Years: 2017 — 2019
Synopsis: The battle-scarred Frank Castle (The Punisher) learns the death of his family was part of a larger conspiracy connected to his time in the Middle East.
• Jon Bernthal may be the best live action version of The Punisher, helping to make up for the first season’s narrative flaws.
• The overall story does a heart-felt job discussing what war does to people, and how they cope.
• Largely overcomes the small-scale feel of Netflix-Marvel.
• Sets up for further seasons strongly.
• The overall season felt overlong, with episodes that did not add much to the narrative.
• Micro, a man that forced himself to be Punisher’s ally, came off as a bit two dimensional and foolish in the first season, even if that might be setting him up for the likely shift to antagonist.
• The subplot involving one of the vets becoming a terrorist felt overlong and forced, while not adding much to the first season’s overall story.
The Punisher might be the most difficult antihero to adapt to live action. He can be rather black and white, preferring his own bullet or fist to provide justice. Prior renditions had him as either dead inside or an almost cerebral strategist out for revenge. The Marvel-Netflix version had him as almost in the gray of that spectrum with some irony. Bernthal portrayed him as someone forever broken, but not completely dead inside. He was willing to create, humor, and enact stratagems, but preferred to storm into the situation with his many talents developed in his special ops unit. Through all that, he is almost implausibly likable and understandable as a character.
Still, the first season was very much overlong. It was as if show runners were given thirteen episodes, when they only had enough story for eight. Whole episodes could be skipped, and the last episodes would still make perfect sense. The Punisher saved the show from its stretched self. We felt for him and his plight, and it was OK that we did not always agree with his brutal and uncompromising methods. It will be interesting to see where the show goes next.
2/13/2019 Update: Though it is not officially canceled on Netflix as of this update, we can assume the show is over for now. This was easily the most misunderstood series in the Netflix-Marvel cannon. It can come off as a show glorifying violence, but if one payed any attention it was really a show about the consequences of using violence as a means to an end. Sure, the Punisher’s methods often proved reliable, but even he new there were times when the chance may be given to not be shot down. Jigsaw, the Preacher were villainous, but they were all victims of the very violence they served. It was a poetic irony that the Preacher was given the one chance to survive, as Jigsaw certainly abused that same chance. Of all the live action renditions of The Punisher, Bernthal’s was unquestionably the best. If we are lucky, we might not have seen the last of the white skull …
4/25/2019 Update: Punisher is certainly done on Netflix. However, nothing is ever truly forgotten or lost. Hulu appears more than open to expanding its Marvel offerings. With them now majority owned by Disney post Fox buyout, they are primed to show the more adult oriented offerings Disney+ will not offer. If this possibility of continuation comes to fruition, there will be an extra year wait for new episodes, per deal with Netflix. Some rejiggering may be in order, and moving to another service is a great excuse for that!
Marvel Cinematic Universe
Rotten Tomatoes —
S1 – 64%
S2 – 52%