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Marvel's Baddest Vet Absolutely Lives Up To His Title In 'The Punisher' Season 2
Why, oh why didn't you just kill Billy Russo when you had the chance, Frank?
That's the question I asked myself throughout the entirety of The Punisher's second season, which Task & Purpose had a chance to review ahead of the show's Jan. 18 release. Most of those 13 blood-soaked episodes would have been unnecessary if Jon Bernthal's titular character had just killed, instead of maimed, his one-time friend and brother in arms at the end of season one.
Fortunately for us, and less than fortunate for Frank and the villains he sets his sights on, he didn't, and that means we get another season of rip-roaring revenge. (Warning: there are mild spoilers ahead.)
The second season picks up where the first left off, with Frank Castle having successfully killed or otherwise dispatched everyone involved in the death of his family. He's now on the road, wandering from town to town, and for one brief moment — so brief it doesn't last to the second episode — Frank has a chance to start anew. He meets a nice woman, they spend an evening (and awkward morning) together, and he considers a different path.
And then it all promptly goes to shit.
By the end of episode one Frank is standing in the center of a bar covered in blood with bodies piled up around him, and he's found himself the de facto protector of a juvenile delinquent who's being hunted by a team of assassins. Frank's new charge, Amy Bendix (Giorgia Whigham), is on the run from a Christian fundamentalist named John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart) who was sent to hunt her down because she's gotten ahold of some photos that could be compromising for a powerful American political family.
He's back to finish the job. Marvel's The Punisher/Netflix
And then, almost as soon as this story arch is introduced, the show pivots and Frank and his new protege, who's there as much to get into trouble as to deliver sassy one-liners, are whisked away to New York to hunt down Russo who's escaped from the hospital, and to make him pay for his deeds.
Which makes it particularly disappointing, for both Frank and the audience, when it's revealed that Russo doesn't remember a damn thing about himself. Once a cold-blooded killer who betrayed everyone who ever cared for him, all for a corner office and a paycheck — he's now just a patchwork of shattered memories, haunted by the leering white skull that The Punisher wears on his flak jacket. For Russo, he's still back in the sandbox with his buddies. They're still Marines, still brothers, and so when Frank comes for him, it's actually Russo who feels betrayed.
That's really what season two is all about: tit for tat vengeance.
Despite that jumbled pile of confusing plot-lines, the second season delivers on some of the show's strongest elements. The cinematography and choreography are as beautiful as the combat sequences are brutal, and the show seamlessly incorporates its numerous veterans backstories in a way that feels natural and plausible, well, for the most part.
When Russo is re-introduced, he's seen sporting a mask that he's painted during his recovery — a nod from show runner Steve Lightfoot to an art therapy project used to help patients with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. In another scene, Frank drops the "vet card" when he casually explains away his ass-kicking proficiency with "I was in the Marines." Then there's "Valhalla," what Russo and his crew call their hideout, and the use of "mic" instead of minute, casually tossed about acronyms like "CQB," and other bits of military lingo sprinkled in like so much prepackaged MRE seasoning.
Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) in 'The Punisher' wears an art therapy mask similar to those used to help patients with traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. Marvel's The Punisher/Netflix
Beyond little snippets of dialogue, the characters' military service feels integral to their identity, rather than just a throwaway explanation for why they're all so damn good at shooting people. This is particularly true for Frank Castle, whose time in the Marine Corps provides the foundation for his beliefs: It explains his rage at Russo's betrayal, and his singular focus on the task at hand.
In one scene, Frank, sporting his signature flak jacket and white skull motif, takes on a dozen disheartened veterans that Russo has pulled to his side by the lure of money, power, and a restored sense of purpose.
The ensuing brawl is less of a fight between men than what might happen when you give an unstoppable force a submachine gun, and put it up against a flimsy cardboard wall, instead of an immovable object. By the end of the bloodbath, much like the end of the season, punishment has been dealt, loose-ends tied up, and only one man is left standing.
I'm pretty sure you can guess who.
Season 2 of Marvel's The Punisher airs on Netflix Jan. 18, 2019.
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KABUL/WASHINGTON/PESHAWAR, Pakistan (Reuters) - The United States and the Taliban will sign an agreement on Feb. 29 at the end of a week long period of violence reduction in Afghanistan, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the Taliban said on Friday.
In the wee hours of Jan. 8, Tehran retaliated over the U.S. killing of Iran's most powerful general by bombarding the al-Asad air base in Iraq.
Among the 2,000 troops stationed there was U.S. Army Specialist Kimo Keltz, who recalls hearing a missile whistling through the sky as he lay on the deck of a guard tower. The explosion lifted his body - in full armor - an inch or two off the floor.
Keltz says he thought he had escaped with little more than a mild headache. Initial assessments around the base found no serious injuries or deaths from the attack. U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted, "All is well!"
The next day was different.
"My head kinda felt like I got hit with a truck," Keltz told Reuters in an interview from al-Asad air base in Iraq's western Anbar desert. "My stomach was grinding."
A video has emerged showing a U.S. military vehicle running a Russian armored truck off the road in Syria after it tried to pass an American convoy.
Questions still remain about the incident, to include when it occurred, though it appears to have taken place on a stretch of road near the Turkish border town of Qamishli, according to The War Zone.
Editor's Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.
We are women veterans who have served in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps. Our service – as aviators, ship drivers, intelligence analysts, engineers, professors, and diplomats — spans decades. We have served in times of peace and war, separated from our families and loved ones. We are proud of our accomplishments, particularly as many were earned while immersed in a military culture that often ignores and demeans women's contributions. We are veterans.
Yet we recognize that as we grew as leaders over time, we often failed to challenge or even question this culture. It took decades for us to recognize that our individual successes came despite this culture and the damage it caused us and the women who follow in our footsteps. The easier course has always been to tolerate insulting, discriminatory, and harmful behavior toward women veterans and service members and to cling to the idea that 'a few bad apples' do not reflect the attitudes of the whole.
Recent allegations that Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie allegedly sought to intentionally discredit a female veteran who reported a sexual assault at a VA medical center allow no such pretense.
Survival expert and former Special Air Service commando Edward "Bear" Grylls made meme history for drinking his own urine to survive his TV show, Man vs. Wild. But the United States Air Force did Bear one better recently, when an Alaska-based airman peed in an office coffee maker.
While the circumstances of the bladder-based brew remain a mystery, the incident was written up in a newsletter written by the legal office of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on February 13, a base spokesman confirmed to Task & Purpose.