“Roadhouse Blues” sets off The Punisher Season 2 with a bang, reintroducing Frank Castle and another world of violence he can’t help but get involved in.
This recap of Marvel’s The Punisher Season 2 Episode 1, “Roadhouse Blues”, contains spoilers. You can check out our full series coverage by clicking these words.
And it begins how you must have expected it would: With punishment. Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) and a mystery girl (Giorgia Whigham) in a blacked-out van, the former covered in blood (when is he not?), the latter wide-eyed with terror. A gun emerges from the window like a natural extension of Frank’s arm, belching bullets at goons who collapse like fairground targets. This is The Punisher Season 2, no doubt about that. Cue the credits.
But then it gets weird. We’ve jumped back in time a bit. There’s Frank, but not covered in blood – not yet, anyway. He’s sipping beer in a no-account little bar called Lola’s Roadhouse, flirting with the pretty bartender. The mystery girl is there; maybe hesitant, maybe cautious, but not terrified – not yet, anyway. She’s rude, too. She calls Frank “rough road”, which he seems to like. He’s chilling, really. Just Frank being Frank. Even when a pissed-up local starts some s**t, he keeps it together. “I didn’t need saving,” says the bartender. “Maybe I just don’t like assholes,” says Frank. Sounds like him.
There’s something going on in “Roadhouse Blues”, no doubt about that. The mystery girl calls a Russian who is being held captive, who presumably wants something she’s carrying. When Frank leaves with the woman from the bar, she picks the lock of a motel room and sneaks inside for the night. She’s resourceful, then, if obviously out of her depth. Her predicament doesn’t bode well for anyone, least of all her.
Yeah, Frank left with the barmaid. It’s out of character and these scenes – moments of tenderness and openness – don’t necessarily feel like scenes from The Punisher. Frank is trying to be normal. It’s a decent act, but how far can it take him? He knows who he is; he knows that being close to him is dangerous. Bernthal brings it all through in his performance, as ever. You can see his trauma flickering in the blackness of his pupils. He doesn’t play Frank Castle, he – however temporarily – becomes him.
But Frank can’t stop being Frank, even when he tries not to be. He takes the bartender, Beth, and her son Rex out for breakfast – a parting gift, before he hits the road. And he hits the road. But uncharacteristically he turns back; for another beer, to see the band again, for another night with Beth, for another few hours of being normal. Of not being Frank Castle. These must be the roadhouse blues the episode title speaks of. But he arrives at around the same time that some hired goons arrive to deal with the mystery girl and her mystery package. And here we go.
What follows is what we call an equal opportunity beatdown. The Punisher doesn’t discriminate against henchmen of either gender. Two women and a dude catch the hands – and the feet, and the knives – in a hand-to-hand bathroom brawl that is merely a precursor to a full-scale barroom eruption. People get stabbed and shot and hit with stools and shotguns. Beth takes an unfortunate bullet to the shoulder and starts bleeding out. Frank looks like he attended Carrie’s prom. Back into the blacked-out van we go; back to the beginning of the episode.
Well, that was certainly an opening.
A flurry of events conclude “Roadhouse Blues”. Frank drops Beth off at the hospital and hits the road with the mystery girl, who is presumably his captive for now. Josh Stewart (playing a character based on the Mennonite by the name of John Pilgrim – more on him soon) surveys the carnage at Lola’s Roadhouse and watches Frank on CCTV. And Special Agent in Charge Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) stands at the bedside of Billy Russo (Ben Barnes), who ominously opens his eyes.
“Will there be more of them?” asks the mystery girl. “I hope so,” replies Frank.