Marvel has released its second season of “Daredevil,” the story of blind lawyer/superhero Matt Murdock who seeks justice in the courtroom by day and beats up bad guys by night, on Netflix.
Yes, I’ve dutifully binge-watched the whole thing. Please don’t judge me; I’m not proud of myself.
I had nice things to say about the first season of "Daredevil" (TV-MA), most notably its respectful treatment of religious faith amid a copious amount of violence and bloodshed. So what of season two? Is it more of the same?
Well, yes and no. The religious element has been downplayed considerably. The Catholic priest who offered the titular hero pearls of scriptural wisdom is largely absent this time, making only a single appearance to deliver a stilted eulogy for a murderer. Promos for this season had used a great deal of religious imagery, so I was disappointed to discover that Catholicism only gets a few token mentions amid the new batch of bloodshed, which is considerably more copious this time around.
Did I mention the blood? Because oh my stars and garters, there’s a whole lot of blood.
It seems the cinematographers think that no scene is complete without slow-mo footage of bright red bodily fluids splashing into a puddle of water. There are long, lingering shots of gashes and wounds, with close-ups of people sewing up their own flesh. And for some reason, just about every episode features someone getting hit in the face and then spitting out a spray of blood, occasionally accompanied by a chunk of a tooth.
Look, I get it. This is a dark character, and the first season made it clear how deep into the darkness the creators were willing to go. But the thing that appealed to me the first time around was the willingness to engage with some complex moral and theological issues mixed in with the carnage.
In the second season, that complexity is all but absent, although the writers don’t seem to realize that. We get plenty of speeches about what it means to be a hero, and that seems to be the preoccupying principle that “Daredevil” wants to explore. Unfortunately, this is an exploration that doesn’t have very far to go. To save you time, I’ll let you copy off my crib notes.
According to “Daredevil,” real heroes don’t kill bad guys. No, real heroes just beat the bad guys to a bloody pulp, leaving them battered, scarred and disabled for the rest of their lives.
That’s not what the supposed real hero says, of course. Matt Murdock gives a bunch of preachy speeches on this subject to newly introduced characters Punisher and Elektra, both of whom kill people with impunity, but only when such people supposedly deserve it. This is anathema to the high-minded Murdock, who repeatedly lectures them about the evils of murder. But his holier-than-thou attitude rings hollow every time he knocks someone to the ground, holds their shirt collar in one hand and repeatedly punches their face with the other, applying so much force that it hammers their heads into the cement.
This seems to be Daredevil’s signature move, and, in the real world, such an approach would create plenty of corpses. Certainly, it would result in permanent brain damage. Yet those consequences are conveniently and clumsily ignored. In addition, Daredevil escapes a bunch of impossible situations only because others are willing to kill people on his behalf, which makes his sermonizing on the subject even less persuasive.
In the end, we’re left with nothing more than an over-the-top gore fest. If they want me to binge watch the inevitable third season, “Daredevil” is going to need a whole lot more faith and a whole lot less blood.
Jim Bennett is a recovering actor, theater producer and politico, and he writes about pop culture and politics at his blog, stallioncornell.com.