After the sensational first three Marvel-Netflix series viz. Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Daredevil 2, the franchise somewhat lost its way with the relatively disappointing Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders. Thus, there was definitely pressure on this adaptation of the fan-favourite character – The Punisher – to right the ship, so to speak.
Depending on your perspective, The Punisher may be viewed as a well-developed study of a violent psychotic vigilante trying to make sense of a nightmare world OR a plodding excuse of an action TV series with ponderous character investigation standing in for a thin plot.
In the final analysis, it’s a bit of both, the first half of the series is very slow, narrative-wise and it is not until the last five episodes when things begin to happen. This observation may be made perhaps of every Marvel-Netflix series thus far but seems marked when compared to how the character was presented in Daredevil 2.
Jon Bernthal does a good job reprising his role as Frank Castle, handling the emotional beats with typical stoicism. Eben Moss-Bachrach (David Lieberman/Micro) is the perfect foil/partner for Castle. The series also utilised well Dinah Madani – a Homeland Security agent (Amber Rose Revah) and Billy Russo – defence contractor/Castle’s ex-marine buddy (Ben Barnes) to provide a separate sub-plot that served the main theme critically.
Across the 13 episodes – which feels much too long – the violence explodes in short concentrated spurts – very intense and gory and definitely not for the faint-hearted. It is often hard to reconcile a fight for justice with gratuitous acts of ultra-violence and The Punisher is unable (or unwilling) to do so as well.
Frank Castle does not seem affected by this violence, in fact he seems to find them carthartic, which is disturbing in itself – one particular sequence of torture was difficult to accept because of this fact.
Say what you will about The Punisher – there is much to consider here about the nature of vigilanteism in the super-heroic age although the series raises the questions without adequately answering them.
… still there’s more …