Daredevil, Marvel's first Netflix superhero show, was an acclaimed hit that made a name for itself with flashy fight scenes and a morose exploration of justice in a city riddled with crime and inescapable violence.
The show's second season is sticking to its strengths with new, bloodthirsty characters, a plot involving the trial of the century, and the yakuza (or a group that says it's the yakuza), Irish gangsters, and violent bikers itching for a gorgeous fight scene or three.
Netflix only screened the first seven episodes (of 13) for critics; I'll post a full review of the season on Sunday, once I've seen them all. But there's gripping, powerful stuff in the first few, and I think a lot of it surpasses what Daredevil did in its first season — even if it's difficult to recreate the surprise, momentum, and novelty that you get in a debut.
Daredevil season two is clearly looking to raise the level of what people loved about the show in season one. And here are five moments where it does just that.
Light spoilers follow for Daredevil season two, episodes one through six.
1) The stairwell fight (episode 3)
What set Daredevil apart in its first season was this amazing one-shot fight scene:
The scene, inspired by Korean action films like Oldboy and the Indonesian fight flick The Raid, was a brilliant hook for Daredevil because there had never been a superhero TV show, or even an action TV show, whose fight scenes were this thoughtful. You can see the exhaustion baked into the choreography. The cutaway shots echo the fact that Daredevil is blind. It's obvious that a lot of care went into the scene.
This second season features an equally breathtaking fight sequence. This time, the two characters duking it out weave their way into a stairwell, and the choreography makes impressive use of depth and the verticality of the space. I didn't think Daredevil's season one fight scene could be topped, but season two is definitely trying.
2) The Punisher's introduction (episode 2)
In season one, Daredevil made its worldview clear. Every single scene, every line, every fight carried the looming message that violence has consequences. From the relationship between Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), a.k.a. Daredevil, and his father to Wilson Fisk's (Vincent D'Onofrio) rise to become the crime boss Kingpin to Karen Page's (Deborah Ann Woll) fear of being attacked again (she was framed for a murder and was almost killed in the first season), Daredevil made clear that violence changes people for the rest of their lives and that the damage it causes can't be undone.
"There's been something in your voice. It's been there for a while now. I thought whatever it was, whatever it's been, would get better once Fisk was put away," Matt tells Karen in the season one finale. "It hasn't. Has it?"
The first arc of this second season is an exploration of that idea. It deals with the introduction of the Punisher (Jon Bernthal), a man who's so scarred by personal trauma that he equates justice with death. To that end, he believes evil shouldn't be locked up in jail but rather killed on the spot. And no matter how much evil he eliminates or how many bad guys he kills, he can't change what's happened to him or the people he thinks he's saving.
3) A Jessica Jones Easter egg (episode five)
Marvel's big plan with its Netflix shows (those existing and those in production) — Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist — is to eventually connect them all with a Defenders team-up series.
And since all of these characters live in the same shared universe, it only makes sense that Matt Murdock and company have heard of Jessica Jones. She is, after all, a private investigator with Hogarth, Chao, and Benowitz — one of the most powerful law firms around.
In Jessica Jones, Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) becomes a bridge to Daredevil. And in the third episode of Daredevil season two we see her pop up again, connecting the series back to Jessica Jones. But she's not the only character who's currently traveling between worlds.
4) Elektra's fight scene (episode six)
I've touched on this subject already, but Daredevil's fight scenes are one of the best parts of the show. In season two, we start to really see how each character has a distinct, pronounced way of fighting. It's especially clear in Elektra (Elodie Yung) and Punisher's scenes.
The Punisher has a couple of fight scenes with and against Daredevil, and there's a bone-crunching brutality to his fights. His style lacks refinement, as if he's just trying to get the job done with pure force. There's an obvious difference between the way he fights and the way Daredevil does.
There's also a difference between how Punisher fights and how Elektra fights. Elektra, whom we learn has spent time all over the world, has an elegance to her fighting style. She's nimble and graceful. When she takes down an opponent, she does so with a series of intricate moves rather than a one-punch knockout, because she can't rely on brute force like Punisher does. We get to see this in episode six, when she teams up with Daredevil.
5) A reboot of the rain scene from the Daredevil movie (episode 4)
Daredevil season two contains a callback to Fox's 2003 Daredevil feature film, which was a horrendously bad superhero flick. The best worst part of that disaster of a movie was a kiss scene between Daredevil (Ben Affleck) and Elektra (Jennifer Garner) that took place in the rain. The reason it's set in the rain is that even though Daredevil is blind, his super hearing lets him "see" everything when it rains, because acoustics or something. And so whenever he's making out in the rain, he can "see" the person he's making out with because raindrops are bouncing off the person's face. I'm not going to pretend to understand the science of being able to echolocate someone's eyebrows, but here we are:
In season two, episode four, the Netflix show reboots this scene with a connection between Karen and Matt that also takes place in the rain. Sadly, we don't get to see Karen turn into a blue, Na'vi-like creature.
All 13 episodes of Daredevil season two debut Friday, March 18, on Netflix.