By Mike A. Bryan, Staff Writer
The Punisher is a fascinating character, with a complex backstory that involves a twisted duality of personality, making him the definition of a vigilante hero. Anyone who is a fan has been justifiably concerned every time Marvel has allowed this character to appear in a live-action movie or show. The complexity of this character is summed up well in a simple quote from Garth Ennis – The Punisher “sees the world in very black and white terms, he solves his problems with utter finality…his response to any problem: when in doubt, hit back hard.” Unfortunately, the first two times that Marvel allowed The Punisher to appear in a film, it received questionable reviews from critics, and not much support from the fans. Their most recent foray, in 2008, garnered more support from fans, but still fell flat with critics. Obviously, this character is difficult to properly portray on camera.
Enter the critically-acclaimed and fan-supported Daredevil series, where Frank Castle and his alter-ego The Punisher make their first Netflix series appearance in season two. From the beginning, Frank’s humanity is a focus, along with the backstory of his whole family being murdered while he watched. This influences a major aspect of his character’s drive for justice, vengeance, and revenge. The beauty and sadness that viewers see in Frank’s memories are quite moving, drawing the viewers in to his tormented inner world. We see the twisted duality of his character, but are able to understand and empathize on a deep level. Perhaps the most important part of The Punisher character is the fact that he is utterly, perfectly, human.
The new Netflix series, solely focused on the title character, is quite different from the affiliated Marvel characters’ Netflix shows. For more information on the related series, see my previous review of “The Defenders.” “The Punisher” is brutal, violent, intense, compelling, and absolutely unforgettable. The other shows might hold back a little bit on the violence, but this one is no-holds-barred; where the other shows can be considered “normal” for superhero TV, this one does not fit that mold. Viewers will be surprised by how supportive and understanding they become of The Punisher’s character, due to his tormented past and seemingly justifiable mission. The series presents Frank Castle and The Punisher in a sympathetic light, leaving viewers feeling satisfied when The Punisher completes his goals.
Unsurprisingly, the series shares some characters with Daredevil, namely “Karen,” who worked closely with Frank Castle during the Daredevil series. A nice surprise is the new character “Micro,” who has a complicated relationship with The Punisher that evolves over the course of the series. Of course, the setting is NYC, but where most of the other Marvel series are focused in Manhattan, The Punisher seems to prefer Brooklyn. The landscape presents a seemingly endless supply of warehouses and other buildings for Frank to destroy. His character’s development is extremely well-thought-out, with each episode in the series drawing the viewer in more and more. The other characters’ stories intertwine in intriguing ways with Frank’s; their supporting character development strongly influences the storylines.
This show is not for the faint of heart. The violence takes center stage in many episodes, and no punches are pulled in presenting serious themes. One such theme is PTSD and veterans, which is treated in a respectful light by the show’s writers. Overall, The Punisher does not f*@k around. If you enjoy action-focused shows with dark themes and plenty of violence, check this one out.