Marvel Netflix Retrospective – Punisher Season 2

We’re down to the wire with only one more entry to go after this. When the second season of Punisher was getting released, Netflix had maybe two trailers for it even though previous shows had multiple trailers, interviews, and other promotional material. Daredevil hadn’t yet been cancelled but I remember a lot of people realizing that it wouldn’t be around much longer. It was unfortunate for the Punisher show because it was a bit of a darkhorse. As mentioned before, it was not initially supposed to be a part of the Netflix Marvel stable but Jon Berenthal impressed people enough that they gave him his own show. What’s more, the second and final season of Punisher fully completed his origin.

Wait, what? You mean he still isn’t the Punisher yet?

Just kidding. He becomes the Punisher… in the last scene of the entire series.

I admit, I’m taking the piss a little bit here. I just thought it was a funny way to begin this entry. But yeah, while this season avoided the Netflix Problem and had a story that flowed nicely, the showrunner really liked to take his time getting Frank Castle to the point where he dedicated his life to killing bad guys. As I mentioned before, the story of Frank Castle’s family getting killed was a little too convoluted for its own good. This season had nothing to do with his family but it did start with Frank trying to live a peaceful life under a new identity now that he had his revenge (again… for good this time). Obviously, he ended up having to kill a bunch of bad guys anyway, but it was a situation he fell into as opposed to one he chose. The plot of this season revolved around Jigsaw returning for payback while Frank was protecting a young girl from a corrupt senator and his crazy religious assassin. The end of the last season set Frank up as a guy who was, in his own words, “at home” when it came to fighting evil people. Certainly, throughout his many appearances, we saw Frank killing bad guys who had nothing to do with his family’s death, showing that it wouldn’t take much for him to just become a full-fledged vigilante. Both Daredevil season 2 and the first season of his own show seemed to end in such a way that we could assume he’d just go around blowing holes through mafiosos from that point on. To be fair, this season absolutely ended with Frank finally making the choice to put a skull on his chest and seek out bad guys, but like I said, it took too long to get there. So anyway, let’s get into it and there will be spoilers going forward.

The good stuff is still good.

Okay, I started off a bit negative but there are still things to like about this season and the show. Most of the supporting cast came back including Agent Madani, Karen Page, and Curtis Hoyle with further exploration into their relationships with Frank. I would have loved to see Micro return but there would have been no logical reason for him to be included here and his story pretty much came to an end in the previous season. I should also mention Detective Brett Mahoney. He appeared in all three seasons of Daredevil and both seasons of Punisher. Somehow, I just haven’t mentioned him but he was a good foil for the vigilantes as he was always trying to bring them in without turning into, say, a male version of Misty Knight. As for newcomers, there was Amy Bendix, the girl Frank had to protect after she came into possession of a set of photos that drew unwanted attention, as well as John Pilgrim who we will talk about in a bit. Ben Barnes also returned as Jigsaw along with Florina Lima of Supergirl fame, who played his therapist.

The action sequences were still top-notch. As mentioned above, the season kicked off when Frank saved a young girl from assassins, which resulted in a fight at a bar and then a hotel before carrying over into a small town sheriff’s office. That particular episode was great as it remined me of Assault on Precinct 13 since Frank and a few small town cops held off an army of mercs. The music was still good as well. As a fan of 90s grunge, I appreciated the use of Alice in Chains’ Rooster. There was also a country song called Drunkard’s Prayer that played during a pivotal scene. I had never heard it before, but it played during a scene in which Pilgrim (the crazy religious assassin mentioned before) stitched himself up after a fight with Neo-Nazis (NSFW). I liked how it cut back and forth between showing a wound being inflicted upon him, then him dealing with the wound at his hotel. Pilgrim seemed to be a version of the Punisher villain, The Mennonite, but I don’t know if it was ever officially stated. At any rate, the song fit perfectly with what he was going through. I liked that he was a former drug-addicted Neo-Nazi who was trying to be a clean family man and devout Christian. He never actually wanted to kill Frank or anyone else, but his senator friend manipulated him into doing his dirty work for him, against his better judgement. He was a complex villain but he never got much attention in the fandom.

Going back to Jigsaw, I liked his storyline too. If you recall, the last time we saw him, he got his face carved up by Frank. We learned he had been suffering from nightmares and amnesia since that time and was undergoing therapy from Florina Lima’s character. I liked the twist that Lima’s character was actually pretty messed-up and was in love with Jigsaw. It was a slow burn reveal that I appreciated. As for Jigsaw himself, I like that he wanted payback against Frank for getting his face sliced up, but due to his amnesia, could never figure out why it happened. However, the conclusion to this storyarc was something I didn’t like initially but after a second viewing, I enjoyed it a bit more. Throughout the season, Jigsaw and Frank never had much of a chance to talk about what happened as they only saw each other from afar during a couple of firefights. In the final episode, Jigsaw got wounded while fighting Madani and was left in a basement, bleeding. Frank came in and Jigsaw barely muttered “Frank, whatever I’ve done to…” before Frank finished him off. At first, I thought it was anti-climatic but then I realized it was honestly a very Frank Castle sort of thing to do. Frank wasn’t the sort of guy to have a heart-to-heart or feel the need to explain himself. He was the sort of guy to walk into a room, shoot the bad guy, and walk out. Besides, we already had a big climatic Jigsaw fight in the previous season so we didn’t need another one. The only thing that needed to change was actually making Jigsaw ugly, which brings me to my next point.

There are consequences to Frank’s actions… until there aren’t.

My god! He looks like… a very handsome man who might’ve been in a car accident.

So yeah, Jigsaw needed to look more like this. In the previous season, Frank repeatedly smashed and grinded his face against a broken mirror with the promise that Russo was horribly disfigured. This season began with Jigsaw wearing a therapy mask while in a hospital, which seemed to be a set-up for a horrifying reveal but when Jigsaw finally took off the mask, he still looked like the pretty boy actor who once played Prince Caspian in Chronicles of Narnia. Sure, he had some scars but not nearly enough to earn the name Jigsaw (to be fair, they never call him Jigsaw in the show, so there’s that). What was really weird was that multiple people reacted as if he was a disfigured monster. The show, for whatever reason, didn’t go the extra mile in showing the truly disgusting outcome of Frank Castle’s rampages. Why am I bringing this up? Because the show never quite got as ballsy as it needed to.

The last time I talked about this show, I mentioned that if someone in the real world did what Frank Castle did, he would have to face some terrible consequences for his actions. This season kinda-sorta did that, but then dropped the ball when it came to long lasting consequences. At one point, Jigsaw made Frank believe he shot and killed innocent prostitutes. It was a powerful episode that saw Frank briefly considering suicide but once it was revealed it was all a ruse, it was business as usual. Sure, several characters called Frank out on being crazy and violent, but since only the bad guys died and no innocent people got hurt, none of their words had any real weight. The ending of this season nearly depicted him as a hero, which is not what Frank is. Hopefully, a third season would have rectified this.

Final Verdict

It wasn’t as good as the first season but still had a lot of great moments. I wish they got a bit bloodier and took the premise to some uncomfortable places, but the show was worth a watch anyway. At least it ended with all plot threads tied up so we got a conclusive end. Like Daredevil, there are rumors this version of the Punisher will return in some capacity, so let’s cross our fingers. Anyway, that’s about it. The final entry is next: Jessica Jones season 3.

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