SPOILER WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for the entirety of "Marvel's Daredevil" season two, released Friday on Netflix.
It's been a few days since I watched the first seven episodes of Netflix and Marvel Television's "Daredevil" season 2, which were provided to perss as screeners by the streaming service. And in the first part of our binge-blog, I learned a lot about myself -- and Marvel's blind vigilante/lawyer.
I learned that I liked the second season of the show a lot better than the first season. Despite losing stand-out performer Vincent D'Onofrio, everyone else had overall gotten stronger and more comfortable with their roles, from Matt Murdock (Charlie Cox), to Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), to especially Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson).
I also learned that The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) and Elektra (Elodie Yung), after four failed movie attempts (your mileage may vary) between them, were getting the treatment on TV we comic fans had always wanted.
And most of all, my robot heart had finally learned what it means when you humans say, "I love you," though that was unrelated to the binge-blog.
But there are still a lot of questions as we enter the last six episodes, which I am about to sit down and binge watch in earnest at 3 a.m., Eastern time on the morning of March 18. What exactly is going on in the conspiracy with The Punisher? What's up with that giant hole The Hand is digging in Manhattan? Will Matt finally be forced to tell Karen the truth? And is Wilson Fisk going to make a surprise appearance (man, I hope so)?
I've got licorice (because it's red like Elektra and Daredevil), I've got devil crÃ¨me cakes (for obvious reasons), and I've got Guinness flavored potato chips because Matt is Irish and I'm pretty sure they're gonna punish my insides.
Let's do this.
8: GUILTY AS SIN
In Short: The trial of The Punisher wraps up in a surprising way, as Stick returns -- and reveals he's been training Elektra all along. But when she chooses Matt over Stick's fight with The Hand, will he choose her back?
Immediate Reax: I can see why they stopped the screeners at episode seven... Not only is there the big return of Stick (Scott Glenn) in the opening scene, but that ending, with Vincent D'Onofrio back as Wilson Fisk -- even if we knew it was coming at some point -- is a great surprise. I still can't see how the two plots are going to come together, but this is the advantage of a second season, right? You know the characters, and when the guests return it's that much more rewarding.
Other than that, I'm still loving Elodie Yung's work here. She's the unhinged, sexy sociopath killer stereotype, but with a deeper longing to her that makes her whole arc heartbreaking. And though she's now getting more screen time than Karen, Matt's decision to choose his partner-in-crime over his partner-in-law has thrown some nice complications not just Karen's way, but also Matt's -- particularly after Elektra reveals who she "really" is by episode's end.
Also: I'm really glad we got away from the Frank Castle at the beginning/middle of the episode. The Punisher, to me, is an unstoppable force of nature. He's 100 percent sure of what he's doing, which is why, tbh, Punisher comics haven't always appealed to me. There's no character growth, he's just stuck with an increasingly large number of criminals to kill. But at the same time, seeing Frank worry about whether what he's doing is right? That rings false.
Anyway, the craziness isn't letting up any time soon, particularly now that Kingpin is back in the picture. Let's see how Frank reacts to getting a job offer from the worst crime boss New York has ever seen.
Easter Eggs: Elektra getting stabbed in the stomach is sort of an Easter Egg, or at least foreshadowing for her eventual fate, getting skewered on one of her own sais by the villain Bullseye... in the comics, at least.
Though Clancy Brown -- who plays Colonel Schoonover -- has never appeared on screen in a Marvel movie/TV show before, he has played multiple voices on the animated shows; most notably as Red Hulk, Taskmaster and Uatu. He's also been on dozens of DC animated shows, as Lex Luthor and others, and appeared in live action on "The Flash" as General Wade Eiling.
Schoonover, by the way, was Frank's commanding officer in the comics, too. There he didn't betray Frank -- though he did smuggle a ton of cocaine and later hired one of Frank's other squad-mates, Rich von Burian (now using the villain name Sniper) to kill off Frank's squad. We'll see how much that plays out, but one does not simply cast Clancy Brown in a one-off role. Or walk into Mordor, etc, etc.
Black Sky was the kid being transported by Nobu last season, and killed by Stick. Apparently there are more of 'em.
The Chaste -- Stick's group -- was first introduced in "Daredevil" #187, and they have the exact same(ish) origin in the comics. When Stick says to "Head to the Wall" to get the band back together, he's referring to this group -- and an actual wall, a nearly unclimbable cliff that only the superhuman(ish) ninjas of The Chaste can scale.
"Iron Man 2" Disease? Still getting there. If The Stick stuff is wrapped up, maybe not; but adding in The Kingpin, and if we do get ninja fights and introduce The Chaste and everything else? Well, we're right on the edge of overload.
It's Elektra-ck: Elektra's pleading, slightly mad look as she was slathered with blood at the end was disturbing and sad at the same time.
Big Pun: Frank's outburst in court, natch. Tell it like it is!
MVP: Stick! So good to see him back, and even if Matt doesn't like him, I love Scott Glenn on the show. More, please.
9: SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN
In Short: Wilson Fisk makes a deal with Frank Castle to try and take over the prison he was locked up in last season. Meanwhile, Foggy shutters Nelson and Murdock, Karen becomes a journalist, and Daredevil discovers just what The Hand has been working on...
Immediate Reax: This is, by far, my least favorite episode of the season. The issue isn't that it's bad (though it's not great), but the lack of focus I've been nervous about all along? It's all on display here, as multiple unconnected storylines run in parallel, and potential is wasted across the board.
Again, I don't want to play backseat writer too much, but how much greater would this have been as a Wilson Fisk solo episode? That he's been doing essentially nothing since he was locked up except for some small moves is disheartening -- and his laying out of plans, multiple times, for Frank is Supervillain 101.
Barring that though, the episode is called "Seven Minutes In Heaven," so why did we cut away from the beginning of those seven minutes? And why give Frank his own epic hallway scene only to chop it to bits?
Foggy closing Nelson and Murdock, Karen investigating as a journalist, and Daredevil fighting -- surprise, he's back briefly for no reason! -- Nobu just seems like a retread of season one, rather than pushing anything forward.
And then there's The Hand's plan, which is to bring their project to its final stages, then leave the entire installation defended by one guy with a handgun? I know Nobu shows up and whatever, but that's after talented vigilante Stan Gibson manages to wander in.
Oh, and Matt dismissing Elektra after re-accepting her last episode? I mean, that scene was the cheesiest, most soap opera cliche scene all season long. And! And! I do not accept Frank Castle would ever go along with any plan Wilson Fisk laid out.
I did not like this episode at all, no sir.
Easter Eggs: Fisk's lawyer is Danny Johnson, who isn't an Easter Egg so much as, "oh yeah, that guy!" You might recognize him from multiple appearances on "Law & Order" and sundry spinoffs.
There's been a few characters named The Blacksmith in Marvel Comics, but none make sense as an uber-drug dealer type. One was a super-powered wrestler, the other an alternate reality version of "New Warriors" hero Rage, and the third an alien Skrull in disguise. So who knows?
Though The Farm and "the rising" don't have specific references in the comics, they're probably referring to the resurrection of The Beast, the evil being The Hand worships and follows. In the books, The Beast takes over Daredevil's body, turning him into the leader of The Hand -- and making him build a mystical stronghold in the center of New York called Shadowland. Also of note? Daredevil agrees to do this so The Hand won't choose Fisk instead.
IM2? Yep. Not so much in the setup for "Defenders," but there is now officially too much stuff going on to keep track of all of it.
Big Pun: Stabbing a guy in the crotch during that hallway fight was pretty gross.
MVP: Man, I don't know. I really didn't like this episode, so I'm gonna give it to Fisk by default, but only for the cold open. After that he was rote cackling supervillain, and it was sad.
10: THE MAN IN THE BOX
In Short: The Punisher seemingly goes on a rampage to take out anyone who did him wrong -- but Karen starts to think it might not be Frank. And Matt confronts the Kingpin, while aiming to also protect The Hand's victims from the resurrected Nobu.
Immediate Reax: Poor Reyes. Poor Tepper. Poor Stan Gibson.
...But not poor viewers, because after a sub-par episode, "Daredevil" season two is back on track! Matt's scene with Fisk in the prison was everything I wanted (but did not get) last episode, with an out of control Kingpin breaking out his handcuffs and consistently forcing down Matt's flailing hands.
Elektra's fight -- and adopting of her comic book classic sais! -- in the plane hanger was great.
And Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) provides the always-needed level head in the midst of the chaos, particularly when Matt goes the "this is my fight alone" route and she pretty much rolls her eyes at him. She is all of us, etc, etc.
My only issue was Frank, who seems to be a little too concerned about Karen/in hero mode, which doesn't seem consistent with his early season portrayal. I know character growth and whatever, but given how well they nailed Frank in the first few episodes, I'm concerned we're going into straight superhero by the end of the season.
Speaking of endings, though: how creepy are the Children of the Corn? And the ninja attack on the hospital means I'm dying to start the next episode right now.
Oh, hey, I can! Let's do it.
Easter Eggs: A New York Bulletin headline on the wall in the office says, "Cybertek Settles." Over in "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." (and the comics), Cybertek is the corporation that developed the cyborg Deathlok technology.
It's Elektra-ck: It's a tie between taking down Jacques Duchamps (Gilles Marini) with her legs while being slammed into an airplane; and twisting the sais after finding out he's working for Stick.
MVP: Claire Temple, a straight shooter who always tells it like it is.
In Short: After ninjas attack Claire's hospital, she quits. Karen gets love advice from Frank, then Frank begins to track down the Blacksmith -- as does Daredevil, with the help of a surprising ally. Meanwhile, Elektra is tracking down Stick.
Immediate Reax: That opening fight scene, and particularly Daredevil diving out the window to save Claire was great. Also, interesting movement with Claire's story -- up until now she's been a solid, consistent presence to the MCU/Netflix shows, but this is a big move for her to quit the hospital. Curious to see if it pays off here, or in "Luke Cage."
Though it was nice to see Madame Gao (Wai Ching Ho) again, she was a far less menacing and mysterious presence than last season.
And this Blacksmith mystery is curious. I forgot to mention last episode, but tying up the Frank conspiracy so relatively quickly is a weird development. Hopefully the Blacksmith isn't someone completely new, but a character we've already met. Heck, given how one of the thugs said, "Been a long time, Frank!" maybe the ultimate big bad is Schoonover. That would be consistent with his depiction in the comics, too...
And speaking of Punisher, can we please get a spinoff show where Frank Castle just gives love advice? Thanks.
Easter Eggs: Nada!
Big Pun: Listening to "classic" music in Karen's car was fun.
MVP: Frank. I'm not crazy about him just wanting to end his life on a boat, but pretty much every other moment was aces in my book.
12: THE DARK AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
In Short: Karen finally figures out who the Blacksmith is, and Frank takes his revenge. Meanwhile a huge twist reveals Elektra is the Black Sky -- and the leader of The Hand. But whose side will she choose?
Immediate Reax: I'm very conflicted about the developments in this episode. It wasn't bad by any means, but the way Karen figured out Blacksmith is Schoonover was pretty TV Mystery 101; and Frank took him down far too easily, as well.
...Though I'm pretty pleased about Frank's cool new armory, even if it's clear Karen has no idea how real journalism actually works.
Then there's behbeh Elektra, which needs its own spinoff series; but the reveal that she's the (a?) Black Sky is also a little strange -- particularly as she wants to kill Stick, then realizes she's the leader of The Hand, then decides to betray the Hand and save Stick. It's all a little quick, so I dunknow.
Oh, and Nobu, like Madame Gao, is far less of a threat than last season.
In general, I appreciated the whole "Karen loses the battle for Frank's soul, while Matt wins the battle for Elektra's" parallel structure, but overall I'm not 100 percent sure where we're going this season, with just one hour left. There's a lot of balls in the air, and no clear way of connecting them.
Easter Eggs: None, unless you consider Frank finding a bulletproof vest that conveniently has the shape of a skull on it an Easter Egg.
IM2? Yeah, kind of. This is another episode with a lot of information, and no clear, central plot.
MVP: Daredevil, I guess? Nobody was a real standout, but him repeatedly figuring out new ways to fight The Hand was neat.
13: A COLD DAY IN HELL'S KITCHEN
In Short: It all comes down to this: Daredevil and Elektra versus The Hand. And that's pretty much it.
Immediate Reax: Okay so waaaay back at the beginning of this I wondered how they would bring the Punisher and Elektra storylines crashing together. Answer? They didn't. Though there's some great stuff in this finale, overall the season ended up being a bit of a mess -- particularly as it tried to balance two new vigilantes in Hell's Kitchen.
Ultimately, the second two thirds of this season ended up being Elektra's story. It's a good story, but the effort to keep Frank going at the same time, reducing him to a guy taking a few ninjas out on a rooftop and nodding at the real hero Daredevil, is a crying shame.
Look: I'm no huge Punisher fan, which I established at the beginning. But Jon Bernthal has brought a tremendous amount of gravity to his role, which is highly underserved in this finale. All in all, I would have rather had two six or seven episode arcs, one for Elektra, one for Daredevil; rather than keeping both going.
That said, it's also a bummer that Elektra gets the old rooftop sai-stab from Nobu 2.0, who is nowhere near as crazy as he was in season one. It's nice that we're getting into the resurrection of Elektra at the end, but the whole Black Sky business is underdeveloped; and there's some serious fridge-ing going on in using her death to spur Daredevil to take down the bad guys (after they take a nice long two-minute pause to let him mourn her death).
Overall? I liked, but didn't love this season. It started strong, but ended with a distinct lack of ambition, recycling ideas, plotlines and characters from season one without the level of creativity and thought that went into their original iterations. And I say that as someone who didn't love season one, mind you.
There are just so many head-scratching things in this episode. Why is Matt so Scully about all the Hand mysticism, when he's seen it first-hand (no pun intended)? Why wouldn't they pair Karen with an experienced journalist to write her story, let along give her a massive office? And when she says to Foggy, "I think it might be the end of vigilantes in New York," that's clearly the theme the writers were playing with -- but it got entirely lost in the execution.
I'm not going to write this all off -- and generally I had fun with Daredevil's second outing -- but "Jessica Jones" raised the bar for what these Marvel/Netflix series can do creatively and visually. I'm hoping "Luke Cage" (and "Daredevil" season 3, which is all but guaranteed) pick up from there.
Easter Eggs: Jeri Hogarth from "Jessica Jones" (Carrie Anne-Moss) shows up to offer a job to Foggy! I kind of expected that after last episode, but it's great to see her show up here; and hopefully that means both will pop up in "Luke Cage."
Though Melvin presents Daredevil with his billy club for the first time here, it's actually been a part of the character since his very first appearance. Oh, and fun fact: in the comics it was previously owned by Danny Rand, a.k.a. Iron Fist.
In case you're not totally familiar, Elektra was stabbed with her own sais on a rooftop by the villain Bullseye in the classic "Daredevil" #181. She was resurrected by The Hand soon after (just like in this episode, sorta), and later went on to lead them.
Frank finds a CD labeled "Micro" behind a picture of his old squad in his house, before he blows said house to smithereens. This is a reference to Microchip, Punisher's longtime, nerdy, computer savvy ally from the comics, who first appeared in 1987's "Punisher" #4.
I think we saw this briefly last season, but across the hall from the former offices of Nelson and Murdock is Atlas Investments. Marvel was called Atlas Comics before it changed its name; but it also denotes (and has the same logo as) "Agents of Atlas," a comic about a 1950s-style superhero team that includes a talking gorilla. For real.
Hey, did you see there was a "secret" "Luke Cage" trailer after the end of "Daredevil"? Because there was. And it sure looked like Luke (Mike Colter) was standing in Fogwell's Gym. Is it Sept. 30 yet?
IM2? Ultimately? Yeah, this kind of did suffer from "Iron Man 2" disease. Not because it was setting up "Defenders," but because it couldn't figure out how to marry the Punisher and Elektra storylines, it worked too hard to bring back fan favorite elements from season one without adding enough new to the mix, and just generally there was a lot going on without any central idea guiding it -- unlike season one. Ah well.
Big Pun: Punisher is amazing at screen printing. That is all.
It's Elektra-ck: I won't comment on Melvin's terribly non-protective costume, and instead focus on her great hallway scene with Matt.
MVP: Daredevil. Ultimately coming clean to Karen in particular makes him the hero we want, and the hero we deserve right now.
What did you think of the second season of "Daredevil"? And any Easter Eggs/big moments we missed? Let us know in the comments!