True confession: Netflix’s Daredevil series was my introduction to the character, but it was good enough that it hooked me from the very first episode. The show reminded me a lot of Christopher Nolan’s Batman film trilogy (of which I’m a big fan): it was gritty, dark, and violent. You might be surprised to learn that it also reminded me of another series: NBC’s Hannibal.
Although main character Matt Murdock doesn’t have the empathic abilities of Hannibal’s Will Graham (and he’s a lawyer, not a special assistant to the FBI), a tragic accident in his youth robbed him of his sight. Yet that blindness also equipped him with a heightened sense of hearing, so like Will Graham, his ability to assess a situation goes above and beyond what other people can observe.
Like Will Graham, Matt Murdock wants to help people by putting the bad guys out of commission. When the legal system doesn’t allow him to do this, he seeks out alternative methods, transforming himself into the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen, a.k.a. Daredevil, and beating the shit out of people while wearing a mask and a specially designed suit.
This dual nature—good guy by day, vigilante by night—is part and parcel of the Batman mythos and while it seems like Daredevil might be Marvel’s version of the D.C. character, that wasn’t always the case. Like Batman, however, Matt’s secret persona puts not only his loved ones in danger, but also puts his relationships with those loved ones in danger.
In the first season of Daredevil, Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), his best friend and law partner Franklin “Foggy” Nelson (Elden Henson), and their friend and assistant Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), helped take down Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio), the biggest crime lord in Hell’s Kitchen. Score one for the good guys!
However, Foggy also found out about Matt’s alter ego and was furious, interpreting his friend’s nighttime antics as arrogant and self-destructive. Matt’s blossoming love interest Claire (Rosario Dawson) felt much the same way; thus their romantic relationship ended before it could even really begin.
In Season Two, new challenges and new characters will put not only Matt Murdock in greater jeopardy, they will also put Hell’s Kitchen in danger. Foggy continues to provide the levity that Daredevil needs; the violence and gore are amped up in Season Two and his humorous attitude towards things makes the show feel less dour and more realistic.
There was a lot of hoopla when it was announced that in Daredevil’s second season, Jon Bernthal (Shane from The Walking Dead) would be playing The Punisher, a.k.a. Frank Castle, who is much like Daredevil in his unending desire to take down the bad guys. The biggest difference between The Punisher and Daredevil is that the former doesn’t have a problem killing people for what he sees as the greater good. Considering that Shane was one of the most divisive characters on The Walking Dead for similar reasons, this was a stroke of brilliant casting.
Bernthal imbues The Punisher with a rawness that we haven’t yet seen on the show; he’s pure id. Wilson Fisk was a thug, but he was a thug in a suit. We didn’t see him lose his cool until a few episodes into the season. We also saw flashbacks from his past as well as his current need to connect with others, specifically his love interest Vanessa. These gave his character a depth that made us sympathize with his struggles.
In Season Two, we are introduced to The Punisher with an almost agonizing slowness. We see the grisly results of his violent methods before we ever see his face, and when we do he looks like a buffed-out Travis Bickle. That makes it easy to characterize him as a monster at first, especially when he goes fist to fist with Daredevil, in a stunningly choreographed fight scene (the first of many in Season Two).
We also don’t learn about what made The Punisher into the kind of man he is until a few episodes into the season. This is teased out cleverly through a Law & Order-style procedural setup: Karen thinks there is more to the story of The Punisher and his path of destruction than what the D.A.’s office is putting out in press releases, so she starts investigating. That’s when we learn that Frank Castle isn’t just a guy who slaughters people.
Karen Page continues to be one of the best female characters on TV. She is thirstier for justice than Matt Murdock and more brazen in her methods of seeking it. She may not pummel criminals to a pulp but she takes chances that could leave her injured or dead (and her guilt over killing James Wesley in Season One continues to haunt her). Some fans clamored for “Karedevil” in Season One and it’s probably not much of a surprise to learn that they will get what they wanted in Season Two. Like everything on Daredevil, though, it comes with a price.
Things get even more complicated when another new character shows up: Elektra. Flashbacks take us ten years into Matt’s past when he first met her. She’s beautiful, played by Élodie Yung. It’s not hard to see why Matt fell for her a decade ago, but all she does is bring trouble wherever she goes. She’s as infuriating and terrible as Jessica Jones’ nemesis Killgrave, but without the interesting backstory. In fact, she’s presented like an ass-kicking version of one of the bitchy popular high school girls in John Hughes movies. It’s frustrating, but it does push Matt into doing some extremely questionable things, which generate even more complexity around his motives as Daredevil.
Elektra is much like the Hannibal Lecter to Matt’s Will Graham, especially when she expresses the desire to exploit the “glorious darkness” inside of him. How far will that exploitation will go? Despite so many of the things in Matt’s life finally falling into place, it seems like his inability to come to terms with his true nature – whatever that might be- means things might get a lot worse before they get better.
The second season of Marvel’s Daredevil premieres today on Netflix.