Frank Castle is back. In all his blood soaked, primal screaming glory, Frank is slicing, shooting and clubbing his way through hoardes of baddies, and I couldn’t be happier!
Following shortly after the events of Daredevil season 3, Frank Castle has decided to take the new lease on life and freedom that Agent Madani (Amber Rose Revah) had managed to give him in exchange for stopping Billy Russo – the man who murdered Frank’s family. Traveling town to town as a drifter, he finds himself in a small dive bar, romancing Beth (Alexa Davalos), who’s the bartender there. Just as he begins to feel like he could have another chance at being a regular guy with someone to love and care for, the shit hits in the fan in the form of Amy (Giorgia Whigham), a teenage girl caught in the midst of a blackmail conspiracy gone wrong and on the run from trained killers. Thus begins Frank Castle’s blood soaked journey to protect a young girl and track down those who want her dead while also once more confronting his family’s killer.
Once again, Jon Bernthal kicks ass as Frank Castle, racking up a high and bloody body count. And while season two absolutely delivers on what most of us came to see, it adds in a little something I didn’t expect: a moral conundrum, and it’s in this exploration of Frank Castle that Bernthal really shines. You see, at the start of season 2, Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) is suffering from severe memory loss after awaking from the coma that Frank put him in at the finale of last season. Billy believes that he and Frank are still best of friends after having completed their last tour of duty and doesn’t even know what he did to Frank and his family! And so Frank has wrestle with the idea of possibly letting live the man who killed his family, or killing a man who has no memory of his crime.
But Billy Russo isn’t the only villain this season, as there is a second story line that centers on the aformentioned Amy and a man named John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart) – the hired killer tracking her. While Ben Barne’s turn as an amnesiac Jigsaw is a bit harrowing and heartbreaking, Stewart’s depiction of a clean cut gun for hire with plenty of past life skeletons in closet is more than intriguing. Unfortunately, like with last season, the more interesting villain takes a bit of a back seat to Russo and is terribly under utilized. Imagine a kind of Puritan style hitman like Anton Chigurh from the Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men. It’s a very compelling character that doesn’t get enough screen time or exploration.
The frustrating thing is that each of these story lines are great on their own, but they would probably only need 8-10 episodes at the very most to adequately run. Instead we get them combined for a 13 episode season where the writers have to undergo a kind of narrative triage, and certain aspects of the season suffer for it. That’s not to say that The Punisher Season 2 is bad, only that it’s disappointing that Netflix didn’t learn from Season 1’s mistakes but decided to double down instead.
All in all, Marvel’s The Punisher (Season 2) is still a solid entry into the small screen MCU – whatever is left of it. Let’s hope that showrunner Steve Lightfoot’s plans for a season 3 aren’t in vain and that Netflix finally take the hint that maybe a little bit less is more.
It's an entertaining story that, unfortunately, tries to put too much in and loses focus
- Marvel's The Punisher (Season 2)