The Punisher returns to Netflix on January 18.
[Ed. Note: Being that TV and City is on a bit of a hiatus, this article has not been edited.]
By Chris Flanagan
In what can most likely be assumed as the second and final season on Netflix due to Disney’s streaming venture soon to be released, The Punisher wastes no time building off of its first season and the story the brought Frank Castle and Billy Russo crashing into one another. However, this time, the stakes are higher and more bystanders are brought into the fray.
After the events of the season one finale that left Billy Russo disfigured at the hands of Frank who discovered his role in his family’s murder, Frank has found some small semblance of peace as he tries to move on from everything that happened in New York. Billy, left fighting for his life while physically and mentally scarred, attempts to piece together the remnants of his fractured memory with the assistance of Dr. Krista Dumont. But at the risk of spoilers, there are other powers at play that descend upon Frank’s world and causes him to wade back into his tried and true profession – murder.
For me, what stood out the most across The Punisher’s 13 episodes was its ability to progress the story forward at a deliberate pace and still deliver elements of action and deep character development each episode to the point where you rarely notice the slow burn. With other shows, this is not often the case and it can be laborious just to make it to the halfway point of the season. But with this season I have come to realize that there is something to take away from each episode that holds the viewer’s attention well enough to keep them progressing through the episodes without ever becoming deterred to do so. This strength matched with exceptional supporting characters who are each given ample screen time and individual storylines that define them as actual contributors to the show rather than simply being thinly developed people that occasionally wander in and out of Frank’s life make the difference compared to other Marvel shows of this caliber and allows for The Punisher to make the leap into a more successful territory of comic book adapted television. This is of course supported by the incredible casting of Jon Berenthal as Frank but with this season the true shining star is that of Billy Russo’s Ben Barnes who elevates the character of Russo from that of a common villain to someone whose motives and nature are specifically defined by those around him and the circumstances of his past that he could not change. This makes his character for a very interesting watch that I personally found myself gravitating towards more instead of Frank. The only fault that this season experiences is during its latter third where certain episodes focus predominantly on support characters giving the feeling that they are attempting to squeeze their storylines in just before the season draws to a close. If this were conducted in a traditional week to week structure, I feel that this would’ve been a bigger detriment, however, the ability to binge the show and quickly move into the next episode allows for this drawback to be felt on a lesser scale.
It remains to be seen whether or not The Punisher will be allowed to stay on Netflix let alone renewed for another season, however, one thing is clear – The Punisher is one of Marvel’s best television efforts that leans into the whirlwind that is its anti-hero as well as paying equal screen and story time to his surrounding cast. It is a show that I hope continues no matter what streaming service and as this season puts a wonderfully crafted period on Frank’s road to recovery I am excited about his future.
I give The Punisher‘s second season a B+.