The second season of Marvel's Daredevil is not as strong as the first, but calling it a sophomore slump would not only be cliched, but overstating things. Much of what made the first season of the show enjoyable remains but there are some pacing and focus issues that mark things down a notch.
The first four episodes of the season form what I have internally referred to as the first Punisher arc. While what happens here is built on later they do feel like a complete story that could have been told on its own. It's bleak and slow moving (particularly in the first episode) but narratively coherent.
The Punisher makes a good opponent for both Daredevil and Matt Murdock because his values are so similar in some ways and so much more extreme in others. I do feel that particular story could have been told in three episodes rather than four though.
And the, rather abruptly, we are introduced to Elektra who is certainly a dynamic character and provides some much needed exuberance in a show that has been to this point very dour. But it is notable when the previous season told a single cohesive story that this feels more like something from the episodic playbook of a cable drama.
From here forward the Elektra and Punisher storylines run in parallel but almost entirely separately. There are brief overlaps, but neither one really depends on the other. It's an odd choice that highlights the lack of central villain in this season. Of course it was going to be next to impossible to fill the void created by the Kingpin (and I do love the hint that we will see him back if there is a third season) but the lack of a singular villain leaves the show feeling directionless at times.
In effect what we have is Elektra and Stick in one storyline (the Hand) while Karen and Foggy exist in the other storyline (Punisher) with Matt Murdock sort of in both, but mostly in the former storyline. Seeing how things played out it makes more sense why they pushed the Karen/Matt romance in the early episodes of the season, but that still felt rushed.
And forcing the breakup of both the Matt/Foggy friendship (something I have a hard time buying into) and the legal partnership the show essentially cuts both Karen and Foggy off from the superhero element of the show entirely. They do both get some really strong scenes and progress as characters, I just find it and odd move.
So in the end this season feels a bit like the middle book in a trilogy. All the characters move around and get into place for things to happen, but nothing of real significance actually plays out. Foggy's new job offer could play nicely off some stuff from the comics; Karen becoming a reporter is rather out of left field but interesting; Elektra's current status is fascinating and of course we do have the Kingpin in the background looking for revenge. All stuff with great potential, but none of it happened this season.
I haven't mentioned the actors and I should do because the performances are solid to great. The central trio of Charlie Cox (Matt), Deborah Ann Woll (Karen Page) and Elden Henson (Foggy) work well with each other. Cox probably has the hardest role as in many ways Matt is the least sympathetic of all the characters. Although I did get a bit tired of Foggy's constant outrage. Deborah Ann Woll gives her character a lot of layers and I love her mannerisms they sell a script that sometimes plays fast and loose with reality.
Newcomers to the show Jon Bernthal and Elodie Yung are also great as Frank Castle and Elektra. Both have the physicality required for their roles and in the case of Bernthal he completely sold me on this Punisher a man who has bought into his own insanity completely.
So maybe the show didn't hit five stars this year but it remains one of the most enjoyable shows on tv.
Also published on Medium.