also providing some greatly amusing comedic moments, which the darker tone of the season greatly needed. Her story, and surprising reveal as the ‘black sky’, fitted in nicely with the mythology arc of the series and also allowed her to have moments of doubt and sincerity with Matt throughout, especially in the season finale.

However overall Matt Murdock has been a bit of a dick to his friends this season. Part of me can see why he’s been written this way - to show how difficult it is to keep his two lives separate, the burden of a secret identity, the feeling of responsibility etc - however the Matt from series 1 would have eventually realised his mistakes and grieved for the loss of his support network, then tried to make amends. Season 2 Matt Murdock seems to be thinking more like his mentor Stick and putting ‘the mission’ and the future of Hells Kitchen before any feelings he has for his friends/family. The constant changing of his mind e.g. who he trusts/works with or wants to be in the season gave me a bit of whiplash and the inconsistency didn’t really help his character grow as much as he could have. All this cold heartedness and indecisiveness made Matt a bit inhumane and was a weak writing choice for his overall character development. It came together a bit in the finale when he realised how much having Elektra in his life meant to him and giving Karen the truth about his secret identity but it felt a little too late.

Speaking of weak writing choices, the most unbelievable romantic pairing of the year of Matt/Karen was written in for what reason exactly??! If it was done to show Matt had moved on from Claire then Elektra turning up and being flirty would have solved that. Was it introduced to drive a wedge between Matt and Foggy? Well Matt’s behaviour on the The Punisher court case did that just fine. Was it to build Karen’s character into a more well rounded individual? Nope she was doing that just fine on her own becoming an investigative journalist and continuing Ben’s legacy (which was a real highlight of the season for me). So after exhausting all these and many more options, I still have no clue why this romance was forced in, Matt cares for Karen a lot yes and Karen finds Matt attractive yes BUT this doesn’t mean they would end up together after only a couple of episodes?! It was truly cringe worthy to watch.

Although some of the character development was a bit off this season, lots of characters did get the development they deserved! Karen working with the editor of the New York bulletin was a route I really hoped the show was going to go down and I hope they continue to have Karen play a more investigative/journalist role in the upcoming seasons! Foggy finally got the lawyer recognition he deserves and showed his true potential in the court room scenes as well as using his inner legal dictionary to get the gang out of some tight spots. I really feel his character has stepped up from being the comic relief to a fully functioning part of the lawyer team. Brett, Claire and Melvin were all nicely rounded out this season, especially Claire, who has had some screen time in Jessica Jones since last season, continues to show that she is her own woman and will fight tooth and nail to save lives - whether it is that of her patients or that of Matt’s own mental and physical health.

The action scenes this season have been amazing. The set pieces and stunts have been more daring and far more refined compared to season 1, demonstrating the progression in Matt’s fighting skill as well as the heightened risks he’s taking in Hells Kitchen and the formidableness of his opponents. I love the different styles in Elektra, Matt and Frank Castle’s fighting and the way their tactics were shaped by their characters back stories with Castle having a much more brutal military style, whilst Elektra is flowing and deadly. There was a recreation of the infamous ‘hallway fight scene’ form season 1 where the camera tracked Matt fighting down a set of stairs - it was impressive but didn’t quite live up to the lofty heights of the hallway fight scene!

The mythology aspect of the series stepped up a notch, almost too quickly as suddenly Daredevil was dealing with not only ancient rivalries (plausible) but silent ninjas, blood sacrifices, immortality and err... killer zombies (very Implausible). I appreciated the inclusion of The Hand and the Chase as well as Stick’s larger role in the destiny of Daredevil BUT the mythology was chucked in over halfway through the season without the groundwork it needed and it turned the show into an episode of Supernatural where spookiness overrules plausibility.

In the finale it was a good old ‘boss battle’ with an army of ninja foes to provide enough drama and action to fill a feature length movie. The heartfelt moments between Elektra and Matt felt genuine (much more so than any of the Matt/Karen stuff) and I really liked how even though Matt has changed this season, he still puts innocent civilians lives first - that’s the Matt Murdock I know and love! The ending of the show was open ended, and I am curious to know exactly which characters will be back for season 3 (or The Defenders, which ever is made first!) Foggy and Jerry Hogarth (as seen in Jessica Jones) now working together implies that Foggy will thankfully be around for a while longer and Karen’s new position as a journalist in Hell’s Kitchen cermets her role as an audience POV for the remainder of Marvel tv universe.

Although I probably enjoyed season 1 of Daredevil a smidge more, I’m loving all the Jessica Jones and Daredevil crossovers already, and with Luke Cage less than 6 months away, it feels like Marvel is still on a role and there is promise of such more to come.


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