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Saturday, 26 March 2016

Daredevil S2

Series 2

My relationship with the first series of Daredevil was a little complicated. While I liked the characters and I thought it did a great job of ramping up tension, I often found myself feeling a little bit lost while watching it, not least because, with its terrible night-time lighting (all harsh yellows, just like actual street lighting, which isn't hugely conducive to being able to see) meaning that I could often hardly keep track of what was going on, especially since ninety percent of the show took place at night.

Well, one good thing about the second series: More daytime scenes. Many, many more daytime scenes. It's at least sixty percent daylight scenes now.

Set some time after the first series and a little bit after Jessica Jones, the second series of Daredevil sees Matt, Foggy, and Karen's lives thrown into chaos when a one man army, nicknamed the Punisher, starts gunning down gangs. As Matt and the team attempt to stop the Punisher and unravel the web of conspiracy surrounding him and his family, a woman from Matt's past, Elektra Natchios, shows up in New York - with every intention of dragging him into a secret war between two ancient orders.

The gang's all here.

It's fair to say that I enjoyed this series a lot more than the first one, and it wasn't just because the series has more daytime scenes, although that is definitely a considerable part of it. It's also because this series feels like it balances the various disparate elements it has going for it a lot better: While the first series seemed to often forget that Matt was a lawyer on top of being a vigilante, this series has the law, legal system, and legal proceedings play an important part in the developing plot, with one arc even having a trial as one of its central conflicts. Critically, this gives Foggy a whole lot more to do in the plot other than 'be Matt's friend', and it acts as a jumping off point for Karen to have her own storyline, one which by the end of the series doesn't involve Foggy and Matt at all, which is great because Karen was horribly underused in the first series, often falling into a tired damsel-in-distress type role.

(Foggy's storyline also involves us seeing Jeri Hogarth for a short scene, which delighted me because Hogarth was one of my favourite Jessica Jones characters.)

It also gives Matt a conflict that was sadly missing in the first series, that being him struggling to balance two equally demanding lives. It's a conflict that was a long time coming, and we see it reach its natural conclusion in this series, in a way that's both satisfying and quite painful.


The increased focus on the law can have the show feeling like a gritty legal drama at times, but since I really like legal dramas, that didn't exactly bother me at all - and the show handles it very well, with the legal drama side of the show feeling as fraught and tense as the action drama side, even if the stakes are slightly different. Reyes, the local district attorney, makes for an excellent villain for these parts too, played by Michelle Hurd as equal parts smug and icy.

Our big name new introductions to the series, Frank Castle and Elektra, also fit into the show startlingly well. Both are charismatic in their own ways, and they both have interesting relationships with Matt (and in Frank's case, with Karen - to the point where I actually wish that Elektra had had interactions with Foggy and Karen, because I'd be intrigued to see how they would react to her), with each representing a different facet and end point to what he does: Frank as the Punisher, a vigilante who takes his cues from Matt's Daredevil work and forces it to its logical and horrifying conclusion, and who sees Matt as a coward because he won't; and Elektra as someone tied up in Matt's past, and in the mechanisms, institutions, and conspiracies that saw him become the Daredevil, whose work predates Matt's and who effectively sees his work as Daredevil as a corruption of what he should be doing.

They make an interesting contrast to each other, representing the future and past, modernity and traditionalism, open brutality and secrecy, and all the other forces that pull on Matt's Daredevil persona. It's a shame, actually, that Frank and Elektra never met.


(It's also a terrible shame, by which I mean I'm quite annoyed, that Elektra got fridged. Yes, I know she'll be back, because she'll almost certainly be resurrected, but it still counts.)

Where the plot falls down is in its final arc, which sees our main villain take the stage - and it's Nobu, apparently, that guy who didn't make much of an impression in the first series and died about nine episodes in. While he's a big name in the comics, in-series he never came across as that remarkable, and he doesn't really come across as any more remarkable here. Instead, he just comes across as some guy, and lacks the charisma and menace that Fisk had in the first series. Thus, when he dies, it doesn't really have any impact - in fact, nothing he does has any impact. He's a non-entity in the series in which he is the main villain.

So, a definite improvement over the first series, but still not on the same level as Jessica Jones, which remains the best of the Defenders shows so far. Maybe she'll be knocked off her throne by Luke Cage! Heaven knows that Iron Fist isn't going to manage it. 

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