By Robert Ernest (@thatRobster)
This review contains minor spoilers.
Brutal! Season 2 is bloody brutal and in reality, that’s what we want from a show like this. Even though we were all anticipating a huge showdown between Frank Castle and Billy Russo, there are two main stories running throughout the season which I found satisfactorily wrapped up by the final episode. The cast is sensational and the action just doesn’t let up.
Episode one picks up with Frank Castle laying low in Ohio. Let’s not forget that he’s supposed to be dead! Jon Bernthal is even better than I remember as Frank. What he gives us is a man who is cold, strong and relentless whilst at the same time extremely vulnerable and deep. Many of his actions and decisions are still largely influenced by the loss of his family. There are moments when they really capture just how vulnerable he is which truly gives us insight into our anti-hero. We need more Jon Bernthal. How he isn’t leading some Hollywood movie franchise yet is beyond me. Frank spends this season protecting newcomer, Amy (Giorgia Whigham), from Russian mobsters who are on her tail. It’s heartwarming to see him naturally take on a fatherly role towards her. Their relationship was a real highlight for me mainly because there are so much light and dark with what happens between them. Amy begins to understand Frank in a way that no one else can. She was fantastic in each and every episode.
Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) is back but is crumbling under the pressure of coming to terms with what happened between her and Billy. The scars he caused her are much more than physical. She seems to fight internally between good and bad and more so can’t decide if working with Frank is good or bad. She is unwillingly completely tangled up in a web of Frank and Billy which consumes her every move. She’s a total badass this season though and I much preferred her character arc here than in season one. Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore) plays a much bigger part this time around as he reluctantly gets stuck in with the nitty-gritty. He stands by Frank and gets caught up in their mess. Curtis is a great side kick. I must also mention that it was great to have Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) show up to help Frank in episode 11. Their relationship is gripping and as much as there is a will they/ won’t they element to it, she still seems completely terrified of him.
There were two other new cast members integral to the story this season. Floriana Lima is excellent as Billy’s therapist, Krista Dumont. It’s not long before she becomes embroiled in a whirlwind, sadistic relationship with him which does end up leading her down the road of the infatuated lover. Although she’s his therapist she has some extreme issues from her childhood which she seemingly has never properly addressed and her obsession with Billy begins due to some very big Daddy issues. The second is Josh Stuart as John Pilgrim, who is hired to kill Amy and in turn, Frank. He can only be described as bionic. This guy cannot be human. Think T-1000 in Terminator 2. I genuinely can’t put into words how much I enjoyed watching this character. There’s more to him than just being a gangster which added to my turmoil of liking a character we are supposed to hate. One thing I really liked about his story, and the people around him, is that it was interesting to see how people can use religion to justify the bad things they do.
Ok. As much as I love Jon Bernthal I have purposely saved the best till last. Ben Barnes as Billy Russo was simply mesmerising. We find him in the hospital with no memory of the events leading up to having his face repeatedly smashed against the mirrors of the carousel in Central Park, heck he doesn’t even remember that. The moment he comes face to face with Frank for the first time is played out impeccably well as things begin to fall into place and his reaction to finding out that he killed Frank’s family is also just as brilliant. Ben plays Billy so so so well. There’s desperation seeping from his veins. His face conveys every thought and emotion leaving you in no doubt of what is going on inside his head. He owned every single scene he was in and gave a masterpiece of a performance throughout.
I would say The Punisher is must-watch television. The amount of commitment we have from Jon and Ben to their characters is not something we see on television a lot. Between the fight scenes and the sex scenes, it really stepped up a gear. In particular, the fight in the bar, gym and Frank in the lift stand out in my mind. Billy sets Frank up in episode 10 and the use of light and music here is just stunning. John Pilgrim is also part of a fight which made my teeth hurt. The relationship between Frank and Billy is so twisted and complicated that I found myself feeling all types of emotions about what was playing out. Part of me just wanted them all to be friends and have a happy ending but that was never going to happen. The ending is kind of final. It’s satisfying but that doesn’t mean that you’re not left immediately wanting more.
If this show follows the same fate as Daredevil, Iron Fist and Luke Cage then at least we can say it went out on a high.
The Punisher Season 2 is available NOW on Netflix.