Marvel’s The Punisher is constantly surprising. It’s surprising that it’s so surprising. An unexpected spin-off from season two of Marvel’s Daredevil, its potential seemed limited: an ex-marine is a bit hacked off that his wife and children are killed by gangsters, so tools himself up to the nines with all the guns and ammo he can get his hands on to punish those responsible. And in an age of the alt-right and mass shootings, an angry white man shooting up the neighbourhood because he thinks it’s gone to the dogs doesn’t really have great optics.
Yet, season one of Marvel’s The Punisher was one of TMINE’s Top N shows of 2018, a musing on men’s role in society, class, the brotherhood of soldiering and the nature of war. It saw ‘The Punisher’ aka Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) facing up to former best friend Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) in New York to deal with moral infractions by the CIA, the alt-right and corporate greed, all while slowly realising that maybe he can no longer fit into a family thanks to the violence he’s seen – and meted out.
More surprisingly still, there was actually very little ‘punishing’. Indeed, I pointed out that “Frank Castle hardly feels like ‘The Punisher’ at all.”
Season two isn’t that different in that regard. Indeed, contrary to Netflix’s standard “first season as a pilot” rule, I’d say here, it’s “two seasons as a pilot”, with Frank only becoming The Punisher in the season’s – and perhaps the series’ – final scene. Up to that point, what we have is a curious retread of the first season, but with perspectives switched.
Season two opens with everyone in very different places from where they started season one. Russo is laid up in a coma in hospital, his face now a mangled ‘jigsaw’ thanks to Frank’s work in season one. Department of Homeland Security special agent Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) may now be in charge of New York’s DHS operations, but she’s obsessed with Russo, visiting him every day in hospital, convinced he’s faking his coma and, when he wakes up, his apparent amnesia about what he did in the first season.
Meanwhile, Frank’s in a good place, travelling the US. Unfortunately, one day he goes to the wrong bar and ends up having to save Giorgia Whigham’s Amy Bendix from a group of highly trained killers. Soon, fundamentalist Christian ‘John Pilgrim’ (Shooter‘s Josh Stewart) is on his tail trying to kill both him and Bendix.
You can bet, of course, that those two plot threads are going to intertwine, but their resolution? Maybe not what you’d expect from The Punisher.
In the US: Tuesdays, 9pm, The CW
In the UK: Not yet acquired
Given The CW’s current efforts to expand its drama provision quickly without making every show about a DC superhero, it shouldn’t be too surprising that it’s trawling through its and its predecessors’ archive of successful shows to see if it can find anything good to remake. Charmed was the first on its list and now we have a reboot of 1999 UPN/The WB series Roswell, more geographically explicitly called Roswell, New Mexico.
There’s a reason for that.
You might not remember Roswell. It was based on the Roswell High series of young adult books (not vice versa, as I discovered shortly after reviewing two of them for Dreamwatch back in the day – oops) and tried to capture the power of Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s decision to depict relatively humdrum teenage romances as being of literally Earth-shattering importance, largely because at least one person involved is a bit supernatural or alien.
However, it never managed to hit even a tenth of the impact of Buffy, so if you remember Roswell much at all, it’s probably because you remember its rather splendid theme tune by Dido:
Alternatively, you may remember it as launching the careers of the likes of Katherine Heigl (Suits), Shiri Appleby (UnREAL), Emilie De Ravin (Lost), Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami) and Colin Hanks (Fargo), all of whom have gone onto much better things. And 27 Dresses in Heigl’s case.
If by chance or use of the spice Melange you can actually remember the plot of Roswell, you’ll already know what Roswell, New Mexico is going to present you with, since the first episode is a virtual remake. It sees Jeanine Mason (So You Think You CanDance) taking on Appleby’s role as Liz, now the daughter of two undocumented immigrants. A jaded biomedical researcher elsewhere, she nevertheless returns to her home town of Roswell, New Mexico, that she thought she’d left behind.
While temporarily helping out in her parents’ diner, she’s accidentally shot by anti-immigrants and is about to die. Fortunately, her former High School boyfriend turned town deputy sheriff Max (was Jason Behr but now True Blood‘s Nathan Dean Parsons) is on hand. I say fortunately, because he’s also an alien and has various supernatural powers, including the ability to heal people with his touch, which leaves a glowing palm print on Mason’s skin when he removes the bullet and heals her wound.
Despite sister Isabel (was Heigl, now Lily Cowles) and brother Michael (was Brandon Fehr but now Michael Vlamis)’s express wishes to the contrary, he’s soon revealing all to Mason. He explains that he and they are aliens, survivors of the famous UFO crash landing in Roswell in 1947. Their pods lay dormant for 50+ years, after which they emerged looking like human children and were adopted by human families – or fostered in Vlamis’ case. They’ve kept themselves to themselves to avoid being experimented upon, but he loves her so much, he had to tell her his secret. Otherwise, they just want to be left in peace to live normal lives.
Unfortunately for the aliens, there’s a secret military contingent in town who are keeping an eye out for aliens – and glowing palm prints. They don’t believe that the aliens are peaceful… and surprisingly they might have a point, since the death of Mason’s mum might have a different explanation from the one she’s always been told.