Friday 30 September 2016

Daredevil season 2: 'Another fascinatingly dark and compelling instalment in the Marvel universe'

Meadhbh McGrath

Published 18/03/2016 | 15:46

Daredevil
Daredevil
Daredevil

When Marvel’s Daredevil premiered in Netflix last year, audiences fell in love with its brutal fight scenes and gritty take on the superhero origin story.

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It was a sizzling and suspenseful slow burn, as we watched Matt Murdock, a young blind lawyer with amplified senses, take to the dark streets of Hell’s Kitchen in New York as Daredevil.

Matt didn’t don his regrettably silly-looking Daredevil get-up until the last moments of the debut season, as creator Drew Goddard (The Martian, Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and showrunner Steven DeKnight (Angel, Smallville) were more interested in crafting a noir-influenced serial crime drama than the glossy superhero fodder we’ve come to expect from Marvel.

Although some critics found him dull, the brooding Matt was a strong lead and viewers enjoyed watching him struggle with his Catholic guilt in his pursuit of Wilson Fisk.

Daredevil
Daredevil

But it was Vincent D’Onofrio’s tortured villain, easily one of the most compelling in the Marvel universe, who carried the first season.Season two inevitably suffers from the loss of Goddard, DeKnight and D’Onofrio.

This time, we’ve got Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez, both of whom worked on the first season, taking over as showrunners, while our antagonist comes in the form of Frank Castle, aka the Punisher.

Jon Bernthal is a pitch-perfect Punisher and makes a valiant attempt to fill the gap left by the now-imprisoned Fisk.

Like Daredevil, the Punisher seeks justice but is willing to go to homicidal lengths to get it.Their conflicting approaches to crime-fighting offer the central tension in the early part of the season, but are unfortunately lacking in just about any nuance or subtlety.

Their scenes together can feel sluggish and stiff, filled with agonisingly long-winded philosophical arguments about whether murder is ever justified.

Thankfully, in the closing scenes of episode four, we get our first glimpse of Elektra, Matt’s former flame, who proves to be a very formidable foil.

Her arrival instantly heats things up. Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock has been criticised as a bland lead, but we get a better sense of the character in his exchanges with Elektra.

Newcomer Elodie Yung is clearly having fun with the role, and has killer chemistry with Cox, leaving us wondering whether she can corrupt our faithful hero.

The show shifts gear in episode six as the Elektra and Daredevil join forces for a thrilling caper that will hopefully spell good things for the rest of the season.

We’re also treated to some stunning cinematography right from the offing, as the series premiere opens with a sweeping shot over the city and snippets of conversations Daredevil hears from atop a skyscraper.

The ensuing chase sequence is fantastically thrilling, and typically brutal. If you’re a fan of excellently-choreographed fight scenes, season two does not disappoint.

There are many dazzling combat sequences (look out for one near the end of the third episode) to match the spectacular violence that marked the first season.

The supporting players continue to work well, particularly Matt’s best friend and legal partner Foggy Nelson and Rosario Dawson’s nurse Claire Temple.

The show wisely leans on its new characters, but one aspect of the show that may be particularly disappointing for Irish viewers is the “Irish” mob that rises up to fill the power vacuum left by Wilson Fisk.

Dubious Irish accents abound, along with cringe-inducing, trailer-ready cries of “Let’s make Hell’s Kitchen ours again!”

Luckily, in the first seven episodes there is enough evidence to recommend both the Punisher and Elektra as wonderfully gripping and dangerous additions to the world of the show.

The early half of the season lays down a strong foundation for the rest of the episodes, and despite its flaws, Daredevil’s second series proves to be another fascinatingly dark and compelling instalment in the Marvel universe.

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