Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Microreview: Daredevil Season 2

This ain't your daddies review. And it's not really a microreview, either.

There's a lot to say, a lot to unpack, and it is really hard to know where to start.

So let's go back to the beginning. The real beginning. Back to when superhero movies just didn't work. Sure, there was Chris Reeve as Superman, and a halfway decent Batman, but c'mon, those aren't great movies.

Then others tried. And failed, but nobody failed harder than Ben Affleck as Daredevil. I won't talk about his upcoming turn as the caped crusader, but holy god, Daredevil stunk. For years- remember this? The MCU makes us blot out the dark ages, but I know you remember- Daredevil was pointed to as why comic book movies just didn't work.

Yeah, it IS as bad as you remember
Then there was Watchmen, and we can talk later about if that was good or not (my opinion- both), but I saw it opening night, and again the next day, because it is one of the all-time great stories, and Zach Snyder (who we can also talk about later as to if he is good or not. My opinion: meh) asked on Monday or Tuesday after it opened, for fans to go see it on subsequent weekends, to prove to studios that gritty, real, superhero movies worked.

You're so right, Comedian

For as far behind the times as Mister Snyder is these days, he was ahead of it there. The world- the medium- was not ready for costumed heroes that were not cartoons, or cartoony.

Iron Man and the MCU changed a lot of that. The Nolan Trilogy changed a lot of that. But still, no necks were snapped (We can talk later...). There were heroes, and there were villains.

So we arrive at Daredevil: S1. Holy crap, Daredevil? It'll be compared to Affleck's Daredevil,  we all said.

That was over fast, wasn't it? There was no comparison. One was a forgettable, by-the-numbers, vaguely creepy action movie, one was twelve-plus hours that grabbed you by the neck, forced you to watch and screamed your day job doesn't mean anything here, you are watching another episode.

2003? What happened in 2003?
So how do you top that? What Daredevil: S1 did was nothing short of monumental. X-Men: Days of Future Past exists to make us all forget X3 and everyone knows it. Daredevil the show doesn't give a [expletive deleted] that a movie exists with the same name - it just adds it to the pile of corpses it has created.

Season two does something else. It has no demons to purge, only itself to conquer. And conquer it does. If it was hard to know where to start, it is harder still to know where to continue. Its mildest successes are triumphs, and its triumphs are sublime.

The only word I can come up with to describe this season is poetry. Everything rhymes, everything- no, gentle reader, I mean everything- belongs together, flows and marries in rhythmic perfection. I am trying desperately to avoid spoilers for the five of you that didn't binge it over the weekend, but allow me to go back to the hero formula for a moment:

Daredevil is the hero, right? That's the formula. He is good, everyone else is bad or helps him. Except, not. The Punisher is the bad guy, right? Except you one-hundred-per-cent see where he is coming from and nod in agreement. Electra, man what is she even? But, man, she raises some good points. Foggy is the chubby comic relief, who fails at everything and our hero [cartoon eyes] braces him up in his failures. Except [no spoilers!] when Foggy is about to fall into that trope, he stands up and owns a situation. Karen Page, the heart-palpitation inducing blonde damsel in distress who is also the love interest, suddenly keeps the whole gorram thing together? She's much more than a pretty face (Although she is that- keep it together, DESR).

I am only human
The actors who portray them are spot-on as well. My love for Charlie Cox in Boardwalk Empire is well-documented, and when he was cast as Matt/Daredevil, I was a little concerned. Season one obviously allayed any concern there, his accent instead working to add some depth to his performance.

Much like the hero he portrays, he is hardly even the star. Deborah Ann Woll (Page) and Elden Henson (Nelson) elevate what would be simply supporting characters in any other show to stars in their own right, their on-screen charisma marrying perfectly with the brilliant writing mentioned above. Newcomers Jon Bernthal (Punisher) and √Člodie Yung (Electra) do an amazing job of showing the true depth of there characters, from Castle's pained expressions as he justifies his actions, to Electra's insane smirks as she embarks on another 'fun' adventure. Everyone involved does a simply amazing job.

 **DIGRESSION ALERT** My previous favorite show was Peaky Blinders, also a Netflix original, and it did so many things, so well (you can drop S3 anytime, gang). But it was also the first and I wondered then, as now, when so many others- Hulu, YouTube, etc- have followed suit, is how will it all work? Because, with a standard teevee show, episodes air at a specific, there is reaction, next one airs, etc. But now, we get 14 episodes all at once, available to watch whenever we can/want, and the reason, or at least, the measure of it, is very, very different. More to the point: is it sustainable? **END OF DIGRESSION ALERT**

And this is where Daredevil makes its bones. It is far more than another show, it is a fourteen-hour[expletive deleted]-movie. Season one set the stage, stood up against all the Breaking Bad binge watching, and paved the road for Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, et al, Season two proves it is a viable medium and release strategy and that, no, we don't have to tune in Tuesdays and nine/eight central. For me anyway, this is my default- wait for the DVD/streaming option to come out, watch it all at once. Daredevil capitalizes on that. Don't believe me? Ask all your friends what they did this weekend, or check your twitter feed.

Not that taking advantage of technology or viewing trends is the end all, be all of a show being great. Daredevil is great, from top to bottom, the whole series. And that is without delving into 'New York's Finest' (episode three), which is in the pantheon of perfect cinema. From the writing, the character development that ratchets tension up through the first 40 or so minutes, than releases it for a ten-minute one-shot that will leave you breathless, to every subtle detail littered throughout the entire series- well, if Daredevil is the man without fear, than he has a show befitting that, for it shows none.

Nerd coefficient: I'm forgoing bonuses (there are lots) and penalties (there are none), to simply give it the 10 it so richly deserves. 10: mind-blowing/life-changing/best.show.evar