Marvel’s The Punisher Review
Once Frank Castle made his bloody and surprisingly emotional appearance in the second season of Daredevil, fans immediately started clamoring for a solo season starring the murderous antihero. Marvel and Netflix heard us and gave us the show that is set to debut tonight (11/16/17) at midnight. So the question is, does The Punisher solo show live up to the expectations set by his appearance in Daredevil, or does this fall flat like Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders did?
After previewing the first 6 episodes of the 13 episode season, I gotta say my fears have been laid to rest – at least so far. While the show does follow its predecessors in taking a few episodes to really get the main story thread of the season to coalesce, the tangential bits are entertaining and engaging enough to keep you from feeling bored. That’s not to say there isn’t action, as there’s plenty of Frank Castle wreaking havoc on the criminal underworld, but there is a deeper story at play that involves his military past and how it links to the death of his family.
The season starts off with Frank tracking down and killing the last few people known to have been involved with the death of his family, and then we cut to six months later and he’s doing his Dexter in the woods bit as a construction worker going under the alias Pete Castiglione – and officially Frank Castle is presumed dead. But from there, forces begin to pull Frank Castle back into the world of The Punisher.
John Bernthal continues to give an intense performance as Frank Castle, but throughout the episodes, he also is able to bring a softer and more vulnerable side to the character as well. From nightmares, to reliving memories to hallucinations, Frank Castle is a man haunted by his traumas and his actions, and John Bernthal brings the best version of the Punisher to the screen I’ve ever seen. He’s not the alcohol soaked version Thomas Jane gave us, nor is he the ultra stoic gunslinger Ray Stevenson gave us. He’s better than both. (No, I’m not counting Dolph Lundgren. That was barely The Punisher. I mean, a shoe polish beard?)
Alongside Bernthal is Ebon Moss-Bachrach as David Lieberman, better known as Micro – a former NSA analyst turned hacker. While he and Castle find that they have the same enemies, their relationship seems to be a kind of marriage of convenience, as neither really seems to like the other, but they both need each other’s skills. But Micro isn’t just a computer friendly sidekick; he has his own thoroughly fleshed out story that ties into Frank’s, which is just as interesting.
Amber Rose Revah plays Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani, who’s a somewhat disgraced operative due to her obsession with investigating Frank Castle after a botched mission in Afghanistan leaves her informant dead. Paired with a partner no one wants and brought back to the States, she continues her investigation on Castle in hopes of finding out how he ties into her fall from grace. Her character is written pretty well, and Amber brings a fierce tenacity to it.
Some of the (so far) smaller players include Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle, a group counselor for veterans who served with Castle in the Marines. Daniel Webber as Lewis Walcott, a young vet who’s in that group and having some trouble adjusting to civilian life. And Ben Barnes, another of Castle’s Marine buddies who runs the private military/security company ANVIL. While they all had relatively minor roles to play in the first episodes I saw, their stories began to expand more and there was promise of some very interesting developments! And Debra Ann Woll as Karen Page makes an appearance! Karen seems tied to Frank’s fate, but I can’t say more for risk of spoilers, but I’m looking forward to see how it plays out.
My only concern with the show so far is the season length. By the end of the sixth episode, things really had begun to kick into high(er) gear, but I worry a little that they may not be able to keep the pace for seven more episodes. But we’ll see, since showrunner Steve Lightfoot and the writers seem to have a pretty good handle on what they’re doing. It’s bloody, it’s gruesome, it’s a bit shocking and a hell of a thriller! Midnight can’t come soon enough! Of the Marvel shows so far, this is right up there with Daredevil’s first season and Jessica Jones.