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Let’s speak of the Devil

My favourite Marvel superhero is back! Season 2 of Daredevil hit Netflix on Friday, and I’ve spent the last few days bingeing as much as possible in my spare time. Now that I’ve finished, here’s my overall impression: same old awesomeness from last season, but with a few annoying bits thrown in.

Let’s get the annoying bits out of the way first. Spoiler-free, don’t worry.

Ugh, he can play pool on his own, KAREN.

  1. Love triangle grossness. In this season, not only has Matt inexplicably and unforgivably broken up with his true soulmate, Claire Temple, but he’s also developed an attraction to Karen Page and re-kindled a college romance with a psycho assassin whose last name sounds like Nachos. So there’s a lot of boring drama around that. Now, don’t get me wrong–I like Elektra. She’s an interesting character with complicated motives and tons of plot relevance, even if Matt does spend a little too much time angsting over her. But Karen, while okay as a solo character, is a walking cliche as a love interest–always getting herself in trouble for no good reason and never figuring out her boyfriend’s secret identity, even when it’s stupidly obvious. No thanks. I’m shipping Clairedevil until the day I die. And I sincerely hope this is the last time we’ll ever see an entire episode about Matt’s love life. More ninjas, please!
  2. Cliffhanger endings. I won’t spoil anything, but I will say this season ended with a lot more unanswered questions and unresolved plot lines than the last one, which is a wee bit irksome considering how long we’ll probably have to wait for season 3. And I’m a wee bit worried about where some of those plot lines are going to go. Please, writers–be nice to your characters.
  3. Not enough of my favourite people. I expected the arrival of new characters to push some old ones to the sidelines, but I’m still going to complain about it. There wasn’t nearly enough Father Lantom (he only shows up in one episode!), and as usual, not enough Claire. There’s never enough Claire. Although I was quite pleased at the return of Stick and…certain other, more spoiler-y characters.
  4. Loads and loads of gore. This wasn’t annoying, exactly, since a lot of it was a necessary result of introducing the Punisher to the show–but some of the gore felt like overkill (pardon the pun). Season 1 had an unprecedented level of violence for a Marvel property, but since then it’s been outdone by Jessica Jones and movies like Deadpool. This season almost seemed to be trying to re-establish the record, what with the number of people who get shot in the face point-blank, gutted with shivs, or tortured with power drills. I have a pretty strong stomach for movie violence, and there were one or two moments when I had to look away. So just be warned: the fights this season ain’t for the faint of heart.

Now, on to my more positive impressions. As always, Daredevil’s greatest strength is its characters. I’m pleased to announce that nobody lost any of their awesomeness between seasons, and now we even have a few new characters to love. To elaborate:

This is about as blood splatter-free as he gets all season.

  1. Jon Bernthal was BORN to play the Punisher. I always thought his turn as Shane Walsh in The Walking Dead was one of the better things to happen to the show, but now I realise he was wasted on that part. Here he perfectly embodies the pain, anger, and sheer tough-as-nails ruthlessness of his vigilante/serial killer character. And yet he’s able to convincingly show a softer side when it suits him. Plus, the character is just awesome. He’s got a great ambiguity to him: is he really trying to clean up Hell’s Kitchen, or is he just a revenge-driven psycho who happens to target criminals? He’s a great foil for Daredevil and his no-kill code, and all their scenes together are electric.
  2. Foggy Nelson. He’s just a beautiful human being, and I love him with all my hearts. This season he shines, if possible, even brighter than he did in the last one. He may be the show’s (much-needed) comic relief, but he’s also an incredibly brave, kind-hearted,  intelligent guy, not to mention a dang fine lawyer. Everyone should have a friend like Foggy. And those who do have one should APPRECIATE him. *glares at Matt*
  3. More Avocados at Law! This season we get to see Matt and Foggy doing their day job more often, which is awesome. I’ve always loved the idea of a superhero being a lawyer, and this show is really taking the time to explore how that might work–or not. Things tend to get complicated when Matt’s superheroing tangles with his lawyering. But that just means the courtroom scenes are every bit as exciting as the fight scenes, and the two are usually directly linked. Speaking of which…
  4. More amazing fight scenes. I know I just complained about the excessive gore. But so many superhero fight scenes boil down to two dudes punching each other in the face until one falls into a nuclear reactor or something, and Daredevil has always had a knack for making its fights waaayy more interesting than that. This season, we’ve got a “hallway fight” scene that successfully ups the ante on the one in “Cut Man,” plus loads more martial arts-heavy ninja battles. The Punisher even gets his own (just slightly bloodier) hallway fight scene. Each one is beautifully filmed and choreographed. Basically, if you’re a bad guy on Daredevil, you don’t want to hang out in hallways.
  5. More supernatural elements. I like Daredevil for its relative realism, and I don’t think alien invasions, Norse gods, or any of the crazy stuff that happens in the Avengers movies would ever fit into its storyline. But it’s still a superhero show, and Daredevil needs some out-of-the-ordinary baddies to fight. So I liked the way this season spent more time developing the Hand, and all the creepy shenanigans its members are up to. There’s only so much you can do with drug dealers and gangs, but an ancient order of ninjas that may or may not be immortal and is seeking to activate mysterious living weapons called Black Skies? That’s an appropriate challenge for a hero who dresses up in a devil costume.

Overall, I’d say this season proved, once again, why Daredevil is the best thing ever to be produced by Marvel. It has more time to develop its characters and explore its themes than any of the movies, and so it never feels as rushed or crowded as many of them do, even in a season as packed with plot as this one. Unlike most superheroes, Daredevil deals with street-level problems–gang warfare, kidnappings, everyday murders and so forth–and he actually risks something in doing so, since he’s far from invincible. And despite its more “grown-up” tone, this show still knows how to have fun. It retains just enough cheesy comic-book dialogue (“Daredevil must die!”) and crazy ninja fights to remind the viewer they’re still in the world of superheroes, not the real one.

Until next time, boys.

And now I have to wait a year for season 3. Ah, the pleasures and pains of binge-watching.

Namarie,
Aldy

 

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