The Punisher season 2 finds itself in an odd place — as one of two survivors of Netflix’s purge of gritty Marvel shows starring streetwise superheroes. So it perhaps has even more to prove with its upcoming second season than the widely acclaimed Jessica Jones, as The Punisher boasts a more widespread fanbase and a protagonist whose mantra puts himself at odds with the current landscape. So how will the second season of The Punisher fare?
The first season of The Punisher was well-received, largely for star Jon Bernthal‘s dedicated growling performance and for the show’s attempts to dig deeper into trauma and vengeance. Now season 2 has been reviewed by some critics, who are evenly divided on whether it’s good or not — seemingly dependent on whether they liked season 1 or not.
See what The Punisher season 2 early buzz is below.
Collider‘s Haleigh Foutch writes that the second season of The Punisher swaps the “meaningful commentary” of season 1 “for the eternal sound of another chambered round,” leaning into the comics’ pulpy ultraviolence:
That seems to be The Punisher’s overall course in Season 2; a regrettable step back from something that was once more; more thoughtful, more dramatic, more considerate, and more relevant. It’s more in other ways — more action-packed, more brutal, more plot-driven — but without a core emotional anchor to hook into, the whole feels less than the sum of its exciting parts. At a pivotal moment, it seems willing once again to engage with the tough questions surrounding Frank’s murderous punitive instincts but ultimately cowers, committing one of the most egregious acts of letting a character off the hook in recent memory. The Punisher Season 2 wants to have it both ways; wants you to take in the costs of what it means to be a ruthless man of vengeance, but also wants to let you off as easy as its characters, putting aside the heavy questions in favor of pure, energetic spectacle, just a bit too left of reality to be taken seriously.
Forbes‘ Merrill Barr writes that season 2 cements The Punisher as Marvel and Netflix’s best drama — though with steadily dwindling competition, that may not be saying much:
Overall, Punisher season two is more of the same from season one. But, since that same was already great, it’s hard to make a case against rocking the boat unnecessarily. The show is fully formed and Bernthal simply takes the wind out of the sail of any of his fellow Defenders. It doesn’t get more straight forward than that.
Games Radar‘s Alex Avard on the other hand, notes that The Punisher falls into some of the same pitfalls of other Marvel-Netflix sophomore seasons, but is elevated by Bernthal’s performance:
Almost all of Marvel’s Netflix shows have struggled to strike lucky twice with their sophomore seasons, and The Punisher season 2 is no exception. With misjudged storytelling and a weak central villain, the show has its disappointments. But, just like Frank himself, you can’t help appreciate what’s there in spite of its faults. Bernthal’s awards-worthy performance, alongside the well written dialogue and ambitious action choreography, make The Punisher season 2 a worthwhile watch that just about satisfies expectations, with a bold final shot that’s sure to make comic book fans giddy. If this is to be the last we see of Bernthal’s Punisher, as Netflix’s ongoing cancellation of its Marvel shows suggests, then he’s gone out with a fittingly thunderous bang.
Den of Geek‘s Tyler McCarthy calls season 2 “a big improvement over the first season,” especially in its stunning action sequences:
The Punisher Season 2 can be considered a triumph for its action sequences alone. While the first season seemed to avoid showing the over-the-top, Garth Ennis-style violence many fans were hoping for, this season goes all in with impressive gun battles and bloody fist fights that serve to entertain while still allowing the character to feel grounded in reality. However, despite its improvements on tone, action and characters, it’s hardly a perfect season of television. Like most of these shows, there’s a handful of bad – and I’m going to start with the pettiest gripe I have.
ComicBook.com’s Kofi Outlaw goes as far to argue that The Punisher season 2 is the best Marvel-Netflix sophomore season yet:
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.
However, Metro UK‘s Adam Starkey is of the polar opposite opinion, writing that the show’s “frustratingly dull return misses the mark”:
The Punisher season two is a frustratingly dull return which suffers from the worst habits of Marvel and Netflix shows (too many episodes, glacial pacing), while managing to bungle its bright spots. If the cancellations of Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil point towards doom for the series, you’re better off crashing out early and avoiding this second outing altogether.
Half of the critics argue that The Punisher season 2 is an improvement upon season 1, the other half say it is a downgrade. It all seems to depend on whether season 1’s more slow-paced, introspective moments worked for them — if not, the second season’s pulpy ultraviolence seems to give them The Punisher they craved; if yes, then season 2 doesn’t have the same impact as the first. But all critics are in agreement that Bernthal is a riveting star, and that the action sequences are as relentlessly entertaining as ever. Whether The Punisher season 2 will hit the mark for you depends on what you want and expect from the series.
The Punisher season 2 debuts on Netflix on January 18, 2019.
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