Gut punch. That’s what it felt like to watch and experience Netflix’s The Punisher Season 1. Before I go into my review and impressions of the show, I need to say this is not a show for everyone. Definitely not for kids and probably not for some adults. If brutal scenes of violence are not your cup o’ tea, then don’t drink.
We got our first dose of the vigilante antihero of Frank Castle aka the Punisher in Netflix’s Daredevil Season 2. He’s a mysterious figure fit with an arsenal befitting a small army who crosses paths with our friendly blind lawyer Matt Murdock aka Daredevil. The latter doesn’t kill, feeling morally and spiritually convicted by his choices to fight crime whereas the Punisher pulls the trigger first, contemplating morality after the fact.
Actor, Jon Bernthal, gave a performance as Frank Castle that took everyone by surprise. There have been previous feature film adaptations of the Marvel skull-symbol wearing badass. Those have been somewhat true to the source material but lacking in impact. Bernthal gives us a full drenching that embodies the Frank Castle of the comics. He’s a US Marine vet whose family is murdered as collateral damage depending on the origin story of the comic run. In all though, Frank’s birth as the Punisher is consistent. He loses his family, battles the guilt and pain of losing them, and takes on a personal code to eliminate those responsible and any other scumbag who may cross his path.
The themes in the Punisher (I’m talking both broad and in the Netflix show) center around vigilante morality, PTSD, grief, etc. The show does this extremely well. The first season fully features Frank as he searches for those involved in the deaths of his family after he learns that the CIA is behind some shady practices involving drug running and assassinations. All throughout his mission, he is faced with questions of right and wrong, family, healing, and justice. His interactions with friends and allies help ask questions and explore these themes, making the viewer question if rooting for Frank is just or not.
I’ve watched all of the Netflix Marvel shows up to date and the Punisher is by far my favorite and I think the strongest entry in the growing catalogue. The acting and plotting are superb and where I think the other series’ wane and struggle is weight and believability. The Punisher is visceral (such a good word). You feel the impact of every emotion, punch, and bullet impact. There are no “superpowers” in this show which helps it immensely.
As I said before, this show is not easy to watch. The violence goes where other shows do not. It’s rough but true to the comic and character of Frank Castle. What the film, Logan, started is a trend to see these superhero properties move from a place of PG-13 action to one that makes us feel the weight of the choices and lives of these people.
Call to Action: So while I highly recommend this show, be advised. Try out the first few episodes and see if it’s something you can handle.