The Punisher was postponed until November because of the Las Vegas shooting tragedy; the people in charge rightfully figured that releasing a show centered around a guy who shoots people at that time was a bad idea. So we got in November instead. I was reluctant to watch at first regardless because I’ve always found the character to be too one dimensional to carry a full show, but the good reviews I heard changed my mind so I checked it out. So what did I think?
This thing had way more depth that I was expecting. Beyond the main story about Frank seeking revenge they worked some really gripping stuff about PTSD, how we treat veterans when they get back home, the lines that get blurred and crossed in our overseas military actions, and those who use our ongoing military commitments for personal financial gain.
And they didn’t just touch on them to set up the next big action set piece, they dug all the way in. Daniel Webber’s PTSD ravaged Lewis Walcott is both tragically sympathetic and menacing throughout his time on the show. And as David Leiberman/Micro (Ebon Moss-Barach) fully encaptured the dilemma of the well meaning public servant caught between internally reporting the wrongdoing they stumble across and hoping for the best vs putting it out there in a way that will draw more attention while pissing off important people and putting yourself in danger. The narrative of dealing with corruption inside the walls of the organizations and structures we rely on, and how everyone inside can be compromised when the stakes are high enough, was pretty gripping start to finish.
The casting was as well done as most of the Marvel Netflix series. Jon Bernthal was great as Castle continuing the scene stealing work he did in Daredevil season 2. Castle can easily descend into a ridiculous twisted cartoon character if done wrong but Bernthal made him believable both in the hyped up action scenes and the ones where he had to show some emotional depth and sense of loss. Ben Barnes was charming and slimy as Bill Russo, the man who would eventually be revealed as the main antagonist. Jaime Ray Newman did a great job as David’s wife Sarah, who had to juggle her grief over her loss of her husband, her fear for what comes next, and trying to protect and provide for her kids while trying to also pick up the pieces of life and move on. And finally Amber Rose Revah was good as Agent Dinah Madani, who has to both deal with the shadowy wrongdoing wrongdoing inside and outside her department while dealing with how to handle Frank now that he’s resurfaced.
13 good episodes! Finally! Most of these Netflix seasons have been plagued with stretches where things just drag, which of course isn’t supposed to happen in a shorter 13 episode season. This is the first one I watched where that didn’t happen. Every episode had something interesting going on that held your attention. Having interesting and compelling villains helped here, as did having interesting supporting characters like Lewis, Sarah, and Madani.
The last three episodes, while good and riveting, were extremely bloody in a way that justified the fears I had going in. Had the entire show been as brutal as these three I would have bailed on it early. Given the character and what he was up against you expect some bloody violence throughout, and it was there, but they really cranked it up to 11 towards the end. Whether or not you’re ok with that will go a long way towards how you judge this thing. I can see why some critics were not as kind as they had been with previous Marvel Netflix outing because it got to the point of really overshadowing things towards the end.
Lewis’ storyline was bogged down a bit in my opinion by a tacked on second amendment debate thread that seemed tacked on at best. He’s already dealing with PTSD and distrust of the government, and those were handled just fine in his piece of the story without needing the hypocritical senator who was a caricature of gun control supporters thrown in. It really made it look like the writers wanted to make fun of gun control supporters rather than present their side of the issue with any nuance or respect. In a show about a guy who goes around shooting people, if you’re going to introduce a gun control debate it needs to be done better than they did it here.
I wasn’t sure what to make of the levels of trust that both Sarah and Dinah showed in Frank and Billy, respectively. On the one hand they were both awfully quick to get close given the circumstances they were dealing with personally and professionally. But on the other hand it’s not like we don’t see guys do that in these shows and movies all the time. So while I kind of found it a little nonsensical at the same time it’s good to see women be more than one dimensional and get to follow their physical urges the same way men are allowed to in these stories.
9 out of 10. It never loses it’s way, has compelling characters top to bottom and multiple interesting plotlines. Yes it is very brutal and bloody at times, to the point where it affect your opinion of the whole thing. For me that means I probably won’t watch it again despite my grade here. But if you can get through the blood once you should check it out. It’s that good.