The end is here. After an explosive start and meandering middle, the second season of Daredevil comes to a close, with an up and down home stretch that has some cool moments, but ultimately lacks a satisfying conclusion to its major story lines. The most disappointing aspect of this season has to be the unanswered questions left behind by the Elektra arc- what exactly is the Hand’s objective? What is the Black Sky? We know the Hand’s underlying plan involves harvesting children's blood, lacing it with toxins, and reintroducing it back into their bodies, but what this is supposed to accomplish remains a mystery. The warehouse pit from episode six never gets addressed again despite seeming like a very significant plot point. And, in a noticeable bit of Replacement no Jutsu (yes, that is a Naruto reference for those of you keeping score at home), the writers immediately shift all of our attention to the season’s "big reveal"- that Elektra is in fact the Black Sky, the mysterious “object” of the Hand’s desire.
While this reveal should have been quite impactful, our lack of connection to Elektra, and the missing explanation behind the Black Sky, causes our reaction to fall flat. And I get it- it's not fair to expect all of these loose ends to be wrapped up in a neat and tidy bow. Daredevil will presumably have a third season that builds on these dangling plot points (though, there's currently speculation that the show might be in danger of cancellation); and in a way, it's also responsible for setting up future Netflix shows, such as Iron Fist and the team-up series, The Defenders. It's very possible that we'll see one or both of these shows revisit the Hand, especially given Iron Fist's East-Asian influences, and The Defenders' need for an overarching "big bad." From a pure story-telling point of view, this twist does its job in that it’s relatively unexpected and provides a palatable obstacle for our protagonist to overcome. However, while Daredevil doesn't need to show its entire hand to be enjoyable, the mysteries it teases should at least be compelling enough to assure audiences that the payoff will be worth the wait, something it wasn't able to accomplish with its Elektra arc.
The fallout of Nelson & Murdock ends up being one of the season's weaker subplots. We just aren’t invested enough in the Matt-Foggy relationship, to care when it all comes crumbling apart. There's nothing gripping about the two going their separate ways because it doesn't really feel like they're that great of friends anyway. All of their friendship building took place in season one, while season two mostly saw them at odds with one another. Foggy's arc stalls significantly during the latter part of the season, as he is sidelined by the bullet he takes in episode ten. However, his story line does take an interesting turn in the season finale, when he accepts a new job offer from none other than Jessica Jones' Jeri Hogarth.
So far, the references between Marvel's two Netflix properties have been subtle, with the most significant crossover being nurse Claire's one-episode appearance in Jessica Jones. But, as much as I'd love for Daredevil and Jessica Jones to dive right into each other’s adventures, I understand and appreciate the need for the slower, more deliberate approach Marvel is taking in establishing this shared fictional universe. In this regard, the teaming up of Foggy and Hogarth gives us a nice compromise. We don’t necessarily get the full-on, worlds-colliding effect of a Matt Murdock-Jessica Jones introduction, but Foggy and Hogarth are both significant supporting characters in their respective series, and their interactions, presumably in the next season of Jessica Jones, will give us a genuine feeling of connectivity between Marvel's Netflix series.
The highlight of this season is easily Jon Bernthal’s Punisher, though it's too bad that his story line ultimately gets pushed into the background in favor of Elektra and the Hand. The action sequences really reach a new level with the Punisher’s prison hallway and diner fight scenes. Choreographer Philip Silvera does a fantastic job of portraying Frank Castle's ruthlessness, and capturing his efficient, tactical fighting style- a welcome change of pace from this season's ubiquitous ninja fights. The Punisher arc also provides a unique dynamic by exploring the growing friendship between Castle and Karen Page. We get a lot of growth from Karen this season, and she steadily rises to the top of my list of favorite characters. This increase in likability is intrinsically tied to her heavy involvement in the season's superior story line; however, Karen's compassion for Castle and cleverness in pursuing leads for his case also gives her character an appealing human element that is sorely missing from the brooding Matt Murdock and underused Foggy.
Unfortunately, the Punisher plot-line ends on a rather disappointing note, as the Blacksmith reveal falls quite flat relative to the season-long build-up. Jessica Jones suffered similarly with finding an appropriate ending for one of its major arcs, and it’s possible that Netflix shows, in general, would be better served by shortening their seasons from thirteen episodes to ten, allowing plot points to conclude in a more timely, organic fashion, rather than getting dragged out to cheaply fill screen time. There's an argument to be made that a volatile character like Frank Castle is best used in small doses, and that a larger presence would have quickly worn out his welcome. But, in a season without an overarching villain like Wilson Fisk, I think the writers could have leveraged a bit more screen time for one of their most compelling characters.
Overall, this was an uneven second season for Marvel's flagship Netflix series. Things start off, quite literally, with a bang, but after The Punisher is seemingly brought to justice in the fourth episode, the show fails to keep its momentum going as it shifts its focus towards Elektra and the Hand. This change is so stark, in fact, that the first four episodes almost feel like an entirely different (and better) show. Daredevil season two is by and large an entertaining addition to the MCU; however, its faults are hard to overlook after the universally-acclaimed Jessica Jones showed us just how a good a Marvel Netflix series can be. At the very least, Daredevil provides a satisfying amount of world-building for Marvel's burgeoning Netflix universe, and continues to eclipse its broadcast counterpart, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., in terms of quality. In today's world of streaming and cord-cutting, Netflix remains the future of television, and will allow Marvel to explore their properties more creatively than they ever could with cable. In this sense, Daredevil season two succeeds in laying the groundwork for this future to soon unfold.
Garrett Yoshitomi is a contributor for A Play on Nerds. He covers Marvel films and television, and enjoys fantasy baseball, Big Brother live feeds, and Anna Kendrick. You can find his tweets @garrettweets