Show: The Punisher
Available on: Netflix
What we thought:
The Punisher is not your typical comic book hero. If you had to look up the word anti-hero in the dictionary, you'll likely find a picture of Frank Castle. Antiheroes may sometimes do the right thing but it's often for the wrong reasons and because it serves their self-interest rather than being driven by moral convictions.
A great example of this is if you look at Captain America and The Punisher in the Civil War comic books. The team reluctantly let's Frank join them but Cap quickly has enough of his brand of heroics when The Punisher kills two supervillains who offer their help. Cap wouldn't kill anyone if it couldn't be helped or if there was another option. Frank Castle doesn't think twice.
And even though Cap attacks him in response, The Punisher refuses to lift a hand against him because Captain America is a good guy. The mentality of Frank Castle, ladies and gents!
Once again, Netflix and Marvel have knocked it out of the park. While the show very much feels like part of The Defender's world, it also stands apart and brilliantly on it's own.
In a time where gun violence is at an all time high in the United States it was prudent that the show address the issue of gun control and glorifying gun violence. They do this via the only character who connects this show to the Defenders-verse, Daredevil's Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). Karen is all for being able to carry a concealed weapon and she goes up against a senator who is completely anti-gun. The positioning is an interesting one, with this well-liked character taking an unpopular opinion.
Another topic that the show tackles is the PTSD that soldiers suffer when they get home from war and the consequences of war on the every day man. Lewis Walcott (Daniel Webber) is a consequence of a war that ruined him and a government that didn't care for him. He's unhinged and the show sets him off as a comparison to Frank Castle. It's a sad story that ends in his suicide.
For the first half of the series I somehow felt scared for my own life. To say this show is violent is an understatement. Bear in mind that The Punisher is a highly skilled ex-Marine with nothing but vengeance on his mind. He has zero feels about killing anyone who crosses his path or stands in his way. So expect the blood and gore are pretty high but what else were you expecting from a character who lovingly hangs his guns on a wall.
After the events of Daredevil season 2, The Punisher is presumed to be dead and has started a new life, lying low with a new identity. He is pulled back into the drama when a former NSA agent gets hold of him with information about his family and Operation Cerberus, the off the books operation that Frank was involved in, in Kandahar.
Jon Bernthal is excellent in the role of Frank Castle. The relationship between Frank and former NSA agent, David Lieberman is an endearing one. Frank cares about his family because he seemingly shares a connection with David's wife who believes her husband to be dead. And the only genuine smiles we get from Frank are from his interactions with the hacker.
Bernthal's acting is so nuanced, especially when it comes to showing an emotion that's not rage. You see it in the way he interacts with anyone who is not on his hit list. David Lieberman provides that slight comic relief in an otherwise very dark series.
And speaking of darkness, god damn Billy Russo! The problem with Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) is that the man is just so beautiful that even though he is the actual worst, I still want to see more of him on my TV. The utter betrayal Frank feels when he realises the man who is supposed to be his brother is heartbreaking. I so desperately wanted him to have been secretly on Frank's side, but he is a damn son of a bee and yet I am very happy he wasn't killed. RIP Billy's pretty face though.
Agent Madani (Amber Rose Revah) was a weird character for me in that I didn't like her right upfront but she grew on me. This is a woman who had to work against the odds to get to where she is. She's an Arab-American woman working for Homeland Security which is a very steep hill to climb. She is arrogant with good reason, has almost no friends and forms relationships reluctantly.
She's on a mission to expose what happened in Kandahar and is the string that pulls everything together.
I found the exploration of the American sense of patriotism, blind loyalty when following orders and what that does to the human mind and spirit very interesting. It didn't shy away from just how much war messes people up.
This show was messy in that there was so much blood and guts all over the place but the plot was so neatly sewn together.
(Photos: Netflix/Nicole Rivelli/Jessica Miglio)