Advance Review: Netflix's DAREDEVIL 'More Cinematic, More Superhero-Like' In Season 2 Opener

"Daredevil" image
Credit: Netflix / Marvel Studios
Credit: Marvel Studios / Netflix

Daredevil Season 2 Episode 1
Starring: Charlie Cox, Elden Henson, Deborah Ann Woll, and Jon Bernthal
Directed by: Phil Abraham
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10

There’s no question that the first season of Netflix’s Daredevil left fans wanting more, not just of Matt Murdock himself, but of the dark corner created by the first of the streaming service’s Defenders group of series. Now, more has finally arrived – but does it live up to expectations? If the season premiere is any indication, the answer is a resounding “maybe.”

Right off the bat, there’s a noticeable shift from the world in which viewers got to know Matt Murdock and his devilish alter ego. No longer just a brawling urban myth, Daredevil has embraced his role as a costumed vigilante. And while his first appearance in season 2 is decidedly Batman-like in execution, Daredevil isn’t the dour, grim avenger that his archetype implies – in fact, when we get our first full glimpse of the hero, he’s grinning at his handiwork. The shift in tone doesn’t stop there; the opening scenes of this season premiere are decidedly more cinematic, more superhero-like than anything in the previous season. That positivity carries over to Matt’s relationship with Foggy Nelson and Karen Page, and their “can-do” spirit in bolstering their popular – but struggling – law firm.

Credit: Marvel Studios / Netflix

Fan who wanted more from Charlie Cox’s Murdock in season one will be pleased. Maybe it’s a level of comfort that comes with dispatching your arch-enemy, but this season’s Murdock is almost gleeful at times, and certainly more playful than we’ve previously seen him. And while that’s a welcome shift (and one that’s likely to fuel a much darker descent later this season) it’s also part of the underlying problem with this season premiere.

Daredevil season 2 starts out focused on a dichotomy – not between Matt Murdock and Daredevil, as Matt seems comfortable straddling the roles of lawyer and vigilante – but between Daredevil and the as-yet unnamed Punisher. Jon Bernthal’s physical presence comes quite late in the game, but his alter ego’s reputation is the episode’s crux, painting a swath of violence over the underworld of Hell’s Kitchen that is even more brutal than Kingpin’s. And that’s the other half of the problem.

In trying to establish the threat of the Punisher and what his presence means to Daredevil’s neighborhood, this season premiere tries too hard to have it all. It throws bits of everything we’re likely to get this season into a one-hour stretch, telegraphing too much of what’s to come, and abandoning the most compelling part of its central mystery by the episode’s climax. The tension is cut far too soon – viewers will find themselves hooked with anticipation at what Matt will have to face, but not enough to really feel the impact when he has to stare it down by the episode’s end. For a show that was too episodic in its first season, so quickly abandoning the tension of a more serialized second season is a weak choice. By establishing this dichotomy, and largely abandoning it so immediately, the themes are undercut, and the suspense underserved.

That’s not to say this season premiere is bad. For one thing, the cast continues to be excellent. Elden Henson and Deborah Ann Woll continue to be Daredevil’s not-so-secret weapons. Both characters have grown since season one, and both get truly wonderful spotlights in this season premiere, showing that they aren’t just Matt’s supporting cast, they're his support system, brilliant and capable on their own. It’s unlikely that any TV superhero has allies as competent and compelling as Karen Page and Foggy Nelson, and this episode makes brilliant use of both the characters, and the actors.

Credit: Marvel Studios / Netflix

As for the show’s other big component, the Punisher, while much of his reveal feels like a let down, Bernthal himself brings a weight to Frank Castle that belies great things to come as the season continues. Fans of Garth Ennis’s Punisher MAX will be very happy with his portrayal, which keeps his gravitas while eschewing the campiness that has, for some reason, plagued Castle in previous live action iterations. This is a Punisher that is not just brutal, but almost sadistic.

For the Easter egg inclined, keep your eyes peeled for some deep cut references to the Marvel universe, both from the page, and the screen.

Taken as individual scenes, every point in the premiere of Daredevil season two works, and works well. DD’s action sequences are compelling, the cast has obvious chemistry, and the brightness of Matt Murdock’s life contrasts nicely with the abject horror he’s faced with as Daredevil. The problem is, added together, they form an inconsistent picture – there’s so much left to plumb by the time the episode reaches its physical climax that it feels emotionally anti-climactic. This is only one episode from this season, and with twelve more to go, there’s plenty of time to get that momentum back. But as it stands, this season premiere feels like a train that reaches the station far too early.

Daredevil's second season premieres March 18 on Netflix.

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