Netflix’s latest Marvel series to hit the streaming service is The Punisher — but is it worth watching?
More than a dozen Marvel shows have graced Netflix before this, from Daredevil, to Jessica Jones, to Luke Cage. All received various levels of applause from fans (we won’t mention Iron Fist), as Marvel continue to dominate the small-screen superhero scene in a similar way that Disney are bossing it on the big one.
But why should anyone tune into The Punisher? Does anyone unfamiliar with its comic book history need to know the character before jumping in?
Firstly, the reasons are plentiful (and duly noted below) and secondly, no we don’t need prior knowledge of who The Punisher is to enjoy the series, but here’s a beginner’s guide to no holes barred vigilante.
Who is The Punisher?
As a spin-off from Daredevil, The Punisher is set around former Force Recon officer Frank Castle. Hellbent on bringing criminals to justice (more often than not by bloody, gruesome death), we’re introduced to a man that’s in the final stages of avenging his murdered wife and child. The pain he causes for other — despite its supposed justification — is a pain release form Frank and part of his own addiction that ultimately brings him satisfaction in killing bad guys.
Living alone and isolating himself from any form of social interaction, Frank’s a troubled man unable to sleep from the nightmares of his family’s death. The tortured soul cannot assimilate into society, either; instead he exists in a bitter and tormented psychosis of going to work, smashing walls with a sledgehammer, and going home. The Punisher doesn’t have any special powers; he’s just a man using his Force Recon training, willpower, and determination to bring criminals down.
Unsure about The Punisher? Here’s a few reasons you should check out episode 1…
It’s got its own identity and knows it
The Punisher is a self-contained series opener that has the rawest, grittiest edge and attitude over all of its predecessors. That first hour tonally offers something quite different to what we’ve seen before within the various Marvel series.
Luke Cage arguably tapped in to a much more real-feeling world and offered some relevant social commentary on societal racism and divide than, say, Daredevil. However, The Punisher comes across as something even more adult and dangerous than any of Marvel’s most extreme efforts to date.
Here, it deals with a PTSD-suffering ex-marine loner Frank Castle (played by Jon Bernthal).
Jon Bernthal is perfectly cast
Speaking of which, Jon Bernthal — a face many will be accustomed with from early seasons of The Walking Dead and films like The Wolf of Wall Street and this year’s Baby Driver — seems ideal for the role of the deeply disturbed veteran. He’s haunted by a number of things; not least the murder of his family, which makes for a volatile and brooding character.
Bernthal portrays the tortured, claustrophobic, broken man down to a tee. The strong but silent anti-hero type makes him a foreboding presence, and the lack of creative restrictions with its 18 certificate allows for his more unforgiving characteristics to shine through.
He’s certainly got a powerful, dominant presence that doesn’t shy away from his vulnerabilities either. Interesting characters are what makes these sorts of TV shows, so the blend initially seems to be there.
Tonally it’s spot-on
As the first 18 certificate Marvel show for years, creatively the show can explore a much more violent and unrelenting story in terms of what it expresses visually. The lack of constraint means we bear witness to much more graphic and visceral action sequences which highlights what the vigilante stands for. In his pursuit for street justice its debut episode alone builds a modest body count.
A solid, strong debut
As first episodes go, The Punisher is rather good. Other shows like Daredevil and Jessica Jones took their sweet time to get going — despite the former also being an 18 certificate and the first of its kind.
Punisher is able to go about his business when he has to yet it’s the character of Frank that feel just as compelling to watch. There’s a distinction between the two: one’s a cold-blooded, unflinching killer and the other doesn’t necessarily act upon his rage while going about his day job on a construction site.
It’s the highest rated Marvel show so far
Ok, so it’s still early days but The Punisher is currently Marvel’s best rated show on Netflix. At an impressive 9.2/10 it may only have 12,000 votes but it is comfortably ahead of nearest rival, Daredevil, on 8.7 (even though it admittedly has an additional 260,000 votes to its name).
The entire first season of The Punisher is available to stream on Netflix now.