As Daredevil’s new opponents and foils, Bernthal and Yung are both sensational, fleshing out their comic-book character’s methods and motivations more completely than any previous adaptations of the source material have managed. And Cox is also great; he’s at home in this role by now, comfortable confronting Matt’s inner strife even as he nails the character’s working-class charisma.
In supporting roles, Henson and Woll both continue their fine work from last season. Foggy’s characterization as a quick-witted litigator is made believable by Henson, now well beyond simple comic relief; and Woll, in the other corner, plays both love interest and detective (picking up where Vondie Curtis-Hall’s sorely missed Ben Urich left off, as one line of dialogue aptly notes) with equal aplomb. Some of the season’s plot threads leave them dangling, particularly early on, but both actors are so enjoyable that, were it not for the superb action choreography on display in Daredevil‘s nocturnal storylines, they might steal the show.
Speaking of that choreography, though, Daredevil‘s most compulsively watchable aspect remains – unapologetically – its action. Petrie and Ramirez took criticisms of the first season’s overwhelming darkness to heart, adding lighter hues to all the shadows and carnage that make it easier to marvel at all the show’s grade-A sparring. If you geeked out over the hallway fight scene in the first season, episode 3 contains one incredible fight that barrels along throughout an entire building and down a twisting stairwell with explosive fury, giving that earlier battle a run for its money (even if the clear objective to “go bigger” robs it of some shock value). And when the Punisher and Daredevil trade blows, their showdowns double as nifty comparisons in fighting style and masculine might.
The former is a Special Forces savage, throwing punches that land like earthquakes and maneuvering with a hulking agency; the latter moves like a circus-trained acrobat, bobbing and weaving in elegant – yet equally impactful – arcs. Elektra’s more in sync with her former beau; the sequences she and Daredevil share have an organic, intimate ebb and flow. Daredevil is far and away Netflix’s most technically accomplished series, and it ups its game here.
In terms of plot, Daredevil season 2 doesn’t seem so much a step down from the show’s freshman outing as a disparate riff. With urban-rooted characters like veteran reporter Ben Urich and ill-fated immigrant Elena Cardenas (Judith Delgados), Daredevil‘s first season turned gentrification, and Fisk’s applying pressure to local neighborhoods in an attempt to build something “beautiful” out of something “ugly,” into the show’s hidden evil. That angle is largely abandoned this time around, with Daredevil’s identity crisis (brought about by Castle’s ruthlessness, Elektra’s temptations, Foggy’s angst, and Karen’s innocence) replacing it at center stage. There’s a fuzzy critique of mass shootings, police brutality, and gun ownership to be found in the Punisher’s introduction, but the show is ultimately much more concerned with superhero world-building (a Jessica Jones reference here, an Avengers shout-out there) than it is social commentary.
That isn’t a bad thing. Daredevil functions best as a grimy, hard-hitting superhero saga, consumed with both its violence and the complicated characters caught in its midst. The second season’s first seven episodes are aware of this and return to that foundation, even if chaotic detours occasionally throw the pacing for a loop. It should be noted that it’s frustrating to review a series intended for binge-viewing, because there’s a pervading sense that more pieces will fall into place only as the show enters its end game. Reviewers will discover how dissimilar plot threads will weave together (or even if they will) exactly as general audiences do.
But what’s been made available for review does indicate this: Daredevil is still strong in its sophomore outing, a muscular and visually mesmerizing series that continues to explore its gritty, intense corner of the MCU even as it tells its own stories and, crucially, builds characters complete and compelling enough to exist both within its boundaries and (if the Man Without Fear, the Punisher, or Elektra end up tapped for Infinity War) without them.
Social commentary takes a backseat this season, and some may fault the show for that, but most will find that the introspective conversation about superheroics and their consequences it’s trying to have more than picks up the slack. Both as a brawn-over-brains big brother to Jessica Jones and a hard-edged expansion of the comic-book universe in which it belongs, Daredevil is operating with more conviction and at greater capacity than ever in its second year.
Bloody, brutal, and bolstered by two flawless casting additions, Daredevil's second season is as confident and compelling as it is refreshingly inclined to critically examine its hero's more hypocritical aspects.