Daredevil season 2 review: Welcome back, Frank

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Daredevil’s second season is streaming right now on Netflix.

Daredevil season two is yet another love letter to the darkest, seediest and most brutal corners of the Marvel Universe.

Its strengths are many: the stellar fight scene choreography and unwavering commitment to recreating Matt Murdock’s world chief among them.

But for all those highlights, there are problems. Some wooden dialogue hampers otherwise engaging character interplay, while a few curious character choices keep the second season of the hit Netflix show from realizing its full potential.

Despite those flaws, Daredevil remains one of the best streaming series around, and is a must watch both for comics fans and anyone who just really enjoys watching people getting the shit kicked out of them.

Daredevil was never one of my favourite Marvel characters. Nothing against blind lawyers out there, but Matt Murdock didn’t grab me like Spider-Man or Iron Man did — though Mark Waid’s run on the character is monumentally good.

That said, I really enjoyed season one, as it introduced Marvel’s street level universe in a wholly engaging way. I didn’t need a reason to be extra excited about season two — but I got one anyway, in the form of Frank Castle.

The Punisher is one of my favourite Marvel characters, based almost solely on Garth Ennis’ stunning work on the character. I maintain his iteration from the adults-only MAX line from the early 2000s is one of the best works of crime fiction ever written. (If you haven’t read it, go do it. Now.)

Ennis’ Punisher is less a person and more a force of nature. He is uncompromising, unflappable and virtually inhuman. He is a killing machine with a singular focus: administering justice, as he sees fit.

I had high hopes that Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of the character would be in that mold, but it isn’t. His Frank Castle does draw from Ennis’ work in bits and pieces (the rooftop scene from episode three most specifically), but for the most part, he is very human.

Relationship advice from a serial killer

Bernthal emotes in a way I just wish Frank Castle wouldn’t — even doling out relationship advice at one point. I understand the reasoning between humanizing the man on screen, as it allows audiences to see him a sympathetic figure.

But I don’t want my Punisher to be a sympathetic figure, nor do I want him to feel particularly vile or evil. He just exists as a check and balance — like a lion roaming the forest culling the herd (if the herd was full of gangsters and the lion was carrying an M4).

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Viewers have Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon to thank for this scene.

That aside, Bernthal’s acting chops are solid, and he provides some really stellar moments. The torching of his family home and his prison riot fight scene (sweet JESUS was that brutal) are both jaw dropping — but they come without any lines of dialogue.

There are some absolutely chilling lines, no doubt. Seeing Castle haul off the architect of his suffering while intoning, “I’m already dead” to Karen feels like a kick in the guts. That’s the Frank Castle I know and love.

But for every one of those lines, there’s something cheesy — like having Castle grunt, “See you around, red” at Daredevil after showing up as the show’s eleventh hour Dues Ex Machina (just as you always knew he would).

With more of the latter and less of the former, Bernthal’s portrayal could have been that much stronger. Regardless, it’s still the best version of the character ever seen on screen.

Yung excels as Elektra

While I’m poking some holes in the Punisher, Elodie Yung’s Elektra is phenomenal. She’s strong, intelligent, brilliantly acted and holds her own in any fight scene (of which there are many).

She’s flawed in all the right ways, and plays the perfect foil to Matt Murdock’s tortured Catholic choirboy. While her end is pretty expected for anyone who has read Frank Miller’s Daredevil run, it will be really interesting to see how she returns as an undead agent of The Hand.

The fact that Stick allows her to be buried out in the open, however, knowing that his longtime enemy has a penchant for resurrecting its dead soldiers, is a bit of a head scratcher. Still, it’s a means for a narrative end, and any show starring a blind lawyer turned vigilante requires a healthy suspension of disbelief.

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…eep.

The narrative drive of the show is nothing awe inspiring, but the storytelling is certainly sufficient enough to warrant a healthy binge watch.

Charlie Cox’s Daredevil can ham it up a bit, but he’s largely competent and endearing as the man without fear. (Though he now owns the dubious honour of worst superhero identity reveal ever — pulling your mask out of a paper bag? Really?)

Like Cox, Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen Page and Scott Glenn’s Stick reprise their roles solidly, too.

That’s enough, Fulton Reed

But somebody needs to put Elden Henson out of his misery. The former Mighty Ducks Bash Brother is way over his head, and never delivers his lines with any conviction. He remains the weakest overall link of the cast, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

For all of Henson’s cringeworthy, unconvincing dialogue, his sins are quickly forgiven once they give way to one of the show’s many exemplary fight scenes. I maintain the martial arts action in Daredevil is some of the best since Bruce Lee, and is reason alone to keep watching the show.

It does raise a couple of questions (like how The Punisher can hold his own in a fistfight with Daredevil), and you can only watch the cast fight ninjas so many times before it starts to wear on you a little.

But that I can nitpick small points like that at all speaks to the overall strength of the Marvel cinematic universe right now. While it has some faults, Daredevil is still certainly a winner, and its second season is well worth a watch.

Score: 7/10

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