You can’t help but go into viewing this new season of The Punisher without feeling a sense of worry. With the sudden cancellations of Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and now Daredevil the thought of Frank Castle’s Netflix days being numbered puts a damper on the whole experience. But having said that, no news is good news so hopefully we will get more Marvel action on the small screen in this format. Now without further ado on to the review.
We pick up with Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) traveling through Michigan in true Rambo fashion where he stops at a Roadhouse bar listening to the local tunes and having a cold one, minding his own newly awarded freedom after the events from Season 1. He makes quick friends with Beth (Alexa Davalos), the bartender, making small talk and defending her honor from riff raff.
It isn’t long before pleasantries leads to an old fashioned game of Space Invaders between Frank and Beth. Its moments like this where Bernthal really shines as an actor showing Frank’s humanity with those he wants to spend his time with, specifically when Beth is examining Franks scars and learning about his past traumas. Bernthal really excels showing the many sides of Frank in this episode between the tender moments of Beth and her son Rex, his haunted sole during painful reflection periods and the moments when he goes full rage monster which is always just a hair trigger away.
But of course this isn’t a show about Frank’s love life, this is the Punisher, and in this show trouble finds its way to Frank, fast. When Castle returns to his motel he spots a young girl with a backpack, coincidentally the same girl he’s seen at the bar acting suspiciously the night prior. He takes note.
The girl is known as “Rachel” (Giorgia Whigham), and while she promotes an interesting entry point to the story of the episode, we’re given a painfully small dose of clues as to what’s going on. So much so that it hurts the effectiveness of the plot when baddies arrive to town after her. On top of that her character isn’t too well established outside of being a young girl in some sort of great peril.
On the subject of the baddies we are introduced to John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart) and his team of hitters who arrive to Michigan to find the girl. Again, not much information is given so not much can be drawn from that and unfortunately it’s not very interesting at first. Their story takes flight once were back in the Roadhouse back the next night. Rachel awaits her contact, while Frank is back after convincing himself to stay just one more night to spend time with Beth. It isn’t long before Rachel’s plan goes against her and is trapped in the bathroom.
Once Frank becomes aware of what’s going on we get our first big action set piece of the season. And if I can only say one thing about the action in this episode it would be impressive. The bathroom fight scene is one of the more well executed close quarter fights in recent memory as well as the spill out into a bloody shootout which puts the bar patrons in danger including Beth, who is clipped during the skirmish, fuelng Frank’s anger promptly ending the episode with him and the girl on the run.
All in all, “Roadhouse Blues” starts Season Two out on a mostly effective note easing viewers into a simple story of missing data and Frank Castle just simply being the “asshole in the wrong place”. With an astonishing performance by Bernthal he truly is the fuel that makes all of these scenes work. Wonderfully executed action scenes fill hope that the remainder of the season can continue that trend under Show Creator, and episode writer Steve Lightfoot’s direction. Here’s hoping to a strong Season Two and prayers to a Season Three!
Overall Rating: 8.5 out of 10