Spoilers ahead!! The premiere of Season Two of Daredevil on Netflix starts small. As “Bang” opens, we get quickly caught up on where all of our heroes are after taking down Wilson Fisk in Season One. Daredevil is beating the snot out of crooks, Nelson & Murdock is flooded with clients – albeit, clients with no money – and the Irish are getting ready to take over the underworld with the Kingpin out of the picture. But somebody has plans for the Irish. And for the Mexican Cartel. And for motorcycle gang, The Dogs of Hell. And thus begins what is, over the course of the first four episodes, the definitive Punisher movie. Even though we don’t really see Frank Castle until 43 minutes into the episode, his touch is on everything leading up to that point. His takedown of the Irish Mob is an extended explosion of gunfire, blood, and more gore than I really thought we’d ever see in a Marvel show. By the time Daredevil discovers a room full of men on meat hooks, the point has been made. The Punisher is the real deal. If there was any worry that the show might flounder with the departure of showrunner Steven DeKnight, it was for naught. Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez bring their backgrounds on shows like Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, Sons of Anarchy, Fear the Walking Dead, and American Horror Story to give us a much more controlled burn for Daredevil’s second season. Where Season One was good, and the interpretations of both Daredevil and the Kingpin quickly became iconic, the season overall suffered from a tendency to spin its wheels trying to fill out the 13 episode order. When it was on target, it was amazing. And it came out of the gate swinging, but as the season went on, it meandered before finally coming back into focus for the final couple of episodes. Season Two does not have this problem – mainly because Season Two has more than enough story to go around. But more on that later. For now, back to Jon Bernthal‘s performance as the best Punisher on record. We’ve had three (or four, depending on how you count them) versions of the Punisher running around on-screen over the years. Dolph Lundgren kicked it all off back in 1989, then Thomas Jane picked up the mantle in 2004, followed by Ray Stevenson in 2008. Jane made a quick return to the character in 2012 for fan-film Dirty Laundry (which redeemed his Hollywood version of Frank for me) bringing us a street-level version of the character that was maybe the best to that point. But Bernthal is perfection. His first appearance is horrifying as he marches through hospital halls firing off shotgun blasts as Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) helps the only survivor of the Irish massacre escape. It brings to mind Arnold’s Terminator and sets us up for the eventual reveal that the attack is meant to force his target into a pre-determined killzone. Which would have worked if not for the timely appearance of Daredevil (Charlie Cox). What follows is a comic nerd’s dream come true as DD and Punisher face off on the rooftop, beating the living crap out of each other in just the first of many ultra-violent confrontations that mark this season as the bloodiest of any superhero show on television. It’s close-quarters brutality and every punch, every kick, feels like it hurts. And the gunshot that ends the fight is just the first of a continual series of cliffhanger endings that demonstrates Petrie and Ramirez’s understanding of how to structure this new season according to the Netflix all-at-once release, where a slow down at the end of the episode could inspire watchers to take a break. Trust me. There’s no urge to break when those credits start to roll. The second episode, “Dogs to a Gunfight,” kicks off with Foggy (Elden Henson) discovering Matt’s nearly-dead body on a rooftop and, after getting him home and patched up, tearing into him for choosing to risk death every night. This is the first scene of the season where Henson’s Foggy really begins to shine. I’m not one of the people who felt he was a weak link in Season One and it’s good to see his character really begin to come into his own, both here and in the following scene where he stands up to District Attorney Reyes (Michelle Hurd). Karen’s character also gets an upgrade, finding something good in the violence of The Punisher and immediately intuiting that Daredevil’s vigilante activity was just the first step in a sea change in Hell’s Kitchen. It was inevitable that somebody would start using guns and taking things a step farther than just beating up criminals. This is our first inclining that Karen is becoming maybe the smartest character on the show, and is definitely more than just a secretary or legal assistant. Although no one is smart enough to see a double-cross coming from the D.A. when instead of using Irish massacre survivor Grotto (McCaleb Burnett) to get intel on a drug dealer, he’s actually bait in her Punisher trap. And when Daredevil shows up to save Grotto’s life again, she doesn’t hesitate to issue a shoot-to-kill order that nearly ends both of the vigilantes. But that glancing gunshot to the head last episode put a temporary kibosh on Daredevil’s powers earlier and when the two men, bloodied and bruised face off this time, Frank has the advantage and the episode ends with another cliffhanger as they’ve disappeared, leaving behind a pool of blood and no leads as to where they went. “New York’s Finest” opens with a dream-image of a nun nursing young Matt, urging him to rest. Comic fans know that Matt’s mother isn’t dead, but has been living as a nun, occasionally looking out for Matt without his knowledge through his life. It’s a nice little Easter egg that hopefully will be explored in future seasons. But we all know Matt can’t rest, and when he comes to, he’s chained to a chimney on a rooftop while Frank enjoys a cup of joe. This episode serves as this season’s defining moment, as Frank and Matt spend most of the runtime on the roof, debating the morality of vigilante justice. In the meantime, Foggy goes searching hospital records trying to find out if Matt is dead or not. Seriously. This is his life. It’s no wonder he’s pissed at Matt, putting him through this kind of worry constantly, not to mention the fact that Matt is dropping the ball with the law firm as well. But a visit to the hospital means the return of Rosario Dawson as Claire, and that’s always a welcome thing. Dawson is the glue that holds all of the Netflix series together so far and she’s great at it. She puts a civilian face on the vigilante issue and demonstrates maybe more than any other character that heroism is found in everyday life, not just in beating up bad guys. We know next to nothing about her except the fact that she’s no-nonsense and she cares enough to help anyone who crosses her path, despite the repercussions. I really can’t wait to see what they’ve got cooking for her in Luke Cage (which premieres in September!!!). The hospital trip doesn’t turn up any information on Matt, but it does allow Foggy another opportunity to shine as he talks down to gang members intent on killing each other in the emergency room. If it wasn’t clear from the get-go, this season is going to spend a lot of time shifting Foggy out of Matt’s shadow. That may sound like torture to some viewers, but I’m really looking forward to it and so far Henson is nailing every opportunity he’s begin given. Karen also steps up her research skills and pushes to get more information out of the D.A.’s office by building an alliance with the Assistant D.A. Blake Tower (Stephen Rider). It’s not exactly an obvious alliance, but she gets information from him that otherwise would have stayed out of the spotlight: most importantly, an x-ray of Frank Castle showing a bullet wound to the head. It’s a sneaky and stylish way of introducing the skull motif the Punisher fans love while making it something with a little more meaning than simply a cool design feature. But back to the rooftop! The dialogue here is pitch-perfect, avoiding the melodramatic posturing that one might expect from a superhero show, instead focusing on Daredevil trying to talk to Frank in a way that not only gets him to open up and provide information about himself, but allows for Matt to push the no-killing argument. This is the central argument of the second season. Is Matt’s non-lethal approach to crime-fighting really accomplishing anything? Critics who call this discussion simplistic or one-note are totally missing the point, not only about Daredevil, but about the entire concept of heroism. When Frank duct tapes a pistol to D.D.’s hand with a single bullet in it, telling him that he has a choice when it comes to stopping him is the crux of the dynamic between the two characters. His use of a tied-up Grotto as essentially a debate point demonstrates the real difference between the two approaches. Daredevil argues to spare Grotto’s life because he feels any punishment should up to the law to enforce, but he’s only seeing the Grotto of that instant. Frank knows that Grotto has not only killed as part of his work with the Irish mob, but then shot an old lady who saw his face. He’s a murderer that Daredevil would see punished for his minor offenses, while Frank did this due diligence and has justifications for his actions. In this scenario, there’s no doubt that sending Grotto to prison for murder would be Daredevil’s newly revised option. Prison where he would live, do his time, and maybe get out and be free to kill again. Or maybe he could reform while inside. It’s impossible to tell and the problem sets up not only a diametric opposition between the two but forces the viewer to make a choice, too. Daredevil’s choices are either kill Frank or kill Grotto. Frank is forcing Matt into seeing his perspective. The choice to pull the trigger is not an easy one, but it’s the one Frank makes repeatedly. And Daredevil’s choice to violently beat people senseless is an easier one to justify. The episode closes with a callback to Season One’s hallway fight, with Daredevil fighting through the entire Dogs of Hell motorcycle gang in a stairwell while trying to get an unconscious Frank out of the building alive. It’s not as smoothly executed as the hallway fight, but it’s just as brutal and serves to demonstrate that this show is not about the easy outs. Every confrontation has the potential to explode into a non-stop smackdown and stunt coordinator’s wet dream. Frank escapes, of course, and the next episode, “Penny and Dime” brings in a new leader for the Irish mob in the shape of Finn (Tony Curran), whose son was killed by Frank in the season opening massacre. Finn tracks down Frank’s hideout almost as easily as Matt did earlier, only with a lot more violently intimidating innocent people. In what might be my only misgiving about the development of Karen this season, she starts to get closer to Matt despite the fact that as far as she knows, he’s a raging alcoholic who is missing work and hurting himself in his off-hours. Woll plays that awkward innocence so naturally, though, that it works. It’s a horrible life decision, but she sells it. Just like she sells the determination to find out what happened to make Frank the Punisher and find out why D.A. Reyes is so determined to shut him down. While she’s doing that research, though, the Irish track Frank down, finding him daydreaming at a carousel in the park after dark. It’s an important location, as we’ll find out later (of course, fans already have an idea of why this location might be important to him), and before too many bodies hit the floor, they have Frank captured and the torture is underway. And if they Irish weren’t bad enough already, they threaten to torture Frank’s dog if he doesn’t give up the location of all the money he stole from them. That’s when things go pear-shaped for the Irish. Finn takes a shotgun blast to the face when he won’t tell Frank who’s responsible for murdering his family. And with that, we finally have the origin of the Punisher coming together before our eyes. Karen finds his home as well as pictures of his family (at the carousel). Then we get a long scene between Frank and D.D. in a graveyard where they come to an understanding and Bernthal gets the opportunity to really shine, opening up about his past and his loss. It tragic and sad and maybe the strongest moment in Punisher film history. The episode ends with celebration. Frank’s in custody, the gang’s all together, and after a walk home in the rain, Matt and Karen finally kiss and all is right with the world. But this is Daredevil. The episode can’t end there, with a full stop. Something has to happen to propel the story forward and oh boy does it. Matt enters his apartment and who is sitting there in the dark waiting for him but Elektra (Elodie Yung), waiting to set off the second arc of the season. Oh hell yes. Daredevil 2.01-2.04 "No they. Him."Paul's Rating5.0Overall ScoreReader Rating: (0 Votes)Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related One Response Marvel’s The Punisher Season One - Psycho Drive-In November 19, 2017 […] easily the best ever and that first four-episode story arc that served as his introduction was the highpoint for the series. The rest of the season, with its focus on Elektra and The Hand, didn’t maintain the intensity, […] Log in to Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.