'Daredevil' season 2 starts slow, heats up fast (review)

The man without fear returns to Netflix, and this time Elektra and the Punisher are testing both his superpowers and his morality.

Richard Trenholm Former Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
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Richard Trenholm
2 min read

There's a heat wave in New York City, and the heat is on for masked vigilante Daredevil as new threats push him to the limit of both his superpowers and his morality. After the masked hero and his chums took down Wilson Fisk in the first season of the Netflix show, rival criminal gangs are jockeying for power -- but a new player is dishing out his own brand of vigilante punishment that's rather more permanent than Daredevil's.

Season two of "Daredevil", based on the Marvel comics character, is on Netflix everywhere now. We've avoided spoilers, but if you want to go in completely clean, then bookmark this page and come back when you've seen the first few episodes.

The action is once again beautifully shot, sickly neon light silhouetting the stylish battles. But the first episode isn't a flying start: It begins with a pretty generic superhero scene as masked robbers come up against flying fists of justice while cops look on in amazement. OK, that sets the scene, but the first season led us to expect a more inventive take on superheroics.

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What really felt like a wasted opportunity was the introduction of fan favourite character the Punisher. He's just there, right from the start, with no build-up or suspense. Someone just offhandedly remarks, "They're calling this one the Punisher". It's not very dramatic. And he's barely been thrown into the mix when he's sidelined.

Meanwhile things get even more heated when Daredevil's old flame turns up, played by a sinuous Elodie Yung. Their steamy past relationship complicates things for our hero's legal day job and his baddie-bashing alter ego. Elektra's mysterious involvement brings a bit of intrigue to the show that the early part of the Punisher storyline lacks.

Watch this: Who are Elektra and the Punisher?

Things do improve though. In the first season, Daredevil himself was introduced early and his story was then filled in bit by bit, and the show takes a similar approach to the Punisher. As the season progresses, the Punisher's story is peeled back layer by layer, provoking both sympathy for the man and distaste for his methods.

Still, I can't help feeling it's a story that would be more interesting if we actually saw the events unfolding rather than hearing them reconstructed in dry legal conversation.

That said, Jon Bernthal makes a great Punisher, a clenched fist of a man driven by demons to brutal ends. There's a neat new take on his iconic symbol too.

A couple of episodes in, things really kick up a gear as Daredevil and the Punisher meet in a clash of philosophy inspired by a classic moment from the comic books. And if you enjoyed the first season's spectacular single-take corridor fight, episode three raises the game again.

Don't worry, you don't need to remember every detail of season one to enjoy the new series. You also don't need to have seen the other Marvel show on Netflix, "Jessica Jones", although you may spot a couple of interesting details if you have.