The Punisher Season 2 Wants to Make Frank Castle a Superhero
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When Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) was shot in the head at point-blank range before the events of the first season of Netflixâs The Punisher, the bullet fragmented upon entering his skull, and the wound should have killed him. Instead, it left Castle badly wounded and ultimately trapped within a never-ending state of fight or flight.
That bit of Castleâs backstory hasnât been mentioned at all since the second season of Netflixâs Daredevil, but itâs something that bubbled to the surface over and over again during The Punisherâs first season, which ended with him avenging his familyâs lives. Burying the people who murdered his family seemed as if it might have brought Castle some sense of lasting peace, but The Punisher season two resurfaces that thing inside him that keeps him trigger-happy and makes you wonder whether the Punisher is Frankâs âtrueâ identity now.
Though Castle was able to take out most of the people who had a hand in his familyâs deaths, his decision to spare Billy Russoâs (Ben Barnes) life reverberates throughout the new season as it sets out to tell a story about how the two men are both warped reflections of one another. While Billy, with several new facial scars, struggles to recover from amnesia following his last confrontation with the Punisher, Castleâs a ghost by his own choosing, floating through life under a fake name and trying to keep as low a profile as he can. But this season of The Punisher is built on the idea of Castle doing the more classical heroic thing rather than going with the sort of logic weâve seen him rely upon in the past.
When a drunk at a bar gives a waitress a hard time, you bet your ass Castle gets involvedâfighting the guy, going home with the waitress, and ultimately having an awkward conversation with her son in the morning over breakfast about whether Frankâs his new dad. This season wants you to understand that beneath the scowls, barks, and penchant for violence, Frank Castle is a Good Manâ¢ becauseâin addition to upping the contrast between him and an increasingly Jigsaw-like Billyâit makes it easier for the show to sell you on the idea of Castle as a bona fide âsuperhero.â A superhero who takes some of the worst beatings in MCU history this season and somehow manages not to die or be injured all that bad even though he doesnât have a special healing factor.
During Frankâs travels on the road, he crosses paths with Amy Bendix (Giorgia Whigham), a teenaged con artist on the run from gangsters trying to kill her. He doesnât hesitate to take her under his wing and keep her safe from harm, though heâs none too pleased to be saddled with a ward. In Amy and Frankâs dynamic, The Punisher attempts to tap into something akin to what Marvelâs X-Men comics did with Jubilee and Wolverine in the early â90s. Though neither of them would admit it, Castle and Amy are a dynamic duo who bring out things in each another that make them stronger and keep them safeâbut also, at times, bring up painful memories of their respective pasts.
As Castle and Amyâs fates become increasingly entangled, he introduces her to more people in his orbit, like the leader of the local veteransâ support group Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore) and DHS agent Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah). Similarly, Billy begins building out something like a chosen family of his own with the help of psychotherapist Krista Dumont (Floriana Lima), whoâs helping him put back the fragmented pieces of his psyche to become whole again and restore his memories.
Much of Frankâs conflict with Billy felt deeply personal and intimate in The Punisherâs first season because the two men considered one another to be family. But all of the trust that comes with that sort of bond was shattered after Frank learned of Billyâs role in his familyâs deaths. The second season, in a way, makes the smart decision of treating the pair almost as if theyâve been slightly rebooted within the context of the show. It isnât that they donât know each other, but rather that The Punisher is telling a story about a new chapter in their lives when Frank Castle and Billy Russoâhaving lost basically everything that ever meant anything to themâmove forward by attempting to more wholly embrace their respective antiheroic and supervillain personae.
For Frank, this means giving himself over to the concept of the Punisher, a person who, though brutal in his methods, is presented as being a fundamentally good guy. Whereas, Billy slowly cultivates his Jigsaw identity by letting his inner demons and rage metastasize like a cancer and consume him. The Punisher and Jigsawâs war against one another is the classic sort of hero/villain pairing youâd expect from a comic book showâand it definitely works on screen. But in making that conflict its most central focus, The Punisherâs second season loses its grip on some of the more nuanced critiques of the police, American military, its mistreatment of veterans, and American gun culture writ large.
The Punisher is attempting to subtly reinvent itself in ways that make sense for the showâs sophomore season. Try as he might to stay away from the life, Castle is a living, street-level lead character on an MCU seriesâwhich means heâs destined to forever meet innocent people on the run from the Russian mob and kick himself in the ass for caring. Itâs the kind of role that all of Marvelâs heroes find themselves in, regardless of whether they want it or not, but the begrudging hero thing works for Frank surprisingly quickly and he settles into the role within the seasonâs first few episodes.
Itâd be unfair to say that this season was âbetterâ than the last or vice-versa because again, theyâre just...different. Itâs a move for the show that gives you the sense that, at one point in time, Netflix might have really had plans to see Frank even further transformed or made over into a more heroic character farther down the line. But with Marvelâs deal with Netflix in the state that it is, this season might be Frankâs last.
If thatâs the case, The Punisherâs second season wouldnât be the worst place for the series to end, as itâs a strong outing thatâll please fans, and does the Marvel Cinematic Universeâs most violent antihero justice.
Netflix drops The Punisher on January 18.
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via Gizmodo https://gizmodo.com
January 11, 2019 at 12:12PM