Daredevil season 2 masterfully bridged the gap between old and new characters, but Karen Page’s journey was exceptional across all 13 episodes.
You will find spoilers for Daredevil season 2 below. If you’ve already watched this season, make sure to read our Easter eggs article, too.
With the introduction of both The Punisher and Elektra this year, I was certain they would steal the spotlight from our trio of heroes. In some cases they did, like the tragic reveal of Frank’s past in the graveyard or when Elektra decided she wanted to be good, no matter the cost.
Even amid the new players, Matt’s struggle with his morals and Foggy coming into his own significantly pushed the narrative forward. Their decisions will affect their lives and the lives of those around them in remarkable ways for the foreseeable future.
But Karen’s arc in Daredevil season 2 outshone everyone else’s.
Karen’s journey is similar to Foggy’s in that she also finds who she can be when the only person she can rely on is herself. The way her past meets the present and propels her into the future unfolds across each episode of season 2, at first slowly and hesitantly, and then culminating in a turn of events that impacts her story in every way imaginable.
While much of Karen’s later badassery comes into play once she’s paired up with Frank Castle, it begins when she tries to keep Grotto safe. Despite the obvious danger, she gets the man to the hospital and stays by his side the entire time, feeding the nurses a false sob story that even brings one of them to tears. Karen’s willingness to help others, even those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law, is admirable, and obviously stems from her own past mistakes, especially concerning the recent death of Fisk’s right hand man, Wesley. She sees hope in everyone because she’s still trying to find hope inside herself. Despite their argument around the middle of the season, she and Matt are quite close to being on the same page about this.
Some might think Karen risking her life for Grotto was ill-advised, and perhaps it was, but despite the danger, all she’s ever wanted is to help — Grotto, herself, the boys, even Frank Castle, though she didn’t quite know it yet. Matt and Karen throw themselves into the same kind of battle each day, but whereas Matt has his fists and his suit, Karen has her research and her gut. She may not have advanced senses and martial arts training, but she’s no less of a hero because of it.
In fact, it’s her passion and determination, her ability to say all the right things, that inspire others to do what they think is impossible. Karen single-handedly convinced Grotto he could and should put on the wire to help the D.A. bring down his former associate, Brass. The fact that it all went sideways was completely out of her hands; if the D.A. had stuck to the initial deal, she would have been instrumental in keeping Grotto alive and taking down a large drug ring in Hell’s Kitchen.
She does all of this selflessly, with no regard for the consequences it will have on her own life. Maybe she’s running from the tragedies of her past, but I can’t help but commend her for the strength of her character. She has done terrible things, and yet she is still a good person. The death of Wesley in particular is eating her up inside, but despite a few moments where tears fight their way to the surface, she works hard to put those memories behind her. She refuses to be defined by those events, and chooses to use them to bolster her conviction that good people can do terrible things and bad people can learn to turn over a new leaf.
We see this first when she stands up to Reyes even without Foggy’s support, and again later when she throws herself head first into Frank Castle’s devastating past. She will stop at nothing to get to the truth, even if that means tracking down Blake Tower and convincing him that Reyes will not stand by his side if the going gets tough. She sneaks out of the office and into Frank Castle’s house despite still not knowing whether The Punisher is as deranged as everyone thinks he is. She would do all of this to prove that everyone deserves to know the truth, no matter how bloody and gruesome.
Karen’s relationship with Castle is complicated, at the very least. More than anyone, she can sympathize with his circumstances, and yet she is not naive. She knows that killing people is not the answer to her problems, even believing Frank should be imprisoned for all that he has done, but she also believes that no matter how widespread the conspiracy, no matter how high up in the judicial system it reaches, the public should know of any wrongdoings by the D.A. and her office.
It it this empathy that leads her to spearhead the talks with Frank about dealing with Nelson & Murdock, going to court, and eventually testifying. He may be The Punisher, but Karen does not cower in his presence. She is not afraid to tell him that she is his best chance at reducing the charges posited against him. The scene of her yelling at him within the prison’s holding area had me cheering, not because she was brave enough to stand up to him, but because she cared enough to become impassioned about his family’s case in the first place. Without a doubt Karen Page wears her heart on her sleeve. It’s a terrible cross to bear, but one that she does without hesitation.
The Karen Page in the comics is extremely different to the one we see on the Netflix Original series. Our Karen is not a footnote to Matt’s story, and her sole purpose is not to revolve around him in a way that furthers his narrative and barely touches on her own. She does get romantically involved with Matt this season, but still stands on her own two legs. Their relationship is mature, sweet, and comfortable once they decide not to kid themselves about who they really are. Very little drama stems from them actually being together.
In fact, even when Karen sees Elektra in Matt’s bed, she quickly moves on. It affects her, of course, because she does have strong feelings for him, but she immediately puts the ball in his court. She will be there for him once he decides to stop lying, to quit keeping secrets, and to decide what he really wants. She doesn’t blame Foggy for not telling her about Elektra because she knows that was Matt’s responsibility. Karen has bigger problems to worry about than Matt’s inability to share his burdens.
As she steps away from Matt, both intimately and professionally, Karen continues to drive the overarching story forward by leaps and bounds. This begins in full force when she takes over Ben Urich’s office at the New York Bulletin so she can find answers about what happened to Frank’s family.
I enjoyed every single scene centered on Karen, but two in particular continue to stand out for me. The first is when she snaps at Ellison for pulling some “patriarchal bullshit” on her by sending her home with a pair of officers. I not only love this because television rarely has a woman call a man out for this type of situation, but I also loved Ellison’s retort about regretting that he didn’t do the same to Ben more often. It not only puts Karen in the driver’s seat, but it paints Ellison as a much more sympathetic character than we saw in season 1.
The other standout scene was when she tells Matt to back off prior to going into the Witness Protection Program. “I’m not yours to protect,” she yells, and not only does this allow Karen to take control of her own life even when it’s spinning out of control, it also attempts to convince Matt that he cannot save everyone. This season spent a lot of time showing Matt shouldering the responsibility of an entire city, but he needs to learn that he can’t do it alone. Nor should he. Karen is still angry at Matt for lying to her, and it’s part of the reason why she continues to push him away. If only he had asked for help earlier on, his help would’ve been readily accepted here in return.
But the truth of the matter is that Karen really can take care of herself. I am not being condescending when I say Karen Page is ordinary. She’s brilliant, of course, but she is not like Matt or Jessica or Luke. She is utterly normal. Yet when being held at gunpoint, she doesn’t lose her head. She is terrified, even freely admitting as much, but she pushes through the fear to find the truth. This leaves her trusting the one man everyone is so scared of. And guess what? Karen was right about Frank all along.
Even after she is abducted, Karen doesn’t sit down and accept the situation. She uses her head to find them a way out, which ultimately helps Daredevil locate her. As the group escapes, she makes sure everyone gets out, and though she was just put through hell, she immediately turns her attention back to the masked vigilante, equally as concerned for his safety as she is relieved to have made it out of there.
Her final scene in season 2 is one that should have come much sooner, but that mistake rests on Matt’s shoulders, not Karen’s. He reveals to her that he is Daredevil, and though we get nothing more than a look of shock in response, I have high hopes Karen will continue to be an incredible asset for Matt. Her time in the spotlight on season 2 proves that her story is just as complicated and compelling as his, and I sincerely think her role in season 3 can be used to support Daredevil’s journey while also continuing to explore her own. She can forge a path for herself outside of Nelson & Murdock and be that much stronger for it.
Karen Page is so much more than a legal assistant or a journalist; she is a multi-faceted hero in her own right.