Can Daredevil's second season live up to the hype?

That's the question on everyone's mind as the return of the critically-acclaimed Netflix drama nears. And without giving anything away, let us assure you that yes, Daredevil's second season - which introduces Matt's (Charlie Cox) violent ex, Elektra Natchios (Elodie Yung); a vigilante on a revenge mission, Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal); and the mystical ninja organization the Hand - doesn't hold anything back. Except crossovers, that is.

Though Daredevil exists in the same universe as Jessica Jones and the upcoming Luke Cage and Iron Fist series, fans shouldn't expect any overt crossovers between the shows.

"Season 2 is already so populated with major characters," showrunner Marco Ramirez says. "And [Jessica Jones, Luke Cageand Iron Fist] have their own aesthetic values. So crossing those, we never want it to feel like, 'Oh, it's jumping the shark. Now it's this weird crossover episode where this person from this other show is here.'"

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"We know ultimately they will come together in some magical way in The Defenders," he continues. "So we're really careful in and how we do it... It's not always the stars of the show crossing and being in the same room."

See what else Ramirez and co-showrunner Doug Petrie reveal about Daredevil's second season below:

There was such a slow build last season between Matt and Fisk (Vincent D'Onofrio). Was it a deliberate decision this year to break that formula and jump right into the Punisher?
Doug Petrie:
Sort of. I think Season 1 was absolutely a slow burn towards inevitable violence between two titans. And that's very much who Wilson Fisk was, both in Drew Goddard's and Steven DeKnight's conception. ... We're like, we've got Frank Castle. Frank walks up to you, puts a gun to your head and pulls the trigger. He's Frank f---ing Castle. So it was very easy to hit the ground running this year. It's just what Frank wanted to do.
Marco Ramirez: To us, it became character first. It feels like Frank Castle does not make a sneaky entrance onto your show. Frank Castle enters guns blazing and there's no better introduction for Daredevil and Frank Castle to meet than for it to end with a shot in the head. And similarly, Elektra doesn't just slowly make her way back into your life. She sneaks into your house and is there when you get home. And she has made herself at home because she knows your heart better than you do.

The second season does a great job of exposing the hypocrisy and failings within Matt's vigilante agenda. How does the Punisher force Matt to confront these issues within himself?
Petrie:
There was a moment [in Season 1] that we all particularly enjoyed, where [Matt] throws a Russian gangster off of a roof into a dumpster [and] the guy's probably going to be in a coma. And then Matt does something that I've never seen a superhero do: he confesses ... "I enjoy this." He actually says it to the gangster before throwing him over. And Claire says, "Really. Did you really enjoy that?" And we're left to learn the answer or not.

So when Frank shows up, he's asking the exact same question. It's like Matt Murdock is a guy who's driven towards violence, and yet he has a very Catholic, very blue collar, very New York code which he will not break. Then Frank Castle shows up and basically calls him a hypocrite from the go and says, "I'm the exact same thing except I carry a gun. Seriously dude, what's the difference?" And Matt doesn't have a ready answer for that. That just plunges him into self-doubt and moral conundrum and Catholic torture, and that's where we like to keep our guy.

As soon as Elektra arrives, she throws a huge wrench in Matt's already unstable life. Why is he willing to put so much on the line for her?
Petrie:
When you're dealing with icons it's so much fun, especially in the writers' room and on set with the actors, because everyone has their own interpretations of the icon and everybody's interpretation is very personal and very revealing. I think the fascination in these two characters is that when Matt Murdock looks at Elektra Natchios, everyone else sees a sociopath - literally someone who has no heart or empathy or capability for true love - and Matt sees this glimmer of a soul inside of her and he loves that soul.

On her end of it, she's got this guy who makes her feel things she doesn't want to feel, who makes her feel vulnerable in a way she doesn't want to feel vulnerable, who makes her feel emotions and love and all these things she keeps buried deep down so she can survive a cruel life. And she loves him for it and she hates him for it and he never gives up on her. So that's about as doomed a romance as I can think of, and that's why it's fun to watch these two do their dance.

You're also introducing the Hand this year. What should we expect of them and the role they play in the season?
Ramirez:
They're a huge, powerful, dark, underground organization. People who know the comics will know they have very interesting properties. They're some of the most powerful people in the Marvel Universe and we love the idea of putting them up against this guy who has a secret life, who has an apartment and a flailing law practice. It's one person going up against an army, as you can see in the trailer.

In the comics, the Hand practices occult magic. Does this mean we'll start to see more magical elements or superpowers be incorporated into the series?
Petrie:
All we can tell you is that we never even think of it as a superhero show. And to transition from Wilson Fisk to the Hand is quite a trick. What I can guarantee is that we keep it as gritty, grounded and character-motivated as possible.

Ramirez: That said, I think it really is a fun transition. ... Doug and I are both New Yorkers at heart. We've lived here for many years. I definitely feel I've passed by people on New York streets who are either angels or vampires. New York City is a really interesting, odd place, so it's not really hard to say, "Oh, there's weird magic underground sh-- that happens in New York City."

This season, you introduce the Punisher, Elektra and the Hand, each of which is a huge part of Daredevil mythology. Were you at all worried about overcrowding the season
Ramirez:
We had 13 hours, which was great. We're not talking about cramming six villains into one movie or six heroes into one movie that's two, two-and-a-half hours long. The trick to us is just making them all feel like they came from the same Hell's Kitchen. ... It all had to feel like part of our world. I think the first season did a really great job of establishing what that world is and what's possible in our world.

To me, between the violence that you saw Matt inflict upon people and had inflicted upon him in the actions of Wilson Fisk, Frank Castle feels a perfect part of that tapestry. Similarly with Elektra and the Hand, the stuff that you saw Matt do with Stick (Scott Glenn) feels like, "Yes, the Hand exists in this world. How could it not?" So it's just really continuing with the tone that was already there last season.

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I was really happy to see Foggy (Elden Henson) get some hero moments of his own this year. What should we expect from his storyline?
Petrie:
Foggy is absolutely the moral ballast and character ballast that Matt Murdock needs. And what we've repeatedly come to realize is, if it weren't for Foggy being the kind of Jiminy Cricket, the moral sandbag holding Matt there, Matt could easily go flying off into homicide and into his persona as Daredevil and give in to his darker impulses. Foggy is the light and the good and the optimism. And I don't envy his job, because his best friend is Matt Murdock. So they'll definitely go at it this year, and there's no question their friendship will be strained. But there's also no question that without that friendship, Matt Murdock will be lost.

Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) seems even more reckless this season. Can you talk about what she's dealing with and what's driving her this season?
Ramirez:
One of the breakout surprises and one of the main pleasures for Doug and I working last season was how fantastic Deborah was on the show. Day one, sitting down in the room, we knew we had Daredevil, we knew we had Elektra and we knew we had Frank Castle. But we also knew we wanted to build a solid story, not only for Foggy, but for Karen Page, giving her a journey and her own dramatic impulse and her own drive through the season so she wouldn't get lost [in] the shuffle. I think she has a really great story this season. I think some of my favorite scenes of the season are ones she did. She was an absolute pleasure to write for and she's just one of the smartest characters on the show.

Daredevil premieres Friday on Netflix.