Review: Netflix’s ‘Punisher’

First season worth the investment of time but second leaves creativity and organization to be desired

~Daniel Mosakewicz, Staff Writer~

This past January, the second season of “Punisher” was released to Netflix as the character’s final appearance on the platform before Disney reabsorbs him into their own streaming service. 

The Punisher is a former marine who wages a one man war on crime after his family dies in a mob hit. Since his appearance in the second season of Daredevil in March of 2016, the main character of Frank Castle, portrayed by Jon Bernthal, has won praise for his intense action and charisma, building quite a  fanbase. Of course the character has existed for almost four decades with numerous film and television appearances, but Bernthal’s portrayal is becoming considered the best ever put to screen. Still, even with continued adoration, season two failed to deliver a satisfying ending and complete story for the character’s last appearance on Netflix. 

Ironically, the season suffers from the same major issue that plagued season two of Daredevil, where the Punisher was first introduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe: the problem of two main plots. From early on, it becomes very clear that there were two conflicting storylines: one of them a wrap up of the first season, focusing again on Billy Roussou and Frank’s relation with him, and the second a more western-styled season which would present new characters to serve as reflections of parts of Frank. Most likely, since this was going to be the last season, the two ideas were crammed together to create the season we have. The results is an oddly paced mess of themes with so many layers of drama that it feels like a soap opera. 

As with Daredevil season two, one of the two main plot lines is infinitely more interesting than the other. Almost every scene about Roussou and trying to follow up season one is so crammed together that tension cannot  build, and characters make very unnatural jumps in logic, emotion and motivation. Lines that should have weight seem absurd because there isn’t any build up to them. The worst offender is Roussou himself, and his love interest Dr. Dumont, the latter of which goes from being an interesting challenge to Billy’s character to a boring Jezebel stereotype. Combine that with flimsy motivation from most people involved in the plot and no likable side characters like season one’s Micro to add in any humanity, the plot sinks pretty quickly.

The show gave this second plot line much less time,despite being to be the superior story. Unlike Roussou, the plot’s primary antagonist, John Pilgrim, a former hit man who tries to give up the life of crime only to be pulled back in by a manipulative billionaire, is shown to have a complex and thematically fitting motivation. The plot also presents a much more western feel to the show, as seen primarily in the first three episodes where this idea gets most of the attention. This setting adds so much thematically, such as suggesting that in a world of gods and Tony Starks, Frank Castle is that last true lone ranger. 

Perhaps most importantly, this plot adds the character of Amy Bendix, who is a teenage girl who the Punisher ends up protecting from Pilgrim. Amy serves as the perfect method to explore Frank’s inability to move on, and the humanity he keeps trying to bury. She comes close to stealing just about every scene she’s in, and every moment with Frank trying at act as a father figure is wonderful to watch. 

Proof of the excellence of this idea is mainly in the season’s first three episodes, where the plot and characters are allowed to be established and grow. After the story is quite literally airlifted back to New York, the emotion never again reaches the highs those first episodes do. 

So, if you liked the first season, or just like the character and you don’t know if you want to invest the time to watch whole season, just watch the first three episodes. 

If you get hooked, fine; otherwise, don’t worry too much about what you’re missing.

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