Published Mar 16, 2016For the second season of its Marvel universe flagship, Daredevil, Netflix sends the foundational show further down the rabbit hole of the character's comic mythology with some great success and a little myopic frustration. Daredevil is a keystone because of what's to follow — in the coming months and years, it will join critically acclaimed Jessica Jones as well as forthcoming Luke Cage and Iron Fist series' to ultimately form a Defenders superteam show.
Picking up without explanation or context after the end of season one (as most viewers will experience it), lawyer/hero Matt Murdock/Daredevil (Charlie Cox) is almost immediately confronted with some new competition in the form much more ruthless vigilante Frank Castle/Punisher (Jon Bernthal, Walking Dead), an ex-military psychopath with access to and knowledge of an insane arsenal of high-end weaponry he has no qualms about using on large swaths of New York City gangs.
The idea that killer vigilantes are no better than criminals regardless of target is well-trod ground in comics, and it's these themes of justice (by whom, for whom), fairness and access to power that dominate the second season of Daredevil. To that end, actor Jon Bernthal gives a powerful performance as Castle — tough, cold and deeply damaged by not only wartime but domestic tragedy and a likely helping of PTSD. Daredevil's fight against and sympathy for Castle paints the second season of Daredevil in shades of grey instead of red.
The season doubles down on this theme by also bringing in Elektra Natchos (Élodie Yung), the iconic love interest/confidante and occasional adversary of Murdoch, who has a similarly relativist morality when it comes to killing bad guys, stealing their riches and enjoying the proceeds. (Think Catwoman to Murdoch's Batman.)
It is around these two poles — philosophically speaking, an adversary with whom Murdoch shares much and an ally with whom he shares little — that the season (based on seven of 13 episodes) revolves. Unfortunately, that leaves both Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) and Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) with little to do but react to the whirlwind spinning around Daredevil.
While it's fascinating to watch a show like Daredevil grapple with the weightiest themes of the comics universe, and do so smartly without cheesy heroics or overly simplified villainy, it's lost the sense of a larger world that suffused season one. Whereas Wilson Fisk lived in a New York City that was familiar, the world of Daredevil season two doesn't seem to exist beyond the concerns of five or six principal characters this year. Its deep dive into Daredevil lore is welcome and well executed, but the approach has narrowed the Marvel universe in which it exists instead of expanding it.