Daredevil Season 2: Let’s talk Ninjas and Theology

Karen_JeromeThe tensions between vigilantism and the rule of law are meant to be embodied in Matt Murdock. In some ways he’s a bit of a walking contradiction. What is justice? If it lies in the rule of law, then why act outside it? And if you’re going to act outside it, then why not be as barbarically brutal as the Punisher? At least, some would argue, the Punisher’s way annihilates the problem even if it annihilates all hope.  Heck, what’s “hope” anyway? Is Murdock’s moral code his weakness or his strength?

Want a clear answer? Too bad. The answer is not black and white, because reality resists such insulting dichotomies. The strength of this show lies in these very themes and the in the show-runner’s ability to illustrate the temptations of a hero who sticks to his principles without wavering, even if the burden of holding such principles becomes great. My opinion is that Daredevil possesses a true wisdom in his recognition of the value of even the most disgusting life, and real wisdom often has the unfortunate ability of appearing impractical or downright stupid to those who do not understand it.

And then, there’s the Catholicism that permeates the entire show, right down to the promotional posters that are meant to draw direct parallels to Caravaggio’s paintings. Yes, the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen is a Catholic, (hyuck hyuck, see what they did there?), albeit a Catholic with some actual substance. What I mean by that is while this fact is meant to be rather amusingly ironic, it’s also not just a cute gimmick meant to make us all chuckle. This religion matters to Murdock, matters enough to form his essential traits: a deep and abiding belief in redemption being possible for all. While this is noble and admirable, it is a conviction that comes with some hardships. The difficulty with living by a moral code is that if it tempers you, you’re adhering to it correctly, but if you begin to behave badly in its name you need to have the humility to backtrack.  Murdock’s guilt gives him a bit of a martyrdom complex, and he starts to push the very people he cares for away from him.

Which is why this new season introduces two, new, complex characters in Elektra and the Punisher to challenge Matt Murdock’s concept of justice and make him reevaluate his superhero identity.  Some of the best dialogue is in the earlier part of the season when the Punisher has Daredevil tied to a chimney and they both verbally spar over who has the better method. Both are breaking the law, but the Punisher is confident that his way is the one of reality: “I’ll do what’s required…I hit them, and they stay down.”

Both the Punisher and Elektra put Murdock into situations where they try to get him to kill a scumbag: Elektra finds the mob boss who killed Matt’s father; Punisher makes a crook confess a murder to Daredevil and then makes him watch him kill him, letting Daredevil know that he could intervene with lethal force if his esoteric code allows. Both times, the hero refuses to kill (even though he wants to!), and as the show goes on he becomes frustrated with everyone’s willful misunderstanding of his convictions. “Vengeance is not justice – what [the Punisher] is doing is completely wrong!” he exclaims after hearing someone praise a murder spree of the Punisher’s.

This season nailed some pretty major themes, but it does have a few flaws. Shows made for Netflix bingeing have some pros and cons: the format will always have pacing issues because each season strives to be more complex than a 2 hour movie, but ends up straining the plot a bit to fill all the time they do have. (I noticed the same problem with Jessica Jones.) The Elektra and Punisher story-lines, for instance, are two separate threads that left me, as a viewer, feeling split. I kept waiting for these unique characters and complex plot lines to converge for the sake of harmony, but we don’t get that. Perhaps, being a bit too ambitious, the show-runners gave us two seasons in one and left some things feeling rushed or not resolved.

I’ve seen critics roll their eyes at the fight scenes too, calling them excessive or ridiculous, but I really, really enjoyed them. The stairwell scene was especially well done, and I don’t have much of a defense against action-scene detractors except to say, “IT’S THERE BECAUSE IT’S COOL, OKAY?” So here, watch this pretty gif and we’ll gloss over that, yes? Excellent.

Daredevil_stairwellFight

Various Thoughts:

  • Foggy will always make me laugh, especially by puncturing a tense moment, right as Matt shows up late in a tux, by saying, “why are you fancy?”

 

  • Team Claire: what a badass, especially for calling Daredevil “Saint Matthew” in an attempt to get him to stop being such martyr. She talks to him like a wife would, so I’m not done shipping them yet.

 

  • I was appreciative of the fact that Karen had an easier time researching than writing. Welcome to creative work, sweetheart.

 

  • I think we just see the same ten ninjas over and over. Ah man, these guys AGAIN!

 

  • When Daredevil keeps Punisher from killing a mobster, and Punisher yells, “altar boy!” All the giggles.

 

  • Elektra and Stick’s relationship didn’t make much sense to me. He protects her as a kid, even kills for her, and then just decides, “Well that was a mistake!” and tries to off her at the end of the season. If you’re fighting a weird cult of undead, why is the dead body of their Ultimate Weapon a good thing? (A suspicion uncomfortably confirmed by the last scene of the season before the credits.)

 

 

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