TV Review: “The Punisher”
Written by Kellie Nock on November 23, 2017
All photos courtesy of Netflix
Created by Steve Lightfoot
Cast: Jon Bernthal, Amber Rose Revah, Ebon Moss-Bachrach
Jumping off of Marvel’s Netflix success with “Daredevil” and “Jessica Jones,” and, to a lesser extent “Luke Cage,” comes “The Punisher.” Marvel veered off a bit with “Iron Fist” and “The Defenders,” both being considered a drop in quality from previous Netflix titles, but there was a flicker of hope in “Punisher.” Jon Bernthal did a great job with the character in “Daredevil,” and the writing, the producing, the talent was all there. But did it deliver? From here on out, I’ll be spoiling all of season one of “Punisher.” If you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading.
As far as I’m concerned, the show hits most of the marks it should be hitting. Bernthal, who has steadily become more attuned to the role of Frank Castle, shows us a very broken, driven, angry man.
Early in the season, we’re introduced to a veteran and old friend of Frank’s named Curtis. Curtis tells the story of the soldier in the hole. A soldier who couldn’t get out of a hole. The soldier asks for help and another one falls in the hole with him to help. Well…now they’re both in the hole. It’s something that I kept thinking about throughout the entire season. The show does a deep dive into what it means to be a veteran to a country that doesn’t seem to care.
Many of the characters that we follow are falling down this hole, or are already in it. Frank is so deep, his drive is solely based on vengeance, and poor David Lieberman tumbles right down with him. Lieberman was a standout favorite for the season. His relationship with Frank, filled with bickering, sandwich-making, and some actual heartwarming moments was fun and a nice change of pace from all the brooding.
I also enjoyed Amber Rose Revah’s character Dinah Madani. Although her character had a bit of a slow start (and an entirely cringeworthy affair with Billy Russo) once her plotline really starts rolling about halfway through, her character fleshes out a bit more.
This isn’t even mentioning the villains, one of which I enjoyed, two of which I could have done without. The terrorist plotline featuring veteran and extremely upset individual Lewis was dry and a little out there. The writers seemed to be relaying a message about the real world, but it was a bit muddied in the delivery. It did however, culminate in my favorite episode of the season, episode 10. “Agent Orange,” was boring and, quite frankly, unoriginal. As a villain his job was to be villainous, so they got that right. Past that, there really wasn’t much to him to keep viewers interested.
The Big Bad Guy being Frank’s old friend and fellow veteran Billy Russo was kind of a twist, though Ben Barnes being so devilish and charming made me suspicious of him from the first episode. You can’t have a face like that and not be a little bit evil, no? I felt as though his arc was incomplete, especially with his mother, but overall I think he was the most interesting of all of the villains. Whatever they choose to do with his character in the next season, I hope it expands on him a little bit more. I need some more context as to why he’s so malicious.
The season drags on a bit, being maybe one or two episodes too long, but generally I think that the filler content that was there wasn’t horrible. The first episode where Frank meets David seems to drag on, but once you hit the halfway point in the season things start to move a bit quicker.
All of the violence is a little exhausting. I found myself watching Frank get shot, beat up, stabbed, shot again, etc. and just getting tired of it. I know it’s such a large part of the character, but 13 hours of it can wear you down. The show has such an interesting relationship with violence, but surely there can be a point where they say, “Hey, let’s chill out for a second with all the violence.” There were some cringe moments, and some moments where I had to curl my nose, but nothing quite so brutal as the final showdown between Frank and Billy. I can still hear the shattered mirror dragging in my head.
Overall, “Punisher” did a great job of making a great character even better. There were some pacing issues, and characters could be written tighter, but it doesn’t distract from viewer enjoyment. I look forward to where they take “The Punisher.” Just please, no more mirror fights.