Marvel’s Daredevil Season 2 Review: Episodes 1-4

Hello! Welcome back to Hell's Kitchen!

My name is Dave Richards—I was your guide through Marvel's Netflix series Jessica Jones, discussing the show from my perspective as a comic fan. Now, I'm back for a look at Season 2 of Marvel's Daredevil.

See also: Jessica Jones Review: Season 1, Episodes 1-4

I'm especially excited to be returning to the small screen, fictionalized version of the Kitchen because it means catching up with some of the great characters introduced and established in Season 1 of the show, and getting to meet some new ones—including the Marvel Cinematic Universe incarnations of the Punisher and Elektra, two characters I really enjoy from the comics.

So let's get started! In this initial installment, I'll be examining Episode 1, “Bang”; Episode 2, “Dogs to a Gunfight”; Episode 3, “New York's Finest”; and Episode 4, “Penny and Dime.” I'll look at some of the major events, offer my thoughts on characters, and point out some of the Easter Eggs for comic book fans like myself.

In these first four episodes of Season 2, Daredevil comes out swinging. We are given some fantastic action scenes—like the title character fighting his way out of an apartment building overrun by bloodthirsty bikers and the several throwdowns between Charlie Cox's Matt Murdock/Daredevil and John Bernthal's Frank Castle/Punisher.

Those scenes are thrilling and a lot of fun to watch, but for me, what really makes these episodes are the actions of the characters, both large and small, and the performances by the actors that play them.

Let's start off with Matt Murdock himself. It really feels like these first four episodes are about Matt coming to terms with how his actions as Daredevil are affecting his friends and the neighborhood he cares for so much.

The comic book exploits of Daredevil are known as being more grounded, hardboiled stories—and they often are. There's a sort of devil-may-care swashbuckling side to the character though, who enjoys adventuring, and I think you get some of that in a very subtle way in Episode 1, at the beginning, when Daredevil takes out the armed robbers from the shadows. You get it again in Episode 4, when DD uses the long, shadowy hallway to take out the Irish mobsters guarding the Punisher.

So, there's a sense that Matt enjoys being Daredevil, but there's a greater sense of responsibility. You see that early on when he tells Foggy in Episode 1 that he can't take the night off, and then later, when he goes back out onto the streets to pursue the Punisher, even after being shot in the head by the vigilante.

He feels it's his responsibility to handle things the cops can't. Then, that responsibility becomes even more profound near the end of Episode 4, as he starts to wrestle with the fact that he might have opened the door for men like the Punisher, by becoming Daredevil in the first place.

That fact leads to a great, almost Nolan-esque Batman scene at the end of Episode 4, where Daredevil encourages Sergeant Mahoney to take credit for capturing the Punisher. You get a sense that Matt might be ready to put aside his costume and pursue a romantic relationship with Karen Page. Then, that all changes for him in the final moments of the episode when his past comes back in a big way, as Elodie Yung's Elektra makes her first appearance on the show with the fun and effective line of, “Hello Matthew…”

Foggy Nelson, the Nelson half of Nelson and Murdock, is also coming to terms with some things in these first four episodes. The big thing is the fact that his best friend puts his life, freedom, and career on the line every day as Hell's Kitchen's Guardian Devil. The way Elden Hensen plays Foggy's concern for Matt in Episodes 2 and Three, when he worries his friend has been hurt or worse, is heart wrenching and powerful.

So, it's no surprise when Foggy gets mad at Matt for his injuries and talks about how hard it is to watch his friend go through what he does. I think Foggy feels that Matt is being reckless and stupid, but that all changes in Episode 3 when he catches up with nurse Claire Temple (played by Rosario Dawson), who sort of gives Foggy another perspective on the role Daredevil plays for the city.

It was, of course, great to have Dawson back. I love that she's almost become the sort of Nick Fury that ties the Netflix corner of Marvel's Cinematic Universe together, but I also enjoy her character's humanity and humor. I'm not sure if she'll pop up again this season, but I'm very much looking forward to Claire's role in the Luke Cage series, especially since her character originally comes from the Luke Cage comics.

Claire's scenes are also great because they give Foggy a chance to show off his awesome way with words and ability to argue. I love how he talks the two gang bangers out of fighting in the ER in Episode 3. He is also great in the scene in Episode 2 when he stands up to Reyes, the District Attorney.

Those scenes make Foggy a fun character and more than just Matt's best friend. They give the character depth and courage, and add to his believability as an attorney. I can't wait to see what else this season holds for Foggy. I would especially love to see him debate the Punisher.

The other interesting way Foggy supports his best friend in these initial episodes is he recognizes the growing attraction between Matt and Karen and steps back and does what he can to support it. It's very sweet, and cool to see. I love the expression on Henson's face when he sees the two of them together in Episode 4. It's a man watching two people he cares about connect on a deep, romantic level.

Matt Murdock and Foggy Nelson's name may be on the law firm, but in order to stay open, their business needs other roles to support what they do; like an office manager and an investigator. In the initial season, they got the former when they met their first client, Karen Page (Deborah Anne Woll), and, in one of my favorite developments of this season so far, they finally get the latter, because Karen has basically become Veronica Mars—and it’s awesome!

I was never really a fan of the Karen Page character in the Daredevil comics because I didn't really encounter any stories beyond where she was just a secretary or Matt's love interest. Although it appears that she simply transitions from one to the other in these first four episodes, she's also so much more than that.

She protects Grotto when the Punisher comes to call on him in the hospital. She uncovers information to convince Tower to give her the District Attorney's files on the Punisher. She finds a witness that gives her a name and leads her to Frank Castle's home.

I also love that even though Matt and Foggy are not letting her in on the secret that Matt is Daredevil, she clearly suspects that there's something more going on than what her friends are telling her. As she tells Matt, she's not an idiot.

The other awesome aspect of Karen is that, while she's becoming this kick-ass investigator, she's also an emotionally nuanced character. When she's in danger during the Punisher's hospital attack, she's clearly terrified, but she keeps it together to protect her firm's client. Plus, it's also clear that she's in quite a bit of emotional pain from shooting Wesley, Wilson Fisk's right hand man, last season.

It breaks my heart that she feels she can't tell anyone about it, but it also makes me love her even more that she finds the strength to carry on and deal with the guilt she's feeling. I wonder if she'll share her secret with Frank Castle if and when they come face to face.

Speaking of Frank Castle/the Punisher, John Bernthal's portrayal of the character was my other favorite aspect of these first four episodes. I've been a fan of the Punisher since I first discovered him back in 1986 in his first self-titled comic mini-series, and I've been waiting for a long time for an actor to truly capture the spirit of the character. As I mentioned in my Punisher retrospective for this site, Thomas Jane came close, but I'm happy to report that in these first four episodes, John Bernthal knocks the role out of the park.

See also: Who Is the Punisher?

He's got Frank Castle's relentless nature down perfectly, and I love how calculating he is. Plus, he's so badass. He doesn't wear the character's signature skull shirt in these first four episodes, but it's clear that he is the Punisher—especially in Episode 3, on the rooftop, where he tells Matt that he'll do what's required, or in Episode 4, when he's being interrogated/tortured by the Irish mobsters and says, “Do I look nervous to you.”

Another aspect that feels very much in keeping with the character's comic origins is when in Episode 4, where Frank recounts how when he was in action as a Marine, killing and the death of his fellow soldiers were something he easily dealt with—it was coming home and failing to make it to his family that truly terrified him.

In 2003, Marvel Comics' Max imprint released a mini-series titled Punisher: Born, by writer Garth Ennis and artist Darrick Robertson, that suggested the real seeds for the violent vigilante Frank Castle would become were actually planted during some of the hellish fighting he endured while in the jungles of Vietnam. When Frank acknowledges his ease with war-time violence, it feels like they are paying homage to that series.

That perhaps veiled reference to Born wasn't the only nod to classic Punisher stories or iconography in these first four episodes. The whole rooftop conversation in Episode 3, where Daredevil is chained up and given the opportunity to shoot the Punisher to stop him, is inspired by issue #3 of the ongoing 2000 Punisher series. Some of the dialogue is even lifted directly from that issue.

Of course, there's also the X-ray of Castle's skull that Karen discovers, which is an homage and perhaps teaser of the character's death head symbol. In Episode Four, there's a scene where the Irish mobsters capture Frank at the carousel, and there's all these laser sights on his chest—I'm pretty sure that's homage to one of the classic Punisher covers, done by artist Tim Bradstreet, who’s done a lot of iconic work with the character.

I think it's also appropriate that the Punisher is not wearing his signature symbol, and looks more like an ex-soldier in these first four episodes, because that's what he is. To me, it feels like we're seeing the last vestiges of Frank Castle fall away. In order to deal with the overwhelming grief he's feeling, the good part of Castle has given himself over to this dark part of his consciousness, and it's slowly gaining power. It's why, I think, he's so chatty with Daredevil in Episodes 3 and 4.

I feel like part of the reason the Punisher and Daredevil have a big conversation in Episode 3 is because Frank Castle is looking for one of two things: a way out or a better way. The way out is if Daredevil actually pulls the trigger to stop him from killing Grotto, and the better way is if Daredevil actually reaches him and talks him out of his crusade.

Neither happens, so in Episode 4, we get that conversation between Frank Castle and Daredevil in the cemetery that Bernthal is especially great in.

In interviews, Bernthal talks about how the Punisher is held in great regard by a number of combat veterans, and how he wants to do right by their experiences. I think he really does pay tribute to the difficulties returning vets face when he has Castle tearfully recall some of the hardships he faced returning home.

I also think the fact that the conversation took place in a graveyard is especially interesting, because in that conversation, Castle tells Daredevil that he's done. I think he's being truthful. To me, it feels like in that scene, we're seeing the metaphorical death of Frank Castle. So I'm very interested to see what becomes of the Punisher in these next few episodes.

The Punisher, Karen, Foggy, and Daredevil, are the big characters in these first episodes, but as I mentioned when talking about Claire, there are also a number of interesting and fun supporting players—many of them inspired by or taken directly from comics.

My favorite is the man who outfits Daredevil, Melvin Potter, played by Matt Gerald. Gerald captures the innocence, meticulousness, and rage that drive Potter. In Season One, they hinted that Potter may eventually become his villainous, costumed alter ego from the comics, the Gladiator, by having him hold a buzz saw. In this season, that's once again suggested, as Potter holds up one of the saws that adorns the Gladiator's wrist gauntlets and reveals chest armor that looks a lot like what the comic book Potter wears as Gladiator.

Royce Johnson's Sergeant Brett Mahoney and Stephen Rider’s Blake Tower are other comic-inspired characters. In Episode 2, Tower is introduced as an ADA, but long-time comic fans know him best as the Manhattan District Attorney. I'm guessing Rider's character may become quite important this season and, perhaps, in future Netflix shows like Luke Cage.

Two other long-time Daredevil comic supporting characters are Turk, who was introduced in Season 1, and Grotto, introduced this season. I love the way the series uses Turk. Rob Morgan portrays him as a scum bag, but a kind of endearing, working class one—sort of like Bodie from The Wire. McCaleb Burnett's Grotto is also a well-done character, but I'm sad we'll never get to see him try and pull off a score with Turk, since the two frequently worked together in the comics.

Tony Curran's mob boss in Episode 4, Finn, is a character who may be inspired by an arc of the Punisher Max series by Garth Ennis and Leandro Fernandez. In that arc, titled “Kitchen Irish,” there's a heavily disfigured, villainous IRA bomber named Finn Cooley. Perhaps the fact that Curran's character meets his end in Episode Four by being shot in the face with a shotgun is homage to Cooley's looks?

In these first four episodes, the cast and crew of Daredevil Season 2 get off to a fantastic start by expertly drawing from the comics, introducing some fascinating and well-acted character arcs, and giving us some amazing action sequences. I can't wait to see where the series goes next!

So, that's what I'm off to do. Check back in a few days for my next installment of Bingeworthy, where I'll share my thoughts on Episodes 5-7 of Daredevil Season 2.

 


Dave Richards covers all things Marvel Comics for the Eisner Award-winning website Comic Book Resources and his book reviews and other musings can be found at his blog Pop Culture Vulture.

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