In essence, The Punisher's second season has one of the most radical tonal shifts ever seen in a TV show. Season 2 focuses less on the quiet crisis this country has in giving former members of the military a home again, and tiptoes closer to more traditional superhero comic melodrama. Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) has no superpowers, so it would make sense that his show would skew closer to reality than one about a super-strong woman or a blind man whose other senses are heightened in the extreme. Castle is merely an ex-Marine whose only skill -- or rather, the only skill he'll allow himself to believe he has -- is being really good with a lot of different types of guns. But, now that the show has gotten past his origin story, The Punisher is allowed to have a little fun.
Part of that fun is thanks to Castle's new sidekick, Amy Bendix (Giorgia Wigham), a smart-mouthed young twentysomething who's gotten herself mixed up with a mysterious, scary mob on the hunt for a few rolls of film. It takes a while for her to warm up to Castle, and the two never really stop bickering and insulting each other, but their growing respect for one another as the season progresses provides the one anchor that keeps Castle from becoming a bullet machine. Meanwhile, on the other side of things, his old sneering pal Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) has lost all memory of his and Castle's epic showdown that capped off Season 1, and is now tromping around the city threatening people into telling him who scarred up his face, and cajoling his fellow displaced Marines into doing some casual crime. You know, like a villain would do.
There are certain moments of levity mixed in with the grimdark overarching plot that feel more Shane Black than Avengers: Castle flipping through channels and landing on a nature documentary about bugling elks, a shopping spree set to Amy Winehouse's "Fuck Me Pumps," one thug telling another that he can't wear a rubber mask during a robbery because of his latex allergy. Not that that humor gets in the way of any of the violence. People still get stabbed in the hands, neck, and other body parts, bullets cause cascades of blood more at home in a Jackson Pollock painting (seriously, what is the squib budget for this show?), and Castle's blood-spattered skull vest makes its requisite reappearance.