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.
Daredevil season two is The Dark Knight to season one’s Batman Begins. This sophomore outing has improved the show’s pacing, expanded its world, upped the stakes, and rounded out the cast with even more compelling characters. But I also think Daredevil’s second season shares some of The Dark Knight’s weaknesses too. Namely, both allow their central hero to get a little lost in the shuffle. Though Daredevil’s first season is often praised for its portrayal of Wilson Fisk, the show also put Matt Murdock front and center—exploring his backstory and challenging his morality in virtually every episode. That happened to a certain extent in season two, but Matt has more often than not been overshadowed by the people around him, especially the Punisher and Elektra.
And like The Dark Knight, Daredevil’s second season bites off just a little more than it can chew towards the end of its run. Though I’m not inherently thrilled by the concept of The Hand, I’d be happy to accept a cult of magical ninjas if they were properly woven into the fabric of this show. But The Hand arrived late into the second season’s run (they aren’t even named until episode eight) and don’t drive the narrative until the final two episodes, by which point it’s jarring to spend so much time with them.
“A Cold Day in Hell’s Kitchen” feels more like a conclusion to the Black Sky arc than a conclusion for the whole second season. Most egregiously, the Punisher is a virtual nonentity here. But since nothing about his story is tied to The Hand, it’s no wonder he prioritizes t-shirt making first and ninja assassination second.
Karen and Foggy get a little more screen time in this finale (Foggy takes a business lunch and Karen gets kidnapped), but they’re both pretty sidelined too. I’ve really enjoyed how they were used this season—particularly Karen—but looking back, their big efforts to help Grotto and defend Castle kind of went nowhere. The same can be said for the show’s exploration of the Roxxon Corporation, all that gang stuff in the beginning, and the mystery of the D.A. coverup. Those narrative starts and fits wouldn’t be such a problem on a regular weekly TV show, but with a series specifically designed to be binged, I want to feel like I’ve watched one cohesive story by the end of it. Daredevil’s second season is ultimately more substantive but less streamlined than the first.
Thankfully, Charlie Cox and Élodie Yung make the most of their last chance to shine as Elektra and Matt take center stage in “A Cold Day.” Though I still think the Black Sky stuff is supremely stupid (who discovered Elektra was Black Sky and how did they even come to that conclusion?), it’s thankfully downplayed in favor of grounded, emotional character work. Matt and Elektra understand each other in a way no one else does. When push comes to shove, they’re both willing to cut ties with the outside world and live exclusively for each other—which is evidence that their relationship is both utterly romantic and really unhealthy. Matt’s explanation that he needs vigilantism to feel alive and Elektra is the only one who understands and accepts that is arguably his most character-defining moment of the season.
But—as was obviously going to happen from the second they agree to run away together—Elektra is killed in the final battle with The Hand. (Maybe Daredevil just wanted to make my Dark Knight comparison even easier by offering a dead female love interest.) She sacrifices her life for Matt’s in her final attempt to be “good,” a nebulous goal that hasn’t really worked for me since it was introduced in “Guilty As Sin.” Thanks to The Hand’s mastery of immortality, Elektra will likely return at some point. But right now her death gives Matt a chance to emphasize what Frank said in “.380”—real love is worth the pain of loss.
On the whole the final rooftop showdown lacks the originality of some of the earlier fight choreography and it’s filmed in wide shots that make the whole thing feel less kinetic than it should. Even weirder, Matt throws Nobu off a roof and I have no idea where that factors into the killing vs. no killing debate that defined so much of this season. Does Matt think he killed Nobu? Does he know Nobu will come back to life? Or is this like when he bashes someone in the head and assumes they won’t die? I genuinely have no idea if Matt believes he went back on his moral code or not, which is a weird thing to leave ambiguous in a season built around your protagonist’s morality. (Even weirder, the exact same thing happened last season with Nobu!)
I do, however, like that the finale leaves so many other threads open, either as fodder for The Defenders miniseries or a potential Daredevil season three. Nelson & Murdock has closed its doors, Matt’s become a full-time vigilante, Foggy’s accepted a swanky new job, and Karen’s officially become a journalist (which is apparently a thing you can do without having any writing experience). Best of all, Matt finally tells Karen that he’s Daredevil. About damn time if you ask me!
Standout moment: The whole Matt/Elektra stairwell scene that starts with her saying, “One thing’s for sure, we’re gonna die” is utter perfection. I particularly love the smile Matt gives when she jokes she’d rather die on the roof than the stairs. They really are made for each other!
Marvel Cinematic Universe connections: Foggy officially joins the law offices of Jeri Hogarth, who was last seen facing severe emotional/psychical trauma on Jessica Jones.
Burning question(s): What was the purpose of The Hand’s giant hole? Who killed Reyes/tried to kill Karen in the shootings that were pinned on Frank? What was up with The Hand’s zombie teens? Why did a van full of people pull up to Frank’s house the night Karen broke in? What happened to Karen’s brother? In what world did this season take place over the course of 5-6 months (from summer to Christmas) and not, like, three weeks? Why does Elektra suddenly make the impractical choice to fight with her hair down? Did anyone tell Elektra’s ambassador parents that she died? And most importantly: Why does Karen Page keep wearing high heels even though she spends 90% of her time running away from bad guys?
Excitement to watch Luke Cage in September: Sweet Christmas! 10/10
Thanks for following along on these increasingly delusion binge-reviews! Be sure to check out Oliver Sava’s TV Club reviews when they start on Tuesday. If you’d like to chat more about Daredevil you can find me on Twitter, but for now I’ll just leave you with this: