Daredevil Season 1 and Jessica Jones were both incredible collaborations between Marvel and Netflix. When the announced that Frank Castle, aka the Punisher, and Elektra would both be appearing alongside Matt Murdoch’s Daredevil excitement levels for this for ratcheted up a few more notches. As the release date got close, I genuinely wondered if it could really live up to the expectations. And boy did it.
Unlike the first season there wasn’t just the singular storyline running through it. Instead the first four episodes were firmly focused on the Frank Castle storyline. This run included two of the strongest episodes of the series, or any of the three Netflix series. Episode 3 featured an great conversation between Matt and Frank about the ethics of Frank’s one man war on organised crime. But what really stole the episode was when Daredevil managed to top the now classic corridor scene with a stunning and intense stairway fight between Daredevil and an entire biker gang. Having already created the biggest action set piece of the entire show in episode 3, they topped it in episode 4 with on of the most surprisingly emotional scenes. The 4-episode run of Punisher’s came to a close with moving speech from Frank Castle to Matt in the cemetery about his family. Jon Bernthal was incredible here. Everyone knew he was going to be awesome as the Punisher and bring the physicality and attitude that the character needed, but I don’t think anyone expected him to move everyone to tears like he did in this episode.
Following the closing of a very strong Punisher story arc we entered into the next period of the season, which saw two stories happening. Firstly Matt teamed up with old flame Elektra to investigate the return of the Yakuza to Hell’s Kitchen. Meanwhile the Murdoch and Nelson law firm decided to represent Frank Castle on his numerous murder charges, as he pleads not guilty. The pairing of Elektra and Matt further drew out the ethical dilemma that the first part of the season started, as it explored whether it was better to kill your enemies or leave them alive and have them back on the street before long. It was also great to see more of Matt’s history, and Elektra gave us a great insight into what made Matt the man he was. The trial was a great storyline for Foggy Nelson, Matt’s law partner, and Karen Page, their secretary. It gave us some fantastic scenes between Frank and Karen. It also started Karen on a path of investigative journalism. Foggy also had some great moments in the trial, giving him a much-needed storyline that was missing in the first season.
The beginnings of the Elektra storyline revealed that it was actually the Hand, not the Yakuza, which they found themselves up against. Matt dedicating his time to this pursuit also put a strain on both his professional and personal relationship with Foggy. When they ended up losing the trial this proved to be one of the final straws as Foggy decided to end their law partnership. As it transpired Frank actually threw the trial so as to get inside the maximum-security jail where he got a lead on who was responsible for the deaths of his family. This then lead to a couple of episodes where Vincent D’Onofrio got to return as Wilson Fisk. He was the stand out from the first season and it was great to see him back as the Kingpin of the prison. After a brutal and bloody fight sequence in the prison between Frank and a whole wing of prisoners, he learns that someone named Blacksmith orchestrated the drug deal the went wrong when his family were killed. Then Fisk orchestrated his release to continue to wreak havoc upon Fisk’s rivals.
The next couple of episodes, 10 and 11, were probably the weakest of the season. They saw the Punisher framed for a series of attacks around the city and then both the Punisher and Matt and searching for Blacksmith. This ends with them confronting a man, who turns out not to be Blacksmith, on a boat. Here Matt suggests to Frank that just once he may be right and that they can kill Blacksmith. This leads to a very poignant moment where Frank tells him that he wouldn’t make it just once. He tells Matt to continue his policy of not killing, where as earlier in the season he had called him a coward for it. In the end he saves Matt’s life when the ship is blown up with Castle still on board. Episode 12 really saw the end of this story. Karen continued her research, changing from an expose to a profile. She interviews his former marine commander who had testified at Frank’s trial. This was a great bit of storytelling where it is slowly revealed to us that his marine commander is Blacksmith. In the end Frank is clearly not dead, and saves Karen and gets his retribution. Although I did believe for a second or so that he was going to spare him. Parallel to this story we had Elektra trying to kill Stick, who has also been captured by the hand, after an attack on her life earlier in the season. This came to a head in a Hand underground base where Matt saves Stick only to be confronted by Elektra, who it is revealed is the weapon that the Hand have been searching for. In the end she chooses Matt and helps them escape. There was some more innovative fight scenes, which could have got a little monotonous, with Stick telling Matt to track the ninja’s heartbeats and breaths from a couple of floors down. This left tied up the Punisher storyline nicely and left the finale set up for Matt and Elektra vs. the Hand.
And I thought in many ways this finale was better than the first season’s. Whilst that was building towards single combat between Daredevil and Kingpin, this was far more interesting. The Hand were given a figurehead in Nobu, who beat up Matt the worst in season 1. Here he, and an army of Hand ninja’s take on Matt and Elektra on a rooftop. The showdown is different enough from the first seasons that it’s interesting, and it delivers an emotional, if slightly predictable, death for Elektra. We also get to see Frank in full Punisher get up assisting Matt from a further rooftop. The finale really works because unlike both season 1 and Jessica Jones we get to see how the characters have really moved from where they were at the start of the season. Foggy takes up a position at a bigger law firm, which also gave us a cameo from Carrie-Anne Moss’ character from Jessica Jones. Karen meanwhile takes a position at the paper that had been vacant since Ben’s death on season 1. Matt meanwhile is left with just his Daredevil identity. It was certainly a very good ending to what was another great season of Daredevil.
Whilst the presence of Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk/Kingpin was certainly lacking for much of the season, both Élodie Yung as Elektra and Jon Bernthal as Punisher are absolutely fantastic. Both give superb performances that are clearly close to the comics, whilst also making the roles their own. I also think Charlie Cox, whilst his isn’t the headline making performance, is once again incredible as Matt. He is the heart of Daredevil, and manages to hold his own against the three other big performances that are around him. The rest of the supporting cast are all good as well, Deborah Ann Woll probably stepping up the most with the extra material she has to work with.
Overall whilst some episodes are absolute masterpieces of television, some are merely very good. Which evens out as a great season of television.