The second of season of Marvel’s Daredevil is now available for your binging pleasure on Netflix. Since we’re as excited about as the rest of you are, we’re offering full-service breakdowns of The Man Without Fear’s return. Contributing Editors Tara Bennett and Mike Avila will be doing detailed recaps of each of Season 2's 13 episodes.
Mike is the lifelong Daredevil aficionado/expert, while Tara is the television junkie. From those perspectives, we’ll publish our reviews every two days in case you don’t have the spare time to cram right episodes in one day. So, don’t worry if your attention span starts to slip a bit and your eyes get a little glassy while watching episode six at 3 a.m. We’ve got you covered.
We’ll start things off with a look at the appropriately named first episode, “Bang.”
Mike: Let there be light! After one of the darkest – aesthetically as well as thematically – debuts in comic-book TV/movie adaptation history, one of the first things you notice about Season 2 is that the producers made sure to let some daylight sneak into the show.
The first scene after the opening credits shows Matt (Charlie Cox) and Foggy (Elden Henson) walking in broad daylight through Hell’s Kitchen (although the E. 118th Street sign indicates it was actually shot much further uptown), exchanging witty banter, almost as if the powers that be intended to hint at a more optimistic, lighter Daredevil.
Um, not quite.
Season 2 of Daredevil starts off with one of the most violent episodes in the show’s short history, which is really saying something. It hits the ground running, showing that the ‘Devil of Hell’s Kitchen’ appears to be in control for the moment, but in the midst of a heat wave, darker forces are gathering to make their move in the wake of Wilson Fisk’s ouster. It’s not just a table setter, it’s an incredibly dense episode where a lot happens. Most of it not good for our vision-impaired hero.
Tara: Sunshine is well-appreciated, even if it brings a copious amount of pit stains from the cast and denizens of NYC (we feel you, Foggy, as we've been there). From the summer heat, we get it's been at least a season and a half since Fisk fell to the Devil of Hell's Kitchen. The writers ably let us know that Matt's doing his vigilante thing every night, the law firm is dead broke per Karen's concerned disclosure and the various gangs of New York are all looking to pick up the pieces of Fisk's empire. It's well-presented narrative, with some great character moments, especially between Matt and Foggy.
Mike: Yes, Foggy knowing about Matt’s alter-ego has clearly complicated their friendship. On the positive side, Matt doesn’t have to lie to his best friend anymore about all his injuries. But the downside is that Foggy has to lie to Karen and create a fiction about Matt’s ‘drinking problem’ to explain his bruises and his punctuality issues. Henson really does a good job of portraying Foggy’s concern and frustration with Matt’s double life, and this episode hints at more tension between the two BFFs.
But let's push that aside. What you really want to know is whether a certain guy with a taste for skull fashion and heavy weaponry lives up to the advance hype?
Yes. Yes. YES.
I remember Joe Quesada telling us at NYCC last year that Jon Bernthal would be the best Punisher ever. If we’re being honest, that’s not a high bar to set, given the three awful Punisher films we’ve endured. But Joe Q was dead on. Bernthal is terrifying here. In just one episode, Bernthal personifies Frank Castle better than anyone else before him has done.
Tara: I'm with you, Mike. I saw one of those films and I want my two hours back. Here, Bernthal only appears in the last 10 minutes of the episode, but his handiwork - an Irish mob massacre, a biker crew hit, and Matt discovering men hanging from meat hooks - all let us know that this one-man wrecking crew is serious business. From Matt and Castle's first melee, I already buy him as more of a physical threat than Fisk ever posed. Fisk was an ox, but I called shenanigans at the Season 1 finale when Matt's speed, alone, should have made that fight over in half the time.
Mike: Yes, he’s like the bogeyman your older brother told you about as kids to scare you and keep you up at night. The scene in which Castle shoots up a hospital in search of a lone survigin gangster – Karen comes particularly close to getting capped -- is going to upset some folks because it supposedly goes against Castle’s code of not hurting innocents. But if you’re the guy who hunts down an entire gang and hangs ‘em on meat hooks, how much sleep can you realistically lose over collateral damage? I like that the writers are not sugar-coating Castle and his brutality. In Bernthal’s hands, it’s incredibly compelling.
Mike: Honestly, I had to really think twice about what I didn’t like about “Bang.” It was a tremendous episode. The one concern I have is that Foggy’s role on the show may be morphing from the Comic Relief to the Nagging Friend. It’s obvious he doesn't approve of Matt’s moonlighting, but I really hope we don’t have to hear about it EVERY. SINGLE. EPISODE.
Tara: Maybe I'm feeling a little superhero fatigue, but there were some tropes that weighed this episode down for me a bit. Matt's Daredevil tactics are leaning a bit too much towards Batman with his husky whispers and nighttime shakedowns. I know it's part and parcel for this world, but with so much of it in the media, I was hoping for a bit of a fresher take this season. I found myself enjoying the Matt in the daylight moments more. I also wasn't impressed with Karen's more pronounced mooning over Matt. It's feeling a bit overdone and one-note for her, especially when Marvel knocked Jessica Jones out of the park last fall. Lastly, the Irish mobster meeting was way more Lucky Charms than it needed to be. The ringtone took it over the top, and not in a good way.
The Comic Book References:
Mike: While there aren’t many direct callbacks or Easter Eggs to the comics (comment below if I’m mistaken), longtime readers will certainly enjoy many visual clues. The mood and visual tone of the show, for example, are very Frank Miller-esque. This resembles the Hell’s Kitchen he wrote and drew during his iconic run on DD.
The staging of the scene where the Punisher takes out 15 Irish gangsters is fantastic and darkly comic. It reminded me of Garth Ennis’ classic run on the Punisher comics.
There’s this big build-up in which one of the Irish leaders gives this big speech about Irish pride and he goes on and on about how with Fisk gone, it’s their time, the Irish gangs will once again own Hell’s Kitchen, and then...they’re all wiped out. Except for Grotto, another nice callback for diehard fans of Daredevil comics. Grotto lives to cower another day, thanks to Karen and Matt, but when The Punisher’s on your tail, you’re on borrowed time.
Matt Murdock’s faith is a constant in the comics, and the show is following suit. It was infused throughout Season 1. The ‘cold open’ fight scene in this episode ends in a church, juxtaposing Matt’s struggle to balance his vigilante persona with his Catholicism.
There is a great shot just before the credits in which the camera pans up from the street, past the neon cross outside the church to the roof, where we see Daredevil standing tall, and smiling. The exploration of Matt Murdock’s faith and how he reconciles it with what he does as Daredevil has provided many classic stories, and I hope the producers take us further down that road.
Longtime comics fans will lose their minds over the rooftop fight between DD and the Punisher. Again, it seems heavily influenced by Ennis’ run on Marvel Knights Punisher.
But the last scene in the episode, where Castle points his gun at Daredevil, says ‘bang’ and shoots him in the head, reminded me of the cover of Daredevil #183. Obviously, the composition is different, but the effect of that final scene was the same as when I saw that comic book on a spinner rack a thousand years ago: Utterly shocking.
Since there are 13 episodes in Season 2, we’re doubting the showrunners killed off their title character in the first episode, but still, they went there.
Tara: I am certainly in for another round of DD's world. I really enjoyed the character moments with Matt and Foggy . Foggy's adventure into the Sons of Anarchy realm was a good moment too. The last act introduction of Castle and the explosive cliffhanger were stellar and led me right into round two.
Mike: This episode did what a season debut should do: Establish where the characters are now, the struggles they face, introduce new challenges and threats. It continues to explore the problems Matt is having balancing his ‘Lawyer by day, Superhero by night’ act, and how it may spill over into his relationships with Foggy and Karen.
Since fight scenes are so important to the show, the stunt choreography was in top form for the rooftop battle between Daredevil and The Punisher.
Most important, Frank Castle has arrived and he nailed the landing. Bring on Episode 2!
What did you think of "Bang"? Did it hit the right notes?