It has been just over a year since Marvel’s The Punisher captivated Netflix audiences as one of the bloodiest shows to appear on the streaming service. With relentless rage and fury, a layered story plot of conspiracy unfolded invoking an array of emotion through one man’s fight for justice to avenge the death of his family. Once again, Frank Castle is back unleashing his own brand of vigilante justice with a new war to fight and an old enemy to end. How does Marvel’s The Punisher Season 2 stack up? Let’s break it down.
When Season 1 wrapped in its firefight of a finale, Homeland security agent Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah: From Paris with Love) was recovering with a gunshot wound to the head while Billy Russo (Ben Barnes: The Chronicles of Narnia) lay in a comma disfigured by the hand of Marine veteran, Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal: Baby Driver, Fury). To avoid scandalous public scrutiny, the Feds severed all entanglements with Castle giving him a new identity allowing him to walk free. Before the credits rolled, Castle meets with his war buddy, Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore), to say his goodbyes. Stating that, for the first time in a long time, he has no war to fight, we are left with a solemn moment as Frank’s sense of purpose has ended along with the battle that raged in him for so long. Of course, this type of rage can only lay dormant. And it won’t lay dormant for long.
Premiering last week, the new season of The Punisher opens with Castle on the road whose encounter with an attractive bartender sparks an unexpected interest. While the thought of peace, happiness and a final release from his torment is heartfelt, I found myself waiting for Castle’s rage to inevitably reawaken. When our favorite anti-hero’s potential shot at a sense of renewal and normal civilian life comes to an abrupt end after protecting a young girl, he finds himself catapulted into the middle of a whole new conspiracy.
Castle’s rage isn’t the only thing that surfaces after dormancy. Russo has since regained consciousness with no memory of his wrong doings to his brother in arms, Frank Castle. He does not recall the events of corruption that lead him to becoming involved in the murder of Castle’s family let alone anything that followed. Pulling himself back from the brink of death and undergoing rehabilitation while in police custody, Russo sparks a relationship with his therapist, Krista Dumont (Floriana Lima: Supergirl TV series). However, driven by frustration behind his memory loss, Russo escapes, becoming the Punisher’s arch enemy, Jigsaw.
Whereas Season 1 unfolded with a layered story, incredible plot and character development to near perfection, Season 2 seemed to spread itself too thin with a war on two fronts. While this initially sounds appealing, it creates too wide a focus. Had the two threats cleverly converged, the story depth and mystery element, which was executed so well in the first season, could have been salvaged.
Regardless of the disconnect between two subplots and a missed opportunity to create something as solid as Season 1, this return of Frank Castle is far from a failure. Not only is the cast phenomenal, but Bernthal takes up his role as Castle as though he never broke character between seasons. Stealing every scene, I can no longer picture anyone else playing the role of the Punisher.
Another redeeming aspect is the clever setup for Castle turning back to his vigilante ways while avoiding redundancy. Drifting under his new identity, Castle has his guard partially down. While this doesn’t necessarily make him vulnerable to bullets, it does cause him to catch the feels for human connection. However, this is the gas to the match that doesn’t take long to be lit.
While last season focused heavily on revenge for Castle’s family, Season 2 does a great job of slightly shifting the underlying theme to psychology. Diving a little deeper into what makes a man who can kill so easily, yet hold some resemblance of a moral and ethical code, season 2 has a few twists and turns. More importantly, however, this helps develop a bigger picture of what’s to come.
Though I was excited to see Russo’s development into Jigsaw, I expected his scarring to be far worse and his story could have been used for a more climactic buildup and cliffhanger into Season 3. However, if you’ve been following the news of the inexplicable cancellation of other Netflix Marvel shows including Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil, a third season may not happen. While there’s been no official announcement as of yet, creators of The Punisher may have simply been playing it safe offering a satisfying conclusion with the possibility for additional seasons.
Despite falling marginally short of Season 1, Marvel’s The Punisher still takes you on a wild ride of rage and fury with brutal fight scenes leaving you in awe. There are several gut-check moments of shock that pull on the heart strings as Castle, among other characters, are pushed to the edge and are forced to take a good hard look in the mirror. The fight of personal demons, resurfaced memories, deadly threats and the balance of good and evil is what makes this show worth watching. It will be a dark day if this show joins the other Marvel shows on the chopping block. However, if the future holds no more seasons, we can at least take comfort in having received a two-part original story.