‘The Punisher: Season 1’ Review

I really don’t like feeling like a cheerleader for Marvel Studios, but their consistent level of quality is why I champion them so hard. The Punisher is the latest, and greatest, entry into the Marvel TV/Netflix canon, and I believe it is the most important small screen experience available for us now. Rare it is we come across something so fearless, and unadulterated, yet so human and caring. It’s the character piece that Marvel was missing, and now we have the most superhuman character, and it comes from one with no powers, beyond sheer will and drive to finish his mission. Frank has to come face to face with responsibility, morality, duty, honor and loyalty, all while dealing with the actions of his past. One thing I ask is: Is this a good show, or is it tailor made for me?

Unlike the other Marvel shows (with the exception of Luke Cage, perhaps) The Punisher could have been a season of 24. It is the most grounded, from a general story perspective, of anything with the Marvel stamp on it. Essentially, it is a Tom Clancy style thriller. Frank cleans up the remains of the mess from last we saw him, then attempts to come back to the world, leaving the war behind. Unfortunately for him, and fantastic for us, old habits seldom fade, and die hard, because it takes less than one episode for him to slip back into his combat boots. To not spoil anything, the first episode features a double digit body count, to get us pumped for the return of the coldest vigilante, and after that, we are pulled into the truth behind the skull.

While Daredevil Season 2 introduces Frank and shows us why he is who he is, this solo series shows us how he became who he is. While the DS2 gave us some great dramatic, emotional and action packed scenes with Frank, this vehicle gives us an entire season of it. I still love DS2, but that was just an appetizer, whereas this is a 12 course banquet. I like Thomas Jane, but the problem with The Punisher2004 is that we got a cold, reptilian-brained Frank, which normally would be quite accurate, but he doesn’t begin his rampage until the finale of the film. Here we get a more emotional Frank that is both subtly human, as well as reserved at times, and a hardened soldier who has no time for nonsense.

I actually can’t believe that a show like this came out when it did, and I am ever so thankful for it. This is a show that is pro: America, 2nd amendment, military, family, and freedom all the while it draws attention to the seriousness of: PTSD, fatherless households, and the moral and ethical quandary of the chain of command. While the show is violent, and boy do I mean violent, is shows the emotional toll that the actions of murderous vigilantism can take on a man, but doesn’t condemn violence as a, sometimes, necessary solution. Now I am not an advocate for violence, but I believe in extreme cases, it is a perfectly serviceable means to an end, and The Punisher is the most extreme of mainstream comic book characters.

I couldn’t give a more glowing endorsement for this series, and I highlight it as among the top 3 best pieces with the Marvel stamp on it. It is woven so nicely together and feels like it stands alone, despite it being in such a huge universe. In addition to being so coherent as a story, it is also a tight vehicle for Frank Castle that comes complete with strong performances (singling out Bernthal with the performance of a lifetime), great characters, pure emotion and real drama. Finally it touches on themes that many studios are too afraid to tackle now, and ironically, The Punisher the series deals with these issues in a way that The Punisher the character deals with criminals. Pure, raw, blunt force, that is not always easy to swallow, but you just need to take it. Sometimes there are bad guys and doing bad things is the only way to win, and that soldier that does his duty to serve God and Country is the man you thank for taking up that mantle.

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