Warning: Mild spoilers ahead.
Coming into season two of Daredevil, Netflix and Marvel had a lot on their plate. Being the first glimpse of Marvel's Cinematic Universe on Netflix, Daredevil succeeded as a tentpole, while introducing a darker, way more brutal take on the superhero show—but the stakes, and the expectations, were only going to get higher. Challenge accepted, apparently. Not only did Daredevil surprise us by revealing that its sophomore season would arrive far earlier than expected, but the powers that be also revealed that it would be introducing Frank Castle, also known as the murderous vigilante The Punisher, alongside the nimble assassin, Elektra.
With those headlines, Daredevil ensured that season two hype would be burning up. But they also had to make sure they had the action down. It's something season one flourished at, bringing out some intriguing pieces of stunt work, the centerpiece being the intoxicating one-shot hallway fight, which found Daredevil trying to save a child while kicking all of the bad guy ass. Surprisingly, they've topped that scene with an impressive sequence for season two.
After escaping from The Punisher after a lengthy captivity that challenges Daredevil's ability to defend his city without using lethal means, Daredevil enters a stairwell with two objects: an empty gun that's been duct taped to his hand, and a long piece of chain (that was originally securing him to a piece of the rooftop) on his other wrist. While he's making his way down this long stairwell, a gang of bikers are making their way UP. The scene immediately goes from an escape route into a violent struggle, allowing Daredevil to showcase just how committed he is to his belief that you can protect the city without killing everyone. And while it's not as technically amazing as a one-man, one-shot fight, with the addition of a gun (which he never uses) and this long-ass chain, and the bigger-yet-more confining space, this stairwell sequence is an important scene that comes off beautifully.
Daredevil's stunt coordinator, Phil Silvera, wasn’t afraid to admit that this scene was meant to rival season one’s iconic fight. "Part of it was purposeful, part of it was an evolution of that,” he told us. “[In this episode], the Punisher is challenging him and telling him that you are one bad day [away from] being me. You feel like you are going to cross that line. The idea about this particular sequence was him descending into hell. We start off from a familiar place where we are in the hallway, and it transitions to the staircase and works its way down. In those moments, you feel a sense of brutality building up with him. That sense of brutality is only upped in the sequence. You feel like he might cross that line a few times. But he doesn’t. That’s the whole thing.
"The Punisher questions his morality and what we try to show in that sequence is that either the danger is coming from him or from the other guys as he works his way down into hell."
This isn't just Matt Murdock kicking and punching his foes, though; Daredevil has to incorporate these weapons that he can't get rid of while viciously wailing on the bikers. For Silvera, this was a welcome disadvantage. "The one thing I love about the prop is that we know the gun is empty. We know that immediately,” Silvera raved. “Talking with Charlie Cox, he and I came up with the way he backs the guys up this season before he pulls that trigger—and it’s empty. There’s a way of using that with opponents and scaring them a little bit. But once you use that gag once, the gun is empty. I think creatively it let’s us do a little more with the character.
"There’s one moment," Silvera continues, "where [Charlie]’s coming down the staircase and he senses more guys coming out at him. In an original version of that sequence, there’s a guy who shoots a gun at him and he evades the bullets and knocks the gun out of his hand, and then pulls him over the staircase. Charlie is good at pointing this out. He knows. He’s got these senses. With that chain we are able to anticipate before he even got the gun on him and just completely knock it out of his hand and wrap its neck with it. There’s things like that that play with the character, and we are able to do things differently from a distance. He can’t throw something, but he can definitely whip it and sense that they are coming ahead of time. Then there’s other times when he is so into the fight that he can’t anticipate certain things. Like the other guy who kicks him down the staircase."
One amazing fact about television is that these kinds of sequences are conceptualized and produced in a shorter time than you’d realize. Silvera said that, for example, the hallway fight from season one took around two-and-a-half days to nail; this stairwell battle took about three. "We are rehearsing, conceptualizing, previewing, shooting, rehearsing, conceptualizing, previewing, shooting. We are doing this nonstop. We worked through our weekend and then came Monday and started the sequence. Then we had to move on because we had other sequences at the bottom of the staircase that we had to do. There was the rooftop fight that you had; there was the bottom of the staircase fight we had. So, there’s more story and action to it—it’s grown a little bit more challenging."
It’s always refreshing to see storytelling being more than the words coming out of the actor’s mouths; some of the best comic book scenes are chock full of action without long diatribes or speeches. Like the age-old adage says, “actions speak louder than words.” And with this stairwell sequence, Silvera and the entire Daredevil team did a lot in proving that Daredevil’s fight doesn’t involve the deaths of a gang of bikers. Sadly though, Silvera couldn’t break down every sequence of season two.
“I can’t give away all of the secrets.”