The Punisher Season 2 Doesn’t Know What Show to Be

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HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 14: Jon Bernthal arrives at Marvel's "The Punisher" Los Angeles Premiere at ArcLight Hollywood on January 14, 2019 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/Getty Images)

Just like the titular hero, the second season of Marvel’s The Punisher constantly teeters between good and bad but doesn’t go completely in one direction. On one hand, Jon Bernthal and Ben Barnes deliver outstanding performances as Frank Castle, AKA The Punisher, and Billy Russo, Frank’s one-time best friend turned murderous psychopath. On the other hand, an unfocused story plagues the direction of the show. The gruesome and violently fun action sequences aren’t as plentiful as one might expect and a lot of the dramatic scenes are unnecessary and fall flat. Since Netflix has canceled Iron Fist, Luke Cageand the widely acclaimed Daredevil, some may leave this season wondering if this may be Bernthal’s last portrayal of the character and question if it’s a proper send off.

The Punisher Season 2: A Blessing and A Curse

Season 2 of The Punisher follows the aftermath of the brutal first season. Frank Castle, under the alias of Pete Castiglione, leaves New York and is trying to move on with his life. At a bar in Michigan, Frank Castle saves a young girl, Amy Bendix (Giorgia Whigam), from a group of mercenaries. As the mercenaries keep coming, led by the mysterious Mennonite hitman John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart), Castle calls Department of Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge of New York Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) for help. Madani refuses to help at first but brings Castle back to deal with the recently escaped Billy Russo. As the plot unfolds, Castle fights a war on multiple fronts as he gets caught up in a murderous blackmail conspiracy while trying to end Russo once and for all.

The Blessings

There are some roles that fit so perfectly for some actors and actresses that it’s hard to imagine anyone else filling in. In the scope of superhero movies/shows, some of these roles are Chris Evans as Captain America, Charlie Cox as Daredevil, and Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman. Bernthal portraying Frank Castle is easily one of those roles. Bernthal once again puts up a masterful performance as The Punisher and excels at balancing the ruggedness and brutality of Castle who adheres to a moral code.

While the storylines are plentiful, annoyingly so, this allows Bernthal to delve deeper into sides of Castle the audience hasn’t seen. Since his first portrayal of Castle in season 2 of Daredevil, the audience is acutely aware of Bernthal’s ability to tap into The Punisher’s dark side. However, Bernthal taps into a more vulnerable state as he acts as a fatherly figure towards Amy Bendix as he protects her from danger. His friendship with fellow war veteran and PTSD counselor Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore) gives us a glimpse of Castle the man instead of Castle the war machine. Meanwhile, Ben Barnes steals all of his scenes as the mentally degrading Billy Russo struggles with nightmares and his descent into madness.

Of course, the fight scenes and shoot-offs shine once again as The Punisher once again delivers movie-quality action sequences. The highlight comes in the form of a brutal fight scene in a gym where each barbell, kettlebell, and 45-pound plate are a weapon. Each scene increases in brutality and demonstrates the combative prowess of The Punisher. Punctuated by blood, gore, and Bernthal’s animalistic grunts, each fight scene is a violent treat.

The Curse

The Punisher just doesn’t know what kind of show it wants to be. Is it a revenge story? Is it a redemption story? Does Castle want to live a quiet life or remain The Punisher forever? Can this be another deep-rooted conspiracy like the first season? These are the questions that leave the overall plot unfocused. In previous outings in the adventures of Frank Castle, Castle has a singular purpose. However, multiple storylines end up hurting the second season as the motives of the characters, save for Russo, are entirely unclear.

For example, Madani wants revenge on Russo for his deception (and for shooting her in the head) and calls on The Punisher to kill Russo. Except, she flips too often between her morals. Madani spends the better part of the season constantly helping Castle track Russo down but also questions his tactics, knowing full well how he will operate. While Revah gives a strong performance, Madani’s inclusion in the show sets the pacing off. Plus, a continual series of blunders put into question her ability to not only hold a job in law enforcement but rise the ranks as well.

Whigham also delivers a strong performance as the young con artist Amy Bendix, but her plotline is simply an overdone trope of the young girl being protected by a brutish vigilante. Her relationship with Castle is reminiscent of Logan without the emotional weight.

Last Word on The Punisher Season 2

Overall, the second season of Marvel’s The Punisher is a fun, violent romp, but the unfocused storyline makes the season optional rather than imperative. While Bernthal delivers again, the overall storyline of The Punisher continues to degrade from his first outing in Marvel’s Daredevil. With the future of Marvel on Netflix on life support, hopefully the third season of The Punisher can correct these weaknesses as Bernthal’s portrayal is too excellent to squander.

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