Review: “The Punisher” (2017 – Season 1)

I am angry at myself for taking so long to finally watch the first season of The Punisher. It may have stolen Jessica Jones’ spot as my favourite Netflix Marvel series.

Already in Daredevil Season 2, Frank Castle quickly became one of my favourite characters, as opposed to Elektra, whom I loathed and who now shares Worst Character with the Iron Fist. Anyway… The man has more layers than a honey cake, and refuses to play into one side or another. With his solo series, that three-dimensional approach carries on even stronger.

Frank Castle/The Punisher is again played by Jon Bernthal in his redemption after the much-hated Shane from The Walking Dead (maybe the fact he was so universally hated means Bernthal did do a good job but ew to Shane forever). That remains a right casting choice for the ages. It just fits in a way that probably no other character from the Netflix Marvel Universe does, even though casting is generally amazing, with very few exceptions (looking at you, Danny Rand and Elektra). He takes ultraviolence to a whole new level, but he has morals about it after leaving the army. And yet he is also essentially a family man who can be a sweetie when not being, you know, a rampant murderer.

His rapport with Karen Page during Daredevil was already a point of contrast to the violent man he was believed to be, but in this series he gets to play with a lot of new characters that just add so much. It made for rich relationships and discussions. We again have Deborah Ann Woll as Ms. Page, whom Frank holds very dear. We have Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle and Ben Barnes as Billy Russo, friends from his army days. Ebon Moss-Bachrach as David Lieberman, a fellow ghost, and the whole Lieberman family. And Amber Rose Revah, as Dinah Madani, a Homeland Security agent.

I’ll get into more detail below with mild spoilers, but for those who haven’t watched it yet I say GO WATCH IT! It is Marvel at its best.

Mini spoilers follow now!!!

Plotwise I am much happier with this than going back over and over again to the freaking Hand.  I am sure they will pop up again at some point when an inevitable crossover from the Punisher and other Netflix Marvel series happen, but their absence was not missed. Instead of a poorly-motivated, poorly-explained villain, we have chilling villains that do what they do for ambition and money. They are not trying to take over the world with a vague weapon called the Black Sky. Oh no. They are using the system. Especifically, the CIA, the Army and private military companies.

The Punisher is a series that knows its time. It brings up all sorts of moral dilemmas and societal challenges we faced nowadays. From the lack of support to veterans to corruption in the government, from the potential problems with private military companies to gun control. It was just an overall win for me, it was a tight story with less evident plotholes (I mean really, NO ONE recognised Frank in the streets after all the fuss about him in the media before his “death”?).

What I loved the most was his relationships, as mentioned up there. Bernthal and Moss-Bachrach as Frank and David had an incredible, incredible chemistry. It’s hard to do what they did, keeping a balance between outward hate and annoyance and inward love for one another and their friendship. Also lovely was Frank taking a little care of David’s family, who think he is dead. His worry was endearing, and it came from reminding him of his own lost family and through his care for David. But I guess for most fans the most swoon-worthy moments were when he was with Karen Page. She seems to be the most important person alive for him right now, and the writers are definitely setting up a romantic atmosphere to be explored later.

Ben Barnes was a figured that particularly surprised me. He was ok in all I had seen him before. Not bad, absolutely not, but not spectacular either. Well, he won me over now. He was SO good and didn’t make his actual role in the plot so obvious from the get go, which I really loved.

Overall a win win win win for me. It is rare that a series has me physically gasping and talking to the screen, and this definitely did. Looking forward to the already-confirmed Season 2!

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