This one didn’t quite make it there. I’ve seen only good reviews coming off this product, but, even when they do look at some negatives, I just don’t know if people know what makes a superhero story great anymore. Now I don’t want you to get the wrong idea: this season had some great moments. However, it suffers from following two disjointed plotlines and fails to deliver some of the integral parts of a good hero story, namely, a compelling villain.
This season focuses on two major plotlines, as we already knew from the previews. The Punisher headlines the first story with his bloody rampage across the gangs of New York, and Electra is the star of the second major plot of the season involving the overly-menacing and unnecessarily faceless organization, The Hand. For the first five episodes or so, the Punisher has his day in the spotlight, and I believe this to be the definitive live-action version of the character. I loved his visceral fighting style, and his relationship with Daredevil as it conflicts especially with the Catholic backing of Daredevil’s convictions was especially interesting. They manage to make a three-dimensional and likeable character out of John Bernthal while at the same time demonizing the gruesome murder that he leaves in his wake. This balance made it so that I didn’t want this conflict in the show to end. Sadly that wasn’t the case.
Electra’s arc starts as The Punisher’s spotlight is winding down. The two do intersect from scene to scene, but the two parts of the plot really don’t touch in any meaningful way. This is something that I hate in shows. I think a season should have a well-woven plot, swollen throughout to give you a big climax at the end; the build up and the pay-off are so important when you have so long to wade through, but Daredevil neglects this tapestry and ultimately Electra’s plotline with the Hand hardly touches, if at all, the amazing building of this new Punisher’s world.
The worst thing about this is that Electra’s plotline is overall weaker in emotion and longer in emphasis; it just feels like the bottom falls out of the story in the second half. I think Electra got a good, if not complete backstory; however a big misstep is made in the choice of the “big-bad.” The Hand is described as an ancient ninja society having something to do with eternal life, or as most people watching the show would assume, raising the dead; however, their leader is Nobu (you know, the guy that died in the last season), and he is just as mysterious as he was the first time, except with the emphasis on his importance. It’s insane that you get literally no additional backstory on the guy. In fact, The Hand on the whole has so little personality that Electra and Daredevil might as well have been fighting cardboard cut-outs.
What the first season of Daredevil did well, and should look back to try and replicate going forward, was that they created a villain with a real backstory and motivation you could see and feel. When you first see Fisk stare at that plain white painting and say how he feels about it—“alone”—your heart-breaks no matter how evil you think he is. As Marvel continues to roll out comic book characters into live-action, they have to remember that what makes you care about a conflict is knowing that the stakes are high on both sides. We know what it means to Fisk to save this city; and alternatively, we know the convictions of Daredevil to stop him. That’s a good dynamic. We have no idea what Nobu is truly after and at the end of the season, we still have no idea the true stakes. I know they are pinning this intrigue with The Hand and The Rising for the Defender’s but a season has to reveal something, it has to make me care, and this just didn’t.
I’m not sure if the majority of people were just so happy to see Daredevil return that they didn’t care or if people simply aren’t looking for the cohesion and great storytelling that I expect from a show like this which blew me away in the first season, but Daredevil Season 2 didn’t get there for me. The work they did with the Punisher was amazing, but it didn’t mix with Electra and The Hand, which dominated the series. The big bad, Nobu, was never given a backstory or any other reason for me to care and a hero without a villain is just a guy punching stick figures. I’m going to give Daredevil Season 2 a 7.1 out of 10 for some amazing Punisher followed by the vacuum that Fisk left behind. Most people will watch this, love most of it, and give it a pass; but I expect more out of my shows, and this didn’t deliver.
Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Jon Bernthal, and Elodie Yung: Stars
Available on Netflix