**This Review is spoiler free, and encompasses the entire thirteen episode run of the second season.**
Frank Castle is back, but does his probable final season give us a good journey for the anti-hero?
The answer is, sadly, no. Don’t get me wrong—season 2 is plenty enjoyable. If you enjoy seeing Punisher do his thing, well you are going to get plenty of that. Just not much more. His character doesn’t really go anywhere new—something that isn’t necessarily a must. He is The Punisher after all, and you can’t just make him not kill criminals. The problem is just that there isn’t much more meat on the bone besides watching Frank Castle work.
We do get some returning faces, in fact most of the cast from the first season is back. Madani’s role is fairly similar and parallel to Frank’s, and never goes much further than where we were at the end of season one. Frank’s good friend Curtis makes a come back, and actually had a pretty hefty hand in the season’s ongoings. Jason R. Moore is great in the role, and watching him play off Bernthal’s Castle never gets old. Curtis’s arc throughout the whole season however is nothing special, or particularly stand out worthy.
Now when it comes to Billy Russo, AKA Jigsaw, this is a big part of the season that misses the mark. While there is a particular gripe that I will hit on in a moment, Russo’s journey as a character throughout the season is ultimately empty and tedious. While Ben Barnes’ performance is fine, Russo’s role in the story lacks emotional impact—and ends up being a weird rehash of things we’ve already seen. The decision and direction that the writers chose for Russo was the wrong move. I wish I could clarify this more for you—as I would have thought this aspect would be displayed clear as day in the trailers—but it’s absent in the marketing. So that means you’ll have to see for yourself. But within the first episode, you should clearly see this choice I’m referring to in terms of where Billy Russo is at mentally. Then…there’s where he’s at physically.
I want to take a moment, and really hit the nail on the head with something. The final design/result of Billy Russo’s facial damage was insulting—on many levels. Not only did their severity seem to slightly change throughout the episodes, but he looked better than Frank Castle does after a rough day at work. That is not what the face of a man dragged against broken glass would look like. I don’t care what surgical miracles may have occurred, his face would not be back to normal. Furthermore, I could never take Russo seriously when he would dive into his rants about what was done to him. He looks fine—he has a few cuts that look like they are a week away from healing. It really hurt the character, and quite frankly was an appalling decision to have made for the show. Now the show tries to paint it all in the light that it is more mental damage, but that just never really sticks as many of Billy’s outbursts relate directly to the way he looks–which is like a handsome man ran into a few branches. Some will likely gloss over this, or not even acknowledge it, but I genuinely felt it to be one of the worst aspects of the season.
Billy isn’t the only villainous focus this season. New to the roster is Josh Stewart, who plays the new baddie in town John Pilgrim. What’s John’s problem? Well…you won’t really know for awhile. In fact, that character only starts to hit his interesting peaks when the season is coming to a close—and even then you can only look back and wish that more had been done with him. Throughout the season, it seemed obvious that the show never really knew who to focus on when it came to John and Billy. In fact, many times when the show cut to John Pilgrim on camera, I would be left wondering why he was still important to the ongoing plot. At the very least, Josh Stewart’s nuanced performance is interesting to watch, and makes for a unique personality.
When it comes to new additions to the show, there is one shining star in particular. That would be Giorgia Whigham as Amy Bendix. While she can be annoying and frustrating at times, overall her inclusion in the season is a welcome one. Bendix’s performance is great, and the relationship/bond that is formed between her and Castle is easily the highlight of the entire season.
Season two of The Punisher gave us a tedious, oddly repetitive, and unfocused tale of Frank Castle getting dragged back into the life. Is it unwatchable? Not at all. There’s plenty of enjoyment to have at watching The Punisher do his thing—and Jon Bernthal is still the perfect person alive for playing the role. I just wish there were far less disappointments and baffling writing choices on top of that. If this is the last time we see Bernthal take up the mantle, then it’s a shame. But hey, it’s hard to say that someone will ever do justice to the character in the same way ever again. Jon Bernthal, you did the character proud.
The Punisher is available only on Netflix, and premieres on January 18th.