The first season of Marvel's first Netflix property, Daredevil, gave us a lot to be hopeful for. While the film properties in Marvel's Cinematic Universe have to toe a certain line (aka don't even THINK about a hard R, Deadpool-esque Marvel film), we got to see the brutal, gritty street crime from the pages of the comics properly represented on our streaming devices. With every bone-snapping battle, we were one step closer in fully realizing that Marvel had no problem taking it there, and Jessica Jones doubled down on that stance. While the second season of Daredevil released before we got the next installment of their larger Defenders cast has been introduced, one has to think that Marvel had some tricks up their sleeves in the way of new characters and advancing the story. With the additions of the war veteran-turnt-vigilante known as The Punisher, the silent killer in Elektra, and the mysterious Hand organization, Marvel's revealing a LOT about what's in store for the MCU. The question is, does season two go above and beyond the groundwork laid just one year ago?
With screeners on deck, I decided to link up with staff shooter-turnt-social media maven Frazier Tharpe to try and make sense of what Marvel's doing in roughly the first quarter of Daredevil season two's 13 episodes. With me being an ornery old man who's been reading comics since the early '90s and being infatuated with the bigger-picture that Marvel is painting (cinematically) and Frazier being the high exalted television guru, up on practically everything you heard was nice but never took the time out to set on your DVR, we wanted to see how our thoughts lined up. It's time to really dig into our first impressions and see if our worlds can collide and suss out if season two of Daredevil is both hitting its marks and sticking its landings.
khal: So, we’ve gotten a chance to peep season two of Daredevil, and I have to say, I’m feeling it. Part of it is the fact that I’m a stan for Frank Castle, and dig how Marvel’s introducing the character. I think I was more swept up in how they brought the vigilante to life–and actually did it right–than I was about the actual story that’s being told. You seem like you’re feeling some type of way though...am I right?
Frazier: I just...expected more. In the interim between Daredevil seasons I finally got acquainted with DC/CW’s Arrow and The Flash, and the way those series marry TV execution with fan-service is nothing short of amazing. And while these are two vastly different approaches to superhero adaptation, I couldn’t help feeling like something was lacking in the start to Daredevil season two. The narrative propulsion just wasn’t there for me. Instead we’re treated to what felt like hour-long scenes of Matt, his foppish best-friend who toes the line between endearing and annoying, and series-conscience Karen playing pool? Commiserating over their laughably struggle law firm, where they’re paid in chickens and oranges? I realize I’m just whining here, but it just felt very...pat. Jon Bernthal, though. FAM.
khal: Nah, it’s very real, but also a very real part of the comics that they decided to focus on. I mean, if it wasn’t for blind Matt’s ability to play a costumed detective in the night, their practice would truly be up shit’s creek. And I agree with your sentiments on Foggy Nelson—he’s a herb and practically has no qualms with staying a herb.
I also agree that the CW’s Arrowverse is quite possibly the best way to write—and interconnect—superhero TV. While that drawn-out style can work for something like Better Call Saul, it doesn’t lend itself well to Marvel’s Netflix shows. I seem to remember Jessica Jones suffering from some of the same issues during its first season. Although, if I’m being honest, I think this kind of writing does well for the way they are introducing The Punisher. Hell, his first serious kill (taking out almost an entire squad of Irish thugs) doesn’t even have his face or body in it. We don’t see him until he’s on some Terminator shit, walking through a hospital with a shottie on deck. Instead of him just being a fully-formed being, they slowly peel back the layers (similar to how Jessica Jones presented Kilgrave). It sounds like the problem is that they haven’t mastered occupying your time while they develop the stuff you really want to see?
Frazier: Maybe. Season one had such a fully-formed, singular narrative. Without the Kingpin and his Grand Plan™, now we see what Daredevil the series is truly capable of. This is the season that’s make or break. There’s an art to season premieres and introducing new arcs that the first episode just didn’t quite achieve for me. But that’s me being a TV snob amid Netflix-binging The Flash’s stellar first season. I loved Daredevil last year and was truly excited for this and despite a dampened start, so far it’s really humming. There’s not much to complain about when the Devil and Punisher are shooting the fair one while a team of SWAT officers snipe at them. And episode three is a brilliant, near-bottle episode, a two-sides-of-the-same-coin character study that purposely pits the crimefighters against each other on an existential level. Then it ends with a sequel to last season’s one-take hallway fight scene that’s simply fucking bonkers.
It goes beyond great casting, though. Punisher, Elektra, The Hand...these are stories I want to see executed to their fullest potential, not just in a binge-capacity. The start of season two isn’t giving me supreme confidence.
khal: I can feel that; I guess I’m just a hopeless romantic with this one...or looked past it. To be honest, I’m the same way when I go see one of those huge Marvel films; the trailers get me hype as hell for the film, and I’m a giddy 12-year-old again when I’m in the theater, but when I get home and think critically about it, I realize how much of a snooze that parts of these films can be.
Maybe I’m an apologist. Or maybe I’m just not weighing this series as heavy on the premiere (which I will admit had a much better ending than the rest of the episode might have let on).
I think my bigger question is, while Jessica Jones did a great job of introducing Luke Cage into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially with word that he’d be getting his own show, it’s hard to place where Daredevil actually sits. Yeah, we’re getting some pretty big Marvel-related entries into the Cinematic Universe (Wilson Fisk, Frank Castle, Elektra, etc.), but in knowing that Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist are set to link up in the upcoming Defenders series, it’s hard to know how the hell these things will properly connect.
All of that said, it definitely feels like episode three did a lot to bring me around. Setting aside that epic stairwell battle (which, in my opinion, sons the hallway scene from season one), being able to see Punisher and Daredevil actually interact without gunfire was intriguing, and added something to the show. I imagine most of those props can go to Bernthal and Cox for knowing their characters and knocking out their scenes together, but the story felt like it advanced more when these two were up on the rooftop, shooting the shit.
Would it be fair to say that, if Daredevil was being released weekly on HBO, you would’ve tapped out by now?
Frazier: Definitely not. But this is an ambitious scope that season two is embarking on. I’m not even a hyper nerd with a bunch of old comics out ready to point out what was done wrong, etc. I just want to see these arcs handled with the grace and precision that larger-than-life comic book storylines deserve. I know last year Daredevil got a lot of due praise for being more gritty crime thriller than superhero series, and that was dope. But this year, I want the execution to acknowledge that the storytelling is leaning from pulp to something more. But much like the good catholic Matt Murdock, I have faith.