Daredevil season 2 features another jaw-dropping one-shot fight scene, but does it live up to the legacy of season one?
Everyone remembers the epic Hallway Fight Scene of Daredevil season 1, a miraculous one-shot assault in which Matt Murdock progressed down a hallway, beat up mobsters, and rescued a kidnapped boy. It’s an enormously impressive piece of television, and it’s no surprise that the show tried to up its own game this year.
The buzz-worthy fight scene of Daredevil season 2 arrives in episode 3, and on the surface, appears to exceed the original. In an apparent single shot, Matt fights his way down a hallway, into a stairwell, and then down several flights, battling armed gang members the entire way.
And then he keeps fighting the bad guys for like five more minutes.
Oh, and did I mention that Matt’s arm is attached to a length of chain, and the other hand is duct-taped to an empty gun?
At almost exactly four minutes long, the hall/stairwell fight is double the length of season one’s hallway battle. The violence is faster, the artistry more extreme. But something about it feels unfulfilling.
Well, let’s give the scene its due first. The fight is incredibly kinetic, creative, and brutal. The choreography is seamless, the camera work utterly confident, and the stamina that must have been required by actors and crew alike is daunting to consider. Even if there were secret cuts in this “one shot” fight scene (and I suspect that there may be a few, hidden in the dark turns of the stairwell) the finished product is a hugely impressive technical accomplishment from everyone involved.
Unfortunately, that’s really all it is — technical. Flashy, slick, and frankly, kind of soulless.
What’s missing is meaning; what’s missing is story.
The hallway fight scene in season one (seen below) was framed by a clear moral goal: Rescue the child. The fight was complicated by Matt’s injuries, and spiked with further interest by the lurching recoveries of the mobsters. It was dirty and ugly and real, and all the more vital to the story because Matt really needed a win at that point.
Call it simple, but that fight fits seamlessly and purposefully within the story of that moment. This is vital for effective fight scenes, since at their core, fight scenes are fundamentally simple. Elegant maybe, and certainly awesome to watch, but combat is the lowest form of conflict resolution; fights needs the structure of story and stakes to support them.
The hallway-stairwell battle of Daredevil season 2 enjoys neither of these advantages. Once the landlord is safe, there is no threat to anyone other than Matt (who has already survived a direct bullet to the skull, so you know — he’s resilient.)
The Dogs of Hell are big, scary, and ridiculously numerous, but they pop out of the shadows like creatures in a monster movie, like enraged hornets from a nest. There is no weight to these antagonists, and very little personhood. All they want is to Smash Matt, and the audience is pretty sure that they won’t get their wish.
Worse, Matt’s goal in the scene is no more lofty than getting down the stairs. Sure, he’d like to grab Castle from the freight elevator, but losing him is a source of frustration — nothing stronger. After all, the audience knows that Castle doesn’t kill innocent people; we would not have the same comfort for the fate of season one’s kidnapped child.
Add in the persistent flickering lighting, lurid shadow work, and extremely fast pace, and the effect of Daredevil season 2’s fight scene is basically that of a flashy video game. It’s cool, and it might give you a slight headache. But it doesn’t really mean anything.
And damn it! This is Daredevil. This is hyper-Catholic, guilt-wracked, self-flagellating Matt Murdock. Everything, especially a fight of this caliber, should mean something.
Daredevil season 2 is now available for streaming on Netflix.