The second season of Daredevil is completely and utterly dominated by the arrival of two iconic comic book characters- The Punisher and Elektra, who come with dynamic actors set to embody what's bound to be the definitive versions of these antiheroes, after each had been portrayed on film in past projects that were let's just say, less than acclaimed at the time of release.
But now, Matt Murdock returns with his co-workers Foggy Nelson and Karen Page, as the trio deal with Frank Castle, played by The Walking Dead's Jon Bernthal, who arrives right off the bat in Hell's Kitchen to start doing what he does best- mowing down criminals in graphic and variously bloody ways. Bernthal is sensational as Castle and brings a rough, damaged, intense screen presence as the former soldier and retribution seeker, and his long monologue in episode four about his family tragedy captivates your attention in unfortunate ways for his co-stars, who are very often blown off the screen when he's around. The philosophical battle over vigilante justice between Matt and Frank is compelling, but mostly contained to the first half of the season, as the show takes Frank out of commission for much of the middle arc, but even then he's given an interesting rapport with Deborah Ann Woll's Karen that could have even been explored further than it is by the finale.
The other new addition is Elektra Natchios, played by French actress Elodie Yung, who is the former college girlfriend of Matt and shows up in his life ready to partner with and seduce him all over again. The Daredevil/Elektra partnership is exciting and visceral, as Yung's playful, manipulative and sexy femme fatale is a perfect match for the straightforward Matt, who works to deny his own darkness that is always brought out by his attraction and love for Elektra. The pair work wonderfully together as two people who seek the thrill of violence behind the cover of night and red costumes- it's a relationship that could also be dove into more than it is, although it does get a decent amount of focus throughout the middle part of the season.
The weakness of Season 2 involves anything to do with poor Foggy and Karen, who do pale in comparison to the new additions, and Foggy in particular is given almost nothing to do but lecture and yell at Matt for his nighttime alter ego, a continuation of his reaction last season that leads to yet another rift in the Nelson-Murdoch duo that feels like it's been played out once already. And the decision to go ahead with a Matt/Karen romance this season is severely misguided, most importantly because the actors have zero chemistry or spark between them, and their scenes are so cold and awkward that they drag the show down whenever we have to watch them attempt a dinner date and wonder why we can't just get back to Matt and Elektra instead. As I said earlier, Woll has more chemistry with Bernthal than Charlie Cox, and I’m a little worried that the devotion to canon means the show is intending to follow through on the Matt/Karen story, despite what may or may not be working onscreen. It's not always a good thing to stick to so close to the pre-arranged plan that you refuse to adjust accordingly, and this one may be in real need of some tweaks.
The fight scenes remain spectacularly choreographed and the overall look and feel of the show is as intense, dark and violent as it was last year, even if it may feel a little more comic book-y and less "realistic," due to Daredevil's consistently suited up status this time around, and some pretty wacky mythical diversions into the ancient Japanese cult called The Hand that shows up in the latter half of the season. When you delve into territory that starts dealing with zombie-esque immortals, ninja assassins and bringing people back from the dead, you start to lose any semblance of realism you may have been clinging to before. But more comic book in nature is not necessarily a bad thing either, depending on your taste. Daredevil remains entertaining, and the Punisher and Elektra are more than compelling enough characters to keep me interested. At least until I see what happens with this Matt/Karen thing, which is giving off some pretty bad warning signs already.