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Punisher Season 2 reviews praise well-executed action and a more nuanced Frank Castle
Marvel's The Punisher returns for a second season on Netflix next Friday, but the review embargo on the upcoming batch (pun intended) of episodes has lifted.
According to critics, Season 2 is one of the best (if not the best) second outing for any of the Marvel shows on Netflix. Filled with amazing action coreography that can rival any major Hollywood film, the latest exploits of Frank Castle also contain a very grounded human element. Returning to the titular role, Jon Bernthal is still gruff to be sure, but he's given the chance to expertly explore the tender and darkly comedic sides of his character this time around.
The overwhelming positivity of these reviews does have a very bittersweet edge. With the cancellations of Daredevil, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, it is most likely only a matter of time until Punisher receives the same treatment. Once that happens, we'll only have Season 3 of Jessica Jones to look forward to.
In terms of plot, The Punisher Season 2 finds Frank protecting a young woman (Giorgia Whigham), who is being hunted for some kind of valuable information that she holds. As an added bonus, Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) is out of the hospital and adopts the villanous persona of Jigsaw, swearing a vendetta against his old friend, Mr. Castle.
Here's what the critics are saying:
"In Avengers: Age of Ultron, the titular villain taunts Captain America by telling him he’s fooling himself if he thinks he could ever live without a war. The Punisher Season 2 is basically the heavy-metal version of that character conflict. The end result is a symphonic cacophony of violence, character growth, and dark humor that feels a lot more like what I was expecting from a standalone Punisher series." -Tyler McCarthy, Den of Geek
"If the first season of The Punisher was a meditation on the cost of violence, The Punisher Season 2 is mostly about the violence itself — and oh, what mighty violence there is to behold. There’s no denying that the action scenes are some of the best you’ll see on TV, this year or any other; remarkable feats of choreography, effects, shot composition, and performance that provide more kinetic thrills than most blockbuster film franchises." -Haleigh Foutch, Collider
"[Bernthal] once again brings an intense aura of hair-trigger unpredictability to Frank Castle, someone compelling to watch even when the show is saddling him with hokey moments of guileless emotion that threaten to neuter his haunted war vet’s charisma. Bernthal was born to play this role, whether delivering cynical one-liners in casual settings or tearing through hordes of musclebound villains—though really, his best moments are just before or after the explosions of violence, when the interplay of stoic masculine reserve and urge-to-fight adrenaline do battle in his expressions, and we see that internal struggle slowly explode or recede as Castle reacts to his situation." -Alex McLevy, The A.V. Club
"This season of Punisher is a perfect example of what happens when you pay true honor to the source material you’re adapting. While there are season one threads that certainly bleed into this one, none of them are done so in a way so as to say 'this is a continuation of the last story.' No, Season Two is a whole new Frank Castle adventure and all the better for it." -Merrill Barr, Forbes
"Bernthal reminds us in this episode how well-suited he is to play a kinder, more sympathetic Frank Castle. He may not make for a terribly convincing Italian American New York native, but Bernthal channels that mixture of quiet dignity, haunted survivor, and lingering monster that defines Frank. There's a steady, easy chemistry between Bernthal and a new love interest here that makes their relationship seem immediately believable. Yet as Frank finds himself drawn into a new fight, we see the monster all too eager to rear its head and draw blood." -Jesse Schedeen, IGN
"Season 2 is a fine new entry in the old man/young sidekick drama, a prestige genre exhibited by works like Lone Wolf & Cub, Road to Perdition, Logan, and The Last of Us. The Punisher is Marvel’s Léon: The Professional: Whigham is a Gen-Z Natalie Portman and Bernthal an ooh-rah reboot of Jean Reno’s killer sophisticate. It’s just great." -Eric Francisco, Inverse
"It isn’t morally ambiguous so much as morally and politically confused, whereas the best Punisher comics are the ones that bring Frank Castle’s dark side to the forefront. This fence-sitting attitude does little to make The Punisher stand out among the many action thrillers on the market ... The Punisher offers decent action scenes and a great lead actor, and the same level of okay-to-boring crime drama storytelling we’ve seen throughout the franchise. If you enjoyed season 1 you’ll be perfectly happy with this addition, but it doesn’t do anything interesting with a character who should feel more relevant to our current political climate." -Gavia Baker-Whitelaw, The Daily Dot
"Thankfully, Bernthal is as charismatic a character actor as he’s always been playing Frank Castle, and Season 2 gives him even greater opportunity to demonstrate his range as Marvel’s iconic antihero. Far from the curmudgeonly, all American edgelord who first showed up in Daredevil Season 2, we get to see a more paternal and jocular side to Frank now that he’s (mostly) free of his internal demons, and season 2’s script excels at drawing out the black comedy and emotional pathos amidst the constant bloodbaths." -Alex Avard, GamesRadar
"The Punisher is attempting to subtly reinvent itself in ways that make sense for the show’s sophomore season. Try as he might to stay away from the life, Castle is a living, street-level lead character on an MCU series—which means he’s destined to forever meet innocent people on the run from the Russian mob and kick himself in the ass for caring. It’s the kind of role that all of Marvel’s 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 season’s first few episodes." -Charles Pulliam-Moore, Gizmodo
"The Punisher Season Two is, without a doubt, Marvel Netflix's best sophomore season yet, narrowly edging out the deep crime drama of Luke Cage Season Two. Showrunner Steve Lightfoot clearly heard the fan reaction to the first season and made sure to preserve and develop what worked while cutting away or streamlining what didn't." -Kofi Outlaw, ComicBook.com
The Punisher returns to Netflix next Friday, January 18.