In between watching season 2 of The Punisher and sitting down to write this article, it became common knowledge that the series, along with Jessica Jones, had been canceled by Netflix. It was highly predictable this would happen, given that the other Marvel Netflix series had already been canceled, and the rumor and innuendo are that some if not all of them will reappear on the Disney streaming service that’s in the works. Still, I can’t say I wasn’t disappointed. However, let’s move on. C’est la vie.
Like many, I was ecstatic when The Punisher premiered in 2017. Many of the other Marvel television franchises had already managed to show a much darker and grittier version of characters that historically have been or could have been much campier—Daredevil comes to mind. However, I feel The Punisher was able to not only show the brutality of Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) but do so without it coming off as over the top. Such things can be fun, and Bernthal definitely has moments when he can be Vin Diesel–esque, but for the most part, the show made it all work.
The key to this is show’s ability to make the brutality of the Punisher’s work on his victims credible. It’s refreshing to see a comic-based character today that, though he is not soulless, has little remorse for his actions, as opposed to “do-gooders” like Captain America. Castle’s actions, in his mind, are justified: the people he goes after have done something he deems punishable, and thus he gives very little thought to said actions afterwards. That said, with season 2’s introduction of Amy Bendix (Giorgia Whigham), we were gifted with seeing not just the gritty Castle but also a more paternal Castle as well. It was an interesting dichotomy to see how such different sides of the coin fit with the character.
I would be remiss if I did not mention this season’s treatment of Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah). In the first season, Madani served as a strong female character who was very much tricked and fell victim to the manipulation and treachery of Jigsaw, Billy Russo (Ben Barnes). Season 2 was different. In many ways I feel that Madani’s character replaced Castle in the role of trauma victim. Season 2 Madani is overwhelmed, hurt, and clearly dealing with her issues with Russo. I think it is a great example of showing the strength and character of someone dealing with past abuse. Madani essentially starts as an erratic, somewhat alcoholic person drifting through life, which leads to a lot of distrust by her colleagues in her competence and mental state. It is interesting to see how she progresses on her journey to redemption—if there is redemption.
Overall, I thought the season was great, but there were things that could have been done better or not done at all. First, don’t be fooled: the true antagonist is Russo, but what could have been an extremely solid villain return was interrupted by John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart) and his employers, Anderson and Eliza Shultz (Corbin Bernsen and Annette O’Toole). For those not in the know, John Pilgrim is based on the comics character the Mennonite. Though I found the mix of mafia hired gun and murderous Christian fundamentalist intriguing, I feel it got in the way in the end. This is a character that could have truly shined had he been the main villain, but the creators chose to keep his motivations very vague; mix that with the confusing parts involving the Shultz couple and it just didn’t gel as well as it could have.
Another thing I found problematic was the character of Krista Dumont (Floriana Lima). Without giving away details for people who haven’t seen this season yet, I found it troubling that we have this great story arc in Madani’s recovery and the show brings in a character that essentially dilutes her story. I found Krista to really be a detriment to strong female characters. I cannot really articulate what I mean without giving spoilers but it is confusing if not insulting in my view.
Regardless of all I have just pointed out, the season was quite enjoyable. It wraps up in a way that clearly suggests the showrunners had plans ready for season 3, but perhaps that will change if the rumors of Disney taking over are true. Perhaps The Punisher can still thrive on another streaming service. Time will tell.