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By all accounts, Netflix’s first season of Daredevil was a huge success. Critics and fans alike loved its dark tone, dynamic personalities and street-level perspective amidst an MCU that spans continents, planets and galaxies. It’s somewhat unbelievable that season two has no trouble amping up the show’s quality even further. Paste caught up with Daredevil centerpiece Charlie Cox to talk about the nuances of his character’s friends, love life and being the “Devil from Hell’s Kitchen.”
Paste Magazine: In Daredevil’s first season, we saw the rise and fall of Wilson Fisk and Matt Murdoch’s journey in exploring his own morality as a would-be hero, while fighting a city of corruption. Are things looking up in Season Two?
Charlie Cox: Great question. The city is in a better place. I think criminal activity has plummeted. Wilson Fisk is behind bars. Things are looking up.
From an emotional point of view, I think two things are happening with Matt. One is he’s made some sort of peace with this argument around who he is and what he’s capable of. His Catholic guilt—he’s been able to put that to bed a little bit. He’s found a happy medium, if you like. He’s come to terms with who he is and he made a deal with himself: These are the boundaries. These are the rules ,and if I stick to that then I’m in good shape.
The result of that, I think, is that he’s begun to really enjoy being Daredevil. He’s having a great time. He’s loving it. He longs for that commute home from the office so that he can start gearing up. The other thing that’s happening is that—because his mind and his soul aren’t all consumed with the problems in Hell’s Kitchen, and Wilson Fisk, and everything that’s going on—he’s able to investigate these romantic feelings and this relationship that seems to be blossoming with Karen. That’s a new side to Matt that we haven’t really seen before, the vulnerability that we haven’t really been aware of. As you said, things are looking up.
Paste: Karen’s a woman who has proven her passion for fighting injustice in her own way. Do you think that, on a subconscious level, she senses and is attracted to the vigilante spirit within him?
Cox: If I understand your question correctly, I think the answer is yes. I don’t personally think that she suspects that he’s Daredevil for a second. I don’t think she’s there. The reason I don’t think that is because I don’t think Karen Page is someone who would think that, and not say something. Karen says what she thinks. She crosses lines countless times with Matt and other people. She’s not afraid of that kind of confrontation and she’s not afraid to put people on the spot and force them to answer questions.
I think you’re right in terms of the fact that she probably recognizes, as you said, a warrior spirit in him—the courage and a kind of instinct for survival that she probably also recognizes within herself. She thinks that she and Matt in some ways are cut from the same cloth.
Plus, there’s that kind of the magic that you can’t really put a name on, or you can’t really label. When the chemicals are right in place and those things. I think they’re falling in love with each other, and they have been probably since the day they met, in a gentle way that circumstances have allowed them to.
Paste: Of course, this season also introduces another woman whom Matt has shared a kindred spirit with, in the form of his ex-girlfriend, Elektra. One key flashback scene revealed that she once kidnapped Matt’s father’s murderer, and unsuccessfully tried to convince Matt to kill him, leading to the end of their relationship. Despite not buying into her extreme leanings, did that moment open Matt’s eyes to the idea of vigilante justice?
Cox: That’s a really great question. I think what Elektra does when she presents the guy who killed his father, is that she opens a trap door for him, which he initially tried to shut dead. She also disappears so that makes it, well for a period of time, it makes it easy.
At some point, it reemerged and we know when. It reemerged in Season One with the flashback of the neighbor who was abusing his child. Elektra is the spark that begins the whole thing. The question that we have to ask ourselves is whether that is something that’s better for us as a society, or is it also kind of everything that we don’t believe is right in the world.
I think what’s really interesting about the Matt/Karen and the Matt/Elektra dynamic is that Matt is, in a weird kind of paradoxical way, able to be completely himself—but different versions of himself—with both of those characters. The Matt that comes out when he’s around Karen is the Matt that he really deeply believes is himself. [He believes] that that’s who he is. That’s how he feels about the world. That’s the kind of person he wants to be. That’s the kind of person he wants to be with, and I think he feels very authentic when he’s around Karen for those reasons, because she brings out the goodness, and the kindness, and an understanding of justice and what’s right and what’s wrong. He really, really kind of allies himself with that, and that resonates very strongly with him.
Cox: However, there’s this big problem in that she doesn’t know everything there is to know about Matt. She doesn’t know this other side of him and he’s not able to completely be himself with her because of that, because he hasn’t told her that he’s Daredevil.
With Elektra, the opposite is true. She knows he’s Daredevil and she encourages him to really go deeper with that, go further with his darkness, and the violence, and the excitement and all that. He feels, in a paradoxical way, very authentic with her, but at the same time, she’s asking him to tap into something that he doesn’t feel is quite true—a darkness, and a violence, and a disrespect for law and order that doesn’t feel quite right for him. He’s really torn between those two.
Paste: There are so many different shades of gray in almost every character. There’s an argument to be made for and against every character’s morals and actions. In the previews there’s the line where Punisher tells Daredevil, “You’re just one bad day away from being me.” I think it’s interesting to compare Punisher to some of the villains we’ve seen, like a Wilson Fisk. Both individuals have had traumatic experiences in their lives. They both have good intentions somewhere in their heart, but they’re both murdering people and doing a lot of bad things to accomplish their missions. Where does Daredevil draw the line that seems to make Frank Castle the more sympathetic figure of the two?
Cox: Well, I think that’s really a question to the audience rather than for me. At this point, having filmed seven months in the show and having done the whole second season, I think that my answer would probably be a little biased. I think what I love about this season from what we’ve shot is this season poses that question. More than anything else it poses a question: What’s a hero? What makes a hero? What are heroic acts? Again, like you said, it’s not black and white. The people who are arguably doing bad things in this show are doing it for the right reasons, and they’re doing them for the same reasons that our hero is doing them.
One of the things that we had in our list in Season One was this idea that both Wilson Fisk and Matt Murdock loved Hell’s Kitchen. They were both trying to make Hell’s Kitchen a better place. They were both trying to make New York a better city. This season we’ve got Frank Castle, who is doing exactly the same thing Matt Murdock is doing, in that he’s bringing down bad guys. The difference is that Frank Castle is doing the whole job, the full job. He’s ending their lives so that they cannot continue to come back on the streets and reengage with criminal activity once they get out of jail—which is why Frank Castle refers to Matt Murdock as a half measure.
For me, it almost feels like this question you ask is going to divide the audience, which I guess is the point.
Paste: Looking at the relationship between Matt and Foggy from your perspective, do you feel like there’s an inequality there? I think back to the big trial scene where Foggy is forced to do the opening statement that Matt was slated to do, but he no-shows. Matt shows up late and basically says, “Hey, thanks for filling in.” At that stage of the game at least, does Matt perhaps take Foggy for granted?
Cox: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think he does and I think Matt’s aware of that. He does feel like that relationship is a little bit unbalanced, but at the same time I think Matt feels like it has to be that way. What Matt’s doing is he’s working towards something and maybe this is—again, this is a side of Matt that we maybe perhaps struggle with, which is one of the sides that I love about Matt—it’s his arrogance and his confidence. His stubbornness around what he’s capable of doing. He thinks that he’s a one-man protector of an entire city and he thinks enough of himself himself to be able to do that.
Paste: Matt, I think, believes that he’s operating for the greater good of humanity, the people of his city. It’s okay with him if the relationship with Foggy is not the most important thing in his life. At the very beginning of season two we have this lovely scene with Foggy and Matt walking to Hell’s Kitchen on the way to work, and there’s a lot of banter, and they’re joking and laughing.
Cox: On the surface, we get the sense that all is well with Foggy and Matt. Things have been patched up, but as the city is kind of thrown into disarray with the arrival of Frank Castle and as everything begins to unravel, what we learn is that that relationship has not been properly nurtured back to health. I think it’s still very fractured. I think we’ll begin to see Foggy and Matt drift even further apart than they did in the end of the first season, because the relationship hasn’t had a chance to morph into the new dynamic following Foggy’s discovery that Matt is Daredevil.
Hopefully that relationship will continue to be as complex as the relationship that Matt has with himself, and Daredevil, and the relationship he had with Frank Castle and Karen, and all the other characters. It would be easy to make that relationship just the one constant in everything. Matt and Foggy love each other, and that’s that. But it’s actually not that simple, and I really applaud the writers for maintaining a complexity to it.