Tony feels his heart go boom bang-a-bang.
There’s a certain minimalism to the title of the first episode of the second season of Netflix’ Daredevil, and yet at the same time, it tells you pretty much everything you need to know. With a first season as powerful and compelling as this show delivered, you’d better know that when it chooses to open up its second season, it’s going to come back with a big, big bang.
That said, the pre-credits sequence feels a tad muted. It’s more or less DD doing his thing over an extended area in the tightly packed streets of Hell’s Kitchen, without leading us very far into the storyline. It’s more of a ‘welcome back to the fun’ than a setting out of the stall. Not that we have to wait very long for that – a gathering of the Irish mob who used to run Hell’s Kitchen before the likes of Wilson Fisk got their break looks like being one thing, but turns very quickly – and with a lot of bang for your Netflix buck – into something entirely different. Who, we wonder, can be behind what’s going on?
A little time spent with Nelson, Murdock and Page reminds us quickly of one of the show’s extra-special skills – creating characters that are realistic and yet likeable. For some of us, finding real human beings who are both real and yet likeable is hard enough, so the ability of this show to invest its three hero-leads with that balance is one of its signature strengths.
Especially given the violence of the Irish mob scene, these moments with our heroes (and they do all feel like our heroes – the mythos of the daytime heroism of doing what you can being almost as important in this show as the mythos of scarlet-suited ass-kickery) help to ground us, remind us if we need it why the show won our hearts against a schedule in which superhero ‘product’ is frequently a little one-dimensional and all about the super. But it’s not long before Nelson, Murdock and Page are being dragged into the Irish case, as a criminal member of the Irish mob begs for their help, and then collapses, bleeding in Josie’s Bar.
What’s more, it becomes quickly clear that the luck of the Irish is being spread around – Hell’s Kitchen’s Hell’s Angels too have had a visitation from the kind of warfare that can leave you suddenly short of both limbs and lifesigns.
If the episode starts as Daredevil business as usual, it’s about this point that things go absolutely batshit-crazy and start ramping riiiiiight the hell up. If you’ve been reading the news about the show before you watch this episode, then right from the Irish mob scene, you’ll get a whiff of who’s new in town. But if you haven’t, you get more than a clue pretty damn quickly as DD follows a lead from Turk, the small arms dealer who perked up Season 1 every now and again, and who’s just got out of jail. Where the lead takes him is pretty much into territory that’s half-Rocky, half-Hostel, a more or less hideous hideaway that addresses one of the key questions from Daredevil, Season 1. What would Matt Murdock be like, we asked, if he didn’t have a Catholic fear of murder and an inherent respect for life?
Meet that guy.
While the first season developed this idea effectively, the Nelson, Murdock and Page team have never felt as much like a Scooby Gang as they do in this episode, Foggy and Karen both going above and beyond the call of their normal duty as citizens, one to pull on the biker thread, one to stay with their not-quite-dead-but-having-a-bad-day client in the hospital while Murdock, still unknown to Karen in his Daredevil persona, goes after the conscience-free alternative in citizen vigilantism. While both do well, we’re especially impressed with Deborah Ann Woolf as Karen Page in this episode, investing Karen with a cool under pressure that underlines her personal heroism. When her world explodes in the last five minutes of the episode and it becomes clear exactly what kind of person they’re up against, Woolf powers the scene with undiluted adrenaline, which even Charlie Cox for his part struggles to match. One interesting note is that in the fight between this episode’s Big Bad (and surely, at least one of this season’s?), the fighting action looks rather more ‘superhero show’ than it did at any point in the first season. Presumably that’s to reinforce the unique nature of this particular Big Bad, and the idea that they’re not like all the ordinary criminals the Man in Black had to deal with in his first thirteen episodes. While Wilson Fisk was a very formidable villain, his power was more organised, more hierarchical, more essentially societal than that of this episode’s bad guy. This guy will just kill you – a reality underlined by one final, shocking ‘bang’ at the end of the episode.
For those who loved Season 1 of Daredevil, this episode feels like both a natural continuation and enough of an exciting departure to re-whet the appetite. It also brings with it a different strand of the Murdock-Fisk duality. While in some respects, Wilson Fisk was what Matt Murdock could have been if his life had gone a different way, if his father had been a negative influence rather than a positive one, the villain of this episode is more directly a reflection of what the Daredevil could be, if he didn’t have both the daylight world of law and order to which Matt Murdock clings, his faith in a higher power and its ability to judge him for his actions, and the friends that, as we saw in the climax of Season 1, keep the dualism of Murdock and the Daredevil working. Stripped of all those things, but still consumed with a need to make a difference through a career in vigilantism, the Daredevil could be the gun-toting, knife-wielding, uber-trained villain of this episode. There’s enough yet to discover about this character (who has their own life in the Marvel universe, and their own fans and advocates) to make their appearance in this first episode a real palate-cleanser after the Fisk season, and to really whet the appetite for a whole new season of Daredevil.
Get ready, people. Murdock, Nelson and Page are back, feeling more united than ever. And Hell’s coming with them.
Tony Fyler lives in a cave of wall-to-wall DVDs and Blu-Rays somewhere fairly
nondescript in Wales, and never goes out to meet the "Real People". Who,
Torchwood, Sherlock, Blake, Treks, Star Wars, obscure stuff from the
70s and 80s and comedy from the dawn of time mean he never has to. By
runs an editing house, largely as an
excuse not to have to work for a living. He's currently writing a Book.
With Pages and everything. Follow his progress at FylerWrites.co.uk