Frank Castle / The Punisher was introduced to our screens in season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil. Such was the popularity of the character that he was given his own series which came out a few weeks ago. Led by the perfectly cast Jon Bernthal, I was excited to see an action packed series that focused on Marvel’s most brutal character.
What we actually got wasn’t the over the top action series we may have expected or even hoped for. Instead this series, based on an insane comic book character with a big white skull on his chest, gives us one of the most realistic accounts of just what military veterans go through when returning from war and how Post Traumatic Stress Disorder really affects people’s lives.
I didn’t expect that, and at first it threw me off. I went in expecting a basic plot, around some kind of drug ring that Frank had to take down with a hail of bullets, but this isn’t that simple. The decision to delve into this sensitive area and pull no punches about how tough it can be was a very brave call, and one that I think has paid off massively. The Punisher is one of the best dramatic TV shows I’ve watched in recent years, and it’s broken up by the visceral violence that you would expect in a Punisher series.
Of course the main characters story is front and centre, featuring regular flashbacks to his families murder and his time in Afghanistan. This all gives so much for Jon Bernthal to work with and he grabs it with both hands. He is so good as this character, from the grunts and growls in combat scenes to the quiet looks and the rage bubbling away beneath his eyes. He is immense and carries the series on his shoulders.
Backing him up is Amber Rose Revah as Homeland Security Agent Dinah Madani, Ben Barnes as Franks ex military friend Billy Russo (if you know comics that name might mean something), and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as David Leiberman / Micro. All 3 are really excellent, with each character fleshed out over the series and all go through an arc of some kind. Frank Castle is the main character, but these three all are key parts of what makes The Punisher a great series.
The rest of the cast are good, even the child actors weren’t distracting and Marvels Netflix shows continue to cast good, talented actors in all the roles they have, the only misstep perhaps being Iron Fist.
This is a Punisher series, so despite all the dramatic tension and excellent character building, we do need to see some action. I can imagine some people feeling frustrated by the lack of a minigun welding Punisher that nerds like me would love to see, as there are a few episodes where there’s not much action. However the action that is spread throughout the series is very hard hitting, even if the Punisher himself seems to soak up bullets like a sponge in water and not think much of it.
There is a couple of scenes in the final episodes of the series that are really not for the queezy among you, but overall I think the action was well done. It lacks anything as memorable as the Daredevil hallway scene fights, and many of the firefights blend into one another in my memory, but they’re still entertaining enough to watch.
I found the Punisher to be a much more thought provoking and harrowing series than I expected it to be. The quality of the performances and the way it paints a picture of what war vets go through is 100% worth watching. It might not be the Punisher series you expected, but it’s one that you’ll be glad you watched.
Good For: Shows PTSD in a very real, moving way. Great performances and doesn’t drag like most 13 episode marvel series have for me.
Bad for: if you are hoping for non stop action, this isn’t for you. Also Bernthals permanent batman impression from the Nolan trilogy might grate on you.
9/10 – Great, clever series that surprised me!