Daredevil never dares and barely devils.

It’s amazing what a year can do to your opinions. Stories you love become, in hindsight, bloated and ridden with boring passages. Stories you dislike at first sight reveal their […]

It’s amazing what a year can do to your opinions. Stories you love become, in hindsight, bloated and ridden with boring passages. Stories you dislike at first sight reveal their charms. Stories you are indifferent about become filled with meaning as you reconsider what the story tried to do in the first place. In Daredevil’s case, a season that packed quite a punch for me on my original view, felt increasingly stale as I started to think about its treatment of its diverse cast and its anticlimactic ending. Of course, these individual flaws don’t necessarily eliminate my enjoyment of the show and the way it handled things like Matt Murdock’s origin by showcasing his relationships with Jack (his father), Foggy (his best friend/partner in law) and Karen Page (their legal assistant) was thrilling and Charlie Cox’s performance demonstrates exactly what makes Daredevil more than just “Spider-Man meets Batman”.

Of course, it should have been just a matter of emphasizing these elements and phasing out the more hyper-masculine nonsense as well as the pervasive sense that the Asians members of the cast were just there to make direct reference to the worst, most orientalist aspects of the comics. Daredevil’s supposed concerns during its first seasons were about how crime fighting affected life in a melting pot like New York as people from all walks of life were outright steamrolled by criminals masquerading as elite businessmen. There’s a lot of power to this idea and Daredevil was at its best when it explored it, alongside Matt’s relationship to his friends, family and God.

Daredevil season 2 doubles down on the show’s flaws rather substantially.  In this season, you see, Daredevil is not challenged by an outright antagonist like Wilson Fisk, but by the inner conflict created by Frank Castle as The Punisher and his old flame, Elektra Natchios. Both of them are willing to kill but both of them share Matt’s belief in active crime fighting. This is a conflict that’s well-trodden territory for comic books. And it’s easy to why it gets the attention of so many writers. It attacks the very fabric of superhero comic books, it questions the moral strength of these paragons of justice and hope and it also raises the stakes of every conflict involving these characters.

daredevil-netflix-jet

But at the same time, I can’t help but feel it’s such a fundamentally uninteresting conundrum in the first place because there’s not a lot of new territory you can cover. Sometimes, a clever writer like Scott Snyder comes around and finds a new twist on the world’s least interesting question (“Why doesn’t Batman kill The Joker”?), but otherwise, the whole concept of undermining the non-lethality of superhéroes usually only leads to pointing to the obvious core flaws of the genre as a moral parable in a way that’s not as subversive as it sounds. After all, the state does kill “criminals” every day, without giving them the chance to grow and become something else entirely. The only real difference between the Punisher and the institutions that repudiate him is simply that the Punisher beat them by skipping a few steps.

Murdock still has faith in the system that would, without much thinking, easily kill people he would fight hard to convict, based on the relatively flimsy justification that “It’s not for us to call”.  And while Matt’s belief in the criminal justice system does make sense (he’s a lawyer, after all) The show’s actual beliefs don’t seem to make much sense. By the end of the show, it’s hard to tell whether the show agrees with Matt or, worse, it simply doesn’t care (realistically, it’s probably the latter) and it’s something that pervades most aspects of the show, from the subplots to the action scenes.

The violence becomes harder and harder to justify now that Matt has become more experienced. It’s harder to accept Matt has any moral ground above Frank Castle when he still has probably killed at least one guy accidentally (or at the very least, crippled at least 10 criminals) It was easier to accept the edgier violence of season one because Matt was growing into his role as a vigilante and he was making peace with the violence he inflicts on others. But season 2 instead pretends that Matt is clearly the better person just because he doesn’t do anything as obviously reversible as killing (nevermind that those injuries are probably not all reversible) Not to mention that it all lacks the imagination season 1 does. In fact season 2’s best fight scene is a visceral-er and raw-er update to season 1’s utterly remarkable hall fight scene. It’s a damn shame that the show only goes back to the ideas in this hall scene (not just the brutality, but the physical exhaustion, the less choreographed looking fighting in favor of a more down to earth style and so on) once per season, instead choosing increasing less believable fight set ups constantly.

There are some good things that come out of this season and they’re mostly down to Matt’s systematic self-destruction to become Daredevil full time. While the material itself is weak, the actors make a lot of it rhyme and resonate. And while in general, the mob violence is weak and disappointing, the fights with the Punisher and Elektra carry heavier weight in their choreography, thanks to Jon Bernthal’s raw strength and Elodie Yung’s agility.  But overall the season proves to be mostly kind of an aimless mess, with higher concerns for its aesthetic than anything interesting it might have to say about the scars of violence it explored during its beloved, if flawed,  first season.