Perhaps the best example of why 13 episodes are way too much for these Marvel/Netflix shows, “Flustercluck” is another episode of season two that feels like its just tryin to kill some time until we get to the final episodes and the script can actually move forward. This season started pretty strong, with three great episodes in a row to get the fans hooked for what was next. However, from that point on, we got the very same issues that nearly all Marvel shows on Netflix seem to have.

Since Billy Russo escaped the hospital and Dinah, Frank and Amy arrived in New York, six episodes have passed. That’s nearly six hours of content, storytelling and character development that, if the writers had mantained the rhythm of the first three episodes, could have shaped this season into one of the best of all these shows. Instead, they decided to fill every episode with repetitive scenes and dialogues that try to explore personality traits or relationships that are already very much clear to the audience. In this time, Pilgrim went to New York looking for Frank and Amy, Billy got involved with his therapist, formed a gang of veterans and now knows what he did. That’s how much the story has actually progressed in six hours. Would have been a good progress for one, maybe two episodes, but certainly not six. The result is a show that’s growing more and more tedious, with a few action scenes in the middle to remind us that this is still a Punisher show.

That doesn’t mean, of course, that there isn’t good stuff going on in episode nine. It has been said before, but Ben Barnes truly deserves more praise for his work this season than he’s getting. There was a version of Billy Russo from season one that we all knew and loved, and he’s still somewhere in Billy Russo from season two. His mind and his face may have been shattered by Frank, but deep down he still is the same person he always was. Barnes’ job of making Billy look mad and insecure at the same time that the audience can still see the manipulative mastermind side of him is simply brilliant.

Speaking of him, what exactly is his goal with the robberies and murders alongside his fellow, manipulated veterans? For them, it is about the money and the power, of course, but Russo is bigger than that. It makes sense with his personality post trauma, but it’s hard to believe the old, smart side of him would do that for no reason. This may be further explained down the line, or it may not. It works as it is, but it would be better if it was all just some part of a bigger plan. This is also the episode where he learns what he did to Frank, though, as expected, that doesn’t change much. He’s still focused on how much Frank made him suffer and is unable to relate to how much Frank suffered because of him.

Amy, on the other hand, who started the season as a mysterious and promising character who could be something of a X-23 to The Punisher’s Wolverine, is revealing herself to be a lot more impulsive than rational. After somehow being lucky enough to find someone who will fight to protect her, she refuses to actually help him in the process, and rarely ever does as she’s told. It’s a great thing to make her have a rebel personality, but its another to have a smart character like her not think things through. Despite being perfectly safe at the trailer and having Frank, Curtis and Madani willing to help her with her problems, she goes out against their orders and meets up with a friend, clearly putting her in danger. That looks like something Amy from episode one would do, not like something she’d do after going through so much  and learning all she learned.

This episodes also gives us some more insight into the Pilgrim’s personality and previous life. Nothing is exactly crystal clear, but it seems like he used to be a mobster who, after thinking he was done for in jail, found his way back to dignity through religion and a new boss. Much is still unclear on that front, but Pilgrim is continually interesting thanks to Josh Stewart‘s magnetic performance.

It would be negligent not to talk about Jon Bernthal’s performance. The man truly became The Punisher, and now there is no thinking about the character without thinking about him. This episode, he tells Amy that what happened to his family didn’t turn him into what he is now, but that, instead, he always was this way. More than that, Maria always knew that. It deepens his cuts, as he now thinks his wife accepted him despite this side of him, and that it somehow kept him civilized. The further implications of this thought remain to be seen.

After so many episodes without the script moving forward more than a little, it seems that things will soon pick up. We are, afterall, merely four episodes away from the season finale, and there is still a lot to happen. Here’s to hoping this season will have final episodes as good as the first ones.

VERDICT

3 removed thumbs out of 5.

Despite the season’s ever-slow pacing, “Flustercluck” still manages to deliver some good moments, mostly thanks to the fantastic job done by its cast. The script, on the other hand, can’t seem to find creative ways to fill the Netflix/Marvel formula overly long screentime. In an episode with a reward on The Punisher’s head, it could have gone the John Wick way and showed Frank fighting a bunch of people all over New York, giving the audience lots of great action moments in the process. They wouldn’t even have to progress the story at all. Instead, the writers chose to maintain the slow pacing and repeat a lot of scenes and dialogues that seem to be happening since the season started.

ONE-SHOTS

  • Did Frank seriously remove a man’s thumb just to unlock his phone, when he could have reprogrammed the thing to work with his own? Well, it does sound very much like Frank Castle. By the way, “call it a tip” was a genuinely funny moment  in an otherwise very gritty show.
  • The whole sequence of Frank leaving the bar, being tailed by six guys, then murdering five of them in about two seconds just to extract information from the sixth, was probably the most Punisher we got this season.
  • The realistic tone of the Marvel shows on Netflix is great and it works, but they could have made Billy’s face to look more destroyed than it does.
  • Parties with girls, drinks and drugs looks a little too gang-ey for a bunch of veterans with PTSD.