The Punisher is back. And he’s ready to punish.
Near the end of 2017, Netflix released their most controversial superhero show to date: The Punisher. Although, we aren’t the first to ask if it can really be classified as a superhero show. While the Punisher is a Marvel character, Frank Castle is a different breed of hero. He’s a good man with a good heart, but a deadly aim and a perhaps questionable moral compass. Is a good guy who kills bad guys truly good? That’s probably a debate best left to the philosophers out there. As for us here at Fiction’s Mistress, we can’t get enough of Frank Castle. And we could not wait to see what he gets up to in the second season of Netflix’s hit show! And trust me when I say, Season 2 wasted no time in diving back into the action.
The premiere opens with Frank, his face covered in blood, driving a black van. In the seat next to him is a new character, a face many will recognize from the trailer, and some may recognize the actress from 13 Reasons Why. The character’s name is Amy, and she’s found herself in a bit of trouble. Aside from that, and the fact that it’s clear that she doesn’t yet trust Frank, that’s all we know.
When he notices they’re being followed, he speeds up, only to be cut off by another car. Three people get out as soon as the van stops, each holding guns pointed at Frank. Amy think’s they’re done for. But before she knows it, Frank pulls out a gun and shoots each of them without blinking before reversing quickly to hit the car that was following them. And cue the main titles.
To learn how these two unlikely allies got into this situation, we first have go back to the night before, which is when most of the episode takes place. If you remember, the end of the Season 1 finale gave Frank Castle a second chance. Thanks to Dinah Madani, our favourite anti-hero has had his prints wiped from the system and can start afresh as Pete Castiglione. And he takes that chance. He heads far away from New York, drifting from state to state, trying not to stay anywhere too long. And currently, he’s staying at a motel somewhere in Michigan, next to bar named Lola’s Roadhouse. And it’s at this bar where he’s currently having a few beers.
Frank looks better than he did in the entirety of the first season. He’s clean-shaven and not sporting even a slight bruise or cut anywhere. Other than old scars, Frank looks…kinda normal. Maybe not happy, but certainly content, which is an odd look for Frank. The chaos that was his life is over. For now.
As he casually listens to the country band playing, a young, surly-looking woman, Amy, slips beside him to order a drink. Though she looks underage, the bouncer approves her, so she’s good for now. But it almost seems like she wants to pick a fight with Frank.
“What are you lookin’ at, Rough Road?”
She keeps staring at him, and while Frank seems utterly confused at first, he asks her if she’s okay. She brushes it off before walking away, settling into a dark corner of the bar, leaving both Frank and the bartender bewildered. Little do they know that this is just the beginning of both of their problems.
The bartender, Beth, is a beautiful woman, and you can bet she deals with some less-than-pleasant men during her shifts. But we know Frank Castle, and when he witnesses one guy harassing her, not only telling her what he wants to do to her, but grabbing her arm and refusing to let go, Frank speaks up in the calmest way we’ve ever seen.
“Hey. Hey! Lady’s tryin’ to work. How’s she gonna pour drinks when you’re holding onto her arm like that? Let go.”
He even thanks the man when he lets go of her arm. This is definitely Frank Castle talking, not the Punisher. But when the man starts shoving/poking Frank, he grabs his hand and bends it back in a way that doesn’t break it, but certainly causes some pain. But this guy is not backing down. He breaks a beer bottle and swipes at Frank’s face, which he easily dodges. But before Frank has a chance to make a move against him, the bouncer, Ringo, steps in, laying him flat against the bar. He threatens to kick Frank out, too, but Beth vouches for him, and this is when they start to bond. We even get to see Frank be a little bit playful again!
Beth: “I didn’t need saving.”
Frank (smiling): “Maybe I just don’t like assholes.”
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Frank with a genuine smile on his face. It’s a refreshing sight.
Meanwhile, we flash to a new set of characters, one of whom is John Pilgrim. He’s been teased as one of the villains of the season, a man with a highly religious background and a violent nature. That’s made evident in this first scene, where he has a man stripped to his undergarments, tied to a chair, and bloodied. Pilgrim is after something that the man knows about, but we aren’t sure what yet. That is, until the man in the chair gets a call from none other than Amy.
Amy apparently worked for someone named Fiona, and according to her, someone killed everyone involved in this secret operation except for her. She ran to Michigan, and she still has what they were after, what she was hired to retrieve: a set of photographs. She wants out, and tells the man to meet her at Lola’s Roadhouse the next night, and to come alone. We all know where this is going.
As for Pilgrim, he has the information he needs. So, he decides to give the man in the chair peace, as he promised. Pilgrim wraps his arm around the man’s neck, slowly choking the life out of him, and reciting a prayer all the while. And we have no doubt that he believes what he is doing is the will of God.
Back at the bar, people start to clear out as it’s about to close, with Frank and Beth still bonding. He’s about to head back to his motel room when Beth asks if he’d like to go to her place to have a drink. He’s taken aback at this, and she bows her head shyly, embarrassed, before he eagerly accepts her offer. She asks him to promise he’s not an asshole, something Frank, of course, won’t do. It’s this that convinces her he isn’t one.
As they drive off in her truck, we spot Amy ducking behind bushes and across to the motel, quietly knocking at one of the doors. After no one responds, she takes out her gear and picks the lock. She’s no stranger to this, but we still have no idea who exactly she is and why she knows what she does. This girl is all mystery. But the real question is did she just break into Frank’s room?
Back at Beth’s place, as she and Frank share a drink together, we learn that she has a son, Rex. He stays at her mother’s when she works at the bar, and apparently Rex’s father has never been in the picture. And that’s for the best. She’s visibly worried that Frank might be the same kind of guy, but Frank Castle has the best response to her question. One that, as Beth says, could be a line, but sounds too sincere coming from Frank.
Beth: “What about you? No one waitin’ at home with the porch light on?”
Frank: “I wouldn’t be here if there was.”
With the conversation turning serious, both of them become a little awkward, and they chuckle, admitting that neither has done this sort of thing before. But that’s kind of what makes them perfect for each other. Both of them have more than one reason to distrust and hate the world, both rarely open up. But in each other, for one night, they can find comfort.
They have sex more than once that night. And the scenes are as moving as they are steamy. Frank even opens up to her in a way that we never thought he would do again. When she asks him about the ring that he wears around his neck, Maria’s, he tells her that his wife and kids were taken from him. And when she calls him Pete, the name he gave her, he confesses that his real name is Frank. He doesn’t tell her everything, of course. He can’t. But he tells her more than he had to. He tells her that he wants this thing between them to be honest, and he promises that his old problems will never show up at her front door. And while she’s taken aback at first, understandably, she believes him.
The next morning, Frank gets dressed and is ready to slip out quietly without waking Beth. But when he heads downstairs, who should be in the living room but Rex, playing with his toys. Frank explains that he’s just a friend, and upon hearing the voices, Beth comes rushing down the stairs to greet her little boy. Turns out his grandma dropped him off early without breakfast. Beth tells Frank he should probably go, but she doesn’t realize how good he is with kids. So, he offers to take the two of them to Rex’s favourite breakfast place, his treat.
It’s this scene that is perhaps the most emotional of the episode. Watching Frank have breakfast with Beth and Rex, watching how natural he is with kids, it reminds us not only of what he lost, but what he can never have again. Because as much as he wants to, he can’t have a family again. He won’t risk endangering anyone else. So, this happiness, this warm breakfast, is just that. And it can never be anything more.
Beth drives him back to the motel, where they share a painful and incomplete goodbye. Before she gets back in the truck, she lets him know the same band is playing at the bar again that night. She doesn’t ask him to come, simply drops this bit of knowledge before leaving.
As Frank packs up his stuff and leaves the motel, Amy finds housekeeping trying to get into her room. She quickly grabs her bag and walks out, past the woman who tries to stop her, and bumps into, surprise, Frank. She jumps back, asking if he’s following her, and again, he asks if she’s alright. She hurries off without answering, again leaving Frank confused.
Fast forward to later that night, when Amy returns to the bar, visibly nervous, waiting for the man to arrive and for her part in all of this to be done. Meanwhile, Frank, who had gotten about two hours away, just couldn’t stay away, playfully telling Beth that he came back for the band. It was just too good to pass up.
But it’s a good thing, for Amy, at least, that Frank decided to come back. Because not shortly after he does, at least 10 people walk into the bar, all of whom look more than a little suspicious. No one notices but Frank, but then again, he knows what to look for. Amy spots them and ducks into the bathroom, but catches their eye in the process. As they signal to go after her, Frank stands. He’s incapable of keeping his head down.
Amy hurries into an empty stall, throws her backpack out the window, and tries to climb through. But before she can, two women grab her and pull her back. One of the women throws her against a stall and punches her in the gut. Meanwhile, outside, a man stands guard, telling ladies that someone made a mess in the washroom and it’s currently out of order. This is Frank’s cue.
He stumbles down the hallway, acting piss drunk. And when Amy’s shriek makes the guy turn his head, Frank takes his chance and headbutts him, shoving him into the bathroom and knocking him to the floor. He gets up and is about to pull out his gun, but the woman warns him that they can’t make a scene. So, they pull out their knives instead, thinking they can scare him off. They don’t know who they’re dealing with.
Frank undoes his belt and wraps it around his forearm. They laugh, thinking Frank’s an idiot and over his head. They quickly learn how wrong they are. Each of them come at Frank, more than one of them at once, but between the three of them, they only manage to get a single hit in. Frank throws them against walls, bashes the guy’s head against the sink, and he barely blinks. He helps Amy stand, but the two women get back up and pull their knives again. He gently shoves Amy back into a stall and gets back to fighting. He manages to stab one of the women in the chest, pinning her to the stall, and when he turns around, the other woman is ready to stab him. But before she can, Amy appears behind her, knocking her out with a chunk of the bathroom sink.
Amy looks shocked with herself as Frank asks her who she is, and what she did to make them come after her. She’s about to run, but he tells her in a deep, gruff voice to stay put, and she does. But she refuses to talk. He warns her there are more of them out there, and he threatens to walk out after the third time she doesn’t answer him, but she points out that he wouldn’t just leave her there, after coming into the bathroom to save her. When she asks why he did it, he gives the most Frank Castle answer he can.
“I’m just an asshole who couldn’t stay out of trouble, that’s all.”
She still won’t open up, but he can’t just leave her for them. So, he puts his hands on her arms and guides her in front of him as they maneuver through the bar, trying to avoid the others. But there’s too many of them. They’re on Amy in seconds, and once again, Frank steps in. He takes on multiple guys at once before Ringo joins the fight, making it a little more even. But Ringo doesn’t have the training Frank does. And when one of the women from the bathroom pulls a knife, he doesn’t stand much of a chance. He gets stabbed multiple times. Nothing fatal, but enough to slow him down. Beth’s about to call the cops when she realizes it’s Frank in the fight. She may not know everything, but she knows he can’t get in trouble with the cops again.
While Ringo leans against the bar, trying to recover, Frank has taken out almost all of them. One man remains, and he’s literally on top of Amy, choking her. Frank let’s out what can only be described as a bark, almost like a taunt to the man. And it works. He takes out the man easily, but while he does, a couple of the others get up. And they’re not worried about guns anymore.
Beth frantically loads her shotgun from behind the bar as one of the women shoots Ringo in the chest multiple times. He drops to the ground just as Beth stands with her shotgun, calling out to Frank. Before she has a chance to shoot, the woman shoots her in the shoulder. Frank is truly on his own now.
He throws Amy behind the bar, dodging shots all the while. He grabs the shotgun and shoots the woman in the chest, and then slams it repeatedly into the last man’s face. And so ends the fight.
As Amy peeks her head out behind the bar, Frank calms as he hears Beth’s deep gasps for air. He frantically jumps over the bar, yelling at Amy to toss him a rag, and holds it against her wounded chest, promising that she’ll be alright. They get in the van and drive.
This is when we finally see the scene from the opening of the episode. After reversing into the car that was following them, Frank steps out and shoots them as Amy tries to sneak off. Not on Frank’s watch. He puts her back in the van and gets her to direct him to the nearest hospital, where he drops off Beth, who’s shouting that someone has to let her son know where she is, someone has to look after him. Frank promises he will as the paramedics roll her into the hospital, leaving Frank alone with Amy to figure out what their next move could possibly be. As they drive off, Amy asks if more of them will come, and he tells her they will. That he hopes they do.
Back at the bar, who should come to survey the damage but John Pilgrim, along with the Lieutenant who was working with him. And what should he happen to find, but Amy’s laptop, along with Maria’s ring on the floor, his first clue to finding Frank. He watches the footage, but doesn’t recognize Frank as the Punisher. No doubt he’ll soon get in contact with someone who does. Someone like Billy Russo.
Speaking of Billy, we see very little of him in the Season 2 premiere. But in the last few minutes of the episode, we see him tied down to a hospital bed, wearing what will become his signature Jigsaw mask, with Dinah Madani standing over him, pounding back whatever alcohol of choice is in her flask, and visibly drunk. She leans over him and whispers, “Sweet dreams, asshole”. Our girl’s back, and you can bet she’s in the mood for revenge.
So, where does this leave us? With an injured Beth, a mysterious Amy, a vengeful Dinah, a broken Billy, and Frank, who’s ready to become the Punisher again. This is going to be an intense season.
Episode 2 recap coming soon.
The Punisher Season 2 Is Now On Netflix.