So I just binged-watched PUNISHER Season 2 and after finally getting some sleep and regaining a normal adult routine, I took some time to think about it. My biggest takeaway from the latest (possibly final?) season was that it largely focuses on the identity crises of the main characters. Essentially, the motivations and goals making up who they are coming apart. Let’s take a look at the characters in PUNISHER Season 2 and their various identity crises in detail.

PUNISHER Season 2: Agent Madani

When we last left Agent Madani, she had been shot in the head by Billy Russo. The best friend of Frank Castle, Billy Russo was also in the marines. However, unlike Frank, Billy became complicit and aided in the conspiracy laid out by their superiors. Stateside, Billy was running his own military contracting firm, amassing wealth and glory, while also assisting to keep his corrupt activities in the Middle East hidden. When Frank finds out that Billy has a hand in his family’s death, Frank and Billy go head to head in the park where they died. Frank takes Billy’s head, ramming him into the glass on a carousel, disfiguring him.

Madani’s part in the picture was having a romantic relationship with Billy after investigating him. Going forward, PUNISHER Season 2 sees Madani basing the majority of her purpose around convincing people that Billy belongs in prison. This is despite Billy’s severe injuries from Frank, resulting in Billy unable to remember his crimes. Believing Billy is faking his memory loss, Madani’s wants to prove it and send him to prison.

PUNISHER Season 2
Image from Marvel/Netflix

Madani’s focus is on Billy because of her shame. She prides herself on being the best and seeking justice no matter the obstacles or politics in her way. Her intimate involvement with Billy was a risk, a risk she was warned about, and it cost her dearly. Like, shot in the head and losing her partner dearly. Billy betraying her compromised her reputation and her perceptions of herself. The things she had built much of her identity on had been torn down by Billy. Now, the goal of taking Billy down is the replacement. She centers all of her being around it.

Billy Russo Attempts to Put His Identity Back Together

This idea of self-formed identities coming apart continues even more so with Billy Russo. As previously mentioned, PUNISHER Season 2 begins with Russo unable to remember his past life or crimes. Basically, the FBI pins all of Frank’s misdeeds and murders on Billy, in order to give Frank a clean slate. However, there is a controversy on whether or not to put Billy in prison due to his mental trauma.

PUNISHER Season 2
Image from Marvel/Netflix

Billy is able to remember his life before his crimes, such as his times in the Marines with Frank, back when they were still friends. So waking up, finding yourself with a mangled face, unable to remember a vast chunk of your life, with terrible nightmares of skulls but not knowing why is sure to rip apart what you once think of your identity.

PUNISHER Season 2
Image from Marvel/Netflix

As PUNISHER Season 2 goes on, Billy begins to remember his old life and more recent conflicts with Frank Castle. He puts the pieces of his life back together, like a Jigsaw, thereby justifying his Marvel Comics-based name. He seeks the money and leadership he once had with his military contract firm, albeit in a more criminal fashion, gathering fellow disenfranchised veterans and engaging in coordinated heist attempts. Just as he begins to reform his identity in this manner, he comes face to face to Frank, wearing his skull vest. It shakes Billy to his already fragile core, and he remembers that it was Frank is the cause of his current state. It’s then that Billy determines to take Frank down to his level.

PUNISHER Season 2: Frank Castle

Last, but of course, not least, we come to Frank Castle. Upon first meeting Frank in DAREDEVIL, we see that his motives, while tragic, are pretty straightforward. His family was murdered by corrupt members of the U.S government. He then makes it his mission to kill those responsible, exposing their crimes and punishing them for their misdeeds. He achieves this in DAREDEVIL and the first season of PUNISHER. The Punisher name itself is one that the media gives him, not one he outright embraces at the start of his vengeful vigilante career.

PUNISHER Season 2 sees Frank traveling as a sort of a drifter, seemingly content with his life and staying out of trouble until a girl carrying sensitive information about powerful people crosses his path. He can’t help but get involved, saving her from hired guns sent to kill her. It brings him (and her) back to New York where he crosses paths with Billy Russo, as previously mentioned. He looks to take Billy out for good.

PUNISHER Season 2
Image from Marvel/Netflix

While hunting Billy down, Billy creates a scenario causing Frank to believe that he inadvertently kills three innocent women in pursuit of him. This causes Frank to completely give himself up to the NYPD. Why? Because he has formed his identity and justified his violent actions around a code. He only kills those who are by no means innocent. Therefore, by killing innocents his identity has been torn down. Frank now sees himself as no better than those he punishes. Now, eventually, the truth comes to light courtesy of Madani. Frank regains his identity as a self-perceived Punisher of justice, escaping custody.

An Impressive Narrative Of Interweaving Identity Crises

It’s not hard to look at Madani, Billy, and Frank to see how one affects the actions and self-perceived identity of another. Madani’s identity is rocked and changed by Billy’s actions, Billy’s is incredibly warped by Frank/Madani, and Frank’s identity is shaken by Billy, then reinforced by Madani. It’s very intriguing and entertaining.

On the whole, PUNISHER Season 2’s narrative is a lot smaller in scope when compared to its’ predecessor. The events that occur aren’t as spectacular or big as Frank taking on the men who took his family away. No, PUNISHER Season 2 looks at what happens to its’ characters after this happens. The results of that conflict and how they move forward. Madani can’t get past her failure, Billy seeks to rebuild his former life, albeit with hazardous desperation. Frank can’t stay away from conflict, no matter how much he tells himself otherwise.

PUNISHER Season 2
Image from Marvel/Netflix

At his core, he wants to be in the fight because that’s who he is. He’s the Punisher. Burdened by loss, resolved in his determination to permanently end those who have done wrong with his own brand of justice. PUNISHER Season 2 is smaller because of its’ character focus and that makes it better than the first in my mind. It’s very likely that PUNISHER will be canceled as the other Marvel Netflix shows have, and that’s a huge shame, because oh my gosh this series is so legit. If you haven’t seen PUNISHER Season 2 or both seasons, please do. Regardless of whether or not you’re a Marvel fan, watch it. It’s incredibly dynamic and worth binging as I did. You’ll be glad you did.

PUNISHER Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix staring Jon Bernthal, Amber Rose Revah, and Ben Barnes

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