Most characters in movies and shows adapted from comic books need saving — that's the nature of the superhero genre. Yet, as Karen Page showed in Daredevil Season 2, getting help from a hero every now and then doesn't make you a victim, or stop you from being a hero in your own right. The assistant at Nelson & Murdock really came into her own in the second season of the Netflix series in terms of her love life, career, and personal identity. By the season finale, it was clear that Karen is a new type of comic book female character — one that deserves to be praised and emulated.
Often, the women in superhero fare can end up just playing the damsel in distress. Back in 2013, Entertainment Weekly highlighted the amount of screen time that A-list female actors received in the comic book movies they were starring in. From Maggie Gyllenhaal's abysmal 11 minutes in The Dark Knight to every female character needing to be saved by her love interest, the state of women in superhero films a mere three years ago was not looking good.
Yet, one positive thing from the over saturation of superheroes in the entertainment industry is that with the more movies and TV series based on comic books out there, the more chances there are to get things right. As Netflix did with Jessica Jones, it succeeded again in showing a complex, strong, independent, and relatable woman with Karen in Daredevil Season 2.
Not to take away from Karen in Season 1, since she definitely proved to be an important character from the start, but Season 2 saw Karen's world expand way beyond the walls of Nelson & Murdock. After the death of journalist Ben Urich in Season 1, Karen found a new mentor in editor-in-chief of the New York Bulletin, Mitchell Ellison. She had herself to thank for gaining Ellison's attention and respect since she approached him to investigate Frank Castle's past.
Her dogged hard work and skill earned her a job as a reporter, a perfect fit for a woman whose curiosity for the truth doesn't let her take "no" for an answer. Plus, she even got a feminist swing in there when she told Ellison, "You never would've pulled this patriarchal sh*t with Ben" when he wanted her to have police protection with the Punisher out of jail. (Turns out, it wasn't really a gender problem, but I loved Karen's punchiness.)
Beyond her new career, one of Karen's other major plots was her romance with Matt. To make that happen, Daredevil first fixed a problem it had with Foggy in Season 1, when he seemed to mostly view Karen as a beautiful woman he had a crush on. But by Season 2, their relationship was completely platonic and it was clear that Foggy respects her as a professional and a friend. Not only was this shift in emotions good for Karen's plot, since she shouldn't only be regarded as a romantic interest by the male characters, but it also allowed for the inevitable to happen: Karen dating Matt.
Of course, the timing of their brief relationship could not have been worse. Immediately after sharing a rain-soaked romantic kiss with Karen, Matt returned home to find his ex-girlfriend, Elektra. While Matt didn't necessarily betray Karen, he lied by omission. And how could Karen compete with a woman who actually knew of Matt's alter ego and shared his ritual of nighttime ninja-ing? That's easy, she didn't. Karen never attempted to "compete" with Elektra, and Daredevil never presented the love triangle in a way that reduced the two women involved to objects of Matt's affection.
When Matt became distracted and distant, Karen didn't dwell on how to gain his attentions again and better yet, she didn't blame herself for his change in mood. After finding Stick and Elektra in Matt's apartment, she moved on — she had her own business to attend to anyway — without a big emotional show. Because Karen Page doesn't have time for that type of bullsh*t, even from Matt Murdock. As she told him in ".380," "I'm not yours to protect."
Karen had another important relationship in Season 2 — one with Frank Castle. It wasn't romantic, and in perhaps my favorite arc of the entire season, she became fixated on figuring out why the Punisher was annihilating the gangs in Hell's Kitchen. After promising to help him figure out who was behind the murder of his family, Karen discovered that Frank wasn't just a murderous madman like most people thought, but a man with a code seeking vengeance.
Through his relationship with Karen, the Punisher actually became a stronger character because viewers saw how he was willing to engage with this caring and emotional woman — he even gave her relationship advice about Matt. And though he saved her from a few sticky situations, his protection of Karen didn't diminish her own strength as a character.
Karen's dynamic with the Punisher is very much a mirror of her relationship to Daredevil. Clearly, she has a soft spot for vigilantes. However, her admiration for these men who risk their lives to protect New York City doesn't define Karen as a character. Although she may not be a skilled fighter, she has her own way of fighting the bad guys with investigative journalism, and often her storyline is far more interesting than Daredevil's other ally, Foggy Nelson. (Sorry, Foggy!) As naive as Matt may be to it, Karen's pursuit of the truth proves he's not the only one keeping secrets. Plus, unlike Matt, she stays true to herself and her friends throughout her secretive missions.
Although I'd love to see Karen gain a female friend on Daredevil (Hey! Claire Temple is a fellow female badass — maybe you two could grab a drink at Josie's?), her character happens to bring out the best, and worst, in the series' leading male characters. In one of the final moments of Season 2, Matt finally admitted to Karen that he is Daredevil, which opens the door for them to have a more promising and honest relationship — particularly since Karen loves both Matt and Daredevil. Yet while it would be easy to simply define Karen as a love interest of Daredevil's, as she wrote in the Season 2 finale, "Look in the mirror and see yourself for what you truly are — you're a New Yorker. You're a hero." And even though she may be new to the city, she defines this role of New York hero in a way that is different from Daredevil, but even more compelling.
Images: Netflix (3), Barry Wetcher (2)/Netflix