Couch Potato

Daredevil Season Two Hammers in the Point

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Well this is a little late, but I guess its okay since most of this site is me rambling about a show from twenty years ago. I’ve discussed both first seasons for the two Marvel Netflix shows so far, and I’ve loved both of them. As much as I really like the MCU movies, I think these shows are possibly surpassing them, probably just because they have the space of 13 hours to breathe. Superhero comics are inherently serialized, so it’s kind of weird that we cram a story into a single movie. I guess that could be one of the aspects of the MCU that’s working so well for it, since we get to follow all of these characters over multiple movies, but the Netflix shows are really taking advantage of the format and knocking it out of the pack. The MCU movies are kind of like big event comics, and the Netflix series are like great runs on a title. Both have their strengths and their weaknesses, and they’re combining to create a really fulfilling universe. So far the first seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones have both been fantastic. I would say Jessica Jones is objectively better thanks to the amazing character development and the sheer guts it took to make a superhero show about surviving abuse and trauma, but I kind of liked Daredevil better, mainly because he’s my favorite superhero, and I have so much love for the characters. So obviously I was excited about the show getting a second season, and surprise, surprise, it was great.

The second season of Daredevil picks up a couple months after the first season where Nelson and Murdock have taken down Wilson Fisk and his Kingpin crime empire, while Daredevil continues to be dangerous force in the underworld of crime. Things are going pretty good for them. That is except for the brewing mob war that’s rising up in the streets of Hell’s Kitchen. Turns out Wilson Fisk was running a pretty tight ship, keeping everything in check, and when he got taken out by the Devi of Hell’s Kitchen it created a hell of a power vacuum, causing all sorts of other minor gangs to start fighting each other for domination. So Daredevil has a lot of work on his hands, taking down all sorts of new nationalities of gangsters. But he gets a little help in his quest to wipe out crime in the Kitchen when some new gang starts straight up annihilating the other gangs with military precision. Or is it a gang? Nope, it’s Frank Castle, the Punisher, who is single handedly destroying the Irish Mafia, a motorcycle gang, and the Mexican cartels. And even though he’s helping Daredevil out with the crime rate, he’s a little concerned about the rampant murder, so he starts trying to hunt Punisher down and bring him to justice. Which doesn’t really go well for Daredevil, since it leads to getting his ass beat twice, and then chained to a chimney with a gun duct-taped to his hand, given a crazy choice. Frank has a criminal there, and is planning on killing the guy unless Daredevil either shoots Frank, or the guy. But what does Daredevil do? He figures a way out, breaks through the chains…and still gets the guy killed, but he did his best! Which is more than we can say about certain other superheroes named Superman.

And at this point I was beginning to think that the show was going to go in a really strange place, and basically just make the Punisher the villain of the season. But that turned out not to be the case, when Karen Page starts snooping around in his life, finding out Frank’s depressing backstory. He was a career solider who returned home from a lengthy tour, planning to enjoy time with his wife and kids. That is until they were mowed down in a gang-war in Central Park between the Irish Mafia, the Mexican Cartel, and the motorcycle gang, which is a little coincidental since that’s who the Punisher has been targeting. And pretty much right after we establish his motive, he ends up getting caught by the police, and the rest of the season kind of becomes a legal thriller where Nelson and Murdock become Frank’s representation in his high profile mass-murder case, all while combating a shady District Attorny who is clearly hiding some stuff about Frank’s family’s murder. And all of this leads to Frank getting sent to jail where he gets to hang out with the Kingpin for a while, who pulls some strings to get him back out in the world to wreck havoc as the Punisher.

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Which sounds like a pretty solid season right there. But that’s actually only half of the plot we get, because while all of the Punisher stuff is going on, we’re also given some crazy ninja stuff! Yep, Stick is back this season, talking about the Hand just like he did last time, but whereas the Hand stuff didn’t really go anywhere last season, it became a real big deal this time since we’re given a new entryway to that plot, the first appearance of Elektra. Now, I love Daredevil. I’ve said that a lot on this site. He’s my favorite superhero, I’ve read almost every book the character has appeared in, and I adore Matt’s character, the supporting cast his books have, his villains, pretty much everything about Daredevil is right up my alley. And I can’t stand Elektra. I don’t know what it is about her, but she has never worked for me. She’s always seemed more like an amalgam of Frank Miller’s fetishes than an actual character, and as much as I hate the concept of “Fridging” a female character, I kind of think she worked best dead. If you’re not familiar with the term, fridging refers to creating female characters that’s only purpose is to die and spur the male protagonist into action. It’s a horrible trope that is far too overused in comics, and generally is a sure sign that the writer isn’t sure how to write female characters or motivation. But, as much as I hate to say it, I think the character of Elektra should have stayed dead, because she just doesn’t work well. To me at least. She’s right up there with Gwen Stacy for me as love interests that I don’t buy as the soul-mate of our hero. And while I really don’t care for Elektra in the comics, I think she worked pretty well in this season. Elektra, here played by Elodie Yung, is a more interesting character, with an actual personality and goals. She’s Matt’s college love, and one of the only people to know about his abilities. They were very much in love, until she tried to get Matt to kill the man who killed his father. And things fizzled out from there. But she shows up during the Punisher trial, trying to get Matt involved in some Hand stuff by convincing him to help her investigate the Yakuza/Hand and their interests in New York, which was pretty amazing because we got to see Matt and Elektra basically being spies, which was a lot of fun.

And that’s basically all the season was. Foggy and Karen investigate the truth behind Frank Castle’s family’s death, the Punisher kills a bunch of guys in prison and is freed by the Kingpin who wants Punisher to kill all the gangs in New York so he can take over again when he’s out, and Matt and Elektra fight undead ninjas while trying to figure out what their endgame is. Which is odd, because the lack of focus kind of worked wonders for the season, kind of making it a slice of life story, for a superhero. And it’s really good. For a while I was kind of concerned about the season because of the lack of a primary antagonist. The first season was so strong, and I absolutely loved the portrayal of Wilson Fisk and the impossible shadow he casts across the city. But we didn’t really get a Kingpin this season. I mean, yeah, he’s in the season, but we didn’t have a major antagonist. The Hand are up to evil ninja shenanigan, but they’re really only there to set up whatever the hell’s going to go on in the Defenders miniseries. And it’s not like the Punisher really was the villain. He wasn’t an ally, but he wasn’t really a villain either. He was a foil, used to really work with the central theme from last season, but I’ll get to that. Honestly, I think the Punisher works best in this type of capacity. I’ve never really gotten into solo series with him, which make him our protagonist, because I think it’s really hard to sympathize with Frank’s actions. It’s super easy to sympathize with his back story, but he’s such a bad guy and I really can’t agree with his tactics. But when he’s basically being a cameo in another hero’s comic, he’s great. Especially when it’s Daredevil. The two work really well together, with Matt’s steadfast moral code being stretched to its limits by the allure of Frank’s lack of limits.

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And it’s that interplay between Frank and Matt that really gets at the heart of this season. Now, when I wrote up Jessica Jones, it was pretty obvious what to talk about. The degree that that show became a meditation of abuse and trauma was astounding, and was unlike anything I’d ever seen before. But really, Daredevil season one didn’t have anything that strong. It was basically just a good superhero story, without any social issues going on. It looks like Luke Cage is really going to look at race and the epidemic of police murdering unarmed black kids, which is also going to be an incredibly heavy topic, making Daredevil kind of the odd man out. Because Daredevil doesn’t really have a strong social moral going through it. Really, the main theme that I picked up on was the same one I found in season one. The importance of heroism. Which is kind of great that that’s what this season was going for, since it came out right before Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, with its baffling hatred of heroism. Now, I talked about this before in my article about season one of Daredevil, but one of the things I love most about this season was its assurance that being a hero was the way to go. I said this last time, but season one of Daredevil had a really poignant scene in it that shown a light on the topic of heroism for me, cementing the idea that heroes are more focused on saving innocents than punishing villains. It was something that hadn’t really clicked for me until watching that season, but it’s something that’s really changed my view of superheroes, and protagonists in general. Matt does everything he can to follow this code. Both the Punisher and Elektra multiple times try to seduce him into the easier path, and kill criminals. But every time they do Matt finds a way to not kill people, and at all time becomes focused on saving innocents. He doesn’t go against the Hand to kill Nobu, he does it to save Elektra. Matt’s central struggle in this entire season was trying to save the souls of everyone around him. He does his best to talk Frank out of his rampage, he tries to get Elektra to run away with him and quit this war with the Hand, he tries to get Stick to end his vendetta, he even tries to keep Karen safe and out of the dark world he inhabits, doing his best to keep her safe. Pretty much everything Matt does in this season is to keep people safe. Not to punish people, that’s literally the Punisher’s job, and the show does everything it can to show us that his path is the wrong one. We’re supposed to go with Matt, because he’s a hero.

The last thing I want to talk about here is a sort of secondary theme that I noticed in the show. And it wasn’t something that I really picked up on until near the end of the show. The hero stuff was pretty obvious and right around the surface. But there was another theme hiding in there that I found really fascinating. It’s kind of hard to explain, and I’ve been trying to come up with a good way to explain it, but I think another thing season two is trying to show us is the horror of addiction. Not drugs in this case, no one is addicted to drugs. But almost every character in this show has an all-consuming obsession in their lives, which pretty much ensures none of them will actually be happy. The three main characters of the season are probably the most obvious. Matt makes it painfully clear in this season that he can’t and won’t give up being Daredevil, and even though he tries to make it seem like it’s this great burden bearing down on him, there are several scenes where we see that Matt is at his happiest while being Daredevil. It’s his true self, and even though it destroys almost every other facet of his life, he’ll never get rid of it, because he can’t stop being Daredevil. Similarly, Punisher and Elektra have dedicated their lives to their individual missions, and would honestly rather die than give up. You can tell neither Frank nor Elektra would stop if they finally killed everyone that wronged them. They would just find other people to kill. They’re three broken people who have given up their lives in order to feed their addictions, and honestly kind of love it. It’s the only thing that makes sense to them. And it’s not just the three superheroes. Karen is obsessed with the truth, and helping Frank Castle, to the point that she puts herself in the line of fire countless times, and because of the frequency she does it, you kind of feel like she loves it too. Kingpin loves his empire, not even giving it up in prison, finding a way to still be the boss in a world where he should just keep his head down and get through his time. Foggy’s really the only one who I couldn’t quite line up with, I suppose he’s obsessed with justice, but that doesn’t really seem to have legs to it. But in the end, it’s our three superheroes that really click for me. And thing I worry about is people watching the show and seeing Punisher and Elektra just murdering scores of people, thinking that they’re awesome. When the people we should be relating to, and aspiring to are Matt and Karen. Frank and Elektra are broken people who have gone down the wrong path, but have gone too far and can’t return. Don’t be like them. They’re cautionary tales. It’s Matt and Karen that we should follow. It’s clear that while saving people and stopping criminals is Daredevil’s main function, his less obvious and more under the surface goal is to inspire people. Everyone can be a hero; all they need to do is help people. And that’s Matt in a nutshell. All he does is try to help people. Because he’s a goddamned hero.

 

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