REVIEW: The Punisher Season 2
I know this review is late, but with the news today that Netflix has cancelled both The Punisher and Jessica Jones, I thought I would offer thoughts on the second season of The Punisher. In all honesty, I think it took me this long to watch it because my interest in the Marvel/Netflix series has waned, despite the final season of Daredevil being a masterpiece. It's a shame because there was so much potential, but I think we all got our bubbles burst over the lackluster The Defenders series. Anyhoo...
My overall reaction to The Punisher season 2 is that I liked it. But, I also had some major problems with it as well. Like most of the Marvel/Netflix series, it started off strong, sagged in the middle, and then picked up again at the end. Moving forward, I think Marvel should limit its series to 8 episodes...10 at the most...to avoid that sag problem.
I really liked the first episode. It's so weird because the show is so violent and I'm not normally one to like violent shows. But, the first episode hooked me by drawing us directly into the action and then showing us what happened after. What kept me drawn in this episode and throughout the season, though, was Jon Bernthal's performance as Frank Castle/The Punisher. He really gave the character depth that I never really got from the comics. I really like how the series tapped into his PTSD as a result of watching his family being killed in front of him. Bernthal really sells it and I bought it hook, line and sinker.
I also liked his relationship with Amy (Giorgia Whigham), the young woman who he helps escape some psychotic killers. Amy is no damsel in distress, though. She is a young grifter who doesn't know who to trust. She doesn't get who Frank is and wants to escape him. But, in a fatherly way, Frank is not willing to let her go and die out there because she is being hunted. The best thing to do is get at the root of her problems, a man known as John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart), a preacher with a dubious past who is dispatched by a couple of powerful congregants who dispatch him to do dirty deeds in return for help for his sick wife.
At the same time, Frank has to deal with his buddy-turned-archenemy Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) who has escaped custody and has been building a crew of ex-military to commit crimes. In all honesty, I liked both villains in this season, but the problem is that when Frank dealt with one, the other sort of completely disappeared as a threat. For example, when Frank and Amy make their escape to New York and Billy becomes the threat, we lose John Pilgrim for several episodes. Maybe he would make an appearance of two. But, I felt it took away from the threat level. That said, I felt they fleshed out the characters well. I got a sense of who both were, their motivations and why I should care.
Where the season felt like it was at its weakest was with the characters of Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) and Dr. Krista Dumont (Floriana Lima), the psychiatrist in charge of Billy Russo who ends up being his lover. The Punisher, by nature, is loaded with testosterone and the world ends up revolving around men. I did not like how these two powerful women ended up becoming two girlfriends fighting over their man. They felt so whiny all the time. I would have liked to have seen them not so manipulated by a man and just shine as the strong women their supposed to be.
I would probably rate this as high as the first season as they both had an incredible performance by Bernthal yet suffered from some problems. Maybe I would rate this slightly higher because I felt the villains were more compelling.