If you want a short, spoiler-free answer, Daredevil’s season 2 was excellent. I’d rank it a little better than Jessica Jones, and a little beneath Daredevil’s first season. The things that worked so well last time are still working here. The new additions to the show are well done, but the creative team may have over-extended itself to some degree. By that, I mean my one criticism of the season as a whole is that it lacked some of the focus of last season, as there were simply more moving parts to the story. With that said, I’ll try to keep spoilers limited, but consider this the end of the spoiler-free section.
This season’s big baddie turns out to be a returning Nobu, and The Hand. If you’re a fan of Marvel comics, you know about The Hand, and if you’re not, I’ll tell you they’re a shadowy mystic cult of ninja, and that’s functionally all you need to know. The problem with this angle is that it takes some time for that to solidify as the endgame to the season. As it starts, season 2 seems to be about the showdown between Daredevil and Punisher, then about a government cover-up regarding the murder of Punisher’s family, then we get more about “the war” between The Hand and The Chaste which Stick alluded to when we met him last season, but by then, we’re in the home stretch of the season.
It’s true that Daredevil offered plenty of side-plots last season, so it may seem unfair to be critical of that here, but I would say that Kingpin was presented early as the main antagonist, and that conflict was built slowly as the season progressed. Because the show seemed to want to keep Nobu’s return under wraps for a big reveal, we were denied that slow build this season.
With that relatively minor grievance out of the way, let me say a lot of the side-plots of season 2 were done spectacularly. In particular, The Punisher was portrayed in a way that I think should be satisfying to fans of the character. Bernthal’s performance was excellent, and with the exception of a few scenes (one on the rooftop with Daredevil in chains) where the show became too literally a debate about vigilante justice and vengeance, it was well written.
Where Punisher seemed to fit perfectly into the show’s dynamic, I can’t say I was equally impressed with Elektra. I don’t fault the actress (Yung) so much as the fact that her relationship with Matt shifted too suddenly. He goes from flashbacks where he loved her in college, hated her in the present, then loved her again. Given that he’s known for some time about her cruel nature, his wafting opinion feels off to me, and his willingness to run off with her just as he’s begun a relationship with Karen undercuts Matt’s character.
Speaking of things that came too easily, Kingpin’s rise to power in prison felt rushed, and unexplainable considering how we’re told his funds are now limited. I had a hard time believing Kingpin could buy the unquestioning loyalty of every prisoner and guard with what was described as a “percentage” of the wealth he held before. However, the show clearly doesn’t want to keep Kingpin out of play as a character, and I can agree with that decision on some level, so I can forgive the messiness at least until he returns to the show as a central figure.
The breakup of Nelson and Murdock felt inevitable. Watching Matt leave Foggy holding the proverbial bag during the trial of the decade ran the risk of making it harder to like the show’s main protagonist, and letting the two part ways came out as a good way to let Foggy grow as a character and Matt delve deeper into being Daredevil.
I wasn’t crazy about the cliffhanger, having Matt reveal to Karen that he’s Daredevil. To be clear, I like that he told her. I usually get annoyed with masked heroes keeping their secret from their closest friends and love interests, but it should have happened much sooner. Letting it come in the last moments of the season finale was a cheat, wanting to create interest in season 3 (which was already there from where I sit) without playing any real cards.
Despite a handful of specific gripes, season 2 was every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be. Though the season felt more like a series of conflicts being resolved in succession than one large one unfolding over time, every subplot held some amount of my attention. It captured everything I enjoy about Daredevil in the comics, and continued to build on that more grounded level of the Marvel Universe, and the things that happen while the Avengers fight gods and aliens.