Let us all just take a minute to appreciate one of the two remaining Marvel shows still in existence on Netflix……
This may certainly be Frank Castle’s swan song on the streaming network, but if it is in fact the last days for The Punisher, then its second season serves as a wonderful consolation prize. For out review of the first season, click here.
Season two picks up a little down the road from where the first left off. Frank, having found some small portion of peace after almost killing Billy Russo and permanently disfiguring his face for his involvement in the murder of his family, is roaming the Midwest when he’s unknowingly reeled back into his familiar profession of dealing street justice to those that deserve it. Frank’s rapidly evolving situation revolves around a young girl who has become mixed up in a scandal that is far bigger than either she or Frank could imagine and follows them right up until the very end.
Typically, this storyline serves as enough to keep viewers engaged for another season, however, where the second outpaces the first is in its aggressive approach to showing Billy Russo’s slow and painful crawl back to a functioning mental and physical state by piecing himself back together again in the aftermath of his battle with Frank. While the show centers around Frank, the more intriguing storyline lied with Billy. Much like Frank in the first season, Russo is left to make sense of fragments of memories from his life before the fight – a life that he does not remember. This sets a new light on him as a perceived villain because he is being given a second chance at building a life away from all that he had done in the past. This growth isn’t without its limits, but it still stands to be the more engaging story in comparison to Frank’s who’s battle lies with resisting the moniker the world has placed upon him and eventually embracing the monster they all see.
While the various plot lines are well written, the aspect that stood out the most with this season was its ability to stay committed to the story’s methodical pacing and yet still be able to deliver consistent action sequences or character development across its 13 episodes. More often than not, this is a major area where television has faltered, specifically with shows centered around adapted comic book heroes. But The Punisher leans into this form of storytelling choosing to divulge only so much information about the bigger picture in each episode while still providing excitement or growth to offset the boredom that can set in with viewers over time.
Another strength that was well recognized in its first season but expanded in its second is the immaculate casting that The Punisher has done with not only its titular character but most importantly its supporting cast. The best example of this is Barnes as Billy Russo who does a solid job as a major villain in both seasons but is given more ground to explore his inner motivations as Frank’s counterpart in this season that leads to some amazing scenes of dialogue and acting with Barnes giving everything he has.
While small gripes were present with characters like Madani and Detective Mahoney, the only major setback was in the show’s choice to cram in several supporting plot lines in the latter episodes in an effort to make sure they make it into the show just before the finale. These stories, while still solid, felt rushed in some spaces simply due to the fact of where they fell within the season. Again, this wasn’t a major blow towards the entirety of the season but was noticeable enough for me that it caused slight hiccups in the well-crafted pacing of episodes.
As a series, The Punisher directly mirrors that of its protagonist in that what you see is exactly what you get. It doesn’t aim for last minute drama or twists but establishes the problem and obstacles early on and then proceeds to plow directly through each one as they arrive. Frank makes strides to better embrace his role in the world post-family but it is Billy Russo who appears to progress further for very different reasons. This season builds well from the established relationships in season one and carries them further to the extent where by the end of this season some have reached a resolution and others are even further in doubt. Either way, The Punisher continues its reign as one of the best Marvel television products. It’s perfect blend of action and drama make for an entertaining watch that can be best approached slowly or binged.
*The Punisher Season 2 will be available on Netflix starting Friday, January 18th*