Welcome to The A.V. Club’s Daredevil binge-watch. From Friday, March 18 through Sunday, March 20, A.V. Club contributor Caroline will be watching and reviewing every episode of Netflix’s returning superhero series. Though she’s working straight through the season, she’ll be taking some breaks, too, posting five reviews on Friday, four reviews on Saturday, and four reviews on Sunday. You can follow along and comment on the whole season on the binge-watching hub page or chime in on individual episode reviews. For those watching the show at a more moderate pace, reviews by Oliver Sava will run daily starting Tuesday, March 22.
It turns out Daredevil didn’t kill off its titular character in the first episode of season two (shocking, I know). Instead, Foggy finds Matt injured but alive the morning after the Punisher’s hospital rampage. Matt may not be bulletproof, but his helmet is. Luck (or more likely the Punisher’s aim) left him able to fight another day. There’s a genuinely terrifying moment in which Matt’s hearing gives out—leaving him trapped without the ability to hear or see—but it passes disappointingly quickly. And even that momentary terror isn’t enough to dissuade Matt from taking on the Punisher again. Season one was about whether Daredevil would kill. Season two looks like it’s going to be about whether Daredevil will be killed.
The Punisher’s attack on the hospital has left everyone reeling: Karen and Grotto are struggling with the psychological burden of almost getting shot to death while Matt is dealing with the physical burden of, well, almost getting shot to death. But they all solider on as best they can. Matt gets his helmet patched, Foggy and Karen team up with cutthroat D.A. Samantha Reyes, and Grotto agrees to make contact with a drug dealer in exchange for admittance in the witness protection program, which turns out to be part of the D.A.’s larger plan to catch the Punisher.
Unfortunately none of that stuff is all that interesting to watch, which means “Dogs To A Gunfight” is a fairly boring second outing. I like that a show about lawyers is dealing with the law in more detail than it did last season, but I wish Matt were integrated into the legal side of things too. The fact that he’s both a vigilante crime fighter and lawyer is what makes Daredevil an interesting comic book character; Daredevil the TV show isn’t driving home that duality enough. Instead the Grotto subplot mostly feels like the show trying to give Foggy and Karen something to do.
While the final Daredevil/Punisher fight is a genuinely thrilling climax, it comes too late and is over too quickly to elevate the lackluster episode. (Although Daredevil’s stunning mid-air cartwheel maybe bumped it up half a grade.) Instead what that fight scene, and indeed this whole episode, does best is pique my interest about Daredevil’s latest foe. Though he scared the shit out of everyone in the hospital, it turns out the Punisher—who officially earns that nickname in this episode—is only after Hell’s Kitchen’s crime families. So far he’s murdered with a marksman’s expertise, never taking any innocent lives in the process. But the police are naturally worried that it won’t be long before someone gets caught in the crossfire of this “Devil Worshipper”—their name for the copycats who ape Daredevil’s vigilante style to varying degrees of success. Matt balks at the idea that he helped create such a violent figure, but no one else has any trouble accepting the notion that Daredevil inspires as much chaos as he does order.
While there are shades on an overly familiar character archetype in this early sketch of the Punisher, I was completely won over by his unexpectedly docile demeanor: A gun-wielding antagonist is something I’ve seen before. A gun-wielding antagonist who calmly shells out thousands of dollars for stolen equipment but won’t stand for child prostitution is something new.
The Punisher mercilessly took out the Irish mafia in the season premiere, but he also made sure to care for their dog after the fact. And rather than finish off an injured Daredevil during their fight, the Punisher takes off with him for places unknown. Those little quirks have me very intrigued, and the best thing about binge-watching is that I don’t have to wait long to learn more. So let’s press on, shall we?
Standout moment: One lone member of the Dogs of Hell blasting music and washing blood off a semi-truck cab, oblivious to the fact that the Punisher is taking down his friends.
Marvel Cinematic Universe connections: D.A. Samantha Reyes (Michelle Hurd) first made her MCU debut in the Jessica Jones first season finale.
Burning question: Am I misremembering or is suit-maker Melvin giving an entirely different performance than he gave last season?
Excitement to start next episode: 9/10