In Daredevil season 2, some things have changed. There is a new pair of showrunners. Wilson Fisk is behind bars, Matt has a new(ish) outfit, Foggy is in on Matt’s secret and vigilante work from go. There is a new murderous crime-fighter running through Hell’s Kitchen and massacring every (bad) guy in sight. The most important new thing about Daredevil season 2 is that the show has improved in almost every way over the already good season 1.
A Better Matt, A Better Hero
One of the biggest hurdles of Daredevil season 1 was the star himself. While Matt Murdock wasn’t awful, it was very hard to connect with him. Matt was a miserable character. He wallowed in so much self-pity and regret it was nigh on unbearable. It was relief when he put on his proto-Daredevil outfit and start punching criminals in the face not because he was more interesting but because his pouty face was obscured.
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While season 1 Matt became more likable and sympathetic over time, he was a hard character to like initially. In season 2, Matt starts off in a much more happy and enjoyable place for the audience. Matt isn’t such a miserable wet bag of regret. He is smiling, and not just hiding his pain behind a smile, he is genuinely happy. He is joking with Foggy and Karen. Matt Murdock is a changed man in season 2. Matt is now the type of hero that you want to see happy and succeed. He’s not just some representation of an ideal like he was in season 1. Matt feels more human, more alive and a lot more likable.
This is important because in season 2, things start going to hell in Hell’s Kitchen quite quickly. The Punisher, the main antagonist, arrives very soon in the first episode and it is a hugely memorable entrance. There will be more discussion on The Punisher in a bit but from the start it is much easier to invest in Matt’s face-off with The Punisher than it was with Fisk. The reason being that Matt is much easier to invest in from the beginning.
More Foggy (and Karen)
The biggest difference from Daredevil season 2 to season 1, is Foggy’s role. Foggy Nelson was the desperately needed comedic relief in season 1. The problem was that Foggy and Matt were barely shown on-screen together. While the excellent flashback episode of season 1, “Nelson v. Murdock” showed the entirety of their friendship it wasn’t until the tail end of the season. Now that Foggy knows that Matt is the Daredevil, Foggy’s role has completely changed. There is much more interplay between Foggy and Matt. As a consequence there is a lot more humor in the show. Daredevil season 2 isn’t a comedy, nor it should be, but thanks to the core friendship of the series it is a lot less of drudge than before.
Karen is also included in that core friendship. While Karen remains ignorant of Matt’s secret identity, she thinks his frequent injuries are because of a drinking problem. (It is silly but more believable than the truth.) There is a lot more time in Daredevil season 2, specifically in the first few episode spent with the Nelson & Murdock team. Karen’s one-woman mission to bring down Fisk in her own way was often more compelling than Matt’s mission in season 1. The value of having the three main characters together and making the audience believe in their family dynamic is invaluable.
The Punisher: A Different Sort of Threat
Wilson Fisk was a terrifying and fantastic villain in Daredevil season 1. Vincent D’onofrio was amazing in the role and it could be argued that Daredevil season 1 had a better more interesting villain than it had a hero. Jon Bernthal had some big shoes to fill, in other words, when he joined Daredevil season 2 as The Punisher. Thankfully, Bernthal appears to be up to the challenge. The Punisher isn’t trying to be Fisk 2.0, he’s a very different type of villain albeit just as compelling.
The thing that is more readily apparent about The Punisher is how he matches Matt physically. While Daredevil eventually faced down Fisk in the season 1 finale, the character was never about his strength. It was intellectual game of cat and mouse between Fisk and Daredevil in season 1. While there is definitely some mental sparring between The Punisher and Daredevil, they are physical equals. Bernthal’s Punisher is fast and nimble. He can block and return Daredevil’s lightning fast strikes. He’s not just bruiser with a gun. The Punisher is just as deadly with his fists as a gun and it leads to some tense and impressive fight scenes.
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The other important aspect of The Punisher though is while he is the antagonist of the season, he’s not necessarily a bad guy. He kills people, a lot of people, but only ones who deserve it. Of course, he is deciding who deserves death but The Punisher’s victims are very much the same people Daredevil would go after. They are criminals, they are bad people. They are mobsters, child porn peddlers and killers themselves.
The Punisher goes out of his way to not harm or kill people who are good. He isn’t shown killing cops or Daredevil or anyone fighting on the side of justice. This isn’t just happenstance either, it is a part of a moral code. From a certain point of view The Punisher is less of a villain and more of a hero. It is a far cry from Wilson Fisk who, by the end of the season, admitted that he was the “ill intent.” The difference between the villains and the way that Daredevil season 2 blurs the line between good and bad makes it a much more psychologically interesting and complicated show than before.
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But what do you think of Daredevil season 2? Is it better than season 1? Is it worse?
All episodes of Daredevil are streaming currently on Netflix.
(Images courtesy of Netflix)