Who is Frank Castle? First and foremost, The Punisher‘s antihero (embodied by Jon Bernthal) is a killing machine. The first season hammered that point home at an odd time (and perhaps, as the character’s cinematic history proves, there’s never a perfect time for this Marvel title to land onscreen). Beyond that, the Netflix series is challenged by what to do with Frank (or his other identity, Pete Castiglione) while attempting to move beyond the core vigilante function of the character. Further, it became increasingly apparent by the series’ first-season end that Frank was ultimately punishing himself, and when the feds officially directed him to pursue a new life, he can’t cope with a clean slate.
Then there’s one of the grey areas still explored by the series: Is Frank good, as he believes, or is he a bad guy? This dilemma causes the series’ writers to offshoot in several second-season directions. Instead of forming an intricately layered story, the end result is unfortunately clunky and full of enough filler to pad out 13 episodes — rather what could have been better streamlined as a Netflix movie in which frenemies Frank and Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) settle their difference (and similarities), once and for all. With that said, the action aspect of the second season (including a bar brawl, a gym throwdown, and firefiiiiights) is actually well-choreographed and quite good. Hardcore fans should be pleased enough on that end, at least.
But let’s get real before continuing. Netflix is steadily canceling its Marvel shows, and The Punisher will likely soon go the way of Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Before that happens, the streaming service messed up the minds of Frank and other core characters really good. Indeed, there’s a whole lot of trauma to be processed following Frank’s climactic carousel fight with Billy that also involved a gunshot to Agent Madani’s head. The series tried to follow this up while deciding that it might be neat to show Frank’s softer side. And beyond the introduction of Russo’s Jigsaw incarnation, there’s a poorly constructed new villain in the mix. All of this is meant (maybe?) to illustrate Frank’s complex nature, but mostly, the guy ends up confused. It’s sad, and in a season where Frank Castle starts throwing kettlebells at people, no one should be sad. Ever.
(Kettlebells not pictured here, you’ll have to trust me.)
This fight is easily the most satisfying scene of the season. I highly recommend seeking it out as a standalone moment, apart from these identity crises: