TL;DR – A solid opening, but not quite catching my excitement yet, but that could just be because of a slow burn.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Season 1 of Daredevil was an exciting surprize, after the mediocre effort that was the Ben Affleck/ Jennifer Garner 2003 movie, the writers found the perfect tone in which to reinvigorate the franchise and reintroduce it to the viewing masses. The story was fascinating, the action was some of the best ever produced for the TV (or whatever we classify Netflix as these days), and Vincent D’Onofrio was the best villain I have seen in quite a while. The series was so successful that Netflix immediately greenlighted a second season. So here we are, let’s see how the first three episodes of Daredevil’s sophomore season went.
Now at this point I should make clear that we will be discussing key parts of the first three episodes, so there will be spoilers, you have been warned.
Episode 1 – Bang
The season starts with a really good sequence to bring us back into the Daredevil world, Daredevil/ Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox) basically velociraptors a bunch of dudes as they escape from a diamond store robbery, it’s a really cool sequence. From here we get caught up with what is happening in Hell’s Kitchen, Kingpin/ Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) is still in jail, along with most of his hired goons, ‘Nelson and Murdock: Attorneys at Law’ is practically broke because they keep taking clients that can’t pay, with the Chinese, Russian, Japanese & Fisk’s criminal enterprises decimated at the end of season 1 new players are rushing in to try to fill the void, and Daredevil is still patrolling the nights exercising his particular brand of justice.
It is a great opening episode that really set the tone for the season to come, it’s good to see the rapport between the three main leads (Cox, Woll & Henson) is really developing well, and the actors show how much they get their characters. The episode also makes sure to show you that no one can get complacent this season, because straight out of the opening gate potential players are just getting wiped out.
However, there are some small issues that just don’t quite mesh as well as they could have. Firstly the big build up to the reveal in the episode is really undercut by the fact that you know going in that The Punisher/ Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) is in the episode (you could not open Netflix without being bombarded with that fact), so the big reveal that it is only one man decimating criminal gangs, loses a lot of its impact. Also his introduction, probably went a bit too far stylistically, moving it from a Terminator homage, to more of a Terminator rip off.
Episode 2 – Dogs to a Gun Fight
After the climax of episode one in which the Punisher shot Daredevil in the head (yay for the mask), we open on Foggy (Elden Hanson) searching for Matt, because he knows something has gone very wrong. On a side note, what is the point of door buzzers on apartments, like do they stop anyone, because I have never seen them stop anyone, but back to the episode.
There are some truly great moments, for example where Matt’s hearing gets messed up by the concussion he received, so he can’t hear or indeed see anymore, that horror felt real, and that is down to the great acting by Charlie Cox. Also this episode (and it looks like the rest of the season) is where Foggy really starts to shine, he has more confidence and that’s great to see. In a small scene in a pawn store we also get to see a bit more of what drives the Punisher, indeed where he draws the line and that does not end well for the clerk, but for like really good reasons.
Also unfortunately there are more and more small problematic issues with the episode that just stop it from moving into great territory. Firstly, the Punisher is clearly presented as a military veteran with immense tactical capacity, unless he gets within 100 meters of a main cast member and then he seems to unable to think tactically or fire his guns properly. For example, at the end of the episode where the Punisher sees through the Reyes trap (also aside, how did he get that truck to drive by itself) where does he position himself, on top of a water tower completely exposed for anyone to take him out.
Also how they film, edit or stage the action sequences really needs a little more work. At the end of the episode there is a brawl between Daredevil and the Punisher on top of a roof. They are being shot at by police, but a shoulder high wall between the fight and the police protects them, as the police can’t get a clear shot. However, when the Punisher falls on the ground he gets shot in the arm, which shouldn’t be possible because he is covered by the wall. I’m sure this is just a problem in editing the episode to make the fight sequence have more impact, but it also made it more unclear.
Episode 3 – New York’s Finest
For the final episode in this first bunch we once again open up with things not looking great for Matt/Daredevil, captured by the Punisher and tied to a chimney on a roof in chains. Which of course leads to the confrontation that the whole season has been building too so far.
The sequence where each of them attack each other’s philosophical and moral positions is a masterpiece of writing, because each side has good arguments to back up there position. Daredevil does not kill, he has the moral superiority, or so it seems, but then the criminals he beats up and sends to jail, just come back and re-offend. The Punisher argues that by killing people he is removing threats and stopping more people from getting hurt, but then, his world is very black and white and has no room for the grey that is life, and it has not room for the fact that people can change and can redeem themselves. It is the classic fight about Capital Punishment and it is a compelling scene, because both of the characters think they are right, and indeed in some respects they both are. It is also good to see two characters on TV actually discus religion without all the usual sanctimonious faff or conversely the outright vilification that we have come to see, it a frank honest discussion and that is rare. My only issue with this scene is that they relied too heavily on the ‘Shot, Reverse Shot’ filming technique which meant it didn’t quite have the impact it could have had, it would have been great to see more shots of them together reacting to each other’s dialogue.
While this is all happening we get to see a great moment between Foggy and Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) in the hospital. It is great to see Foggy really coming into his own this season as he talks down some guys from tearing the hospital apart. Also it really good to see Claire sort of act as the glue that is holding these Netflix/Marvel series together, even if it does seem that she gets the rough end of things at work whenever she helps out.
We also get the best fight sequence of the season so far, wow New York’s finest really delivered on the action and story. The sequence where Daredevil fights down a staircase as a bunch of Dogs of Hell bikies storm up to kill the Punisher and anyone else in their way was amazing to watch. The use of the chain and the environment almost gave the sequence a Jackie Chang feeling, and it was really interesting to watch. Some of the fight sequences so far had felt a bit flat, but this was a masterpiece of filmmaking.
So three episodes in and I can say that the opening of Daredevil builds a really strong foundation for its sophomore season, and clearly has a lot of potential. There are some small issues that just hold it back a bit, but nothing can take away from the strong narrative and action so far. It will be interesting to see how they continue the season, there is still a very large Wilson Fisk hole in the show that is yet to be filed. It will also be interesting to see how this interplay between Daredevil and the Punisher develops, because it has been fascinating so far. Also more Madame Gao please, she was awesome.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Bang (Ep1) & Dogs to a Gun Fight (Ep2)
Written by – Douglas Petrie & Marco Ramirez
Based on – The Marvel Comics of Stan Lee & Bill Everett
Directed by – Phil Abraham
Staring – Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Stephen Rider & Jon Bernthal
New York’s Finest (Ep3)
Written by – Mark Verheiden
Based on – The Marvel Comics of Stan Lee & Bill Everett
Directed by – Marc Jobst
Staring – Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Stephen Rider, Jon Bernthal & Rosario Dawson