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.
I fucking loved the first season of Daredevil. I want to get that out of the way upfront because I feel like critical consensus has cooled since the show’s explosive debut, particularly following the release of Marvel’s follow-up Netflix series, Jessica Jones (which I also binge-reviewed). But while Daredevil lacked its sister show’s thematic tightness, it more than made up for it with pulsating action scenes, a captivating villain, and rich world building. The first season of Daredevil struggled a bit toward the end, but I for one couldn’t be more thrilled to be back in Hell’s Kitchen for another 13 episodes.
Which is good because the season two premiere mostly coasts along on its audience’s goodwill. Some premieres start by throwing viewers into the deep end—upping the ante and irrevocably shifting the world. But despite its explosive title, “Bang” is mostly interested in easing its audience back into the water.
In the opening sequence, Daredevil chases a group of masked criminals through the gritty, diverse world of Hell’s Kitchen before ending up, naturally, in a Catholic Church. Daredevil cuts the lights and the episode doesn’t even bother showing us the fight that ensues. Now that he’s officially become Hell’s Kitchen’s angel (er, devil), this is just another day at the office for Daredevil. It’s not exactly a “previously on” segment, but it’s an efficient reminder of what an episode of Daredevil feels like.
Meanwhile back at the offices of Nelson & Murdock, Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson are managing a steady stream of needy clients who pay them in bananas and baked goods, which helps with morale if not expenses. Assistant Karen Page is taking on a little more agency at the office by helping her bosses vet clients. And the Matt/Foggy/Karen friendship is as strong as ever, even if Karen clearly has more than friendly feelings towards Matt. (Foggy, meanwhile, has apparently gotten over his crush on Karen and is now trying to seduce women on the dance floor.) It’s almost a little too cute when Karen reminds her colleagues that while they may be short on money, they still have each other. The fact that the episode later frames a camera shot through a dead man’s bullet wound helps temper that sweetness a bit.
One of the biggest concerns I had going into Daredevil’s second season was how the show would fill the Kingpin-shaped hole left by Wilson Fisk’s capture. “Bang” smartly addresses that concern head-on: With Fisk off the streets, there’s a power vacuum in Hell’s Kitchen and the neighborhood’s various criminal organizations are struggling to fill it.
What made Fisk such a compelling villain was the way he subverted expectations about comic book villains, and this episode shows off a similar subversive streak in a scene that’s simultaneously gruesome and hilarious. I was furiously scribbling notes about Mr. Nesbitt and his Irish mafia—trying to think up jokes about how ridiculously stereotypical it is to have a group of Irish gangsters chowing down on corned beef, cabbage, and whiskey—when I realized Daredevil was one step ahead of me.
Just as Nesbitt is about to establish his dominance by killing a crony (a move we’ve seen in dozens of TV shows before), a shower of gunfire takes out the whole gang. Save Grotto—the one surviving member who turns to Nelson & Murdock for help—these crime lords aren’t actually going to be players this season. The whole thing was a fake-out designed to gently satirize the ethnically centered gangs that dominated the show’s first season (the Russians, the Chinese, and the Japanese Yakuza). The lighthearted jig ringing out a dead Irish gangster’s cellphone is the perfect button to a delightfully deadpan joke.
While “Bang” plays up the idea that the new player in Hell’s Kitchen must be a paramilitary organization, anyone who’s so much as read a press release for this season likely knew where this was headed. And to its credit, Daredevil doesn’t stretch out the mystery too long. The new threat isn’t a gang at all, but a lone vigilante (Jon Bernthal’s Punisher, although he hasn’t been named yet) who has no qualms about tearing up a hospital, taking aim at Karen Page, or shooting Daredevil in the face.
Earlier in the episode, Foggy warned Matt that he isn’t bulletproof. I guess we’re about to find out if that’s true.
Standout moment: Low-level criminal (and returning season one scene-stealer) Turk Barrett pleading, “Come on D,” as he tries to convince Daredevil not to send him back to jail. More Turk please!
Marvel Cinematic Universe connections: Nada
Burning question: What do we think of Daredevil’s new and improved suit? It looks a little too much like a dark version of The Flash to me.
Excitement to start next episode: 10/10
P.S. I’ll be keeping my titles and review photos vague so those who aren’t binging the whole show in one weekend don’t have to worry about accidental spoilers!