I was 15 when I saw Frank Miller’s Daredevil on the rack for the first time in 1980 – so when I say I’ve waited decades to see it put to film properly, you know I’m telling the truth. For me to say Marvel’s Daredevil, Season Two met all my expectations, would be dishonest but to say I am disappointed in what I just saw would be an epic lie.
“You’re not supposed to give people what they want. You’re supposed to give them what they don’t know they want yet. ” – Diana Vreeland
Again we are brought into NYC’s historic Hell’s Kitchen to watch a blind vigilante practice law by day and beat up bad guys at night. With the return of Foggy and Karen and Josie and Turk and the introduction of the Punisher and Elektra in episodic format, we are treated to the right kind of on-screen limited series Daredevil needs. We get a baker’s dozen of 13 episodes in one sitting, and like that mixed bakery of chocolate-covered, sprinkled and cream-filled donuts, we get some we love and some we just like.
With that in mind, I’ve decided to break down my review of Marvel’s Daredevil, Season Two one donut at a time.
S2, Ep. 1 “Bang”
Director: Phil Abraham
Writers: Douglas Petrie & Marco Ramirez
This episode starts off with Daredevil [“DD”, of course] chasing diamond thieves down the street, through a Chinese restaurant’s kitchen and ends up cornering the last one in one of those hole-in-the-wall street churches. This is less of an art director’s choice than a location scout’s find. Hell’s Kitchen has a history and it is in the buildings as well as the people. Unfortunately, the historic gritty neighborhood has mostly disappeared. While Marvel’s “Event” of the alien attack on NYC has nicely justified its return, it still remains to be filmed, and our location scouts have, in large part, given us back the feel of the original neighborhood.
DD’s in fine form, beats up a bad guy, tells an almost victim to call 911, saves a cop from being shot, rescues a hostage and smiles while standing on the roof of a church. We rejoice with him and his victories, easily following his justification for his vigilante actions to Foggy Nelson in the morning on his way to work. Matt Murdock has found a semblance of purpose and peace: he helps victims by day with the Law, and serves justice at night with his fists.
The problem is someone else has figured out a more permanent solution, and in a surprisingly brief appearance, the Irish mob, the original thugs of Hell’s Kitchen from decades gone, discovers this too. The set-up is so pat, the surprise is not that the leader of the mob is about to bash in the head of his unaware lieutenant, the surprise is he is stopped in mid-swing by high-powered armor-piercing bullets.
Enter the “Unknown Army”
The choice to make the bad guys think it is an “army” or “crew” out to blow them away was brilliant. When Grotto escapes to seek help from our happy trio of Nelson, Murdock and Page, we get just enough tension in the situation to leave us guessing. Then our team does each what it does best: Karen comforts and covers the wounded, Foggy compassionately confronts and charms his way into information and Matthew?
He goes to beat the information out of Turk.
Turk was Frank Miller’s creation, the low-life anyone would enjoy beating up. But he’s also the guy on the street who knows everything. Like Peter Lorre’s Ugarte in Casablanca, Rob Morgan’s Turk Barrett is a scene-stealer every time he shows up. You despise his ways, but you don’t hate him. He’s a fool and you know – you know – if he’d just made a better choice as a kid, he’d be someone you’d like. Wilson Fisk is a truly evil man. Turk is just a bad one.
After some enjoyable abuse is heaped on Turk, DD follows the lead of military grade weapons to meat packing plant, only to members of the Cartel just hanging around…
… with the other slabs of slaughtered animals. This scene is nothing new for organized crime drama. What makes it special is the pace, the horror movie framing, with everything on DD and the slow reveals of the carnage.
Then we hear a heartbeat, and for once it is not a cheesy trick to amp the tension. DD hears one goon is alive, and as he hears his last words, the man bleeds out, the camera staying on his face as we catch a glimpse of all the life draining from his body. This visceral choice is what makes Marvel’s Daredevil work as a gritty superhero crime drama. You understand why he’s in red – it’s the color of blood and he’s going to be neck deep in it. It ain’t pretty; it is practical.
The final story reveal that it is not “an army” taking out biker gangs and the cartel, but rather the work of one man is well-done. It is earned. We see the black legs striding down a hospital corridor and hear the explosive power of this one hunter, this one-man squad who is an irresistible force. We hear all the screams and Karen escaping with Grotto, the last survivor who wants a second chance, who wants to live. We see how close his face is in cross-hairs of a sniper’s rifle when DD once again rushes in to save the day, punching and kicking and chasing across rooftops this merciless killer only to lose by being shot in the head.
If there is a more classic way to keep an audience and make them come back for more, I do not know it. This first episode of Marvel’s Daredevil: Season Two did not skimp in action, in thrills or in showcasing the characters we know and love. It has been said there really are no new stories, just old ones we tell well. This is precisely that: a well-done tale.
Rating [Out of 4 Donuts/ Flavor for Enjoyment]: 4 Dark Chocolate with Chocolate Icing Donuts. [The Yummy Best]