TV Review: Marvel’s The Punisher (Season 1, 2017)

Jon Bernthal returns as Frank Castle, the titular anti-hero of Netflix fifth Marvel Universe adaption of The Punisher (sixth if you count the crossover of The Defenders). The Punisher / Frank Castle is a returned United States Marine, who After being presumed dead at the end of Daredevil season 2, Frank is working at a construction company attempting to make something with his life after hanging up his vigilante vest. The mysterious Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) tracks Frank down, and gives him information on Frank’s old commanding officer William Rawlins (Paul Schulze) and army buddy Billy Russo (Ben Barnes, Westworld). On the other side of the law, Department of Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) and her new partner Sam Stein (Michael Nathanson) are looking into Frank Castle, and don’t believe he is actually dead (spoiler: he’s not).

+ following on from his appearance in Daredevil’s second season, Jon Bernthal has a fantastic turn as the internally anguished Frank Castle. Bernthal has the ‘resting bitchface’ that someone like Frank (or Judge Dredd) should have, and it makes his more emotional moments that much more poignant. I really enjoyed Barnes as Billy Russo, and his slimy character is only helped by Barnes’ good looks. I wasn’t sure what to think of DHS Agent Madani, but she grew on me as the season progressed
+ all sort of action for all types of fans: shootouts, brawls and car chases just to name a few. Due to Netflix’s long-form series structure – more like a movie than a standard TV season – wounds persist across almost all of the 13-episode run time. And once you see someone take a slash or bullet to their body, you’ll see the blood seeping through in subsequent episodes. It was a somewhat subtle and meta way of showing that these Netflix shows are in the same universe as the movies, but more ‘real’ compared to the space faring adventures the bigger heroes are having
+ there is lots of good music, including an acoustic version of one of my favourite songs, Marilyn Manson’s “The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles”. The heavier, angrier music that (I think?) played in Frank’s head when he was doing his punishing was an interesting choice, but I like that sort of music, so I’m not complaining
+ like Jessica Jones’ portrayal of survivors of sexual assault this series shows some very real and confronting aspects of PTSD in returned soldiers. Admittedly, there was some very heavy handed real-world political allegories, but they make sense enough to let that slide

– by this point I almost feel I could copy/paste from every Netflix Marvel series; 13 episodes is too long, and everything would have fit better into just ten. Several episodes here were just Frank and Micro sitting on their asses waiting for stuff to happen around them, and like every other show so far it was just mind-numbingly dull
– I don’t know why Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) was advertised so heavily, as her character was hardly in the show, including only one scene with Frank. She was, at best, a loose tie to the other series. I wish Claire Temple (Rosario Dawson) had shown up instead, even if it doesn’t make sense that she’d be around

> I could not help but think that Micro looked a lot like Rip Hunter crossed with Kenny Omega
> It is also worth noting that, since these Netflix series do take place in the wider MCU, while Frank was dealing with gangs or corrupt cops, Thor and Hulk were fighting in an arena – give or take a week. Frank’s battles don’t seem quite as important, when you look at it that way

Should you watch this show: The final two episodes are absolutely stellar, and while I am glad I watched this, I found it very difficult to get to them. Again (again x 5 now), 13 episodes is too long for this ‘long form movie’ structure that Netflix loves so much, and even Jon Bernthal’s incredible acting was not quite enough for me to suggest this to anyone who is not already hooked.

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