I’m a big fan of the Netflix Marvel shows, so this review is going to be through the lens of someone who enjoys them. I wasn’t expecting Season 2 to be better than Season 1, but was pleasantly pleased to be wrong. Season 2 builds off of Season 1 very well, and isn’t bogged down by too many side-plots, or by characters not pulling their weight. The protagonists, side characters, and antagonists all play an important role. It also isn’t weighted down by an underwhelming main plot, like Iron Fist was.
It’s hard to watch The Punisher and not feel your heart pounding as Frank walks away from a large confrontation. You’re always expecting him to fall, even though you know he’s the protagonist and he’s supposed to be indestructible. You tend to forget that when it’s six on one, but once it’s done you’re like “well yeah, obviously he’s going to win.” This is in contrast to some of the fights in the MCU movies, where you know how it’s going to end without question, even going in. The Punisher, and I would argue Daredevil too, don’t suffer from that as much. You’re always invested in the fights. I’m not sure I’m explaining myself well enough… how about this: you get nervous for Frank because you’re never sure how he’ll get through it. It makes for compelling action throughout.
When I saw the first trailer and saw Frank with a teenage girl, my first thought was, “Please tell me this isn’t going to be a 13-episode escort mission.” It’s not. The girl, Rachel (that’s the name she gives Frank early in the season) is the driver of half of the main plot, and I would argue it’s the primary of the two halves. She provides the kind of character growth that you’d expect from Frank, and has a personality all her own that isn’t blocked out by Frank’s “my way or the highway” mentality. The other half continues off Season 1, with Ben Barnes’ Billy Russo retuning and, I would argue, putting in an Emmy-worthy performance. The other main antagonist, Pilgrim, is a very interesting character; he’s the kind of opponent where you’re not quite sure what he’s capable of, with his own motivations for what he’s doing. I honestly wish we had gotten more of him though.
I can’t say I know a tremendous amount of the source material for The Punisher, aside from the top-line details. That being said, I think that the long-form storytelling that we have gotten from “MarvFlix” is the way all adaptations should be done. Don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge fan of the MCU. But when a story has 13 hours to be told as opposed to 2-3 hours means there is so much more to fit in. The most common fatality in cutting down a story to a movie is character development- something the Defenders universe is not lacking. When watching the MCU as a whole, you can see the character development across several movies; but when looking at each movie individually, you can’t see it much. While that works for a studio that has 20 interconnected movies, that’s only because they’re doing it very well. The other big example I have is Harry Potter. I am a huge fan of the HP books, but the movies always leave me underwhelmed, to the point where I don’t watch them much. But if each book had, say, 7 1-hour episodes to tell their story (maybe 10 for OotP), there would be so much more to the story, both from plot and character development. The only franchise where I would say the book and movie stand at or near equal is the Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings (not counting The Hobbit, because dear Lord), and even in that case, there is still stuff left out of the movies that, while maybe not necessary, would have added to the movies (and to the 13 hour runtime). But that’s my rant for today.
Back to The Punisher. I would put Punisher Season 2 in the top 3 seasons of the “MarvFlix” shows. Only below Daredevil Season 1 and 3 and just above Jessica Jones Season 1 (Iron Fist Season 1 still ranks last). Certainly surpassing Season 1. Warning you now, there is a lot of bullets and blood so if you’re squeamish, maybe watch something else.
What do you think about The Punisher and the Marvel Netflix shows? Are you as upset as I am that they’re done (I wish we got a Punisher vs Bullseye fight)?