“Daredevil” – Season 2
Another Netflix series, another 13 hours of staring at the TV screen. And, unlike “House of Cards”, I was REALLY looking forward to spending half a day with Matt Murdock, aka The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen.
About that…one of my favorite things about the show is the mythology it reinvents around a small area of Manhattan that hasn’t existed, at least in the way it’s portrayed on the show, since 1985. Those blocks – from 34th to 59th and from Eighth Avenue west to the Hudson – are now merely an extension of the theater district, plus high-rises. The piers, warehouses, filth, and tenements have long succumbed to gentrification and the jackboot force of a Giuliani mayorship. But within the framework of the show, Hell’s Kitchen remains a place of danger, mystery, pride and, in a very New York sort of way, provincial. As a former New Yorker, it fills me with an odd feeling of pride – and reminds me of the Manhattan of my youth. And, of course, this sense of history and space is essential to our main character’s sense of duty.
Unfortunately, unlike last season, our main enemies this year have little to do with Hell’s Kitchen. They are merely IN the ‘hood…not OF the ‘hood. It’s not a huge deal, as it’s still quite riveting. But there was something about the connection Wilson Fisk and Matt Murdock shared that made the stakes seem higher…more psychological. But, this is merely a personal problem I have with the season, because…
…at least through the first eight episodes, this season has some of the best action ever put together for a television show. The last ten minutes of Episode 3 (“New York’s Finest”) truly rivals the high bar for action, Gareth Evan’s “The Raid: Redemption”. And throughout the season, we are given at least one such event for each of its thirteen episodes. This is actually quite a change from Season 1, which felt more like a “Spiderman” or “Flash” knock off…simply straight-ahead heroism/vigilanteism. This season, the PHYSICAL stakes are much higher, even if the secondary storyline still feels ridiculously comic book.
But grounding us are both the main storyline and our returning characters. It is not often that the emotional effects of post-deployment re-entry are examined within the framework of an action series with such tenderness and empathy. In fact, empathy is what is used to examine all the criminal elements of the main story. Murdock, and his cohorts, Foggy Nelson (played with understated, but total three-dimensionality, by Elden Henson) and Karen Page (who’s indignation, crazily blue eyes, and tears-on-a-dime emotionality get REALLY old fast this season) remind us that this is a world of relationships… relationships our hero is engaged in, as opposed to the usual Marvel plot device of “don’t get too close to me – I’m bad news”.
That said, for some reason Charlie Cox just doesn’t seem as invested this season…or maybe he’s just not as good…or, I suppose it’s possible we are so familiar with him, that his subtle charm and smoldering emotion don’t feel as earnest this time ’round. I read an interview with the British actor, where he described the work he put in to get prepared for this season and he placed nailing the accent as first on the list. This is interesting to me for a couple reasons:
- His accent is devoid of any New York colloquialisms, so he really meant he was trying to rid himself of all the Brit
- It shows, to me, anyway, a lack of emotional investment – when you spend that much effort thinking about how you sound, you aren’t really IN a scene
- To compensate, he replaces emotion with volume – loud when angry, REALLY mumbly when introspective
The final result of which is he’s just not as interesting this time ’round. Worse, in his scenes with Bernthal, Woll and Yung, he gets his ass kicked from an acting standpoint. He’s still quite watchable and it’s a great character…you just might feel a drop off from last year.
As for the new characters…Jon Bernthal, as Frank Castle, is every bit as believable and terrifying as Vincent D’Onofrio was last year. More so, in fact, because we are allowed to decipher whether his actions are an emotional disorder or a reasonable reaction to events. With D’Onofrio, there was never a doubt that he was pathological. As a result, the task of Matt Murdock is much more vague…requiring introspection, not abject judgement.
The less said about the secondary plotline the better. My guess is it was added to stoke the fires of the fanboys out there, but I found it to be incredibly disrupting…and it merely acts as a way to get the second antagonist in to the story. In her first few episodes, this character, Electra, played by the RIDICULOUSLY beautiful Elodie Young, is actually extremely interesting and further illuminates the origin story of Daredevil in a really beautiful way. But then, all at once, it gets rather silly and over the top. I kept hoping it would somehow tie in to the main plot…if for no other reason than to make me feel less foolish for staying up all night…but even then, it’s a ridiculously subtle connection, and, in the end, not worth the effort the writers put in to it. Regardless, that main story is still very much worth your media investment.
Listen, as a rule, my job on this blog is to pick nits. But truth be told, while it’s no “Jessica Jones”, “Daredevil” is still better than all the other Marvel/DC representations on television – by quite a significant margin. That I can find these nits and still HIGHLY recommend Season 2 of “DD” speaks to how well the show’s creators built that Season 1.
But, perhaps more than anything else, it reminded me how sensational “Jessica Jones” is.
DD Season 2 Trailer: Part 1 describes the better part of this season, without giving anything away:
DD Season 2 Trailer: Part 2 is about the other, less interesting storyline…but, also, gives nothing away…
Written on March 22, 2016