Created by: Steve Lightfoot
Starring: Jon Bernthal, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ben Barnes, and Amber Rose Revah
Available on Netflix
After a scene-stealing appearance on Daredevil that single-handedly salvaged Season 2, Jon Bernthal is back in The Punisher and ranks up there alongside the first seasons of Daredevil and Jessica Jones as some of the best Marvel Netflix shows to date.
After seemingly murdering the Blacksmith and all the criminal syndicates involved in the death of his family in a gangland shootout, former marine Frank Castle, a.k.a. the Punisher, disappears from public view and attempts to continue his life in solitude. However, he is brought back into the fray by Micro, a former NSA analyst, who uncovers a deeper military conspiracy during Castle’s service that led to the murder of his family. Determined to exact vengeance, he returns as the Punisher to continue his personal war and murder all those responsible.
Jon Bernthal is among the best character actors working today and he thrives in such a psychologically charged and physical role. The cast is frequently good, including Amber Rose Revah as Agent Dinah Madani who isn’t merely a “female diversity” checkbox, but has her own character development and agency while also kicking plenty of ass. The main villain however, usually the highlight of the Marvel Netflix shows, is incredibly boring and makes surprisingly few appearances, since he works in the shadows and stays incredibly calm and stoic, and only really blows up in grotesque rage at the end of his life.
By virtue of being on Netflix, the show has plenty of liberties to show blood and violence that serves The Punisher well, giving that bittersweet catharsis of vigilante justice upon criminal gangs, mercenaries, and government death squads. But, it’s peculiar to consider an anti-hero like the Punisher in 2017, especially since the show’s planned release in mid-October was postponed by the recent Las Vegas shooting, invariably sharing some similarities on lone gunmen. That’s the burning question that kind of hangs over the show: what separates the Punisher from being the murderous lone gunman that he is?
Thankfully, the Netflix show offers some answers. Another important character is Lewis Wilson, a PTSD-afflicted veteran who feels disaffected by his country and begin to slowly psychologically deteriorate, eventually becoming a domestic terrorist by bombing government buildings and killing civilians. His story arc serves as a vital foil to Frank, who punishes evildoers to work through his PTSD and guilt, but maintains a strict moral code of honour and duty throughout. Lewis, on the other hand, internally boils his trauma from his service until he explodes, using ideology as an excuse to mask his pain. In spite of its varying degrees of success, it makes for an interesting discourse on homegrown terrorism and vigilantism.
Of course, The Punisher suffers from the same problems as all the other Marvel Netflix shows. Since all the episodes are shot and released concurrently, there is no time to gauge what works and what doesn’t from an episode-to-episode basis, so bad ideas can worm its way throughout the whole season *cough* Iron Fist *cough*. The shows are often stretched to cover 13 whole episodes when the story usually “ends” by episode ten or eleven and just drag on from there, and The Punisher is no exception.
The ending might be a fitting conclusion to the saga of troubled veteran Frank Castle, though I believe that it wraps everything up a little too easily and carefree. Nonetheless, The Punisher is a fantastic Marvel Netflix show and definitely worth watching if you want to explore a more violent and mature corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.