Netflix UK TV binge review: Daredevil Season 2 (Episode 12 and 13)
Too many ninjas6.5
Matthew Turner | On 02, Apr 2016
Warning: This contains spoilers – if you haven’t seen episodes one to four, read our spoiler-free review of Daredevil Season 2. If you have seen them, share your spoilery thoughts in the comments below.
As Season 2 of Daredevil heads into its concluding episodes, it’s clear that the showrunners are prepared to leave several threads dangling, threads that may or may not get picked up by either Daredevil Season 3 (surely a foregone conclusion after this) or The Defenders series. That’s not to say that the show doesn’t resolve its two central mysteries, but these resolutions are both satisfying and frustrating in equal measure.
Given how easy it would have been to tie the Punisher’s storyline to the Ninja storyline, it’s somewhat frustrating that the reveal of the identity of The Blacksmith has nothing to do with the Hand after all, particularly after Madam Gao’s tip-off in the previous episode. Instead, The Blacksmith turns out to be Frank’s old commander Colonel Schoonover, who had organised his former platoon into a squad of drug-runners or something. It makes total sense in retrospect, largely because you don’t hire Clancy Brown for a single-scene courtroom appearance and then have him not turn out to be a wrong’un.
The sequence where Karen (who’s writing a profile piece on a presumed-dead-after-the-explosion Frank because apparently she’s a proper journalist now) comes to interview Schoonover and gradually figures out that he’s a bad guy is suspenseful and nicely handled, as is the way that Frank reveals to her that he’s still alive. Similarly, the idea that Frank has no time for bad guy monologues (he shoots Schoonover before he gets a chance to spill the beans) makes for a decent moment of black comedy, but it leaves an annoying number of unanswered questions – Was it just coincidence that Frank’s family were caught in the sting operation? Who was the undercover cop? Who’s behind the cover-up? Who killed Reyes? Etc. – to the point where you wonder if the writers had Frank pull the trigger prematurely, just to avoid coming up with detailed answers.
In a scene that’s indicative of the show’s generally excellent treatment of The Punisher, we get a genuinely moving closing scene, where he revisits his family home for the first time since their murder, obtaining a degree of closure, before he burns it all down and sets about making skull-emblazoned t-shirts that will make him look more like his comic book incarnation. And that’s basically it for The Punisher, barring a final appearance that we’ll get to in a bit. Kudos again to Jon Bernthal, whose performance went a long way towards humanising the character, particularly in his scenes with Karen.
Meanwhile, over on the ninja-related side of the show, Stick and Elektra’s enjoyable fight sequence is interrupted by the arrival of Daredevil, Nobu and The Hand, who announce that – gasp! – Elektra has been “Black Sky” all along. This is all very well, but it makes no sense at all in context. Did she know? Does it mean she has extra powers she’s unaware of? It does, at least, add a layer of meaning to the engaging flashback sequences detailing Stick’s training of Elektra, casting him as a protective figure and making him more sympathetic as a result.
It turns out that The Hand want Elektra as their leader, an offer she seriously considers, as she’s still reeling from Stick’s betrayal. All this is worryingly similar to Season 3 of Arrow and the interminable ninja-related nonsense with Ra’s al-Ghul and the League of Assassins, so let’s hope they don’t end up dominating Season 3 of Daredevil.
It’s fair to say that the show’s pre-occupation with ninjas has been a little problematic. On the one hand, they’re an important part of Elektra’s history in the comics, so they’re needed for the narrative. On top of that, they have provided their fair share of cool moments – such as Matt having to learn to fight them by listening for their breaths in these episodes – and they look and they are probably the best-realised TV ninjas of any show in recent memory. But… well… truth be told, they’re also a little boring and, after a while, they start to feel like an inexhaustible supply of fight fodder – the ninja equivalent of a red shirt on Star Trek.
Anyway, The Hand decide that Daredevil Must Die, so they, um, kidnap everyone he’s ever rescued (seriously, what?) and, wouldn’t you know it, that includes Karen, meaning that she essentially gets kidnapped twice in the space of two episodes. (There’s a nice bit of business where she gets a fellow kidnap victim to activate his parole-conditioned ankle bracelet, thereby alerting the police (and Daredevil) to their whereabouts.)
All of this leads to a climactic rooftop confrontation between Daredevil, Elektra (who has decided that, actually, she doesn’t want to be the leader of The Hand, thank you very much), Nobu and a boat-load of ninjas. It’s a decent enough fight, but you could be forgiven for suffering from ninja fatigue by the time it rolls around, so perhaps it lacks the impact of previous fight scenes.
The rooftop fight is notable for three main things: 1) Daredevil getting to use his new, improved Billy Club (more on that below); 2) The Punisher showing up for no real reason other than to mow down a few ninjas (frankly, this scene felt like a last-minute addition, not least because he never appears alongside the main characters); 3) Elektra meeting a fate that won’t surprise anyone familiar with either the comics or the Ben Affleck Daredevil movie; and 4) Daredevil throwing Nobu off a roof, which feels like it ought to have been a bigger moment, given the season-long hand-wringing on Daredevil’s part about whether or not he should kill. (In the end, it’s Stick that actually kills him because he survives the fall, but the point still stands.)
The closing image of the season suggests we haven’t seen the last of Elektra, although I hope her return doesn’t come with too much ninja baggage. Again, kudos to Elodie Yung, who did a terrific job with the character and had genuine chemistry with Charlie Cox – the scene in the stairwell, where they profess their love for each other before heading onto the roof for a fight they’re both certain they won’t survive (Butch and Sundance-style), is beautifully written and Yung’s performance really sells it, especially the way the pair are allowed to share a moment of laughter.
As with the Punisher storyline, the Ninja plot closes with some unanswered questions, most notably, what was the point of the giant hole in the ground? (Let’s call it a giant plot-hole.) What did The Hand want with all the zombie teenagers? What happened to them anyway? And how did everyone except Elektra know that she was Black Sky?
Anyway, that leaves two final bits of business to clear up. Firstly, Foggy (who was rather under-served in the finale) closes the doors on Nelson & Murdock and officially accepts a job with Jessica Jones’ Jeri Hogarth (a cameo-ing Carrie-Ann Moss), which should hopefully mean he’ll be a part of Jessica Jones Season 2. And secondly, in a long-overdue moment, Matt (who’s decided to give up lawyering and become a full-time vigilante) tells Karen he’s Daredevil. At least she won’t think he’s an alcoholic anymore.
Overall, this has been an engaging and enjoyable second season that explored some complex themes and provided significant character development and emotional depth for its main characters. The latter half of the season, though, felt increasingly uneven and the showrunners missed an opportunity to bring the two strands together in satisfying fashion, but that did, at least, allow for a double-dose of mystery and action in each episode. All in all, a worthy follow-up to Daredevil’s outstanding first season. Bring on Season 3.
– I referred to Matt fighting ninjas by listening for their breaths earlier, but I really liked the set-up to that sequence, with Matt and Stick communicating in whispers only they could hear.
– Speaking of Stick, I could probably have done without that horrible scene where The Hand push giant splinters under his fingernails. (Is that why they’re called The Hand, because all their torture is hand-related?)
– As a longtime comic book fan, I did a little whoop for joy when Melvin Potter handed Daredevil his new and improved Billy Club, complete with grappling hook and wire mechanism that will, with a little practice, allow him to swing through the streets, Spider-Man-style. We got a tiny taste of that in the final episode and it was a proper punch-the-air moment. In fact, the Billy Club work was strong in the rest of the season too. Good work, show.
All episodes of Marvel’s Daredevil: Season 2 are available to watch exclusively on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
Photo: Patrick Harbron / Netflix