I hesitated a little bit when the second season of Daredevil was released on Friday, thinking it had to be worse than the first season. Some of the people involved behind the scenes have changed, after all, and there was no possible way they could continue zigging when every other show around them zagged, was there?
I’m going to put all my Season 2 spoilers in white print so you can highlight and read them, but here are just a few things I loved about Season 2, many of which are a continuation of Season 1:
- Foggy and Matt’s friendship is presented as being critical for both of them. In the first season, Matt was given a scene few if any men on TV are allowed: he cries, not because of physical pain or because of the death of some woman he’s close to, but
because he’s afraid he’s losing Foggy’s friendship. He cries for himself, and it showed how high the stakes are and that Matt has an inner life.
- Women are never presented as being mere adjuncts to men. Elektra turns up in season 2, but she has her own agenda, her own life and her own past. Karen continues with her streak of dogged independence and determination to pick at the truth until it shows itself fully. Even the antagonistic lawyer has her own fish to fry.
- Women look like real women. Yes, they’re all thin and conventionally pretty, because it’s television, but they don’t all look like models. Look at Karen’s skin sometime–you can see flaws in it, because she hasn’t been airbrushed and photoshopped half to death.
- The show returns to a single theme over and over again: that even if two people truly, truly love each other and have the best intentions, they can still be completely wrong for each other and hurt each other very, very badly. This isn’t just romantic love, either: people frequently deal devastating emotional blows to others they love (romantically, platonically or familially) during season 2. There are toxic relationships here that just can’t work no matter how both people try.
- The heroism of little people is highlighted again and again. Matt may wear the Daredevil suit, but Foggy, Karen and others around him accomplish incredible feats of heroism with no superpowers and wearing ordinary clothes.
- Gun violence isn’t glamorized. This show is incredibly violent, and while Matt’s fighting style is that of a dancer, the Punisher, and some of the bad guys, use guns. And it’s ugly. It’s bloody, it’s brutal, it’s very uncomfortable to watch. And it should be.
- The Punisher is fantastic. This is a comic book character whose backstory is the most incredibly cliched one imaginable: Bad guys killed his wife and family and now he’s out for revenge. The Dead Wife trope needs a fork stuck in it very badly (seriously, guys, it’s done), but this show did the best possible job of working with the established story that it could have. Frank’s quest for revenge hasn’t made him happy or given him peace. Instead, he’s horribly broken and, for a significant part of the show he seems to be dead inside. It is very clear his vengeance isn’t helping him. And the actor is amazing, investing the character with an odd backwards charisma; he’s utterly charmless but the horror of his experiences has left him something other than an ordinary human.
- Elektra was also great. She had a lot of presence, and the show allowed her to avoid being a simple sex object. And I’m so glad they didn’t give her that ridiculous loincloth outfit, I mean come on, really?
- Matt makes a lot of terrible decisions in this season that end up hurting him, and every single one is a natural one, coming from a well-established character trait. All of the characters make mistakes and those mistakes seem to be natural consequences of who they are, not imposed by an external plot requirement.
- The show’s use of religion continues to be excellent. The themes are there, and touched on frequently, with reference to Matt’s Catholicism and another appearance by his priest. This is one of the more accurate portrayals of a pastor I’ve seen, by the way–not hollow-worded piety, but practical advice and a devastating moral discernment.
- People have lauded the way Jessica Jones used the color purple to thematically underscore the presence of the Purple Man. Pay attention to the way Daredevil uses red.