Kerry Wilkinson on DAREDEVIL Season 2
[SPOILER WARNING: If you've yet to begin or finish the second season of Daredevil currently streaming on Netflix, look away.
In fact, look instead at a TV and WATCH IT. It's awesome. - Team Tor]
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'He's the kind of man who hurts people, not like you, but he damages them, breaks them … those are the people that you get out of your life.'
Karen Page tells an awful truth about Matt Murdock in the 11th episode of Netflix's new Daredevil season. If the show's first run was about discovering the trio of Matt, Foggy and Karen, then the return was about finding out what really drives them.
Having a strong lead character is probably the most basic function of any fiction. Without it, what story is there to tell? But the true care and love from a creator comes from the characters around that core protagonist. It comes from making readers and viewers actually care - and that's something Daredevil has throughout.
Foggy Nelson, played by Elden Henson, is the heart of the show and it's hard not to feel his mid-series betrayal. It's a tough realisation that he can be richer, both financially and personally, if he goes it alone. He humanises the superhero and mystic elements and, perhaps, of everyone, he's the character out to do genuine good in Hell's Kitchen. He's the true hero, consistently doing things he doesn't want to in order to benefit others.
Then there's Karen (Deborah Ann Woll, @deborahannwoll) who shows that female leads don't have to go all pixie dream girl to be smart and fearless. She has her own goals and motives - and is the one person who tries to imagine what Frank Castle might have gone through. She has secrets, as hinted at by Ben Urich's file on her, but she's come out the other side to carve a career that she's capable of doing with or without Matt and Foggy.
Alongside them is Charlie Cox, who is never better when forced to be Matt Murdock and only Matt Murdock. When confronted by an enormous threat in a prison cell in episode 10, he can't be Daredevil and his helplessness bleeds through the screen. If the blown up boat number 227 is a hint of things to come - the iconic Born Again storyline started in issue 227 - then season three will be quite something.
As a trio, they're rounded and real. I love her as a character on page and screen but one of my problems with the Jessica Jones series was that she's a private investigator who does almost no private investigating over 13 hours. She's a PI because that's what we're told, not because of how she acts. Matt and Foggy are lawyers and Daredevil as a show doesn't need characters sitting around saying, 'You're lawyers' because they are in the thick of the legal system throughout the series.
If a protagonist is only as good as antagonist he or she is up against, then what Daredevil truly succeeds in doing is offering a bad guy who isn't bad for the sake of it. Motivation is important and the laziest idea in fiction is that a character does awful things for no reason.
Frank Castle (a stand-out Jon Bernthal) had his wife and children murdered by drug-runners - and no matter what people might think of how far he goes, he has a reason to want vengeance. The best fictional bad guys believe in what they do and that's why he works. His beautifully scripted speech about his daughter in the graveyard is one of the highlights of the series.
Elektra is, perhaps, the largest disappointment of season two. Elodie Yung is well cast and the scenes with her and Charlie Cox are katana-sharp. She does her absolute best but her final arc as the Black Sky is not only confusing but serves no particular reason. What was The Hand's plan for Hell's Kitchen? Why Hell's Kitchen? Why the giant hole? Why the Children of the Corn? If she is the chosen one, then why wait until everyone's in a dingy warehouse to reveal as much? The series goes a bit odd with those reveals. Though there might be more explanation to come in future series - or The Defenders mash-up - but it doesn't quite hold together as a single arc.
The Blacksmith reveal is also weak in the sense that there are no clues as to the identity of the person. It's simply revealed and then, almost as quickly, he is dealt with. The series builds up to a big criminal mastermind and it's such a let-down when we get there.
There is so much to like but, ultimately, the conclusion to both Elektra and The Punisher's stories fall flat.
But there is so much to like. The costumes are spot on throughout. Daredevil looks so much better as 'hornhead', rather than in the black duds of the first run. Elektra takes what's in the comics and puts it into a twenty-first century practical setting, while, by episode 13, Frank Castle is terrifying.
The action scenes and fight sequences are as good as anything that's gone before on television or in movies. It sounds so simple and yet action and superhero movies consistently make it hard to know what's happening. A dizzying array of sharp cuts coupled with a deafening soundtrack is blurring, disorientating - and complete overkill. Daredevil doesn't do that. The choreography is functional and within the realms of human anatomy. It's fully in the spirit of the comics, and allows the viewer to actually see what's going on.
At times, that means the show is not for the faint-hearted - as evidenced by Frank Castle working his way through a cellblock in episode nine. It's brutal but, in many ways, it needs to be. It isn't violence for the sake of it. That's the character and the situation he's in.
That's not to say the show is all blood and gore. The deft touches ooze with care and craft, such as a lawyer handing Matt a sheet of Braille upside down.
My favourite part comes early in the series. It's a quiet scene in an Indian restaurant, with Karen describing the lights on the ceiling to Matt. And, as much as I've really enjoyed both series of Daredevil, I'd love an episode of downtime. An Elaine, Jerry and George waiting to get a seat in a Chinese restaurant with Karen, Matt and Foggy sitting around talking, laughing and - for once - getting a little bit of happiness.
That said, happiness wouldn't really be Matt Murdock - and if the hints over his missing police files really do come to fruition, then season three really might be Born Again.
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Kerry Wilkinson's latest crime novel featuring DI Jessica Daniel, For Richer, For Poorer, is out now in paperback and digital.
Resurgence, the third novel in his Silver Blackthorn series, will be published 5 May.