The Punisher: Season 1 – Review

The Punisher hits Netflix on November 17th.

The man better known as the Punisher is a traumatized sadist bent on revenge. Yes, he may be out to get the “bad guys,” which gives him a code of ethics that separates him from being a bad guy himself, but he’s basically Batman without the respectability Bruce Wayne gets from his wealth. He’s a mumbling grunting jolt of bloody, uncompromising vengeance.

The Punisher‘s 13-episode season begins with Frank Castle believing he has completed his mission for revenge against the mobsters who killed his family and hanging up his skull-adorned costume. Six months later everybody thinks Frank Castle is dead and, having grown a hipster beard, he’s taken a new name and landed a job on a construction crew where even though more modern equipment is available, he’s able to take a sledgehammer to concrete walls. It’s a metaphor, just like all of the time he spends standing in front of his bathroom mirror staring into his reflection and his soul, something that happens so frequently here that the fastest way to trim an hour from the show might be cutting mirror scenes in half. The mirror stuff is actually hilarious, stretching into the dialogue as well.

Anyway, Frank is about to discover that he did a lot of punishing for nothing, or at least that his punishing was only partial, because it turns out that the death of his family relates to his black ops military service in Afghanistan and he’s going to have to start punishing again. This time, he has an ally in a former NSA analyst Micro, whose family thinks that he’s dead, too. Frank, who works better alone, finds himself in an unlikely partnership and almost a friendship. Castle has to reconnect with former brothers-in-arms Curtis (Jason R. Moore), now working to support soldiers suffering from PTSD, and Billy Russo (Ben Barnes), now the slick head of a private security concern. Meanwhile, the bad stuff that happened in Kandahar has attracted the attention of Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani, a child of Iranian refugees. Also involved, and providing links to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe, is Daredevil regular Karen Page, whose status as compassionate, frequently endangered Marvel TV sidekick/innocent bystander remains intact.

I find myself with two contradictory feelings about the series, on the one hand it is one of the better MCU small screen adaptations. Good writing and character development along with the expected action make for a visceral enjoyment. On the other hand, given the level of violence we are experiencing in the real world I have to wonder whether glorifying a psychopathic vigilante is appropriate.

I give The Punisher a B.