Picking your favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe solo property (i.e. one that has any one character’s name in the title) is bound to be a nightmare for most people – how exactly, does one pick the best out of a cornucopia group of exalted beings? Nonetheless, as a devoted MCU follower from day one, I can safely say that “Daredevil” is my pick for the best MCU solo property. If you’ve finished binging on all thirteen episodes of the newly released second season, is that choice in the least bit surprising?
Most of the cast of season one reprise their respective roles in season two, and first and foremost is, of course, Charlie Cox in the role of blind lawyer Matt Murdock aka Daredevil, while Elden Henson returns as his best friend/business partner Franklin “Foggy” Nelson and Deborah Ann Wohl as their legal aid Karen Page.
Our hero finds a new antagonist in the form of the murderous vigilante Frank Castle (aka The Punisher), played by Jon Bernthal of “The Walking Dead” fame, as well as crossing paths once again with his old flame and fellow Ninjutsu master Elektra Natchios played by Elodie Yung.
Scott Glenn also returns in the role of Matt’s crusty old martial arts mentor Stick, while Rosario Dawson reprises the role of Daredevil’s ER ally Claire Temple, and we also get a few characters from the recent “Jessica Jones” series jumping over for season two, along with one or two other returning characters from season one, all of whom will remain unspoiled here!
Blind lawyer Matt Murdock continues to lead a double life, running a legal practice by day whilst cleaning up the streets of Hell’s Kitchen as the masked vigilante Daredevil, by night, which only puts him further at odds with his best friend and legal partner Foggy Nelson, one of the only people to know Matt’s secret.
Foggy’s concern for his friend’s well being only intensifies with arrival of fellow vigilante Frank Castle whom the media dubs “The Punisher”, so-named for his habit of leaving none of his targets alive. While they both target the same brand of vicious evildoers, Matt takes great exception to Frank’s tactics and use of lethal force and sets out to put a stop to The Punisher’s rampage.
However, he finds himself pulled into another conflict with the emergence of a centuries-old ninja clan known as The Hand, who are currently plotting something that can only spell disaster for New York. With new enemies to his left and right, Matt is forced to reluctantly join forces with his mentor Stick and his old girlfriend Elektra Natchios, both members of another ninja clan intent on stopping The Hand, and known as The Chaste.
Everything that season one got right season two does just as well, if not better, and thematically speaking, the difference between the two is the difference between “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight”. The conflict feels bigger, the emotions more potent, and the action more spectacular.
Using season two as the MCU intro for The Punisher was a brilliant move in terms of upping the ante and making Marvel Netflix shows look and feel on par with their big screen counterparts. Anyone who knows their Daredevil lore knows that he’s prone to butting heads with The Punisher over their disparate views on the death penalty, and by making this the primary theme of season two, the show truly feels like it’s got as firm a grasp on its title character as you could possibly ask for in a comic book adaptation.
Frank Castle seems to have been the toughest nut for Marvel to crack, with no less than three previous shots taken at bringing him to life on the big screen, and Jon Bernthal really seems to be out to position himself as the craziest of the bunch (it’s certainly not hard to buy those rumors of a Punisher spin-off already being in the works given the perfection of Bernthal’s performance).
Marvel really seems to understand how much fight choreography can tell the viewer about a character’s mindset and what they’ve been through. They don’t waste that opportunity with The Punisher when he’s set loose on inmates in a prison cellblock, emerging soaked to the bone with the blood of about twenty men. The Punisher is a character defined by a seething blood lust for criminals and mob bosses, and rest assured, that kind of merciless slaughter of irredeemable scum is just another day in the life of Frank Castle.
As for those of you thirsty for boatloads of ninja action, take heed – “Daredevil” is not to be missed! With super senses and a mastery of Ninjutsu by his side, Matt is as nimble and swift as ever, and even better, the introduction of The Chaste and The Hand means that season two is just about the best ninja flick you’re going to find today. In one package, you get the sheer quantity of ninjas from your average 80’s ninja movie combined with the stunning quality of action from “Ninja II: Shadow of a Tear”. The fight choreography of “Daredevil” also continues to draw clear influences from “The Raid” movies, and nowhere is that clearer than in the end fight of episode three, “New York’s Finest”.
It’s obviously season two’s equivalent to the incredible hallway fight of season one, aptly described by Charlie Cox as the former fight sequence “on crack”. While Matt was wounded and fighting through tremendous pain in the first battle, he’s at no such disadvantage here even when it’s him against thirty men charging up a stairwell. With a chain by his side and a lot of anger to unleash, these guys certainly have to feel like they’re fighting the devil! It’s truly a notch in the series’ belt that it’s two-for-two in introducing the first big contender for the best fight sequence of the year.
It’s also great to see Stick back in the game after only appearing in a single episode in season one (though admittedly one of the better ones), and Elodie Yung truly makes Elektra the equal of Daredevil that fans know her to be, or may have forgotten she was after the abomination that was 2005’s “Elektra”. She’s Catwoman to his Batman from the moment she shows up, and seeing them fight side by side so frequently never grows tired. In fact, it gives the climax of the final episode, “A Cold Day in Hell’s Kitchen” so much more emotional power when she and Matt make what they think will be their last stand against a swarm of Hand ninjas. It makes the comparison to “The Dark Knight” undeniable by the time the end credits roll.
An already fantastic series to begin with in season one, season two of “Daredevil” gives you a show that’s even more sure of itself and totally worthy of its place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As a legal drama, a ninja thriller and a superhero epic, it’s absolutely top of the line. With all the Easter Eggs and character crossovers with “Jessica Jones”, it’s easy to feel the same sense of giddy, childlike excitement at the world building going on that everyone experienced from “The Avengers” as we move closer to “The Defenders”. However, one thing is still a little irksome – two seasons of one Marvel Netflix show, one of another….and still NO Stan Lee cameo? Hey come on now!
- Elodie Yung is a karate black belt and has previously displayed her skills in the films “District B13: Ultimatum” and “G.I. Joe: Retaliation”.
- Much of the background of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” franchise is directly inspired by Daredevil. Specifically, the Turtles’ mentor and father figure Splinter was inspired by Stick, and the Turtles’ main nemeses the Foot Clan, was modeled on The Hand.
- Jason Statham was rumored to have been in talks to portray the Daredevil villain Bullseye in season two. He’d also previously expressed interest in portraying Daredevil himself, saying in 2008, “Could a British actor wear the red horns of the Man Without Fear? Absolutely, just give me the chance, I would love to be Daredevil!” He even received the endorsement of famed comic book writer Frank Miller. Ultimately, Statham’s statement about Daredevil being played by a British actor would come to pass with the casting of Charlie Cox.