This past Friday, the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil was released on Netflix. After finishing the 13th episode late Saturday night, I spent most of yesterday trying to digest what I had seen. It’s not that Daredevil Season 2 is some labyrinthine work of genre-destroying fiction, but it has its moments.
In the interest of being thorough, here’s a quick rundown of all 13 episodes.
Episode 1: “Bang”
Season 2 starts first by establishing the power vacuum left in Wilson Fisk’s wake, then by having a mysterious lone gunman blow all the gangs vying for that power away. The Daredevil/Frank Castle (he’s not the Punisher yet) fight at the episode’s climax is as thrilling as any fight Season 1 brought to the table, and is exponentially better than the dull Daredevil/Fisk fight last year.
Episode 2: “Dogs to a Gunfight”
Some of the best stuff Charlie Cox gets all season happens here, as Daredevil has to deal with intermittent deafness resulting from what I assume was a severe concussion. Of course, he manages to get back on his feet and the resultant rematch with Castle is even better than the first. The Foggy and Karen vs DA Reyes stuff isn’t as engrossing, but it’s setting the table for the rest of the year quite nicely.
Episode 3: “New York’s Finest”
Remember Season 1’s best episode, “Cut Man?” Where Daredevil spent most of the episode in one location, arguing the philosophy of his vigilantism with a new friend? Remember how he eventually fought a hallway full of goons?
This was just like that, but bigger and badder. Furthering the comparison, this is Rosario Dawson’s first episode of the season, just like “Cut Man.”
Really though, this episode (and the next) belongs to Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle. He’s so far and away the best portrayal of the character that to compare them seems unfair. He’s absolutely electric.
Episode 4: “Penny and Dime”
Bernthal’s even more electric here, as Castle deals with the aftermath of wiping out all the Kitchen Irish. His speech to Daredevil in the cemetery immediately ranks as the best monologue this show has ever done. He’s still not the Punisher yet, but he’s not too far off. This season has some fun with four episode mini-arcs, and this is the end of the first, as Frank Castle has been identified and momentarily neutralized.
Episode 5: “Kinbaku”
So Elektra’s here, now. Élodie Yung is at her best when she can be flirty and carefree, and Charlie Cox is at his best when he can be Matt Murdock in the action scenes as well as the lawyer ones, so this episode crackles for most of its runtime. As the start of the second arc of the season, it feels fresh and propulsive in ways most mid-season episodes of these Netflix shows don’t get a chance to.
Episode 6: “Regrets Only”
As the Trial of the Century gets under way in one half of Matt Murdock’s life, the Heist of the Century get under way in the other. This is a fun, slinky spy caper whenever Elektra is on screen and a bullish legal drama whenever Castle is. It’s an interesting dichotomy, and draws us fully into what should be the series central conflict: Matt Murdock vs Daredevil.
Episode 7: “Semper Fidelis”
Things drag a little bit here, as Karen finally dives headfirst into her season arc, Matt’s dedication to Elektra starts ruining the Castle case, and the Yakuza investigation leads to a bunch of dirt on a train, but there are three standout scenes: the opening montage of potential jurors for the People vs. Frank Castle, Matt and Karen’s date scene/debate on the ethics of vigilantism, and Daredevil and Elektra’s fight versus a whole bunch of Undead Hand Ninjas.
Episode 8: “Guilty as Sin”
The Punisher and Elektra storylines veer off into unexpected directions here, as the former (despite a sterling argument from Matt and the soon-to-be-important Colonel Schoonover) derails his own defense at the suggestion of a mysterious prison guard, while the latter nearly dies and is suddenly rescued by and revealed to be working for Stick (Scott Glenn). So the second arc doesn’t end nearly as cleanly as the first one did, but it does get a jolt sent through it as the man revealed to pulling the strings behind Castle’s case is the Kingpin.
Episode 9: “Seven Minutes in Heaven”
Holy shit. This ep focuses mainly on the Kingpin recruiting Castle to take out his competition in Cell Block D (a man who was at least tangentially involved in the death of Frank’s family). The interplay between Vincent D’Onofrio and Jon Bernthal is intense, and Punisher (after that cell block fight, he is officially the Punisher now) vowing to kill Fisk on the outside is a gloriously in-character moment.
A good amount happens outside the prison as well, as Foggy and Matt have a true falling out after their case falls apart, with both deciding to close Nelson & Murdock for the time being. Karen, meanwhile, continues diving farther into Castle’s backstory with the help of Ben Urich’s editor, Ellison. Also, Daredevil breaks into a secretive Hand facility only to find a resurrected Nobu from Season 1 waiting for him.
Episode 10: “The Man in the Box”
Things ratchet up even another notch as, in no particular order:
- Matt visits Fisk in prison to accuse him of helping the Punisher escape.
- Fisk nearly beats Matt into unconsciousness and vows to destroy his life whenever he gets out.
- The Hand attacks the hospital where Claire had secretly hidden the victims from the last episode.
- Someone (assumed to be the Punisher) shoots up DA Reyes.
- Matt decides, once and for all, to be a full-time vigilante.
This is the fastest-paced and arguably best episode of this second season, and ends on a great, great cliffhanger.
Episode 11: “.380”
Another strong episode that starts wrapping up the Punisher’s origin story, as he meets up with Karen and starts truly digging into what happened to his family. Daredevil, meanwhile, fights off the Hand’s attack on Metro General and pays a visit to Madame Gao in order to find out who the mysterious “Blacksmith” who orchestrated the death of the Castles was. Both plotlines converge at the pier, where Daredevil finally gets the better of Punisher physically, only for both parties to be interrupted by the arrival of several of Castle’s former comrades and the explosion of the ship they’re on. Also Claire quits her job after the cover-up of a colleague’s death-by-Ninja, and Elektra vows to take out Stick for daring to try having her killed.
Episode 12: “The Dark at the End of the Tunnel”
The closest thing to an Elektra-centric episode this season finds the full revelation of her destiny as the Hand’s mysterious “Black Sky” a little underwhelming, though the scene where she turns on Daredevil and Stick before turning back on the Hand is quite good, as is the requisite undergound Ninja fight (fully embracing the side of Daredevil as a property that so easily allowed the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles to spring forth).
Meanwhile, Punisher and Karen confront and kill (well, Frank does the killing) the Blacksmith, revealed also sort of underwhelmingly to be Castle’s old CO Colonel Schoonover. Clancy Brown is always welcome on my television, though.
Episode 13: “A Cold Day in Hell’s Kitchen”
A fun Karen/Turk Barrett collaboration (after both, as people Daredevil has saved, were kidnapped by the Hand as bait) leads to DD/Elektra versus what appears to be 1,000 ninjas rooftop, in battle that is a drastic improvement on last season’s big action climax — complete with the help of a fully-outfitted Punisher. While this final episode feels more like the climax of the this particular episode arc than the season as a whole, it works very well as the former, with Stick briefly appearing to decapitate a defeated Nobu, Foggy getting a job offer from Jessica Jones’s Jeryn Hogarth, Karen fully accepting a job at the Bulletin (in Ben Urich’s old office), and Elektra “dying” and being resurrected at the hands of, well, the Hand.
Ultimately, this was a much more substantive season that last year, and while the lack of real crossover with either Jessica Jones or the upcoming Luke Cage were curious, the amount of care given to Punisher and Elektra’s backstories was worth the lack of streamlining — and, maybe most importantly, Daredevil’s costume improved greatly from last year’s fiasco. We’ve got enough side characters established now (Mahoney, Turk, Melvin Potter, Marci) that Season 3 being a no-holds-barred fight between the refreshed Kingpin and a weary Daredevil (with Bullseye involved as well, please) looks to be very engaging, indeed.