Season 2 of “The Punisher” does not pull its punches

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Season 2 of “The Punisher” does not pull its punches

courtesy of Den of Geek

courtesy of Den of Geek

courtesy of Den of Geek

Laurel Kraus, Managing Editor

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Spoiler alert: This review contains minor plot spoilers.

Jon Bernthal’s third appearance as Frank Castle was released on Netflix last Friday in the form of “The Punisher” season two and is everything fans would not expect, in the very best way.

Castle, an anti-hero within the Marvel Cinematic Universe, is an exceptionally trained war veteran whose wife and young children were gruesomely murdered in front of him, leading to a one-man war against those who pulled his life apart.

Bernthal’s acting is the catalyst of the show’s success, offering performances that are so emotionally raw or so explosively rage-filled, I’m convinced no one else could pull it off quite the same.

With season one having found a fairly strong resolution, which included the main antagonist’s face and shards of a broken mirror, there was no clear direction for the newest addition, leaving much anticipation, which was far surpassed.

If season one was about vengeance, then season two is about dealing with one’s own demons, taking the show’s themes layers deeper and leaving no character exempt from the question, “Who am I at my core?”

The most fascinating character development goes to Billy Russo (Ben Barnes), Castle’s best friend turned greatest adversary, who enters the season with a crippling case of memory loss as a result of the mirror incident.

Barnes gets a chance to prove his acting chops as fans are introduced to a character they spent last season despising, but who no longer remembers what he has done or understands why all his friends are trying to kill him. This transformation from a supervillian to a frightened little boy is everything we didn’t know we needed.

Castle, on the other hand, suddenly finds himself saddled up with a 16-year-old girl running for her life, and the relationship dynamic between the two characters who initially seem like polar opposites adds a rare beacon of light to the immensely dark series.

In the end however, of the supporting roles, it is Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) who steals the show despite only appearing in a single episode due to scheduling conflicts.

There is a clear turning point in this season, a point where my jaw quite literally dropped, a moment where viewers realize Castle actually did have something left to lose… and he had just lost it.

As the character attempts to deal with this point of no return, in enters Woll, whose palpable onscreen chemistry with Bernthal provides the perfect bouncing board for a monologue, reminiscent of his cemetary scene in “Daredevil,” where he bares his soul about the moment Frank Castle became The Punisher. The camera angle zeroes in on his face, and Bernthal delivers a performance that rivals any Oscar-worthy film.  

The action sequences are as stellar and gritty as they ever were, but when viewers wipe away all the blood and gore on the surface, they will find a story of a man who does bad to do good, a story of how love, even familial, really does grow in the strangest of places, and a story that explores the darkest sides of humanity while illuminating the brightest sides as well.

The hope for a third season is small with Marvel shows on Netflix currently caught in the crossfire of the streaming giant’s rivalry with Disney’s new streaming service, but one thing’s for sure, with “Jessica Jones” and “The Punisher” currently the last remaining shows of this unfairly stunted empire, it really is no surprise that Frank Castle is the last man standing.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars