I was lucky enough to gain access to screeners for the upcoming season of The Punisher. As someone who loved the first season I couldn’t wait to start watching. And after watching all 13 episodes, I found myself content with the season overall. I liked it…I just didn’t love it like the previous season. I would actually say there’s a clear gap in quality between the two seasons. Because while I enjoyed this season for the most part. There were also aspects that I didn’t like at all which really hurt the season as a whole. It’ll be interesting to see how other people react to this season. But for now you’re going to be stuck with me as I give up my thoughts on the upcoming season.
THIS IS A SPOILER-FREE REVIEW
A fresh start
At the end of the first season Frank Castle was given a clean slate. And season 2 starts off with Frank trying to make the best of his new situation. The season actually begins with Frank outside of New York. Now, this aspect might not sound the most appealing but I actually enjoyed the parts outside of New York. You get to see a different side of Frank. Someone who isn’t constantly looking over his shoulder. He’s more open with others. I’m not going to spoil it but he even comes across a potential love interest while in his new environment. However, make no mistakes about it, Frank still has that side to him. It’s not long before he finds himself straight up kicking-ass and killing assassins in a bathroom. Keep in mind this all takes place within the first episode. The season begins with a strong first episode in my opinion. But of course it’s not long before he has to eventually go back to New York, which is where the rest of the season takes place. But most importantly he doesn’t turn up to New York by himself.
I believe the key theme for this season is people getting second chances in life. Here it applies to the two main characters of the season; Frank Castle and Jigsaw.
If you watched the first season or are familiar with the character’s background in the comics. You would know Frank witnessed his whole family getting murdered right in front of him. And up until now Frank blames himself for all of their deaths. This plays into this season because Frank finds himself in a situation where this time, he can try help prevent a child’s death. This isn’t a spoiler, but Frank runs into this girl who is being hunted down. This results in him protecting her for the majority of the season.
You get to see their ups and downs together during the season which I found interesting. But I can see some people getting bored of it when they watch it. Especially, at the start of the season when it feels like Frank is just babysitting her. I mean at times he literally is. Even found myself getting frustrated with their relationship because you could see where it was going, but it felt like they were spending too much time on it. I get it, seeing Frank protect this girl is nice and all. But I want to see Frank be the Punisher! It takes it’s time, but eventually, we get the Punisher we all know and love. And of course, that’s where Jon Bernthal really shines in the role.
On the theme of ‘second chances’ this also applies to the main villain of the season, Jigsaw. I have to get this out of the way first. What you saw it in the promotional images when it comes to Jigsaw is what you get. He got his face dragged through a broken mirror at the end of the first season and now he just has a couple of scars to show for it. Honestly, I know it looks ridiculous, but after a couple of his scenes it didn’t bother me as much. Overall, I liked the addition of Jigsaw as the main villain in this season. Just like with Frank, Jigsaw finds himself attached to another character for the majority of the season. This would be his therapist. She offers him a second chance because what Frank did to him at the end of the first season mentally destroyed him. His arc is about whether if he can rebuild from that traumatic experience and go back to how he was before it.
So, we spend a lot of time with Jigsaw and his therapist in sessions and it’s interesting to see where their relationship goes. But no matter what happens, he’s ultimately drawn back to Frank Castle. Having spent the previous season with them two going back and forth, I thought it would be too much for another season. I was wrong. The character of Jigsaw really adds a fresh dynamic to their feud. Without going into detail, there’s this one episode where Jigsaw actually gets one over on Frank. He kind of turns the tables on him. Personally, I think it’s the strongest episode of the season. Jigsaw was also central to another one of my favourite episodes. It involves him and his crew robbing a bank. Again, without spoiling it, I just love how the episode ends. Plus I’d like to add that we actually get to see scenes with Russo and Frank before they were in the marines. I liked these scenes too, it added more backstory.
As for Ben Barnes’ performance, I think he done a good job. I must say there were times when I felt like he was just doing too much. But then again, because of the complete difference in character between Billy Russo and Jigsaw I can understand it. The more I think about it I actually liked the aspect of the character more than the performance that came with it.
One villain too many
Here comes my biggest issue with the season…John Pilgrim. I would say he serves as the co-main villain of the season. I’m just going to say it. I didn’t like him at all. First of all his character is something that I felt has been done too many times before. He’s this religious figure in the public, but of course, behind the scenes he’s the total opposite. He even talks in Bible verses if you know what I mean. To put it simply, Pilgrim is this former mob person/current assassin who spends most of the season tracking down Frank Castle and the girl he’s with. I never believe he’s a threat to Frank or anyone to be honest. Like with Billy Russo’s character in the first season. I believed he was this former marine and now someone who was in charge of his own organisation which was a genuine threat to Frank and the state. With John Pilgrim? No, it just didn’t work for me.
They even try to give him some backstory and show this other side of him with his family but it never clicked with me. I would have preferred if they’d just focused on Jigsaw as the main villain of the season. Mainly, because there’s history between Billy Russo and Frank. Even though Jigsaw is almost an entirely different character, there’s still a piece of Russo in there. And I really like how that links in with Frank by the end of the season. Pilgrim’s character at one point says something along the lines of “Why am I still hunting Frank? He’s done nothing to me”. And I found myself completing agreeing with him. They needed to do something different with this character. Personally, I would have just cut him out. I’ve got to admit though, there was one thing I really liked about John Pilgrim…his action scenes. Like with all the action scenes in this series, they didn’t hold back with his. Some of his fight scene are so brutal! Especially, his showdown with Frank. There’s one scene with him that is still stuck in my head. During one fight he rams the top of his head into someone’s mouth to knock them out and in the next scene he’s pulling out the guy’s teeth from the top of his head.
What’s next for The Punisher?
As I was watching the season finale I could help but feel disappointed by the end of it. Not with the season because I enjoyed the majority of it. But knowing this is most likely going to be the last season. How could I not feel disappointed? I think even the show runners knew it. The season doesn’t end with this major cliff-hanger like the last season of Daredevil. What hurts is that even after two seasons there’s still so much potential left with this character/series. I just want to see Frank Castle’s story play out. I even want to see more of the supporting characters who were also great in this season too.
Overall, while I didn’t enjoy this season as much as I did with the first one. There’s still a lot that I liked about this season. I enjoyed Frank’s arc throughout the season along with his chance of redemption. The action scenes are amazing as expected. Jigsaw as the main villain ended up being better than what I expected. I just wish he was the only villain of the season. However, the season isn’t perfect by any means. There are some real slow parts that drag. Especially, after the first two episodes which makes it worse because it starts off so well. It does slow down by the middle, but from episode 8 onwards the season makes up for its inconsistent pacing.
Make sure you check out the season for yourself next week!