Netflix debuted their Marvel Universe in 2015 with Daredevil, and later Jessica Jones followed by Luke Cage, all of which were met with unanimous praise. More recently Netflix took a stumble after an atrocious first season of Iron Fist and a lackluster Defenders run, viewers have expressed their concerns with the direction and overall content for the future of the Marvel television universe.
Now, Frank Castle aka The Punisher, who appeared in season two of Daredevil, has his own series. So, has Netflix corrected the ship or are they still heading for a decline?
It pleases me to say…
Welcome back, Frank.
The first episode of the latest Marvel Netflix offering is not only a success, it erases any doubt one might have of the future of the Marvel shows. While the first episode won’t give you all the answers of the entire season it does offer up a few certainties…
Jon Bernthal is phenomenal as the latest portrayal of Frank Castle. As a fan of Thomas Jane’s turn as the famed vigilante I was hoping for a more tortured and haunting performance, which Bernthal absolutely knocks out of the park. He is a rock here and really is the core element holding the whole show together. What makes Bernthal a powerful and appropriate choice for The Punisher is he ability to convey such emotion and struggle without saying a word, truly subtle genius.
We gain slight insight into his trauma including constant flashbacks of his wife and children’s deaths. They are demons that keep him up at night or wake him in the middle of the night, like the episodes title “3 AM” also known as the witching hour. Through these flashbacks we gain just enough insight into the character of Frank Castle and what makes him tick.
The tone of the show is another aspect that worked. While the trauma is very much front and center, the pacing of the story doesn’t allow the viewer to get overloaded in wallowing. The show manages to bring a respectable amount of balance of character and even small bits of humor into the mix, which has also been unseen in any other depiction of the character so it’s a nice change.
And make no mistake, this show should be classified as a “not your father’s” Punisher. It pushes the envelope which is a refreshing sign of relief. It could have easily been a watered down version. The brutality and gore are next level, but appropriately not to the extent of being classified as gun porn or senseless with its violence. This is the punisher we have been waiting for.
The writing is very well done. Showrunner and creator Steve Lightfoot (Hannibal) masterfully handles direction and pacing nicely along with some engaging action sequences. We get a nice surprise early on in the episode where Frank Castle hangs up his vest for good after a badass opening scene where he kills the last of those he finds responsible for his family’s murder. Franks new mission is peace. What an interesting new take on the character, but along with Frank’s new mission comes new questions like, can he live a life of peace after all that he’s done?
New characters arrive as well, such as Agent Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah), who is searching for the truth of her brothers murder, and Frank’s war buddy and voice of reason, Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore). While these characters stories are just beginning there isn’t much time dedicated to them for us to really care. Which may not be a big issue at this point in the season but it feels almost like wasted time. As the season progresses I’m sure they will play more integral to the overall story. The writers know, this is Bernthal’s show and give him all of the tools to do the rest.
The Punisher’s first hour proves to be a worthy one with sharp direction and pacing as well as a top notch performance from Jon Bernthal. With Steve Lightfoot at the helm of this series, we are given a Frank Castle that delivers brutality, emotion, trauma, and exploration to an iconic character.
Rating – 8.5/10