Photo: Cara Howe (Netflix)

Let’s talk about Dr. Krista Dumont, a wildly uneven character who feels reflective of this wildly uneven season of The Punisher. There are times when the character totally worked—pretty much anytime she was putting on a polite face to manipulate someone and particularly in her relationship with Dinah Madani. But there are other times where I found the character really baffling, particularly in her romance with Billy Russo and how quickly she decided to throw away her entire life (and her moral compass) to be with him. Her sudden, all encompassing love for Billy makes her seem like such a naive child that it’s genuinely hard to imagine how she was able to function as a professional therapist for so long. Is her relationship with Billy part of a pattern she’s had with previous patients or is he unique? And if it’s the latter, what was it about Billy that made her break her entire ethical code to be with him? Yes they connected over a mutual feeling of brokenness, but haven’t all of her patients been emotionally broken in some way? Why is Billy the first one to remind her of her father?

As Dumont explained a few episodes ago, human beings don’t act on logic, they act on emotion and instinct. I don’t need Dumont’s behavior to make sense of a logical level, I just need it to make sense of an emotional level, and that’s where the show dropped the ball. Floriana Lima has done her damnedest to make Dumont’s nonsensical characterization work, but there’s only so much she can do. For as much time as we spent with Dumont, it never really felt like we got to fully understand her. And now she’s (presumably at least) gone for good.

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Indeed, time is slipping through the fingers of all of The Punisher’s characters, who have just one more episode left to wrap up their season-long (and probably series-long) arcs. Yet there are still so many storylines that feel like they’ve barely gotten to the heart of their material. For as important as the Frank/Amy dynamic will likely be in the finale, the show certainly hasn’t spent much time on it lately. The first half of the season loosely developed their relationship and then just kind of froze it in amber while Frank turned his attention elsewhere. There was virtually no fallout from that brutal moment Frank berated Amy, which I assumed was going to be a major turning point in their dynamic. Elsewhere, John Pilgrim still barely feels like a character. And unless the finale is solely about the Schultzs (and good god, I hope it’s not), they’ve added virtually nothing to the series. The Punisher’s second season has somehow felt both long and dragged out, yet also thin and underdeveloped. Thirteen episodes is plenty of space to explore the many different stories this season wanted to tell. The Punisher just lacked the efficiency and focus it needed to make its wide-reaching narrative aims feel cohesive.

For as much as this season has failed on a big picture level, however, there’s still been stuff to enjoy on an episodic one. And that pattern continues in “Collision Course.” The opening ambulance crash sequence brings a new kind of action to The Punisher’s world, which makes for a refreshing change of pace. Mahoney follows Madani’s first season arc as he comes to realize that Frank isn’t a criminal or a hero, he’s just Frank! (Actually he’s 100 percent a criminal, but whatever.) Having Frank go after David Schultz was a totally logical move that still managed to feel like a surprise. And I really can’t emphasize enough just how much work Jon Bernthal is doing to single-handedly hold this scattered season together. I’m ready for this season of The Punisher to come to an end, but I’m definitely not ready to say goodbye to Bernthal’s Castle.

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In terms of other action scenes, the Curtis/John/Amy trailer fight is one of the better staged brawls of the season, one that really captures the scrappy quality that some of the more highly choreographed fights were missing. And while the big Madani/Dumont showdown exists on that more heightened, heavily choreographed plane, it’s fun in its own way too. (That being said, I do feel like a trained agent like Madani shouldn’t have quite so much trouble taking down a civilian. Maybe Dumont took self-defense classes or something.) It helps that the fight, as silly as it is at times, is the culmination of a really great relationship dynamic between Dumont and Madani. After a suspicious phone call, Madani pretty quickly begins to suspect that Dumont’s innocent therapist act is a lie, which leads to some great interactions in which they’re both putting on a veneer of friendship while trying to suss out how much the other knows. Yet rather than feel like a satisfying conclusion to their relationship, “Collision Course” mostly just made me wish this season had spent more time on it.

And then there’s Billy, who’s behavior I found as baffling as Dr. Dumont’s. Again, Ben Barnes does his best to make his arc work, but the idea that Billy is genuinely willing to let go of his grudge against Frank and run off with Dumont felt totally out of character. Billy’s always seemed far more devoted to his military brothers than to Dumont, to the point where I’ve questioned how much he even cares about her at all. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop and for this episode to reveal that his love for Dumont has all been an act. Instead, he seems genuinely devastated when Madani tosses her out a window (in one of the episode’s goofiest images). When did this shift in Billy happen? How is he able to so easily give up on his obsession with Frank? Why does he fairly casually disband Billy’s Boys after working so hard to create the group? When did he fall so hard for Dumont?

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The end of “Collision Course” seems to set up the final confrontations of the season: Billy is off to get revenge on Madani, while Frank is focused on taking care of the Amy/John Pilgrim/Schultzs situation. It’s hard to imagine all of that stuff resolving in a satisfying way in just one episode, but here’s hoping for a miracle!


Stray observations

  • No one has ever worn a police uniform better than Jon Berthnal.
  • Amy got pretty damn lucky that after figuring out John’s hotel room floor, she was able to find his room just by listening for his voice through the door.
  • Sorry to be cynical, but I highly doubt that a predominantly white, small town church is a place where John Pilgrim learned to challenge his racism.
  • David being a U.S. Senator makes him a much more high profile figure than I thought he was. Also, does he recognize Frank as The Punisher? It seems like he doesn’t, but I feel like a Senator from New York should recognize one of New York City’s most infamous figures.
  • On the flip side, Curtis recognizing David as “U.S. Senator Schultz?!?” was a great moment.
  • Binge-review check in: I really related to Frank’s “Mostly, I’d just like to get some sleep” line.
  • When Billy’s cute smiling moment happened, I involuntarily yelled “Prince Caspian!” at my screen.

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Screenshot: The Punisher (Netflix)