I’ve heard conflicting reviews, but I have been nothing but disappointed by all of Marvel’s Netflix shows since Daredevil Season 2. Luke Cage was fairly corny with a subpar plot, Iron Fist didn’t have any real redeeming qualities, and The Defenders was nothing but a confusing letdown. The story involving The Hand led essentially nowhere, and I felt that Marvel TV had lost its groove.
Which is why I was fearful what would happen with a 13 episode season of The Punisher, which was released this past Friday, November 17th.
Before the intro theme even begins my fears were proven wrong, as the intensity takes over, and you are shocked to think this could be a show produced by Disney, or how it could possibly make it to their soon to be released streaming service. A plot that makes sense, violent graphics, and without “The Hand” being mentioned once, this show restored my faith in Marvel TV.
This doesn’t mean the show is without its faults, but overall I highly recommend this series to comic book fans and to the general public alike.
I can’t state it enough – I was thoroughly disappointed by The Defenders. I am fine with some supernatural elements considering it is a superhero TV show, but it is as though the show writers never quite figured out what to do with “The Hand”. Their overall plot seemed to be to trick Iron Fist into punching a wall underneath Manhattan that has dragon bones and will collapse the city – it just doesn’t make sense. This is surprisingly where The Punisher shines.
Not one confusing plot involving dragons, or anything supernatural at all. No one seems to have any powers in this show other than amazing marksmanship and the ability to take a shot or two and continue fighting. I mean, even The Punisher needs to reload and doesn’t just shoot an automatic weapon for 2 minutes straight, as almost every other TV show and movie likes to do. This is something Marvel Netflix really needed, and on reflection, it seems like The Defenders was a show directed towards a more childish audience in comparison.
The Punisher can be taken on even if you decided to skip the previous Marvel shows entirely. Watching Daredevil season 2 will definitely help to flesh out his character a bit more, but other than that there are no real references to the other shows. There are a few cameos, but you can easily catch on without having any background knowledge as to who they are, leaving The Punisher to be successful even as a standalone show.
Jon Bernthal proves once again why he was cast for this role, since I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job. Though he is slightly smaller than the comic book version, he looks the part and seems very practiced with a gun.
I loved their take on veterans and those suffering from PTSD. This is a side plot that ties directly into the main story, but the overall themes and morals were something unique to The Punisher. Luke Cage attempted to take a political stance, but The Punisher shows the confusion and difficulty involved in military actions, keeping Americans safe, the second amendment, PTSD, and the way veterans are treated. No clear line is drawn yet we get to see valid arguments for every side along with personal stories of people affected.
13 Episodes really made me concerned. It seems that even the DareDevil and Jessica Jones seasons could have benefited from only being 8 episodes in order to tighten up the plot and take out unnecessary scenes. While there may be some parts that could have been cut out, overall I was happy about the length of The Punisher season 1, and didn’t want it to end.
We meet up with Frank Castle soon after the ending of Daredevil season 2, where he is finishing up the killing of the people he thinks were involved with the death of his family. We get the awesome headshot snipe from a mile away, followed by the opening intro. After the credits, we see a “6 months later” timecard, and we catch up with Frank trying to live a normal life as a construction worker named Pete Castiglione (an obscure reference to The Punisher: Circle of Blood circa 1985). By the end of the episode, we are greeted with the return of the Frank Castle we know with him graphically killing his criminal coworkers (characters we are blatantly told to hate as they make fun of someone they think might be mentally challenged).
Soon after getting back in his killing groove, Frank is contacted by the NSA whistleblower Micro (AKA David Lieberman played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach), who has information to help him find those really culpable in killing his family. Micro (or Microchip) was a character in the comics who worked as an ally to The Punisher by building weapons and supplying technology. This character’s backstory in the TV show is fleshed out amazingly by the end of the season, and I felt he was a welcomed addition to the plot. I didn’t really understand the need for Frank to do the naked torture of him, but oh well, it added to some fun.
Now let’s talk about the domestic terrorist character, Lewis Walcott played by Daniel Webber. I loved his side plot involving his mental problems post war, his feeling that he was let down by the US government, and his confliction into becoming a domestic terrorist inspired by The Punisher. The veterans group therapy delved into some real political topics such as military members being tools that are discarded post service and the need for the second amendment for protection. I believed the performance was great by Daniel, there was just one glaring problem with the character. He hates the government for the way they treat veterans, yet well over 50% of the people he kills and attempts to kill are those very same veterans. Aside from the bomb that killed civilians, all of his targets are those who served just as he did. All of those people who work for Anvil are former servicemen just like him, considering he was trying to work for them himself. He lays waste to a dozen of them, all shortly after beating Curtis with his own leg and attempting to kill him. The motives behind Lewis killing these people seem a little confusing and is one of the few faults I found in the show.
Billy Russo – the other problem that I found with this show. I knew from the beginning based on his attitude that he was leading to becoming a hidden villain (being the owner of a private military firm along with his character being the villain “Jigsaw” in the comics), but I just didn’t understand his motivation. Here is a man who served right next to Frank, in the most gruesome of situations, where they depended on each other for survival. They had each other’s backs in all of the flashbacks, and seemed as friendly as possible with the final flashback of him with Frank’s family at the fair. There was no PTSD storyline for him, no situation that would turn him to aiding in killing Frank’s family, and no reason for him to become buddies with Agent Orange over Castle.
Agent Orange, also known as William Rawlins, is essentially the main bad guy of the show. After Frank killed Colonel Schoonover at the end of Daredevil Season 2, we learn that Rawlins was the one pulling the strings on Frank and his family’s death. His character is played great by Paul Schulze, and most of his motivations seem to make sense to the person they fleshed out on the show. Once again though, I am slightly confused by motivation when it comes to why he ordered the killing of Frank’s family. It was clear that Frank was going to just live a normal life after returning home, and only a small amount of research would have led him to realize that it wasn’t Castle who was filming the torturing and execution – considering Frank was the one who did the actual killing. Was it solely because Frank punched Rawlins one time, leading to some facial damage? One punch that actually allowed him to rise in rankings was the reason to murder the man’s entire family? Well, it’s all OK since his death is quite enjoyable as Frank repeatedly stabs him and then sticks his thumbs deep into his eye sockets.
Other fun parts of the show include: Karen Page’s return and plotline, Detective Sergeant Mahoney’s appearance, and Turk getting knocked out yet again. As mentioned earlier though, the addition of these characters does not make it mandatory that you have seen the other Marvel Netflix shows, and are more of a fun easter egg to those who have trekked through the previous 6 Marvel seasons. There are also roughly 1-3 sleeping flashbacks of Frank’s wife every episode, but you get used to those pretty fast.
While some character motivations were a bit confusing, overall I give the Punisher nothing but great reviews. Even if you couldn’t care less about comic book TV shows, you will likely find redeeming qualities in The Punisher. The only person I told not to watch it was my mother, who can’t handle gore, let alone 50 – 100 close up headshots. If that’s not you, you should definitely give The Punisher a go.