What I love best about these new shows is the importance placed upon good character development and Daredevil certainly doesn’t disappoint in that department. Its assortment of flawed, conflicted characters is what is at the heart of the show and what makes it so engaging.
Matt Murdoch, aka Daredevil, played brilliantly by Charlie Cox, goes through some really tough situations this time around. On the one hand it is admirable because he is willing to put his life on the line to protect Hell’s Kitchen, but in this season, there is also an air of recklessness to him. His arrogance with regard to Daredevil is visible and his lack of regard for those dependent on Matt Murdoch is frustrating.
If you really think about, Matt is a very shitty friend. He lied to Foggy and continues to lie to Karen, while claiming to care about them both. He is also never around, every time Karen or Foggy tried to reach out to him when they were in trouble, he never answered their calls. He ignores his responsibilities at the firm, if not for Foggy, the firm would have collapsed a long time ago. Even his reaction to the Punisher didn’t ring true. All that talk about not killing, I guess he forgot that not very long ago, he was all set on killing Fisk and stopped at the last minute.
When it comes to the women in his life, it’s a wonder that any of them stick around for long. He claims to love Karen but never tells her the truth about himself. Before Karen, there was Claire and she was smart about it and refused to deal with all his baggage. Elektra, on the other hand, had a mission and during the course of the mission, fell in love with him. I don’t think Matt leaves himself open for that kind of relationship, even when he says that Elektra got through his defenses, that’s not completely true. They all just get a glimpse of the person he really is.
Foggy Nelson, played by Elden Henson is probably the most likeable character on the show. With Foggy, there is also no baggage, what you see is what you get. In season 1, he seemed a little unsure of himself, but season 2 saw him become more confident and come into his own. He’s great at his job and it was frustrating to see him short-changed because of Matt’s preoccupation. Season 2 saw Foggy step out of Matt’s shadow and be better for it. The friendship that he shared with Matt was one of my favourite things in the previous season but Foggy deserved better and I’m glad that he stood up for himself.
Karen Page is my favourite character on the show, and knowing her arc in the comics, I feel fiercely protective of her. What I love about some of the new shows (Supergirl, Agents of Shield, Jessica Jones) is the way they handle women. Karen has agency, she’s brave, independent, focussed and driven. Yes, she puts herself in danger but it’s always her choice, she does it for herself, not because of a love-interest or because of coercion. Her need to uncover the truth often supersedes her own safety.
She drew a lot of flak this season for her insistence that there was more to Frank than met the eye and the fact that she was more than a little sympathetic to him. Actually, it’s not hard to see why she would react that way. She sees a lot of herself in Frank, she has a dark past and she killed Wesley last season when he kidnapped her. She’s a killer too and if she can secure justice for him and what happened to him, then maybe there’s hope for her too.
I like what the show has done with her character and especially this season, we saw her branching out beyond the law firm. She’s a very talented researcher and it was gratifying to see that talent recognised and appreciated. It was easy to see that she cared deeply for Matt but I was glad to see that she didn’t tolerate his nonsense, she gave him so many chances to tell her the truth and he avoided it every time.
I love the way Deborah Ann Woll plays her, she’s vulnerable but with a core of steel. She infuses the character with heart and makes her easy to relate to.
I was hoping that we would see more of Claire Temple this season, especially considering her character’s popularity in the previous season and her brief appearance on Jessica Jones. But this time around, her character felt underused. She keeps helping Matt and yet again it puts her in danger. Rosario Dawson is too good and it feels like both her and her character are being wasted on the show. I am hoping that her character on Luke Cage will be treated better.
Jon Bernthal’s Punisher completely overshadowed The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. He was every bit as ruthless and unpredictable as he was in the comics. There were no half measures with him, when he had a target in his sights, he let nothing distract him. There were times when we got a glimpse of the man he once was, but those moments were fleeting. And they only served to show just how much he had changed. Or perhaps, he was always like that but having a family tempered that. He let nothing get in the way of his objective. When he was with Karen, I felt that the writers might just give him a redemptive arc, thankfully they didn’t. For instance, he was willing to put Karen in danger if using her as bait got him closer to his objective, he may not want to actively see her hurt or hurt her, but he wasn’t too concerned if she ended up as collateral damage, case in point, when he rams her car with his own without a second thought.
He was a man on a mission and the end saw him accept that mission wholeheartedly. His arc in the season was one of growth and by the time the end drew in, he had grown into the Punisher. I don’t know yet whether he will get his own spin-off, though it seems unlikely, I do like his dynamic with the characters on Daredevil, namely the Devil himself and Karen.
Now, onto the final new character this season, the one and only Elektra Natchios, played by Elodie Yung. I haven’t read a lot about what other people thought of Elektra but I really liked the way Yung played her. She was so ambiguous and hard to figure out. You could never tell if she was being honest. She was cold, ruthless and unflinching. She slits throats and doesn’t bat an eyelid. And yet Yung gives her a strange vulnerability as well. You can see it on her face, in her eyes, that slightly lost look. It’s there in her interactions with Daredevil, the yearning on her face and it isn’t a façade. This Elektra was fascinating and she was so much more than the cold-blooded killer everyone thought she was. There were so many layers to her personality and as a viewer that’s my favourite kind of character, knowing that there’s more beneath the surface. Elektra kills unapologetically but she also saves Matt’s life a number of times. It would have been so easy to paint Elektra as manipulative, and she is, but she is so much than that. I am glad that the show gave her that depth.
The show portrays Elektra as someone who was always headed down the path of killing, the flashbacks to her training with Stick only drive that point home. Killing came naturally to her, it was Matt’s approach that was alien. Why spare someone to fight you another day when you can just end it here and now (an approach Punisher would approve of) She tries to fight her nature for Matt, tries to be like him and but can’t and the devastation is plain to see on her face. She loves Matt and wants to be loved for who she is and know that he can’t. She sees Stick as her father figure and his betrayal cuts more deeply than his sword. Her final act of saving Matt and thereby depriving the Hand of their objective was heartbreaking because of the humanity that Yung gave her character. After Karen, Yung’s Elektra may have been my favourite character this season (followed closely by the Punisher)
Actually, after watching season 2, Daredevil or Matt Murdoch may just have been one of the weakest characters on the show. As Daredevil, he was borderline ineffective and as Matt Murdoch, his life was spiralling out of control. It was those around him who picked up his slack. And Elektra and Punisher completely overshadowed him.
There was always the chance that with new characters and their own narrative arcs, the show may feel a bit crowded and not as linear as the previous season, and while a slightly uneven pace may have bothered some viewers, in the larger scope of the entire season, it worked fairly well. The season answered some of the questions raised during the previous one, but raised new ones that I am hoping will get answered in the next season.