WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Marvel's The Punisher Season 2, streaming now on Netflix.
Although a majority of viewers undoubtedly returned to The Punisher to follow Frank Castle's rematch against one-time best friend Billy Russo, or to see him go toe-to-toe with relentless, but oddly religious, killer John Pilgrim, but neither of those is really the standout of the second season. No, that honor goes to a single character: Amy Bendix.
Played by Giorgia Whigham (13 Reasons Why, Scream: The TV Series), she's a small-time con artist with a big mouth, a list of aliases, and absolutely no idea of how much trouble she's stumbled into. It's Amy, then calling herself Rachel, who in the season premiere inadvertently draws Jon Bernthal's Castle away from a moment of contentment -- he hits it off with a Michigan bartender, and her young son, and appears ready to stick around -- and back into the seemingly never-ending war.
But while Amy is new to the Netflix series, she isn't a new character; her roots lie in Marvel comics.
Introduced in 1994 in Punisher: War Zone #94, Amy was a naive girl with a mental disorder who found a wounded Frank and nursed him back to health. However, when her father, the county sheriff, discovered the vigilante's whereabouts, the threw him in jail, only to be forced to release Frank so he could save Amy from assassins using her to get to The Punisher.
Although we can see shades of those story beats in the first few episodes of the season, the Amy Bendix of the TV series is significantly different from her comic book counterpart. While we can certainly argue that Whigham's character displays naivete -- about the extent of the danger she's in, about protecting herself, about who she can trust -- she's a grifter who's well versed in the ways of the streets. But lock-picking and Three-card Monte can't save her from trained killers working for a wealthy family that will stop at nothing to protect its scion, and its political aspirations. That's where Frank Castle comes in.
On The Punisher, Amy is the sole survivor of the slaughter of a group of young con artists hired by Russian criminals to covertly take photos of up-and-coming U.S. Senator Schultz kissing another man, intended to be used as blackmail when he inevitably runs for president. Sure, it seems like a dated scheme -- as many as 100 LGBT candidates were elected during the 2018 U.S. midterm -- which is only underscored by the use of actual film, which then must be developed so Frank, and the audience, can begin to understand the stakes. But what matters is that the senator's parents aren't willing to take the chance that prejudices might prevent their son from some day taking the White House, and so they send Pilgrim (Josh Stewart) and a virtually endless supply of mercenaries to retrieve the film, and to kill anyone who might have knowledge of it.
Luckily for Amy, she just so happens to cross paths with Frank in the roadside bar where, she's being eyed a bit too closely, calls him "Rough Road," which only endears her to him. When the first mercenaries later move in, and try to blend in, Frank immediately spots them, and comes to Amy's rescue in a bloody brawl. For his efforts, Frank gets a bullet in his ass (a first!), but little thanks from Amy, who resists his help to the point that, when they hole up in a motel, awaiting a second attack, he binds her to the bed with plastic zip ties. When later asked about that part by Sheriff Hardin, Frank shrugs, "She's ungrateful. Kids today got no manners."
However, what Amy lacks in manners, she makes up for with audacity, and surprising steel. She cons a deputy out of $5, then steals a can of soda from the machine, right inside the sheriff's department; and when Agent Madani (Amber Rose Revah) takes Frank and, reluctantly, the girl, back to New York, Amy repays her by swiping her credit card and going on a spending spree (she does collect all of the receipts, though). She also, with surprisingly little hesitation, pry the bullet from Frank's rump; and the deputy she conned is wounded in the assault on the sheriff's department, Amy comes to his aid (OK, in the process she steals his handcuffs key to free Frank, but still ...).
But beneath Amy's facade, there's a surprising tenderness that's reminiscent of Frank, although not buried quiet so deep. For instance, after they survive the attack on the sheriff's department in Larkville, Ohio, she thanks him for risking his life for strangers, and even returns his $5. You'll notice, too, that on a series in which the F-bombs fly with only slightly less frequency than bullets, Amy doesn't curse, even when she rages at Frank. Instead, shes says things like, "S-H-one-T," which only serves to emphasize her central dichotomy, and her young age (but, of course, her rap sheets lists so many different birth dates that Sheriff Hardin threatens to average them, and then charge her as an adult).
It's the latter that goes a long way in forging Amy's connection to Frank: She's close to the age his daughter would be, if not for the massacre in Central Park. He also recognizes, at the moment he lays eyes upon her, that she's nowhere as tough as she pretends. He becomes her protector and father figure and she, strangely enough, his moral compass -- even if she doesn't know where True North is herself. It's she who stops Frank from straight-up murdering a child pornographer. "He's, like a total creep, but it still seems borderline, even for you," she says, momentarily playing the angel on Frank's shoulder, before suggesting that maybe, instead, he simply burn the guy's place down, "if it makes you feel better."
And you know what? It does.
Streaming now on Netflix, The Punisher Season 2 stars Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle, Ben Barnes as Billy Russo, Amber Rose Revah as Dinah Madani, Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle, Josh Stewart as John Pilgrim, Floriana Lima as Krista Dumont and Giorgia Whigham as Amy Bendix.