Monday, March 21, 2016

#JustaQuickiePlease: Daredevil Season 2 "Spoiler Free" Review

        I'm going to give it my best shot to avoid revealing any plot points, scene secrets, or surprises for those who haven't had a chance to watch yet; but be forewarned, I can't guarantee I won't upset the "spoiler sensitive," so proceed at your own risk.  With that said, I will tackle this as I have done before in three categories; the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly.

     Props Clint, I love you babe. 

     So, let's light this candle... 

        The good: once again, this series is able to bring a convincing and engrossing dark, gritty, and oft brutal edge to the Marvel Universe. Unlike DC's absolute fail in unsuccessfully combining their bleak real world essence and graphic fantasy realm to truly please both the diehard Fanboy or girl and the comic illiterate mainstream alike. 

     Charlie Cox returns with a fury, turning one of the most under-appreciated of the Marvel lineup into a hero rock star almost overnight.  In fact, the entire cast delivers authentic performances that you can feel within the pits of both your heart and stomach, sometimes at the same time.  The script, overall, is well crafted and the storytelling, for the most part, is fluid and thoroughly engaging. 

      But it is the unadulterated, uncensored, brutal action that separates this series from any of its ilk.  Perfectly choreographed routines that shamelessly tantalize with each bone crushing blow joyously reverberating in your eager ear holes.  The hallway scene, from season one, has become an infamous example of this awe-inspired combat.  Well, wait to you see the stairwell scene.  If you don't replay it at least ten times in morbid glee, then you are truly dead inside.   This is how you bring such iconically feral characters like Elektra and The Punisher to illustrious gory and grim life.  Where others have monumentally failed, Goddard succeeds, in bloody gallons. 

      The costuming only compliments the action and story.  So many times such hero apparel updates reduce these vigilantes to either; S&M leather and spandex, the equivalent of sub-par Cosplay, or literal caricatures of themselves, appearing more like a parody than homage.  These incarnations are not only geektastic but actually make sense if they existed in the here and now.  When certain recognizable elements and aspects are finally revealed, it is an indisputable moment of utter geek Zen!

      Finally, and I believe, accidentally, the story demonstrates the very failures of our justice system and the ridiculousness of the Progressive philosophies that have ravaged our penal processes. 

     Ha, I said penal; okay, moving on. 

     While trying to argue against the various tactics of our tormented guardians, they simultaneously affirm their effectiveness and the ever growing futility of the warped practices we have in place; where the victimizers have far more rights and protections than the victims.  The Punisher shines a frightening mirror to our complacent faces, barbarically exposing the hypocrisy of believing that evil, unrequited evil, has any hope of redemption; that our choices belong to us, with very real, sometimes damning consequences, both for good and malice.  Corruption can touch even the purest heart, rage exists in us all, and vengeance may provide results but at the cost of our own humanity. 

   Wow, that escalated quickly; let's take a breath and head on over to the bad, shall we.

   The bad: This is another case of too many ingredients in the pot diluting the savor and satisfaction of the final recipe.  I like series and movies that make me think, but not ones that nearly bring me to the brink of an aneurysm.  There are just too many questions without answers and too many answers that answer nothing at all. 

   Whether it is clarity into The Punisher's origins, what Elektra's long game is, or, spoiler warning, what the Hand is really up to, Goddard attempts to do too much in too little time.  It is painfully apparent he was trying to set up a Castle spin-off, the Iron Fist series, and Civil War all at the same time.  There are too many clues and hints that lead to nothing but a deliberate and calculated ambiguity that is neither creative or productive but lazy and inevitably frustrating for the audience.  It is a delicate juggling act that never gets all of the balls in the air and keeps them moving with a precision that has come to be expected from his original outing. 

   And, no I am not making a balls joke at the point!  What do you think I am, predictable?

  To continue, the entire trial sequence, though intriguing, felt haphazard and pointless, even after it revealed it was wholly set up to bring back a high power player.  In addition, Karen's character is overplayed, abruptly transitioning her from determined heroine to fragile damsel, like a meth head driving a stick shift.  It's just too chaotic; feeling forced and disingenuous.  Even more confusing is Foggy's consistent disregard for Matt's purpose, even though it was well established by the first run's end.  His relentless questioning of Murdock's dual identity and quest is simply disjointed and disconnected based on how their relationship evolved.  Even the debate and resulting damage to their friendship has gaping holes in the continuity of the current story.

   The Punisher's antics last only a discouragingly few episodes before we are pulled kicking and screaming into the pure adrenaline and excitement of a drawn out trial with lots of technical legal jargon and endless conversations about it.  After all, it's a winning concept; just think of how well the Star Wars prequels did by focusing on logistics over substance or expected adventure.   I am not saying that this twist was unnecessary.  It was simply and unmistakably unfulfilling as it felt like it went nowhere as slow as possible.  Another significant point of annoyance; Goddard must have an unrequited affection for the previous Punisher cinematic outing, War Zone, because that connotation is uttered almost ad nauseam, bordering on involuntarily comedic, when describing the vigilante's reign of terror.

      Finally, Daredevil's so called "Batmanesque" code of not killing ends up being undeniably  hypocritical by series end.  The writers seem to believe that if they simple construct dialogue that has our hero preaching against the terminal justice his cohorts wantonly deliver; that it somehow absolves him of any relationship with, or accountability to, it.  Although Daredevil is a total bad arse in his own right; having his buddies do all the dirty work doesn't make him appear any more noble.  Instead, it demonstrates an inherent weakness in his intervention by further justifying the fallacies of an adherence to an inadequate system that seemingly nullifies everything he accomplishes.  

  Okay, now the ugly: there is none.  This may have not been as solidly written and cohesive as the first season that was more concerned with telling a good story with amazing characters than setting up a legacy that will eventually lead to the Defenders, but it was still well worth the journey.  Stellar acting, unforgettable action, and a deep respect for character and canon make this another decisive win for Marvel's darker side.  Sequels have a habit of disappointing just as subsequent seasons have a 50/50 chance of either escalating or eviscerating their predecessors.  This is truly a compliment to the first year and may become an indispensable cog in the continuing mechanical behemoth that is Netflix/Marvel machine.

  3 out of 5 Kernels; this go round didn't satiate like it should have but was still a delectable meal for all the senses.





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