Out of all the cosmic comic heroes – flashy powers and colourful costumes accounted for – few compete with the raw and merciless vigilante, Frank Castle; just as human as you and I, but possessive of more primitive drive than The Avengers combined and a viewers dream to watch all his anger unravel. Weaponsing lightning or bending time to fight villains is a spectacle to Oooo and Ahhh over, but The Punisher’s relentless quest for bloody justice provokes an abundance of crowd cheers in itself, as we fully support his unlawful actions all in the name of television.
Netflix’s sixth Marvel production rained bullets in 2017 and now it’s returned for a thirteen episode round two that jabs with a few select pro’s against the sting of many wrongs that have to be debated. Highlighting my main accolade from season one, the production has nailed the casting of Jon Bernthal as the menacing skull, combined with the signature violence that is faithful to the nature of the comics. Bernthal aids the formulaic – but well choreographed – blood-soaked action sequences like a good whiskey on an open gash, inviting us to mimic every guttural grunt he puts behind his punches. However, you cannot expect the perfect protagonist to carry dead weight into the safe zone alone.
Season two jumps head first into another episode of ‘How fucked up can Frank’s face get?’, opening strong with a charming cameo from The Man in the High Castle’s Alexa Davalos. Episode one presents a fresh start before the shit hits the fan, offering a crossroads for Castle who inevitably chooses the wrong path for himself and our viewing pleasure. The arrival of the quintessential annoying teenager, Amy (Giorgia Whigham) who takes the supporting role for our thirteen hour binge provides motive for a secondary narrative to exist (accompanying the continuation of Billy Russo’s story) and expresses a solution for Castle’s growing existential crisis, but sadly dissipates her own character development.
Ben “Prince Caspian” Barnes actually annoys the nerves more than the wayward teen, as he attempts to rescue his career that’s still stuck in Narnia. While he was successful last season – portraying the pretty boy billionaire with a hearty side of assholism – his rendition of the tormented Jigsaw (classic enemy in The Punisher: War Journal comics) forces Barnes to act outside his comfort zone and it shows. Billy Russo’s descent into the deformed antagonist was set up nicely in the season one finale, but his facial disfigurement is supposed resemble a post-Negan Glenn from The Walking Dead, but the creative decision to keep Russo’s scars at a minimum fails to justify the dramatic and sometimes laughable turmoil he expresses.
Fresh faces include psychologist Krista Dumont (Floriana Lima) and fun sucking cop Det. Sgt. Brett Mahoney (Royce Johnson) who succeed at doing their job at restoring chaos, but is that really what we’ve signed up to watch? Returning characters Madani (whose name is spoken enough times for it to be a legitimate drinking game) and Castle’s army buddy Curtis are perhaps the only two supporting roles that stick and don’t annoy you more than Netflix asking if you’re still alive. Frank’s second adversary this season is gangster turned devout Christian John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart) who should have been the main threat for The Punisher while leaving Russo dead and buried last season. Pilgrim is a tortured and tremendous character for Castle to rival and weigh the doubts of his faith against, but isn’t explored extensively due to Russo’s tantrums.
The return of the great Castiglione is by no means underwhelming or unappreciated, it’s thrilling, well structured and somewhat therapeutic, but your opinion on season two will be completely subjective and dependent on whether you can bond with these characters. Debate is till open on whether The Punisher will survive for season 3 after Netflix dramatically axed Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil last year, continuing with the recent news of FX’s cancellation of Legion after its third season airs. This leaves Jessica Jones and Frank Castle toughing it out in uncertainty, but fingers crossed the blood bath barrell won’t run dry.