‘Marvel’s Daredevil’ Season 2: Reviewing Every Episode


Welcome back to Hell’s Kitchen, the decadent New York borough of noir, ninjas and nighttime avengers for the second season of Netflix‘s Daredevil. Last year, it made itself a dark crime drama in the guise of a superhero show, offering not only a counterpoint to the lighter films of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) but to the broadcast superhero shows like Agents of SHIELD and The Flash. And Season 2 isn’t resting on its laurels, adding fan-favorites Frank Castle a.k.a. The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) and Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung) to essentially double-down on the show’s features and crank them up to 11.

Season 1’s realistically-choreographed fight scenes offered a great contrast to the blockbuster films, as did the magnificent villain Wilson Fisk, embodied so well by Vincent D’Onofrio. Charlie Cox made a great Matt Murdock and Daredevil’s world of Hell’s Kitchen was vivid. The binge-watching model helps obscure a lot of Netflix original series flaws – they sag in the middle, episodes blur together, it’s too manufactured – and the same is true of Daredevil Season 1. It features multiple dull subplots and reams of unnecessary exposition. It also had all the problems of an origin story stretched to a breaking point, which can best be summarized by the fact that we don’t see Daredevil in his actual costume until the last 20 minutes of the season finale. Baffling doesn’t even begin to describe it.  You can read my full thoughts on Season 1 here.

Season 2 sees the the third change of showrunners, this time handed to staff writers Marco Ramirez & Doug Petrie. They replace Steven S. DeKnight who departed to pursue bigger opportunities, like directing Pacific Rim 2. DeKnight steered most of Season 1 after the initial showrunner Drew Goddard stepped aside to develop Sony’s now-defunct Amazing Spider-Man spinoff Sinister Six.

Before we dive into Season 2, let’s step back and appreciate how crazy-quick the production turnaround was this season. Season 1 premiered April 10 last year, the show was renewed that month and now, less than a year after, 13 brand-new episodes drop. If only the Avengers were this efficient!

Episode 1: “Bang”

The writers are smart and know the audience. Give us what we want right up front. Whereas last year’s story was a slow-burn between Matt and Fisk, Petrie & Ramirez flip the format and give us Daredevil kicking ass (the suit’s growing on me) and the Punisher right up front. Bernthal’s entrance is beyond awesome

But it also sets up the problem with the more-is-more approach, that it becomes a retread of what came before. In particular, the show can’t seem to find what’s compelling about Foggy and Karen. And man is this show dark. I’m not even talking about the men hung-from-meat-hooks-to-die dark or the camera-pull-back through-a-bullet-wound dark. I’m talking like indecipherable, fire-your-lighting-guy dark. That climatic fight scene between Daredevil and Punisher should have been, you know, climatic. Instead, I was deciding who was who.

Episode 2: “Dogs to a Gunfight”

You just wish this amount of reverence had been lavished on the Punisher before (and Mahoney describing his brand of justice as not “Daredevil” but “Death Wish” was brilliant). The setup here is impeccable but best of all it’s not drawn-out. They build the myth of the Punisher before introducing the man.

It’s risky but what Bernthal can communicate with a look, like when the sleazy pawn shop owner tries to peddle child porn to him, some actors’ can’t convey in a season. Although I liked Thomas Jane in the role, I already feel like Bernthal is giving a definitive, Robert Downey, Jr.-level take on Frank Castle. Treating the Punisher like Marvel did the Hulk seems to draw the best out of the character and mitigate the nihilistic, murder-is-the-solution excess.

Also, new drinking game: any time Daredevil spits blood, take a shot. Also, anytime the show tries desperately to make Foggy seem authoritative and/or useful, like go alone to a biker club or talk down a couple gangbangers. We’re not buying it, fellas.

Episode 3: “New York’s Finest”

“Soldiers don’t wear masks.” This great line from a great scene is a good summation of why Punisher is not really a superhero. Hell, he pushes the moral boundaries of anti-hero to their breaking point. He forgoes the secret identity and the moral compass in favor a soldier’s ruthless efficiency and a complete lack of empathy.

While some people think Daredevil’s basically Marvel’s knockoff of Batman, I find his low-rent persona is actually what makes him appealing. Daredevil is far more relatable than Batman, for billions and billions of reasons. And that’s what makes the Punisher who, unlike Daredevil and Batman is a killing machine, such an excellent foil.

Back to the episode, The moral philosophizing between Frank and Matt on the roof reminded me of classical theater and it was complimented wonderfully by the biggest fight scene yet – a torrid sequence of Daredevil fighting his way through the Dogs of Hell down through an abandoned building. Echoing last year’s famous Episode 2 hallway fight, this was too filmed to appear as one take because not only has Season 2 reupped on tone and drama, but also its the fight game and it is awesome. I think this is the best of the initial bunch.

Episode 4: “Penny and Dime”

Ah, it’s always nice to see character actor Peter McRobbie show back up as Father Lantom. Same goes for Tony Curran as a psychotic Irish gangster looking for revenge on the Punisher. And revenge does he get (briefly). My mouth fell on the floor when he took a power drill to Castle (was it his foot? hand? Damn this show’s miserable lighting!). That was straight f’ed up.

It’s not easy playing a man devoid of emotion except rage and bloodlust but just the visual of Bernthal’s blank face belies so much more: pain, self-hatred, doubt. It all culminates in his extended monologue at the end, detailing in the origin of his PTSD and the subsequent murder of his wife and children (although the extent of his whole revenge scheme remains unclear. Are we to believe that nearly every criminal in New York had something to do with his family’s death?). It’s the kind of actor-centric scene that gets Emmy nominations, if not outright victories. Four episodes in, Bernthal needs to be considered for Best Supporting Actor, there’s no question.

Episode 5: “Kinbaku”

Ah, finally Elektra. For all my friends out there who prioritized the entire season above sleep, well, you’re a better man than me. And almost certainly more tired. But back to the sexy lady-ninja in front of us!

It was a smart move withholding her slightly and upping the Karen attraction prior; it gave us a nice little Punisher mini-arc to stoke drama without the show overwhelming itself with major additions. Visually, she has the same exoticism that Gal Gadot seems to be bringing to Wonder Woman but Yung’s playful portrayal has the edge to remind us that, unlike Diana Prince, Elektra doesn’t worry about the little things, like “morals” or “the lives of others.”

And Elektra’s presence may be exactly what I need to appreciate the outwardly-innocent, inwardly-troubled Karen. It hasn’t been Deborah Ann Woll’s fault; it’s the material. But giving her a romantic foil for Matt’s attention and having her investigate the Punisher’s past is a nice, organic way to involve her. It’s also a pleasant surprise to see Season 1 supporters keep popping up, like Turk Barrett, Melvin Potter, and, this episode, Foggy’s former fling Marci and the dearly-departed Ben Urich’s (Vondie Curtis-Hall) newspaper editor Ellison. The latter was obstructive and annoying last year but, when Ben was ultimately proven right, he underwent character development. That and the casual namedrop of Jessica Jones are the kind of touches that are appreciated to fill out the world and make Hell’s Kitchen live and breathe.

Episode 6: “Regrets Only”

All these subplots, like the DA’s (Michelle Hurd, first seen in Jessica Jones) politicking with the Punisher case and Elektra’s corporate espionage might have weight if they weren’t boring as hell. Let’s be honest, it’s all white noise. That said, it was immensely satisfying to see the former smacked down by Matt when they take on Frank’s case.

Karen’s developing connection with him is sweet and parallels Matt’s own side story of helping Elektra take out the Yakuza at a fancy dinner party. This episode very much feels transitory, intertwining the stories of Frank and Elektra. As is typical, it’s overlong and overwrought. Every Netflix show needs a new editor, period, because the fat on these episodes can take the audience out of the show. It did with me this hour which is why I’m labeling this one the weakest of the six I’ve seen so far. Here’s hoping the return of Stick and the arrival of the Hand can spice up the proceedings.

Episode 7: “Semper Fidelis”

Putting Frank on trial literally and figuratively finally allows for the season’s obligatory trial scene. Last season’s forays into law were looked down on as extraneous but I enjoy them (on a similar note, I was a little disappointed that Jessica Jones didn’t incorporate at least a few of her P.I. cases outside of Kilgrave). Also, the idea of Punisher in jail and on trial is potent, conjuring Rorschach’s famous phrase “I’m not locked in with you. You’re locked in here with me!”

This Elektra arc is turning out very samey. They meet up, they have belligerent sexual tension, they beat up folks and talk about some ledger. There, the show could have saved all of us a lot of time with that line as the opening text. I don’t want to get overly negative; the show is far from bad but it’s certainly stronger in some areas than others and, anyway, it doesn’t seem to capable of correcting its flaws. Foggy remains the weakest link by far, to the point where it’s hard to feel anything but pity for Elden Henson. You can feel the show straining to give him material that will change perceptions but perhaps its just the character and the actor, a combination that just can’t get away from words like “whiny.” That ending though? Boss. Cliffhangers are useless when binge-watching but teases are welcome. The Yakuza’s secret giant hole Daredevil and Elektra discover couldn’t be a better one

NEW DRINKING GAME ADDITION: Every time Frank uses his favorite curse: “shitbag.” Bottoms up!

Episode 8: “Guilty as Sin”

Stick! Oh, how I’ve missed every crack and crevice on Scott Glenn’s face. This is the episode we find out what the trailer’s spoiled – it’s not the Yakuza but the Hand, the sworn enemies of the Chaste, which is Stick’s crew. The war between them is the same one brewing in Hell’s Kitchen, the same he ominously referred to in his titular episode last year. And Elektra, it turns out, is at the center of it as a student of Stick’s, a fact hilariously unknown to Matt until right now. I applaud the show for fully committing to the mythological nature of the conflict.

Clancy Brown is another stellar character actor to show up as Frank’s former CO in the Marines called on to be a character witness at Frank’s trial. Even better, it’s another chance to utterly humiliate the hate-sink of a DA. It might have all been worth it though because Woll’s scenes with Bernthal are great, drawing different sides of either character. Meanwhile, the Matt-is-a-jerkoff tour continues, as his dual identities set fire to his relationships with Foggy and Karen. In a way, the courtroom scene where Matt delivers his closing statement and is immediately upstaged by Frank’s declaration of insanity is a microcosm of this season so far.

I spoke of the show’s aptitude teases last episode, and they pull the ultimate one here! Castle’s trial-ending tantrum was engineered by none other than Wilson Fisk! Vincent D’Onofrio is back, baby!

Episode 9: “Seven Minutes in Heaven”

The show did an awesome job obfuscating his return. I was certain, given D’Onofrio’s other commitments, he simply wouldn’t have been able to. Then William Forsythe shows up and I’m wondering if I’m in the 80s again. Turns out, he’s the guy who gives us the very first usage of “Kingpin” in the series, reinforcing that last year was very much the embryonic stage of Fisk’s supervillain development.

Fisk wanted Castle in prison so he could use him against Forsythe’s prison kingpin Dutton, whom he pins ultimate responsibility for the gang massacre that killed Frank’s family. Surprisingly, Fisk was telling the truth but he still immediately betrays Castle, leading a prison riot fight scene that perfectly contrasts Daredevil’s flashy martial arts with Frank’s brutal, bloody efficiency. D’Onofrio continues to refrain his specific blend of man-child psychopathy and talent for manipulation. Come to think of it, the last nine months of Donald Drumpf has prepped me for exactly that.

Woll’s Karen continues to excel on her amateur journalist kick and the ending confirmed the return of another face – Nobu Yoshioka, the Hand ninja Matt fought last season, thought dead of immolation.

Episode 10: “The Man in the Box”

Frank’s escape complicate Matt’s plan to protect the Hand’s victims. It also reveals that the DA was the corrupt one responsible for the botched sting that killed Frank’s family. And it all involves a shadowy figure named the Blacksmith who was looking to control the drug trade Fisk’s incarceration freed up.

Charlie Cox’s face-off with D’Onofrio proves that two actors in a room can be monumentally more epic than any fight scene if done right. As far as monologues, Fisk gives a pretty good one, portending his wrath once released. To me, it seems to clearly hint that a Season 3 would be an adaptation of the classic comic “Born Again” where Kingpin, informed of Daredevil’s secret identity (by Karen Page no less), systematically dismantles every part of Matt Murdock’s life.

It’s pretty hilarious how Matt treats Foggy now, ignoring him completely. There should be a supercut of all the times Matt blows him off with a “Now is not a good time.” It’s like he was reading my reviews. In other news, Stick sent a French assassin to kill Elektra because, well, why the hell not? Unfortunately we all know the French are unreliable (I kid, French readers) and it sets her on a warpath against her mentor.

Episode 11: “.380”

I still don’t know what’s up with the Hand’s human “farms,” which are also apparently the Black Sky they always talk about. In the comics, I read the Hand’s secret purpose is to resurrect a mythical demon named the Beast (this sounds not dissimilar from the recent retcon of Hydra’s origins on Agents of SHIELD). Is that what they were digging that huge hole for? Or is it a burial pit for the half of New York Frank Castle has killed?

His hunt for the Blacksmith leads him to cross paths with Daredevil’s investigation of the Hand’s drug trade (Madame Gao, speculated to be from K’un Lun home of Iron Fist, pops by for a brief appearance). However, Frank escapes after destroying the Blacksmith’s supply after failing to find him. Matt, meanwhile, goes to stop Elektra from killing Stick when a whole bunch of ninjas show up. I gotta say, I commend them for commitment. Rosario Dawson also gets something more than being Matt’s morality pet when her hospital’s corrupt administration covers up the murder of one of the nurses. Perhaps a move to Harlem will follow?

Episode 12: “The Dark at the End of the Tunnel”

While Daredevil attempts to track down Stick and the out-for-blood Elektra, Karen digs into Frank’s past. The moment Clancy Brown reappeared, I should have known something was up but it wasn’t until the questioning turned awkward did I put two-and-two together that this retired colonel as the Blacksmith. It’s such a cliche to put Karen through this again, after the show explicitly states she’s had three near-death experiences recently, but, what else are you going to do with female characters, amiright? (vomits).

This show is practiced as ripping away hope spots. This episode’s? Stick actually says he’s proud of Matt for saving him. Of course, Elektra shows up, then Nobu shows up and then the reveal: Elektra is the Black Sky (wait, wasn’t there bunches?). Then the trope is played straight when Matt convinces Elektra to deny the Hand and save Stick. On the other side of the show, Frank runs Col. Schoonover off the road and executes him despite Karen’s protests. Afterward, he finds a stash of guns, ammo and explosives that would make The Matrix jealous. Next up, the season finale! Hope we see the Punisher skull.

Episode 13: “A Cold Day in Hell’s Kitchen”

So many things to wrap up. What does Elektra being “the” Black Sky mean? What does that have to do with the human farms or the hole the Hand dug? And when will Frank say “shitbag” again?

The opening reminds me we also don’t know what’s in the Hand’s magic container with the Japanese lettering. A vessel? A coffin? A . . . womb?

Would yAnd for God’s sake, fire your lighting guy.ou look at that? Carrie-Anne Moss walks in from Jessica Jones as Jeri Hogarth, the ruthless top attorney. She’s courting Foggy to handle the increasing vigilante (ahem, “people with complexities”) caseload. Karen is now working full-time for the NY Bulletin in Urich’s old office and only now do I realize that shattering the core trio was the best thing to happen to this show. The challenge now is not making this the Daredevil Plus Two Other People’s Stories Show. Perhaps the ending, where Matt finally reveals he is Daredevil to Karen will solve that problem.

One of the things I think the season did well was push the boundaries of both Daredevil and the Punisher without betraying their characters’ cores. Daredevil didn’t start killing, the Punisher didn’t have a come-to-Jesus moment. But each were humanized and changed by the other in dramatically compelling ways. Their dynamic and Bernthal’s performance are by far the highlights of the season. In a moment as badass as they come, The Punisher pulls a total Han Solo during the climatic fight against Nobu and the Hand, letting Daredevil get the upper hand on Nobu.

Unfortunately, like in every iteration, Elektra dies, in this case by Nobu, after she and Matt declare their undying love. Fortunately, like in every iteration, death is merely an inconvenience and the last shots are of the Hand’s Magic Container, with Elektra’s body placed inside. Do they fill that thing will the blood they drained? And what, exactly, is Black Sky, other than a lame MacGuffin phrase? It’s all frustratingly vague.

It’s hard to say whether this season was better than the last or not. It would be like comparing Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Like the latter, this season is defined by its antagonist who, as it turns out, is equally-if-not more compelling than the hero. For Marvel fans like me, there was a lot of fan service, some cool crossovers and surprises like D’Onofrio’s return. I appreciate that Ramirez & Petrie were able to continue the show as it was while expanding its horizons and remaining consistent. While the Elektra/Hand half of the season was noticeably weaker than the other and the show still struggles with Foggy and Karen, the ambition is awesome to see.

And for God’s sake, fire your lighting guy.

Looking ahead at a possible third season, I’ll simply leave this tweet of mine here for your predictive pleasure.

The review is complete! Thank you so much for following along! It’s a unique way to review a show but I got a lot out of the process. I hope you did too.

Sam Flynn

Sam Flynn

Sam is a writer and journalist whose passion for pop culture burns with the fire of a thousand suns and at least three LED lamps.