'Marvel's The Punisher' Showrunner on Billy Russo's Season 2 Journey
Steve Lightfoot goes into SPOILERS on Billy's motivations and the overall approach to Season 2's villains.
Note: FULL SPOILERS follow for “Marvel’s The Punisher” Season 2, including for the season finale.
If you haven’t seen the season yet, it’s now streaming on Netflix!
Season 2 of “Marvel’s The Punisher” found Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) living a much different existence than in the first season, with both his face and his brain damaged following his brutal encounter with the friend he had terribly betrayed, Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), at the end of Season 1.
Billy eventually managed to find both a new crew and a woman he loved, Krista Dumont (Floriana Lima), as the season progressed, but he wasn’t destined for a happy ending. In the end, he was mortally wounded by Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah), someone else he’d betrayed – with Frank ultimately finishing him off.
When it came to Billy’s final fate, “Marvel’s The Punisher” Executive Producer/Showrunner Steve Lightfoot told Marvel.com, “We were sort of finding it as we went. I always liked the idea that the Billy and Frank of it all was a tragedy of two brothers. One of them made a mistake and betrayed the other and everything spilled from that and he could never forgive him. A lot of the stuff with Billy and his brain injury and the emotional changes he went through this year, we did a lot of research with how traumatic brain injury works and can change people. And out of that and how it can affect memory, I really liked the idea that because he doesn’t remember what he did, he feels like the aggrieved party. In essence. Billy this season is Frank in Season 1. He thought he was the guy who had been terribly betrayed by a brother. It was fun to flip the script on those guys.”
Season 2 subverts expectations by not having Frank and Billy engage in a big final showdown in the season finale. Remarked Lightfoot, “Obviously, they have a big shootout in episode seven and eight and another confrontation in episode ten. As we got into breaking story, toward the end, it felt like it would be too much for them to do that yet again. But it also felt wrong that Frank would let him live again. All the events of Season 2, and all the people that get hurt, essentially happened because Frank let him live the first time. I couldn’t find any way that felt Frank would make that mistake again. Then once we’d done that, it was about what’s the most tragic, emotional ending for both of them? And I think that scene where Frank kills him is super sad. Hopefully half the audience are hoping for Billy to die in his arms and some sort of rapprochement at the end. And Billy’s hoping for that. But Frank’s gone too far. He is what he is now. And for him Billy is a loose end that needs to be put to bed. It’s sad because it shows you how far down the road Frank now is to being a guy who is going to close himself off and just deal with business.”
While Anderson (Corbin Bernsen) and Eliza Schultz (Annette O’Toole) more cruelly pull the strings – perhaps Eliza most of all – most of Season 2’s antagonists, including Billy, Krista, and John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart) are given notably sympathetic aspects and explanations for what motivates them, whether it be past trauma or current loved ones.
Discussing his approach to the villains, Lightfoot said, “I think the joy for me -- and I know some people would say the shows are too long -- but the joy of the Marvel Netflix shows is there’s room to really delve into character. That’s what’s so great about television over feature films is there’s so much room to get into everyone and give everyone their own story arc and I think when villains just get to be villainous, they’re not much fun. They all think they’re doing the right thing and that they’re the hero. They’re very much justified. If you can put the audience in everyone’s head, it’s just far more interesting dramatically for me. Krista is a very damaged person and she finds the one person, in Billy, who both makes her feel good but also makes that damage worse and brings out the worst side of her. You can find parallels in that in lots of relationships and couples where you’re looking at them together and going ‘You probably really shouldn’t be.’ So yeah, I just find making the villain as interesting in terms of character as the heroes makes a really interesting show.”
As the season nears its end, Billy and Krista decide to leave town, forgoing any more plans to try and stop Frank and instead go off and have a happy life together – but before that can happen, Madani’s suspicions about Krista lead her to come to her apartment and into two huge confrontations, the first of which sends Krista out a window and the second of which ends with Billy shot.
Said Lightfoot, “That was the tragedy for me and I loved when we got to this place in the writers room. Love won! Billy and Krista, they’ve done a lot of bad stuff. But Billy, unlike Frank, was able to take love over revenge. The problem was Dinah Madani and, in a way, the damage Billy had done to her in Season 1 was what eventually stopped his happy ending. It wasn’t Frank. And we owe Dinah that as a character. Frank’s had two shootouts [with Billy] and Dinah deserved her showdown with him. She needed to look him in the eye and have that moment. So that’s how that end of episode twelve all came together.”
Click here to see what Lightfoot told us about the inspirations for John Pilgrim!
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