After the amazing first series to come out of the Marvel Netflix deal with the first season of Daredevil we were then treated to Jessica Jones which was a different beast tonally and upped everything in the extreme factors with these both being the Marvel Street heroes. With the introduction of the Punisher and Frank Miller’s Elektra into season two of Daredevil, we knew we were in for another excellent season that would push the boundaries but I don’t think anyone was ready for how far they pushed them.
We get right into the action of how Daredevil has been handling the streets and into how well Nelson and Murdoch has been doing since their takedown of the Kingpin. All pretty much seems well until an “army” starts plowing down mob families in the streets. The Irish, the Cartel and the Dogs of Hell gangs all seem to be getting gunned down by said “army.” However, we quickly learn it is not an army, but a lone man that the media has dubbed, The Punisher. Both Daredevil and the police go on a city wide manhunt for Frank Castle aka The Punisher, while Karen Page and Foggy Nelson uncover evidence of who he is and why he’s doing what he does. As these events transpire, Matt Murdoch’s old flame Elektra Nachios comes back into town proposing that he help her with some business problems she’s been having. She knows Matt is the Daredevil and we see she has combat skills of her own. Together they uncover that The Hand which had troubled the city before has come back to unleash their ultimate weapon, The Black Sky. Daredevil and Elektra must stop the evil of the hand before they can unleash their weapon while, Matt, Karen and Foggy have to deal with the legal side of the case of the century, The Punisher.
The greatest thing about this season is that it truly tears Matt in half. Elektra is the only one who understands his life as the Daredevil and embraces it. Foggy tries so hard to bring Matt out of the Daredevil persona to help in the case of the Punisher, in which Matt was the one who decided they should be Frank Castle’s legal counsel. Half the season is Punisher with Matt and the other half is Elektra and Daredevil fighting the hand until the two story arcs cross perfectly in the end. It’s the classic struggle of the dual identities of heroes that Matt must face but as the show progresses he almost doesn’t want to be Matt Murdoch anymore, pushing away his loved ones in lieu of aiding Elektra.
With that urgency to help her even though in the beginning he hates her after what she did to him in their youth, you can tell they are meant for each other. This season really focused on the fact that Elektra is Matt’s one true love in life. Elektra herself has a pretty interesting story arc. At first she comes off as nothing more than a spoiled brat and a debutante but it all becomes clear it was nothing more than a ruse to hide her true feelings. She is an amazing warrior who as we see her backstory she has trained as much if not more than Matt himself. My only real problem is with how stylized Daredevil’s movements are we truly see his training, whereas even though Elektra has been given as much training in her backstory we don’t really see anything we haven’t seen. I suppose since they had similar upbringings their fighting styles could be similar, but being one who read the comics I knew she had a lot more potential in her. Her costume was another problem for me in the beginning only because it’s so reminiscent of another character in the Spider-Man universe known as Silk. They both have the exact same red cloth covering their chin and nose. Later Elektra does get a bit of an upgrade from Melvin, Matt’s suit and weapons designer that is a bit more battle ready and has the Reds of her original costume but could definitely deliver more in later seasons. When she finally got her twin sai blades was when I really loved her though. That was the moment to me that she became most like the comic where she even kills a man very brutally with her sai blades. We don’t get to see them much but when they appear they are epic. Elodie Yung does a great job playing the character especially as her story arc progresses she really brings a lot to Elektra hiding her pain and in the end when she lets out all her emotions.
For five episodes we are given the bloodiest and most gruesome iteration of The Punisher ever. Jon Berthanol plays Frank Castle with a perfect balance of silent soldier and joyous insanity of when he is on his missions. This aspect makes this the bloodiest thing Marvel Studios has ever given us. To those who talk of him, he is an army with an arsenal that is unparalleled that no mere street thug could carry. From the first assault on the Irish gang on which we see no shooter there is a huge bloodbath that baffles the police and delivers some of the most grotesque shots of gore and violence we’ve ever seen in one of these shows, as the camera pans through a bloody gunshot wound in a head to the detective examining it. That first peek of carnage sets the tone for most of the show. And every time Frank Castle “punishes” someone it is very much like that. John Berthanol also delivers one of the most amazing monologues about his family and how they were murdered. It is really long but I could not take my eyes off the screen and was heartbroken for this man. It’s the best iteration ever and made me care more for that character than almost anyone else on the show. I’m not a huge Punisher fan but that monologue brought me to tears. Once he is imprisoned and we witness the trial of the century he takes a back seat to the proceedings quietly but when he does deliver a line he has so much resolve on what he has done its compelling. Foggy tries so hard to plead insanity or PTSD and even Karen tries to convince Frank of these things but Frank sees it as an insult, not to himself but to soldiers who truly have those problems. He would rather rot away forever than compromise his beliefs. We don’t see him in full Punisher garb until the end and it’s only a glimpse. In the final battle, Frank does help but it leaves you wanting so much more. His reveal is not as epic as Daredevil’s full costume in season one and it felt like a missed opportunity, but I still believe this is the best iteration of the character.
Both Foggy and Karen come into their own a lot in this season. A lot of the action takes a backseat to court proceedings and internal drama which isn’t a bad thing. Foggy having to deal with Matt going out as Daredevil too much leads the Punisher case with the help of Karen with his opening statements for the case being quite amazing and even garner him a lot of attention in the world of law which perfectly connects him to a character in the Jessica Jones show, which could mean Foggy could help Jessica in season 2 of her show! Karen has taken the mantle of the sleuth reporter in the wake of Ben Urich’s death. In the comics Ben Urich was one of my favorite characters as he was never afraid to get in the trenches of all the super hero happenings and often risk his life to report the truth. I was totally shocked they killed him in the first season, but Karen picks up his office and work at the New York Bulletin on the side and she is the one who uncovers Frank Castle’s past. She is integral to the court proceedings and her arc is possibly the strongest we see between the two seasons as she evolves into almost a new character. I’m still wondering if they are going to play into her drug addict story line because a lot that she sees and does could easily induce said addiction, but she is the one that gets the big cliff hanger in the end of the show!
I don’t want to spoil them, but there are so many returning characters from both shows in this season it’s fun just to watch and remember their parts in the other shows! Each returning cameo plays a huge part in the story but most of them are pretty brief when it comes to the end. There are two returns that honestly had me screaming at the television in joy and they match perfectly with the Punisher story line!
Daredevil himself gets a few upgrades as he is shot point black in the head damaging his gear. Melvin creates a new helmet with reinforced materials and even new body armor for the suit. The greatest contribution to the costume is the creation of Daredevil’s new baton. It can become two weapons and even launch itself off like a narrating and helps Daredevil zip off buildings just like the comics! We only see it briefly in the end and once again leaves you wanting more.
As I said the action takes a backseat to court room drama and character relationships which doesn’t mean it’s bad, but when you start off so strong with the Punisher, by the time you get to the last episodes with the Hand it feels a little flat. They are great antagonists, but there are so many character arcs to balance in this season plus returning characters the final act felt a bit lacking. I think the main problem is The Kingpin was such a huge arc of season one and the main antagonist that the lack of one main antagonist in season two makes it fall a little short because so many characters take that antagonist role as the season progresses. The stylized action sequences are not as good as they were in season one, but are balanced out in the first episodes where The Punisher brings a raw grittiness we haven’t see before in the show. The final battle they pretty much Frank Miller the audience with something that for me having read the books I saw coming, which is fine as I understand a regular audience probably wouldn’t know, but the final battle just was not as epic as the Season One finale. What happens I guess was supposed to carry the emotional weight but waiting to see all these characters clash, it didn’t do it justice I felt.
A lot of great ideas were introduced but just kept leaving me wanting more. It could be Season One was so perfect, this couldn’t live up to my expectations. This is an excellent season, with amazing moments but the overall story left me not as impressed in the end. There are two huge cliffhangers that I’ll be interested to see play out, but the last episode wasn’t enough to make me love it fully. I give it four out of five skulls and hope Frank Castle’s Punishment of the wicked is only beginning.