Well here we are, two seasons deep into a fucking Daredevil show. It’s been said before, but we gotta say it again. Who woulda thought Daredevil would be viable again after that really bad movie? Let alone be turned into a gritty tv show that crosses the R rating in the violence. And that it would be the centerpiece for Marvel’s push into more adult oriented storytelling on Netflix, which would lead into a Defenders miniseries. Warts and all, season 1 came and blew the doors off the place. With Jessica Jones pretty much perfecting the game, the bar was set pretty high for the granddaddy’s return. And while I can’t necessarily say it was a better season than JJ, it was a big improvement from season 1. Even if there are some mistakes made throughout. But despite having some lows, it has a really big fucking high. And it comes from another Marvel character saved from the abyss of terrible adaptations.
The season starts off with Matt fully embracing his vigilante lifestyle, seemingly no longer conflicted about his need to repeatedly bash criminals in the skull with the right amount of force to not kill them. Kingpin is locked away and crime, while not eradicated, has been relegated to a less organized entity than previously. But new trouble has entered town. Gangs are being slaughtered by a seemingly elite squad of hitmen. That is until Matt Murdock finds out the truth. It’s one man. And that one man is a one man wrecking crew. A new kind of vigilante has entered New York City. And his name is Frank Castle. You can call him The Punisher.
The Punisher’s arrival into the MCU is the best thing to happen to this show, and to Marvels TV output yet. They have absolutely nailed the character, making him the stone cold killer he is in the comics but giving him enough shading to not be a complete cypher of a character. Some of that is due to the writing. But a good chunk of praise has to go to Jon Bernthal, who has entered the lexicon of absolutely pitch perfect casting choices in a comic adaptation. He’s a coiled animal ready to strike at the scumbags of the world at a moments notice. There’s an intelligence behind his eyes, while also showing us the human being that was there before he rose like a phoenix into the angel of death he is now. This was a loving husband and father, who loved with all his heart. But a man who was a soldier, immensely capable at his job. The birth of The Punisher in the comics is one of every element coming together to create the perfect killing machine, and Bernthal sells that. And his arrival is one that completely challenges Murdock and his mission. They both have the same mission, but go about it in very fundamentally different ways. Frank doesn’t hold back like Matt does. Frank doesn’t have the faith in human beings like Matt does, the capacity to better oneself never even entering Franks mind. Matt has that faith, so he doesn’t kill. But Franks arrival and everything else in this season that signify a systemic rot in the Justice System that Matt so firmly believes in, Frank’s methodology is more and more tempting as things go on. Even if they fight the first 3 episodes, with Frank utterly destroying the devil of Hells Kitchen. Everything with The Punisher is pitch perfect, with Bernthal stealing every scene he’s in and getting so many perfect Punisher moments. His story this season is great and is one of the many elements to make this season better.
Another reason the season is better than before? Elektra shows up. But unlike Castle, Elektra is a little more of a mixed bag. Elodie Young is very good as the femme fatale. And for a good chunk of the season, her story is really good. But they fumble it pretty hard in the ending. For one, her arrival brings about the introduction of the ninja group The Hand. So a certain kind of mystique and mysticism is introduced. But it’s too unclear and mysterious, never really getting into the details of why we should care what is happening. Like, for example, what is Elektra actually supposed to be? They make this big reveal that she’s the chosen thing called the Black Sky, but they make no mention as to what that even means. So there’s way too much undisclosed shit going on with this arc, which is very much the opposite of what is going on in the much clearer and more well executed Punisher side of the season. And the actual endpoint for her arc is pretty much a complete failure, taking away any weight that could have been by tying it to a non character. It’s a pretty bizarre misfire in a season that got so much right from its comic book roots.
A common complaint, and one I’m not in agreement with, is that Matt is kinda sidelined throughout the season. That it basically becomes The Punisher/Elektra show featuring special guest Daredevil. I disagree. The show may not scream it from the rooftops, but Matt is very important to the season. Having to deal with two very different kinds of murderers that tackle very different aspects of his life, it makes him question everything in his life. From his personal relationships to his work as a lawyer and to his basic moral principle to not kill. Having to deal with this escalation wouldn’t be as interesting without Matt to bounce off of. So, in essence, fuck those criticisms. To round out talking about the cast, it’s nice to see Foggy and Karen not be the complete bores they were last season. Don’t get me wrong, Foggy is still a whiny piece of garbage that is horribly miscast, but he’s actually given something to do and takes steps to not be as much of a dumpy wet blanket. And Karen isn’t part of an investigation that we, as the audience, are two steps ahead of. And she’s given some work to do in terms of this upheaval in vigilante justice that sort of pits her in an idealogical crossroads with Matt. So, kudos on even elevating those two characters.
Now, as with a new season of Daredevil comes a not undeserved question. How’s the action? Essentially, leagues better. The tentpole one take action scene this year is much better. Without the hype surrounding it, it embarrasses last seasons. Now it looks very simple and boring. And across the season, the action is better choreographed and executed and just more impactful. But being that this is the season with The Punisher, all the best action scenes include him. The best? Episode 9, in what can only be described as an Oldboy style inverse of the season 1 hallway fight. It’s thrilling and completely invigorating for tv.
Now that the season is done for me in a ridiculous 3 days, I’m glad it was made and at the quality it was. Much better than season 1, which hasn’t aged as gracefully. Adding The Punisher is a masterstroke, and adds alot of necessary ambiguity to the morality. But again, it’s not perfect. Like many Netflix shows, it’s got too many episodes. And even without a bit of bloat, the ending itself is a bit of a whiff in some weird ways. But overall? A great season of TV with a lot more good than bad and some absolute next level work done by the majority of those around. Oh, and the suit is still a garbage fire. Unreal bad.