Frank Castle, the New York vigilante known to the public as the Punisher, has tried to put as much distance as possible between himself and his former life. Travelling across America and using an alias for the past year, all Frank wants is a chance at finding peace and happiness. However, when he steps in to save a young woman from being attacked in a bar in a small town, he finds himself being dragged into the warzone once again. What seems at first to be a small skirmish is soon revealed to be something far more sinister, leaving Frank to question why an army of assassins – led by a conservative religious zealot hitman called Pilgrim – would target a small-time hustler.
Meanwhile, back in New York, Billy Russo – the man behind the murder of Frank’s family – is recovering from his last battle. Physically scarred, mentally traumatized and suffering from amnesia, Russo escapes from the hospital. But is he seeking revenge, redemption, or something else entirely? With Frank returning to New York to settle both old and new scores, the battle has only just begun…
…when it’s at its worst it’s boring…
If you’re a fan of the Punisher as a character – or, for that matter, a fan of the first season of this show – then it’s more than likely that you’ll enjoy this season. That’s because when it’s good, it’s very, very good. The fight scenes are intense and brutal, the action is first-rate and Jon Bernthal’s performance of Frank Castle is still a highlight as he displays the machine-like nature of Frank’s militaristic attitude in conflict with his struggle to be a normal person. Likewise, Josh Stewart’s low-key performance of the conflicted John Pilgrim is fascinating.
Unfortunately, for every bit as good as this season is when it’s at its best, when it’s at its worst it’s boring, pointless and frustrating to watch for anyone. Even the fans.
The key offender here is weak writing, offering many scenes of poor storytelling, clunky exposition and stilted dialogue, while one of the two major plots revolves around a MacGuffin. Despite a promising start to the story, Russians linked to an ultra-conservative US Presidential candidate may be a thinly-veiled allegory of the times we live in… but it also feels lazy, cheap and unoriginal. Meanwhile, other elements come across as homages or rip-offs of Assault on Precinct 13, Mad Love and even The Dark Knight Returns.
…other elements come across as homages or rip-offs of Assault on Precinct 13, Mad Love and even The Dark Knight Returns.
Likewise, many characters seem shallow and attempts to round them out by creating intriguing backstories for them either falls flat or makes them look worse. While it’s always a joy seeing Frank getting down to business, he doesn’t receive all that much screen time. That means viewers are stuck watching yet another scene where supposedly smart characters constantly make stupid decisions. It’s hard to have any sympathy for them and they come across as increasingly unlikable. As for Billy Russo, now the “horribly disfigured” Jigsaw, it’s a disappointment all around and a far cry from the grotesque villain of the comic books.
Add to that some sloppy editing with questionable jumps in time and confusing transitions between scenes, and the production often looks like a jumbled mess. There are fundamental flaws with season 2 which drag this showdown, with episodes struggling to do enough to keep viewers entertained from one episode to the next.
The first season of The Punisher was a standout of the Marvel Netflix shows, and so this season had a lot to live up to – which it fails to do. Worse, with every Marvel Netflix show seemingly being cancelled now, there’s a bit of a dark cloud hanging over this season for viewers already and the uneven quality on display here doesn’t help matters.
Despite all those flaws and problems though there truly are some classic Punisher moments in this season, ones which even rival the first. If you’ve ever wanted to see a man’s face get caved in by being punched with a weight lifting dumbbell, the most nonchalant cashier during an armed robbery ever, or the best roadhouse fight scene since Roadhouse, then there’s plenty here that fans will enjoy. Just be prepared to take the bad with the good though, because there’s quite a lot of that too.
The Punisher Season 2
A disappointing second season with a few high points.