I got a late start on the Punisher which released on Netflix before the holidays but I was just too busy for a 13 episode binge. Well I am still busy, but my friend Frank called me and among the topics of our conversation was in fact the Punisher show. So I got on my binjin’ slippers and took a 3 day 13 episode romp through the Punisher.
Warning: there are a few spoilers here. The Punisher character originated in the Bronze age of comics around 1974. This character was never warm and fuzzy. The dark and violent world that Netflix gave us for Daredevil isn’t quite dark enough for the Punisher.
However it was season two of Daredevil where Frank Castle makes his Netflix debut. True to form, Netflix continues to do a remarkable job of tying all of these Marvel characters together to create a continuity of story across multiple series that is simply unparalleled in all of television.
The first episode clearly sets the tone for this show. This is a gritty and brutally violent show. The episode gives us a scene where we will witness three assholes whose lives end at the mercy of a 10 pound sledgehammer. The director does not spare us much mercy from the brutality of that end. This is not a show for the faint of heart or the squeamish.
The Punisher was always one of Marvel’s darkest and most violent characters. In fact a strong case can be made that this character was a start to a long series of dark and brooding characters that spilled onto the silver screen in the 1980s.
Netflix is unshackled from the FCC regulatory body that governs broadcast television, and they utilize that freedom to deliver a bloody and brutal world that is a visceral experience to the viewer. For fans of the comics the story is broadly intact but the fine details have been somewhat politicized as is the case with almost all media today. Rather than the original story of Castle’s family being killed by the mob because he witnessed a mob hit, they changed it to a bad Americans in Afghanistan story line. I generally don’t mind some creative liberty when the stories of old no longer fit the modern world, but the mob is still around and they did not need to change that narrative. This was simply a political hack job. That is a negative in my view. It is however one of the few things to fault this show.
Frank Castle has dived into his deep depression brought on by the things he has seen and done. Experiences so horrific, he cannot cope with them inside the “norms” of society. He resides in a mental dark hole and the only light is at the conclusion of his punishment for those who have done the evil. Castle rarely see shades of gray.
There is an amazing story that unravels in this series and we see some very complex relationship developments that are brilliantly crafted by the team of writers. Netflix continues to impress with their ability to produce a motion picture caliber production for the small screen.
I often wonder if Frank Castle is what Bruce Wayne would have become, were he not rich. Frank Castle is a one man wrecking crew but Netflix gives us more than bloody stomp in face. We get a devious scandals at high levels of government, and a few twists one might not see coming. We get not just one villain, but two and they are very different animals. They will meet the Punisher’s justice and it isn’t pretty. I didn’t feel like they gave me villains that were “bad” enough to wish the end they got. Honestly, if we are going to see the villain laid out with gruesome and vicious violence, we need to truly hate that villain. They need to be as vile and disgusting and humans can get. You know, Hilteresque. These villains were deceptive and diabolical but they could have been even more evil. To be subjected to what they faced in the end they need to be so horrible, we can dehumanize them and we almost accept the agonizing fate they face. I don’t want to feel bad for the bad guy, you know? But that is all part of the Punisher lore I suppose. He dispenses the justice that society is unable to.
The show is excellent but you have to be prepared for a whole lot of liquid red. The story line is solid and the acting is pretty good. I rate this in the middle of the pack of Netflix Marvel shows.