There’s a lot of what we loved in The Punisher Season 1 in Season 2, enough to make the season enjoyable as a whole: Frank being Frank, Madani’s brand of controlled rage, Curtis, Karen, Karen and Frank. There’s just also a lot of the things we didn’t really enjoy from Season 1: So much Billy Russo manpain, that ridiculous love affair with Floriana Lima’s character, and that makes the season feel choppy at times.
Did I still enjoy it? Yes. But at times it was entirely too slow, which is a problem with Netflix shows in general, and has been an issue with Marvel shows in particular.
At least The Punisher Season 2 doesn’t feel like it would do work better with 8 or 10 episodes, and the reason for that is probably that shit gets real in the last few episodes of the season, well that, and the fact that every episode has at least one standout moment, even if it only comes at the expense of Jon Bernthal’s expressive face.
Still, the season doesn’t really feel like it needs 13, either, though I wouldn’t be the one advocating for less, especially considering Netflix has been trigger happy with Marvel shows lately, and we’re not entirely sure if this is Frank Castle’s last hurrah or not.
With that in mind, let’s go into The Punisher Season 2, and talk about what worked, what didn’t, and what we wanted more of.
I’m going to be accused of just being a shipper or something – like that’s an insult, I’m a proud one – but the showrunners took a bet in centering this season in the duality between Frank finding another part of his humanity by helping Amy, and Billy, who might be said to have been finding some part of his humanity thanks to his relationship with Krista, but it just did not work.
Mostly because Krista was anything but a standout, her relationship with Billy was boring and not at all interesting, and as much as I enjoyed Frank bantering with Madani, Curt’s involvement, or the whole reluctant father figure thing with Amy, the absolute best part of this season was every second Karen Page was on it.
There, I said it.
Problem is, of course, when she’s only in ONE episode, it’s easier for people to compare all other episodes to that one and go, hmmm, maybe their relationship is the most compelling thing in this show, why isn’t it getting the attention it deserves?
I don’t have an answer for that, other than – they thought they’d have more time. And isn’t that a damn shame.
Karen Page: I’ve always liked Karen Page in the context of The Punisher much more than in the context of Daredevil. She just worked better as a foil to Frank, as the light to his darkness. That dynamic never worked as well with Matt Murdock, and her presence in this season of The Punisher serves to exemplify why. With Frank, Karen has something to do, something to bring to the table, and most importantly, she has someone who listens, someone who considers her “strong and brave” and who respects her because she is so “stubborn,” not in spite of that.
Kastle: No one come tell me this isn’t romantic when Karen literally said things like “You can’t keep loving people in your dreams” and asked Frank to “make it mean something” when he talked about how much her presence meant to him, when she once again referred to the elusive ‘after’ she wanted for Frank, but this time implied she wanted to be a part of it. And it wasn’t all one-sided either, Frank even while denying himself the chance at what he wanted deep down, made his feelings clear when he asked her not to “throw away everything for him,” and implied “there was no light at the end of the tunnel” for him, as an answer to her suggestion that she would be there. So, yeah, the biggest tragedy that could come from this show not getting a Season 3 is us not getting a chance to see this relationship develop the way it should – and all the promise of Kastle not getting the rightful payoff.
Amy/Frank: This relationship worked because it was earned, because they didn’t just like each other from the beginning, but were first reluctant partners, and then, little by little, trust was built, and then affection. It also worked because there were undertones of Lisa Castle in her, and Leo Liberman, and the kind of father Frank Castle could have been if he’d gotten the chance, and that’s just the kind of heartbreaking content we expect from The Punisher.
Curt: With much more screen time in Season 2, Curt gets a chance to shine, not just as Frank’s friend, but as his own person, and it’s interesting to see the dynamics between him and Amy, as well as him and Frank and Billy at play. Only thing I would have asked for is an interaction with Karen. That would have been fun.
Dinah Madani: At times Madani was an absolute mess, strong, compassionate, ruthless, sympathetic, calculated, and it was beautiful to see her be all those things and more, without the show trying to dumb her down or try to make her fit into one box. I’m a fan of Dinah Madani, I really am, and I hope this isn’t the last we see of her.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Krista Dumont: As a character, she made no sense to me. What did she want? Why did she want it? What made her tick? I know we got some answers, but even the answers we got were incongruous to the ways she behaved. In love with Billy? That’s absurd, for many reasons, and also incredibly unprofessional, among other things. Billy isn’t a saint, but Billy was her patient, and she had a level of power over him that she took advantage of, and I’m not here for any of that.
The Billy/Frank duality: There were moments in Season 1 when these two felt like two sides of the same coin, and that’s something The Punisher tried to push in Season 2, the whole idea that they were two sides of a whole. It just didn’t work, though, first because despite everything, Frank’s attention was divided, and also because there was just a lot of playing games before their eventual “confrontation.”
WHAT WE WANTED TO SEE MORE OF
Karen Page: Considering the reason we fell in love with Frank on Daredevil Season 2 in the first place had a lot to do with his relationship with one Karen Page, the fact that she was only around for one episode borders on criminal. Granted, it was a really good episode, that cemented how important Karen is to Frank and viceversa, but it was still just one episode, and call us greedy, we always want more Karen.
Kastle: The little ship that could, that grew out of Deborah Ann Wholl and Jon Bernthal’s chemistry, wasn’t the focus of Season 2, and it really couldn’t be, unless they retooled the whole idea for the season, but dang it, maybe that would have made for a better Season 2. I get the sense that, somehow, the plan was for Karen to play a larger role in Season 3, but considering we don’t know if we’re going to get that, this one hurts.
Dinah Madani: Look, I wasn’t always Dinah’s biggest fan, but I’ve come to truly appreciate how The Punisher just allows her to be fucked up in her own ways that have nothing to do with her harboring any kind of romantic feelings for Frank or Billy. Also, the glimpses we got at what could have been a great friendship between Karen and Dinah just left me wanting more.
Micro: WHERE WAS DAVID LIBERMAN? I mean, I get Frank not wanting to get him in trouble, and I even sort of get David laying low, but nothing? Not one mention? These two went to war together, in a very real way, and that’s a bond that doesn’t just disappear.
WHAT WE WANTED TO SEE LESS OF
Billy/Krista: Though I understand the attempt to contrast Frank to Billy, the whole thing never worked because Billy and his romantic relationship with Krista didn’t have a real contrast in Frank’s parental relationship with Amy (*cough* should have used Karen *cough*), and also because at no point did I care about the whole thing with Billy and Krista, or thought it was real, or thought it made any sense whatsoever. In fact, I often found myself hoping their scenes would end, and fast. There were ways to make this storyline interesting – the way Billy’s relationship with Madani was in Season 1, but the writers just couldn’t find them.
2×11, aka the ONE with Karen Page was, for me, the best episode of the season, by far. (Come mock me for being a shipper, I dare you). We not only got good Kastle content and Karen, we got Karen + Madani and that BEAUTIFUL SCENE OF FRANK LOOKING AT THREE WOMEN TELLING HIM WHAT TO DO WHY ISN’T THIS THE ENTIRE SHOW?
2×03, aka the ONE with jail can’t contain Frank was also a pretty dramatic hour of TV, and an example of what The Punisher does best, just make us feel the tension while still being absolutely one hundred percent sure that somehow, Frank’s gonna get out of it and everything’s gonna be fine. The Punisher doesn’t go down that easy.
2×12, aka the ONE with Dinah Madani being a total and absolute badass, because Dinah Madani deserved that moment, and she deserves love and I will fight people if needed.
LEAST FAVORITE EPISODES
The middle of the season – after Frank and Amy are safely in New York, Billy doesn’t remember shit and we’re all waiting for someone to attack, something to happen, and all we get are long conversations and one very violent scene an episode to remind us that this is The Punisher, we shouldn’t get complacent.
SEASON FINALE IMPRESSION
It wasn’t the most exciting season finale ever, the stakes felt much higher in season one, but it was still a good hour of television. Madani being the one to, mostly, get Billy Russo, was immensely satisfying, and despite all his issues with Frank, Curt and Madani were still Team Frank, which I always appreciate, as it’s felt at times like the only person fully on Team Frank is Karen.
The end of the episode sets up …well, it sets up what I imagine must have been the plan in Season 3, to delve into this Punisher, and whether, now with revenge over, this is really all Frank can be. I really, really hope, in some way, shape or form, we get to see that story.
I’m going to be real honest with you, though I’d love if it we got a Season 3 – especially considering the promise of Deborah Ann Woll being available to shoot more than one episode, I’m not very confident we’ll get it. And though that’s likely not the end of The Punisher, there will always be another iteration at some point, it might just be the end of Kastle, and that would be a damn shame.
Marvel TV did a lot right, and enough wrong that Netflix isn’t going ahead with most of these shows, but one of the things it did better was capitalize on the chemistry between Jon Bernthal and Deborah Ann Woll. From the first scene these two shared in Daredevil Season 2, it was obvious Marvel TV had stumbled upon the kind of ship shows dream of having, and they’d do so by mistake.
They chose not to rush it, and I understand that. There was no way to know, when they were filming, that this could be the end. Frank and Karen’s story is clearly not over, and from here on out they will be moving on knowing what the other feels. Because that conversation in the hospital was pretty dang clear.
Karen wants a future with Frank. Frank can’t imagine a future for himself, but Karen is the only one who makes him want to try.
That, right there. Don’t we deserve to see that story told? Don’t we?
*whispers* We do, Netflix. We do.
What were your thoughts on The Punisher Season 2?