When I reviewed Season 1 of Daredevil, I dared to hope that the characters from Marvel’s Netflix MCU offshoot would make the leap to the big screen to join in the “Infinity Wars”. While it seems that’s increasingly unlikely, the disappointment is somewhat mitigated by the depth and breadth being brought to life in Marvel’s seedy underbelly.
With Wilson Fisk behind bars and the Russian, Chinese and Japanese gangs having apparently vanished, other gangs, start to vie for control of Hell’s Kitchen. When a faction of the Irish mob is all but wiped out, the sole survivor seeks protection from Nelson & Murdock. This leads Murdock, in his Daredevil guise, to hunt down a ruthless vigilante known as The Punisher. But as Daredevil and The Punisher face off, larger forces are at work and the return of Murdock’s old flame Electra Natchios brings the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen up against an army of ninjas controlled by a shadowy organisation called The Hand.
The triumph of the first season of “Daredevil” was in proving that Marvel could operate in the shadows, with grit and realism within the confines of the MCU. Unfortunately, season two brings with it another hallmark of the MCU: too much setting up for later. In the early episodes, which are so focused on Frank Castle/ The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) that Daredevil almost feels like a supporting character in his own series, the show also seems too keen to show how dark and gritty it is, quickly escalating from bruising fight scenes to bloodthirsty gunplay and gratuitously gory torture scenes involving electric drills. It’s certainly not shy in playing up The Punisher’s anti-hero status. It’s hardly a surprise given the time devoted to him that he’s getting his own Netflix series but with the violent nihilism he brings to Daredevil’s opening episodes, I won’t be hurrying through my queue to watch it when it does.
What Daredevil’s second season really lacks is a central villain around which the thirteen episodes can revolve. When Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio) does finally make a reappearance, it handily helps avoids the usual Marvel/ Netflix mid-season slump but also throws into sharp relief how unfocused the rest of the series is. Electra’s return does provide something of a shot in the arm but her arc, and the introduction of The Hand, serve as much to lay the groundwork for “Iron Fist” and set up “The Defenders” they do to give Daredevil something to do.
It’s a slightly over-egged confection but it’s still eminently watchable TV thanks to the performances of the cast and some well-choreographed action, but it does suggest that for real longevity, these Marvel TV shows are going to have to start considering shorter arcs and self-contained episodes to balance themselves rather than oscillating between stretched too thin and overstuffed.