The Punisher: The Whirlwind

Frank: "You know kid, sometimes you find things, and they change your life."

In the Season 2 finale, Frank, Madani, Russo, Amy, Pilgrim – it all comes to an explosive end... or so I thought, but I'll still settle for a somewhat-rushed and cobbled-together end with shining character performances scattered throughout.

Madani seems to have a bit of a death-wish here and immediately prepares for a shootout next with a hysteric Billy Russo. Even with three shots fired into his stomach, Russo succeeds in almost strangling Madani to death. As it turns out, both combatants miraculously survive the confrontation. As relieved as I was that Madani makes it out alive, the more I reflected on it, the more I decided I would have also been fine had she died right there at Russo's hands. Much of Madani's arc this season consists of the raised question regarding what is it that separates her from Frank Castle, and if they are nothing alike, at what point then will Madani make a transition towards becoming more like Castle? Here, I believe Madani fully expected that she'd die by Russo's hands and was prepared anyway to go out guns literally blazing, a manner not that unlike how Frank views each of his own showdowns.

Anderson and Eliza Schultz honestly feel mostly like afterthoughts this late in the series, almost as if they are now plot points The Punisher has to quickly wrap up. As Pilgrim seemed to have in 'Collision Course', the Schultzs have also forgotten about what Amy possesses that could impair their plans for David and now concur that having Pilgrim eliminated too would solve all their problems and also preserve David's future. This whole subplot just felt jumbled for me at this point, as if the writers suddenly realized they had been backed into a corner because they didn't really have a set ending in stone for Pilgrim or the Schultzs. Amy meanwhile tails Pilgrim to an apartment hideout, initially with plans of her own to kill him and secure her own safety, but calls in Frank at the last moment. I've really enjoyed watching Amy grow over the course of this season, and becoming less and less apprehensive about Frank's methods. Plus, her humdrum face once other tenants start fleeing after the shooting begins had me in stitches.

As cliche as it may have been for some, I was hoping that after everything she had been through, Amy would get a chance to shine by actually being the one to save Frank's skin from Pilgrim. This doesn't happen though, and Amy ends up as Pilgrim's hostage, bargained with Frank in exchange for the return of David. Frank unfortunately is left without his ace here because Curtis, understandably at his wit's end with the cat-and-mouse games, frees David to Mahoney. Frank's final confrontation with Pilgrim and his efforts to negotiate the release of Amy was probably the most tense for me in this finale, knowing just how tight a spot Frank was stuck in without David, combined with a fear of Amy getting caught up in the carnage. I sensed that Frank's plea with Pilgrim too is somewhat of an effort to rectify his inability to protect his own children by saving Amy, so it gets points not just for suspense, but for being sentimental too.

As for Frank's actual grudge-match with Pilgrim, I wouldn't say I was completely underwhelmed, but the threat Pilgrim posed to our heroes even until the very end was never going to compete with the forces that were Wilson Fisk or Benjamin Poindexter in Daredevil, or even Kilgrave in Jessica Jones. I will though give Pilgrim credit for being able to obtain something most foes of Frank don't get: his respect. I would have been just fine had Frank chosen to waste Pilgrim too, but in Pilgrim, Frank sees a twisted reflection of himself – a man who would go to extreme lengths all for the sake of his own children's safety. While we're skimming the subject of sidesteps, I thought at first it was quite a cop-out to have Dumont survive her fall from the previous episode, but Madani getting to gloat to her was absolutely a welcome inclusion to the end of Dumont's arc. It's also an amusing call-back to the beginning of the series when Dumont fancied being in a position to judge Madani for her questionable decisions in the past.

Somehow, Russo's able to walk away from his and Madani's battle. When his wounds aren't treated properly, he begins bleeding out and, knowing he's finally at death's door, calls Curtis, making a final plea to at least die with someone else by his side. At first I figured this was only Russo exploiting Curtis' inability to just let another brother in arms die alone. When Frank showed up instead, I immediately knew this was the end for Russo – I just wasn't expecting Frank to cut Russo off mid-eulogy like that with two shots! As controversial and polarizing as I can see this final confrontation being between fans, I personally loved it. Frank has long since learned his lesson since the end of Season 1 about letting someone like Russo go, and for him, there were simply no more words to be said to someone who had indirectly played a part in the murders of his family.

It can't be denied either what a phenomenal job Ben Barnes has done this season as Russo. I can't say I rooted for him the entirety of the season, but what makes me feel just a little bad for him in the very end is that, without condoning every gruesome and horrible thing he's done, he was, in death, someone still struggling to make amends and trying to understand all the repercussions of his vices. Whether or not he was willing to issue a final apology to Frank here is something best left up to every viewer's interpretation, but for me, his muddled psychological makeup in Season 2 made him a much more interesting character.

I think it goes without saying that Season 2 of The Punisher is quite all-over-the-place; even though it has thirteen episodes to work with, it felt as if there was too much going on in this clunky narrative, and certain characters and plot points got more screentime over the ones I personally felt should have been fleshed out just as much, if not more. Season 2 also never lives up to the zealous endeavors Frank went through in Daredevil's second season, or even in The Punisher's first season, but I'm also never one to pass up an opportunity to see the Punisher punish in any capacity, and Jon Bernthal as always was magnificent this season. It's bittersweet to see Frank finally come to the conclusion that the doors to living a regular day-to-day live will be forever closed to him, because he simply cannot abandon his vigilantism. If this truly is the end for The Punisher on Netflix, then I suppose he goes out on a high enough note for me.

Aaron Studer loves spending his time reading, writing and defending the existence of cryptids because they can’t do it themselves.

1 comment:

Billie Doux said...

I enjoyed it. And I was surprised at the differences between what I expected and what actually happened.

I expected Billy Russo to live and Pilgrim to die. I thought Krista Dumont would be killed by Billy. I was also expecting Curtis to die because I love him and characters like Curtis usually get killed. All wrong. And I really liked the way Amy and Frank said goodbye, and the last shot. It was like both seasons of The Punisher were origin story, and now Frank is finally who he is.

Totally agree about how off balance what happened to the Schultzes was, though. And I knew Frank would save Mahoney's life. I was also glad that Madani made it, and that she seems to be getting stronger and sharper. She seemed a bit naive last season.

Now here's hoping we get a season three. Although if we don't, and we probably won't, this season ended well.

Thanks for your review, Aaron. And thanks to all of the other Agents of Doux who participated in reviewing this season: Shari, Lamounier, J.D., Fangirl and Mikey.