TV At some point in the not too distant future, I'm going to write a listicle (or whatever the millennials are calling them these days) about my top ten favourite characters from the whole of the MARVEL cinematic universe and it's while watching Daredevil's second series that I realised just how high Claire Temple is one that list. Of all the characters we've been introduced to across the franchise, the she's the one who feels the most grounded and likeable and most importantly makes you wish that MARVEL would make a show or film in which superheroes are backgrounded rather than foregrounded, incidental rather than main characters, in which its about what it's like to live in a world where navigating rush hour could also include dealing with major disruption due to a contest of champions.
As is customary I spent the whole of yesterday working through all the available episodes of a Netflix MARVEL series in order to avoid the inevitable spoilers, beginning at around half seven in the morning (the series was uploaded an hour earlier than usual) and finishing just after midnight. As is also customary, this was time well spent as Daredevil's second series, whilst for my money not being quite as brilliant as Jessica Jones and slightly more formulaic, is still like nothing else on television and you should definitely watch it at your earliest convenience. Anyway since it's Saturday night and I have the itch, here's some odd comments about this run of episodes huddling around some numbers for comfort. Obviously this is supposed to be read after you've seen all the episodes because SPOILERS.
(1) Having run a whole story through thirteen episodes and finding themselves becoming slightly bogged down around episode ten with Nelson vs. Murdoch and essentially seeing Matt and Foggy talking through the previous nine episodes of exposition about the Daredevil and things, season two is instead segmented into three clusters of four episodes then a final resolving installment. The first four introduce The Punisher, the next four are about Elektra, the final four are about returning to themes and characters from the first series and the final episode climaxes The Hand story.
Unexpectedly The Hand and The Blacksmith aren't revealed to be connected in some way, and I think that has to do with the series working as an origin story for The Punisher (much as Jessica Jones did for Luke Cage), who along with Karen's participation instead ultimately resolves his own story. A less brave show might have attempted to put Daredevil in both climaxes somehow, but the writing is deft enough for us to view this as an ensemble piece rather than just the Daredevil show. My guess is that if there is a third series, Elektra will have even greater agency than she does here, hopefully, whether she's to be the antagonist or not.
Will we now see a show about The Punisher or will he continue in or one of the other shows. I'd like to see him spin-off if only so that s3 of Daredevil doesn't feel like a retread of this, that instead of Daredevil, we're watching Daredevil and The Punisher each year. I think he's strong enough, especially if he travels outside of Hell's Kitchen, takes his fight elsewhere. The fear might be that his Death Wish brutalism is too much to sustain him on television as an anti-hero without it all tipping over into machismo. The trick will be to find interesting enough supporting characters and a story which justifies the killins'.
(2) More noticeable in this series is the story editing is even closer to comic books, and the "meanwhile" approach to cross cutting between scenes. On dozens of occasions, threats between champions even brutal fights are intercut with character moments or expositional action related to another storyline and just sometimes the viewer is forced with having to juggle three or four different tones within minutes. Sometimes it jars, usually it worked well enough that our tension is kept going throughout. In that way there feels like less luls overall than the first year.
(3) Back to Claire Temple briefly. Her appearance early on suggests that she's not going to have much more than a cameo in this run of episodes (not unexpected given the Rosario Dawson's presumed schedule) and yet there she is later in the series receiving some proper character development which suggests that her story is going to weave its way through all of these MARVEL series, her arc next being picked up in Luke Cage. Perhaps her resignation here will be catalyst for her setting up the clinic for superheroes or vigilantes which appears in the comics? It goes without saying that Dawson is glorious in all of her scenes, somehow finding a more naturalistic tone against the wanton mayhem surrounding her.
(4) Elektra has a flashback. Kingpin has a flashback. Frank Castle gets no flashback. Everything we learn about the incident which was a catalyst for him to become The Punisher is through exposition and investigative dialogue. Another series might have had brief shots of him remembering fragments of the tragedy, but the producers realised that the brutally we have in our imagination could only be diminished through terrible shots of his wife and children being gunned down (perhaps also conscious that this origin in particular is a pretty generic example of fridging albeit from an earlier period). The show also heads off into the psychology of him making the choice to take the law into his own hands in a way that none of the films has, I don't think.
(5) If there's one weak moment, it's the return of Fisk, the most telegraphed, least surprising twist since every Doctor Who Dalek story built up to the appearance of the pepperpots at the end of the first episode like some mystery even though their name is in the title. But the flashback to his time in jail, along with the callback to his meditative art piece certainly gave worth to his reappearance. Perhaps my only real disappointment is that because he's such an integral part of Daredevil he's rightly been placed in this series which means he won't be available as an antagonist in the Spider-man films and the more outlandish approach to the character that would offer, not least as a key part of Black Cat's origin.
(6) They've dealt with the Foggy and Karen bystander problem with the first series in which they mostly reacted to events. Of the two, Karen is best served and while its clear that Elodie Yung's Elektra is supposed to be character that everyone is supposed to coalesce their interest around, in places Deborah Ann Woll practically walks off with the thing, shining like a baking sun against Charlie Cox's purposefully shadowy understated Matt. Does Foggy joining Carrie Ann Moss's law firm mean he's now going to turn up in the next series of Jessica Jones? Or Luke Cage? Good god, I love how all of this is connected.
(7) All of which said, I don't see how The Defenders series is going to work at this point. Presumably the rich worlds of secondary characters will intermingle in a similar way to the characters in The Avengers films, most of them having met one another given the number of shows which are in production now, but foregrounding the four main characters is going to be a tricky business, as is finding a story which means that they won't jar. Plus how many series will have per year before Defenders debuts? MARVEL/NETFLIX hasn't yet given an indication of the new release date structure now that Jessica Jones has gone to a second series and we have to assume both Luke Cage and Iron Fist will be granted multiple season orders too.