Warning: this review contains spoilers. You can find all of my Daredevil reviews here.
The last stretch of episodes in Daredevil Season 2 wrapped up the conflict with the Hand, as well as the Elektra and Punisher stories, in a satisfying way. Though the two storylines didn’t come together as effectively as I’d hoped, it was nevertheless a really great set of episodes.
I thought Wilson Fisk’s appearance in episode 9 was a one-off, but I was so happy to learn I was mistaken. Fisk’s hand in Frank Castle’s prison break did not slip by Matt unnoticed, and he went to confront his greatest enemy in his civilian identity. The intense confrontation between Fisk and Murdock was the best scene of the episode and one of the strongest of the season. Aside from heavily reinforcing just how much control Fisk has even in prison, the conversation was laced with even more setup for future seasons, as Fisk swore to target Matt and his loved ones and bring them to ruin.
All of that—the danger posed to his friends and the utter failure of the law as everything he did got undone—led Matt to a state of hopelessness and caused him to alienate Foggy and Karen even more, completely giving up his civilian life. And I loved that even with all the events going on, the ultimate conflict in Daredevil Season 2 was character-based. The “lone wolf” trope is a common one in a genre full of heroes with “manpain”, but it really worked in this case because of everything that led to it, and everything it led to—including Matt coming very close to breaking his own rules.
Specifically, I’m referring to the incredible scene in episode 11 when Matt, completely hopeless, told the Punisher that he was willing to let him kill. The way he crossed himself, silently asking God’s forgiveness, while saying, “My way isn’t working, so maybe, just this once…” was a fantastic dramatic moment that showed how the events of the season had beaten Matt into submission. But that wasn’t even the best part—that was Frank’s reply. “Just this once? That’s not how it works. You cross over my line, you don’t get to come back from that. Not ever.” Frank wasn’t willing to let Matt abandon his morality, and I loved that. The rapport these two characters developed was one of this season’s highlights.
In fact, Frank’s storyline came to a great close in these last episodes. The search for the Blacksmith made episode 11 in particular feel more focused, as both Matt and Frank were on the same hunt. Which featured a great appearance by Madame Gao, too. I’m not sure how I feel about Schoonover being revealed to be the Blacksmith, though. It felt like too much of a weird coincidence… unless it wasn’t? Were we supposed to believe that Schoonover targeted Frank’s family intentionally? I was a bit confused on that front, which was a slight hiccup on an otherwise strong climax for Frank’s story.
Frank’s journey, all of his character development, his relationship with Matt, and his excellent scenes with Karen, came to a close when he put a bullet in Schoonover’s head. Because here’s the thing: Punisher is not meant to be fully redeemed. This isn’t a story of a vigilante regaining his humanity and renouncing murder. Frank’s character progression was represented in that scene, as he granted Schoonover a quick death, rather than a slow and agonizing one. He is still a vengeful killer—he’s just no longer a bloodthirsty monster that makes Karen cower in fear. One shot, one kill. And I loved that.
Meanwhile, Elektra and the Hand returned to the story in a big way, as Stick ordered her killed. Which came as a big shocker to me, and for a while I was duped into believing Stick was the surprise main antagonist of the season—perhaps even the Blacksmith? But I was wrong, and the actual revelation was even better: Elektra was a Black Sky. And suddenly, that revelation explained everything, from Elektra’s inner darkness, to the Hand’s obsession with her, and of course Stick wanting her dead. Which was a measure of last resort (unlike the kid last season), because Stick had grown attached to Elektra, as shown in a touching series of flashbacks.
Overall, it was a very clever revelation that allowed the finale to include some tense conflicts. Elektra being tempted by her darkness made sense but I’m glad she didn’t cave, because it would have been a transformation too quick and unbelievable. Matt and Elektra proved Stick wrong, which was pretty satisfying. “Matt thinks you’re worth saving,” Stick told Elektra. “Earn that.” And Matt’s determination to give up his civilian identity was hammered home when he told Elektra that he was willing to leave New York to be with her.
But of course, Elektra died. I wondered if the show would go through with it. On one hand it was an iconic moment from the comics, but on the other, would they really fridge a character like that in this day and age? Which is why resurrecting her right at the end of the episode (again, as she was in the comics) rather than pulling a fakeout and waiting a season or two made me sigh in relief. It was an emotional moment, right for both her character journey and Matt’s, while also being accurate to the comics and avoiding the fridging trope. I hope her death and resurrection have important ramifications on her character and the story, rather than just a gimmick to elicit emotion, but knowing the comics and this show, I’m sure it will all be okay.
The action these episodes was great too. This season had a lot of fight scenes, many of them including ninjas, so it was a challenge to make each one different and compelling to avoid viewer fatigue. For example, Stick whispering instructions to Matt from another room to help him take down the Hand, who had figured out how Matt was tracking them using their swords, was awesome. I won’t go into each fight, but suffice it to say that for the most part, Daredevil succeeded in keeping the action fresh.
My main gripe with these episodes, and the season as a whole, was the disjointed storytelling. There’s no denying that the season’s focus was split between the Punisher and the Hand/Elektra story arcs. I had hoped that the finale arc would bring it all together, and for a while thought the Blacksmith would be the key to achieving that. But it was not to be. Frank interfering to help out in the final battle, as great a moment as it was, was the only time those stories converged.
A few final notes. Daredevil got his billy club! Punisher finally got his skull shirt! Hogarth (from Jessica Jones) had a cameo! And Matt finally told Karen that he was Daredevil (about time, Matt!). Which to me represents his willingness to be Matt Murdock again, and also opens up a ton of compelling storytelling possibilities. Between this, Elektra’s resurrection, the continuing rift with Foggy, and the promise of more Wilson Fisk, I can’t wait for Season 3.