REVIEW: DAREDEVIL – SEASON TWO

MAIN CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Elden Henson (The Buttefly Effect)
Jon Bernthal (World Trade Center)
Élodie Yung (Gods of Egypt)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Stephen Rider (Safe House)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Men In Black)

GUEST CAST
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Michelle Hurd (Flashforward)
Royce Johnson (Jessica Jones)
Peter McRobbie (Lincoln)
Rob Morgan (Pariah)
Amy Rutberg (The Mansion)
Carrie-Anne Moss (Jessica Jones)
Wai Chang Ho (Robot Stories)
Peter Shinkoda (Masked Rider)
Daredevil is a character about contrasts. Matt Murdock practices as a lawyer by day, but beats criminals as a vigilante at night. He’s a practicing Catholic, but dresses up like the devil. Also, he’s blind, but he can see the world around him unlike anyone else. Coincidentally, it is the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil that chooses to really explore the dichotomies, not only in its title hero but in those around him and the world at large. Charlie Cox once again stars as the Man without Fear in the series, and brings the same amount of dashing charm and selflessness that makes Matt such a great character. Cox has transcended himself in the role, too. Much like Robert Downey Jr. and Iron Man or Ryan Reynolds and Deadpool, there is no separating the actor from the character; they are one. He provides the pivotal anchor for the rest of the cast, who also continue to hit home run after home run. Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson is still the perfect Milhouse to Matt’s Bart, the right combination of endearing, annoying, and funny. A combo that personifies the comic book character to a T, and makes him integral to Matt’s story. Furthermore there’s Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, bringing a lightness to this supremely dark (in tone and lighting) series. Woll and Cox also work off of each other in perhaps the most believable romantic subplot of the MCU. Then there’s Frank Castle.
Jon Bernthal takes on the role of The Punisher for the series, and he brings the goods. This is a character that also has two sides at work, not simply inherent to his actions but in how he is written as a piece of the puzzle. Bernthal can handle the militaristic elements with ease. No one has looked more natural walking down a hall while aiming a shotgun with precision, but when the more sensitive aspects of the character and his background unfold, he’s got it covered. The Punisher is at his most satisfying for an audience as an unstoppable killing machine, always five moves ahead. At his most interesting and nuanced, however, The Punisher is a fatally-flawed and broken individual that is two steps behind. The good news is that you get to have your cake and eat it too. When Bernthal isn’t laying waste to criminals, he’s tasked with delivering Shakespearean monologues, which he hits like a headshot.
The second season of Daredevil also brings along Elodie Yung as Elektra Natchios, the perfect wrench for everything Matt Murdock. Though The Punisher may be at his most satisfying when he’s a human hurricane leaving a path of destruction, Matt Murdock is at his most satisfying when literally everything is going wrong for him, and Elektra is a guarantee for that. Yung embodies the spirit of Elektra that shines a light on the character’s personality in exciting ways. She brings duel ferocity and gentleness that made me recognize something I had never thought before – Elektra is like a cat; Playful when it suits her, but mysterious and often a supreme and bitter jerk when she doesn’t get her way. The same way that Charlie Cox and Deborah Ann Woll hold onto everything wholesome and good about love, Cox and Yung grab all of the dangerous and potentially hurtful parts and hang them out the window while speeding down the highway.
The true achievement of Marvel’s Daredevil Season 2 is not how in how it escalates the stakes from Season 1 or how it manages to properly juggle new and returning characters with satisfying arcs, it’s in its narrative composition as a whole. Season 2 is perhaps the most comic book-like series on TV, because it mirrors the structure of comics in a way that ceases to feel like television. While the first season held onto the framework of serialized TV, guiding us through every turn, Season 2 takes the graphic novel approach. Clusters of episodes form their own cohesive arc for a few hours, but when all combined they form the grander story at hand of the season. And that larger story? A further example of the two dividends of Daredevil. Daytime Matt and nighttime Matt get equal footing, which you need in order to make them both special.
As hard as it may be to believe, Daredevil‘s second season is a step up from the first. By embracing the comic book form, the series has further separated itself from the rest of the MCU and scratches an itch none of them can reach. It’s not all perfect though, as what worked the first time keeps working, and what didn’t work remains a drag, specifically the tired exposition wherein characters must explain to other characters the things the audience already knows. The drama screeches to a halt in these moments, but luckily they are few and far between.
If you were as enthusiastic about the first season of Marvel’s Daredevil, I hope you’re as pleased as I am with the new episodes. There’s an intensity and toughness in the storytelling that gets at the heart of the character and provides further proof why Daredevil is the one of the best heroes in comics. The new additions to the series are welcome and only enhance the storytelling in thrilling ways.
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REVIEW: DAREDEVIL – SEASON ONE

 

MAIN CAST

Charlie Cox (Stardust)
Deborah Ann Woll (Ruby Sparks)
Elden Henson (The Buttefly Effect)
Rosario Dawson (Sin City)
Toby Leonard Moore (John Wick)
Vondie Curtis-Hall (Die Hard 2)
Bob Gunton (The Lincoln Lawyer)
Ayelet Zurer (Man of Steel)
Vincent D’Onofrio (Men In BLack)

RECURRING / NOTABLE GUEST CAST

Peter McRobbie (Spider-Man 2)
John Patrick Hayden  (Yin/Yang)
Nikolai Nikolaeff (Power Rangers Jungle Fury)
Peter Shinkoda (Masked Rider)
Rob Morgan (Stranger Things)
Scott Glenn (The Silence of The Lambs)
Wai Chang Ho (Robot Stories)

 

Daredevil was a fun, ferocious look at Marvel’s own city-saving vigilante. Similar to DC’s Batman and Green Arrow, Matt Murdock loves his city. Even more so, the neighborhood of Hell’s Kitchen which was hit hard by the Chitarui attack – one of the show’s only mentioned connections to the MCU. In place of a crime-ravaged Irish immigrant-heavy neighborhood (as per the 60s/70s Daredevil comics), the choice was made to portray the square mile of crowded city as “mostly good people on hard times due to recent alien events.” Still folksy, but more modern. A smart move that helped tie Daredevil to the rest of the MCU happenings, despite the fact that the show is the grittiest, most violent entry into Marvel’s TV/movie canon so far. Strong, grounded performances, smart writing, and hard-hitting fight scenes immediately helped elevate Daredevil above fans’ expectations (which were already quite high). Buffy/Angel alums Drew Goddard and Steven S. DeKnight (who took over as showrunner early on after Goddrad left for the ill-fated Sinister Six) delivered a taught, thoughtful, and appreciatively earnest take on Matt Murdock – one of Marvel’s most complex, hard-to-get-a-handle-on characters (and one of the most religious). A hero no movie would ever be able to get quite right.

Vincent D’Onofrio’s Wilson Fisk  served the show well. Fisk was portrayed as a very vulnerable man. A seriously dangerous one, no doubt, but also one who came with his own formative backstory and current web of lies and betrayals. Also…a love story. Fisk’s moments spent, early on, wooing and doting upon Ayelet Zurer’s art gallery curator Vanessa was a daringly wonderful way to introduce us to the character. Especially since Fisk had remained off-screen for a few episodes while the show built him up. D’Onofrio performance as Fisk was, simply put, one of the best parts of the show. As a man who almost seemed to be learning the actual mechanics of how to speak to other people every time he opened his mouth, Fisk’s shyness/awkwardness helped not only separate him from most crime boss cliches, but also helped us understand why a man as lonely and isolated as he was would become so lethally attached to Vanessa. While also seeing someone like Wesley, his right hand man, as a “true friend.” Despite them never showing any real bonds of brotherhood. Just an intense, loyal employer/employee relationship.

Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock was no slouch either, of course. As Matt constantly wrestled with how far he should morally go as a vigilante, Cox handled things with care and relatable concern. Of course, even with the act of killing as a point of spiritual debatelaire, Matt was willing to do just about most everything else under the sun to achieve his goals – including maiming, torturing, and knocking people into comas. He even, on a few occasions, threatened to kill villains via not saving them from their serious injuries. It was enough make one easily believe that all of this would weigh heavy on a Catholic’s conscience. The supporting cast was great as well. I really liked that this season didn’t go the trite, soapy “love triangle” route with Matt, Foggy, and Karen. There was some flirting, and a few seeds planted here and there for possible romantic tension – but the show politely waved at the idea while graciously passing it by. Deborah Ann Woll’s Karen was to be no one’s prop. And she wouldn’t seek solace “in the arms” of another. And she’d fight back, on whatever level was available to her. Also, Elden Henson’s Foggy Nelson was able to equally provide humor and drama in his fresh take on the “sidekick” role.

This praise also goes for Rosario Dawson’s Claire Temple and Vondie Curtis-Hall’s Ben Urich – both important characters here (though Claire had never been tied to Daredevil in the comics) in their own right, given unique (and sometimes surprising) treatments. The fight scenes are, naturally, worth noting. You’ll find most folks raving over a sequence in the second episode, “Cut Man” (one of the show’s best entries), as well as a few others. And again, expert choreography aside, it’s the fact that Matt quite often takes an extreme shellacking that gives these battle sequences extra “oomph.” It really draws you in when you can almost feel how hard it is for Matt to face down a squad of thugs. When every blow to his body rocks yours. Daredevil was a thrilling, ultra-starisfying take on Daredevil’s material and lore. One that, like Favreau’s first Iron Man film, helped breathe new life and fandom into a somewhat B-tier Marvel character.

REVIEW: ELEKTRA (2005)

CAST

Jennifer Garner (Alias)
Goran Visnjic (Practical Magic)
Will Yun Lee (Die Another Day)
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa (Mortal Kombat Legacy)
Terence Stamp (Superman 1 & 2)
Kristen Prout (Mindstorm)
Colin Cunningham (Stargate SG.1)
Hiro Kanagawa (Izombie)
Natassia Malthe (Bloodrayne 2 & 3)
Jason Isaacs (Peter Pan)
Ben Affleck (The Town) – Directors Cut

After being killed in Daredevil, Elektra Natchios (Jennifer Garner) is revived by a blind martial arts master called Stick (Terence Stamp). She is brought to his training compound to learn Kimagure, an ancient martial arts discipline that provides its practitioners with precognition as well as the ability to resurrect the dead. Elektra is soon expelled because of her inability to let go of her rage. She leaves and uses her training to become a contract killer.Years later, Elektra infiltrates a heavily guarded area, kills the guards, and manages to slay her target DeMarco (Jason Isaacs). Elektra’s agent McCabe (Colin Cunningham) receives an unusually large offer from an anonymous client wishing to hire Elektra’s services. The only stipulation; she must spend a few days in a rented home on the island where the assassination is to be performed before the names of the targets are revealed. During the wait, Elektra finds a girl Abby (Kirsten Prout) who tried to swipe Elektra’s necklace and Elektra sends her away. While meditating, Elektra meets and befriends Abby’s father Mark Miller (Goran Visnjic). Abby later invites Elektra to dinner on Mark’s behalf. Later that day, Elektra discovers that Abby, like Elektra herself, has obsessive-compulsive disorder. Elektra develops a romantic interest in Mark, but soon learns he and Abby are the targets she has been hired to kill. Elektra spares them and leaves, but later returns in time to protect them from assassins sent by The Hand, a crime syndicate of ninja mercenaries.Meanwhile, Roshi (Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), master of The Hand, learns of the failed attempt and permits his son Kirigi (Will Yun Lee) to lead a new team of assassins to kill Elektra and return with Abby, referred to as “The Treasure”. Elektra tries to leave Abby and Mark with Stick, but he scolds her into protecting them herself. She then drives Mark and Abby to McCabe’s country house, but is followed by Kirigi, Typhoid (Natassia Malthe), Stone (Bob Sapp), Kinkou (Edison T. Ribeiro), and Tattoo (Chris Ackerman). Elektra flees with Mark and Abby through a secret underground exit to the orchard, while McCabe sacrifices himself to allow them to escape.Kirigi and the assassins hunt down Elektra, Mark, and Abby in the forest nearby. Elektra manages to kill Stone, while Abby and Mark kill Kinkou with one of his own daggers. As Elektra is distracted by the revelation that Abby has martial arts skills, Typhoid gives Elektra the “Kiss of Death”. Abby is captured by Kirigi. Suddenly, Stick and his Chaste ninjas arrive, forcing Kirigi, Typhoid, and Tattoo to retreat. Stick manages to save Elektra from death and takes them under his protection. Stick confirms Abby is a martial arts prodigy which is the “Treasure” of martial arts whom the Hand seek to use. Elektra learns that she was a Treasure herself and her mother was a casualty of the fight between The Chaste and The Hand with her as reason. She also learns that Stick set up the murder contract on Mark and Abby in order to test Elektra’s propensity for compassion. Elektra astrally projects herself to a meeting with Kirigi and challenges him to a fight; the winner claiming Abby for their own purpose. Elektra returns to her childhood home to face Kirigi, and finally remembers he was her mother’s killer. Elektra is defeated by Kirigi, but Abby arrives and engages him long enough for Elektra to recuperate. Elektra and Abby then escape and hide in a hedge maze but are separated when Abby is captured by snakes dispatched by Tattoo. Elektra finds Tattoo and kills him, saving Abby in the process. Elektra engages Kirigi a second time and manages to kill him. Typhoid poisons Abby, the same way she did to Elektra earlier, killing her in the process. Elektra kills Typhoid and successfully resurrects Abby, overcoming her rage. When Mark comes to take Abby, he and Elektra kiss and go their separate ways. Just as Elektra leaves the grounds of her childhood home for the final time, she meets Stick and the two exchange words to each other. Elektra departs, knowing Abby and Mark will be safe.It’s great for what it is. Don’t expect to figure out the meaning of life, this movie is just for fun. It has great action, pretty darn good visuals, and is everything a comic book movie should be.An extended and slightly refined two-disc unrated edition director’s cut DVD was released in October 2005, featuring a cut detailed for a home video. However, unlike the Daredevil director’s cut which added about 30 minutes of material not in the original theatrical release, this director’s cut added only about 3 minutes of footage.