The first season of Netflix's Daredevil series set a new standard for what can be done with superheroes on the small screen. Eschewing the family-friendly mildness of ABC's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and the YA drama focus of CW's DC universe series Arrow and The Flash, Daredevil instead brought a new level of grittiness and adult themes that would carry over into its sister series, Jessica Jones.
With season 2, the stakes for Matt Murdock are being raised with the addition of two new fan-favorite characters to the mix: The Punisher and Elektra. Both characters have a history with Daredevil in the comics (and, in the case of Elektra, the movies), and their addition to the series will no doubt set the second season apart from the first. The big question, though, is whether or not it will be for the better.
Much of that depends on how well Daredevil handles the characters, and if the actors the series has brought to the table are good fits for their respective roles. Luckily, early indications are that Elodie Yung makes a great Elektra, and Jon Bernthal is equally impressive as Frank Castle. The reviews are starting to come in, and critics like what they're seeing.
Variety's Brian Lowry found that the grittiness was laid on a little thick early on in the season, but also that eventually the show course corrects:
While it’s established that the milieu is essentially R-rated territory, the beginning is so dark and brooding as to border on self-parody, with the Punisher portrayed almost as a Terminator, maiming and inflicting enough torture to feel like a Tarantino homage.
Starting with the third and fourth episodes, though, the characters come into focus (and Bernthal, happily, finally gets some dialogue). Moreover, there’s an extended fight sequence in a stairwell that’s one of the more impressive action pieces this relatively modestly budgeted endeavor has produced.
Meanwhile, Den of Geek's Mike Cecchini liked Jon Bernthal's turn as The Punisher as well, but felt that Elektra was the real star of the show:
Elodie Yung’s Elektra Natchios is the character to watch, though. The mysterious woman from Matt’s past is not only clever and cold, but every bit the physical match for Daredevil, as well as everyone else she crosses paths with. Elektra’s motives are unclear, as are her intentions towards Matt, which makes hers the more compelling of the many stories the season is juggling. Just as surely as the first season of this show effectively erased the 2003 film from everyone's memories, Bernthal and Yung can safely be considered the definitive versions of these characters.
Over at Nerd Repository, Kyle Wilson was equally enthusiastic about both characters:
Bernthal was born for this role. The iconic Marvel Comics character Frank Castle aka The Punisher isn’t exactly a stretch for Bernthal, having played similar characters in Fury and The Walking Dead, but the talented actor nails the grim focus and unhinged nature of the murderous anti-hero.
Season 2 moves along at a quicker pace than Season 1, and the introduction to iconic characters like The Punisher and Elektra (Élodie Yung) really spice up the early episodes. Speaking of the lady in red, fans should be quite pleased with this extremely faithful incarnation of the character, as Yung is visually ripped from the panels of a Frank Miller comic. She looks the part and plays it with confidence, seduction and dangerous intrigue. Oh, and she can kick ass too. Naturally. There’s real, palpable chemistry between Yung and Cox, and whenever they’re onscreen together there’s an air of danger along with a feeling of a loss of control – for both characters.
If the early reviews are any indication, fans have much to look forward to from season 2 of Daredevil. While Vincent D'Onofrio's explosive performance as Wilson Fisk will be missed, he is being replaced by two characters that, when combined, might just fill the Kingpin-sized hole he has left behind. Whether or not either of the new characters get their own spinoff is up in the air, but at the very least they will be leaving their mark on Netflix's corner of the MCU.
Daredevil season 1 and Jessica Jones season 1 are now available on Netflix. Daredevil season 2 will debut on Netflix on March 18th, 2016, followed by Luke Cage season 1 later in 2016. Release dates for Jessica Jones season 2, Iron Fist, and The Defenders on Netflix have not yet been announced.