After the events of the first season, it seems that Frank has decided to travel the country and move on from his violent past.  And he gets real close to doing it.  He lets himself be vulnerable again and, for the first time, seems truly happy.  But of course it’s short lived because when Frank sees someone in need he can’t just turn away.  This leads into several incredible action sequences that bring you right back into Punisher’s violent world.

After all the tragedy that Frank has been through, it’s so refreshing to see him try and be normal.  He’s genuinely making an effort to move on.  I don’t think Frank in season 1 was ready to even think about being in a relationship, but now he seems willing (and able) to flirt.  Him opening up to Beth about his family and his past also shows a huge amount of growth.  Frank is making himself vulnerable because he’s ready to move on.  He’s trying to remake himself after all the horrors that he’s been through.  When they’re in bed together he says to Beth, “Look my past — it’s my past you know.  The only that matters here is that my shit, my issues, they won’t come to your front door, you know.  And that — that’s a promise.”

Even though Frank’s past isn’t what ends up harming Beth, this sequence is so much more tragic because we know how it’s going to end.  Not just because there’d be no season 2 if he settled down to a normal life in Michigan, but because we saw him bloodied in the opening of the episode.  This is perhaps the strongest part of the episode because even though we’ve been shown exactly how this will end, that doesn’t stop us from enjoying seeing Frank happy.  We root for him and Beth to be able to make it work because we know how much Frank needs this.  Just like Frank, we imagine their happy life together and smile as Rex drenches his pancakes in syrup.  Despite our knowledge of how this will play out we root for it and enjoy this brief moment of happiness just as much as Frank.

However, as much as I enjoy seeing Frank happy, seeing him let loose is just as entertaining.  Frank’s methodical and reluctant attitude throughout the bathroom fight brought the fight to another level.  He doesn’t want to get involved because he knows it means throwing away everything he just tried to build.  Frank realizes that he can’t give up his old life, but his attackers have knives and he has a belt so he might as well put it to use!  The choreography was incredible with each hit having a ton of weight to it.  They get a moment of respite once Frank clears the bathroom and he presses the girl to tell him what’s going on.  Frank knows that he’s already so deep into whatever’s happening that he has no choice but to continue forward.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t take very long for Frank and the girl to get spotted by their attackers and what initially looks like a bar fight turns into a complete bloodbath.  Frank holds off the assailants for as long as possible with some help from Ringo, the bouncer at the bar and the real MVP of the episode, in another incredible action sequence.  Even though Beth is able to load and fire the shotgun, she gets spotted and shot by one of the assailants.  It’s not until after Frank finishes the fight that he finds her and his reaction is incredibly heartbreaking.  Even though he’s probably blaming himself and terrified about what will happen to her (and her son) his military training takes over and he begins doing whatever he can to patch her wounds and bring her to a hospital as quickly as possible.  Frank then makes the decision to leave and investigate whatever the hell just went down.

While this episode does a superb job of establishing what Frank’s up to it also sets up some of the general plot elements for the season.  We’re introduced to Pilgrim who remains incredibly mysterious.  He’s clearly not above torture and his “disciples” are both ruthless and well armed.  Although, because we saw so little of him, it’s a bit hard to judge how Pilgrim’ll stack up to some of the other Netflix villains.

By the end of the episode we also see Dinah and Billy who each seem to be grappling with their own issues.  Dinah take a big drink before she taunts Billy so it’s possible she might be dealing with alcoholism this season.  It wouldn’t be surprising considering everything that happened to her last season.  And Billy is recovering from his injuries while being closely watched by the police.  The ominous eye-open could mean that he’s much more conscious than people think, but we’ll just have to keep watching to find out!

VERDICT

5 syrup drenched pancakes out of 5.  

This was a perfect way to open the season and the episode did a phenomenal job of bringing us back into Frank’s world.  It struck the perfect balance between quiet character moments with Beth and her son as well as the tense action sequences.  Jon Bernthal continues to knock it out of the park with his portrayal of Frank Castle and I having a feeling that’s going to be a continuous trend throughout the season.  Whether he’s caressing a woman’s face or slamming a dude through a sink, his dedication to the character comes through in every scene he’s in.  If the rest of the season is just as strong as this opening episode then I think we’re in for something truly special!

ONE-SHOTS

  • Even Frank’s favorite hockey team can’t catch a break.
  • Poor Ringo, he just wanted to eat his burger in peace.  He deserved so much better.
  • It was so enjoyable to see how confident the “disciples” were before fighting Frank as he’s slowly wrapping the belt around his arm. And that slow build up was paid off in spades!
  • Rex seems like a cool kid and Frank would have been such a great step-father.