I made a remark last week about this being The Defenders season 3 and I feel like I was right.
Our story picks up in the aftermath of Kingpin’s arrest, and the gangs of New York are scrambling for power despite the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen taking down their thugs every night in his shiny new suit. It’s causing some very serious issues at work now that Foggy knows he’s the vigilante putting fear of the devil into the low-lives flooding the streets, and his busy evening are making the practice of law increasingly hard work. Fortunately for Matt Murdock, there’s a new player on the scene, you may have heard…
Those of you who were keen to see what Jon Bernthal could do with the role of Frank Castle will be very satisfied to see Marvel’s most brutal killer brought to life far more effectively than in any other incarnation that went before, supplanting Dirty Laundry as my favourite interpretation outside of the comics.
We join his story mid-revenge tour of the upper echelons of organised crime, turning an entire room of Irish gangsters into a pulpy mess. Despite his ends, his means naturally put him in the middle of a police manhunt with Daredevil unofficially on the front lines, their interactions result in blood, violence, and a very long conversation about what reasonable measures should be taken when dealing with murderers. There’s also another one-cut fight scene to round off the moment, although there are cuts and they’re a little obvious for anyone looking for them but kudos for the attempt.
We get to watch his story through Karen’s investigation of his past, how the murder of his family ties into something far greater and the people involved, and much like with The Purple Man and Kingpin we see his iconography unravel subtly, a character in the making without a cheesy montage to do the job. Bernthal’s performance combines the fury of Castle’s loss, the cool rationality to judge who deserves life and death, and the hurt of a father who has no one left, and absolutely deserves a series of his own, especially because his final moments in this series are a little anticlimactic.
Jennifer Garner can finally sleep easy knowing that the character she butchered is finally in better hands. Congratulations to Elodie Yung for putting pay to everyone’s concerns about introducing the femme fatale into the very gritty series, although her role is not without its issues.
Through her we go deeper into the mysticism that we’ll eventually have to get accustomed to when Iron Fist shows up on the scene, and unravel a little more of the mysteries surrounding the Black Sky, the war between the Hand and the Chaste, and we also learn a lot more about Stick and Murdock. But while her presence functions brilliantly as a lens through which we can explore more of the world Marvel are building, she’s not just a prop. Elektra challenges Daredevil, changes the game and changes him in unexpected ways.
To say more about her story would be dropping too many spoilers, but suffice to say that despite an excellent performance, and a superb character Elektra takes a turn that felt more cheesy than we’ve been used to so far. And it’s not the only thing that felt a little forced in season 2.
A Cast of Many
Our regulars return in superb fashion, and develop a hell of a lot. This isn’t some pleasant tale of defeating adversity and going back to normal, nothing will be the same when we return to Murdock, Foggy and Page because they have all landed somewhere a long way from where we began. Foggy in particular takes a brutal journey as his best friend’s nightly habits tear him apart and destroy his friendship, but we also see some incredible development in Karen Page and her habit of putting herself into the middle of serious trouble.
A surprising number of characters return to the fray, including some you might not have expected to see for some time. Occasionally it feels a little forced, but it works to build up an interesting narrative that’s laying seeds for a much longer game. This is exactly why I feel like this has to be regarded in the same way as each new Marvel film these days, not taken on its own merits but as part of a whole, because alone – or even as Season 2 of Daredevil – this is a pretty weak series. Allusions to the other Defenders are dropped through linking characters like the hard-bitten Claire Temple, and Jeri Hogarth from Jessica Jones who will be returning in Iron Fist.
On a deeply nerdy level I have to comment on the use of colour. It’s a more obvious thing in Jessica Jones because of the use of purple to represent the effects of Kilgrave, but throughout both seasons of Daredevil we see Murdock cast in red lighting, Fisk was often set against white, and with the Punisher we see far heavier use of shadow and subtle skull motifs. As for the hand? Well they lack an overall colour scheme, but they do fall prey to the hand-severing habit of the MCU.
Kudos must go to the series too for straight-up cloning some incredible moments from the comics like the scene depicting the Devil chained to a chimney, and some of the moments during the trial.
By and large this is still an excellent TV series, but like a few of Marvel’s recent efforts it falls prey to the high bar set for it. Many incredible series have their stumbles and missteps, but I think that with a second watch I may yet find more to love. My enthusiasm has not run out, and I’m still looking forward to the second season of Jessica Jones in January, Iron Fist in a few months, and of course, this: