It won’t be long before we can’t watch our favourite small-screen Marvel heroes on Netflix, what with the impending upgrade of Disney’s streaming service, so it’ll be interesting to see if the final few runs can fix the issues that have blighted the most recent batch of 13 episode hour-longs. Namely a plot stretched thin over too-many episodes, or how to fix a problem like Iron Fist?
This Friday finds Jon Bernthal dons the skull and crossbones for his own standalone series as The Punisher, and the reviews have begun to filter through to the world-wide-web. Does Frank Castle fall foul of formula, or is it the brutal PTSD drama the character has been crying out for since the days of Dolph Lundgren?
Variety kick things off in a positive fashion, headlining their review by stating “Bernthal is perfectly cast in the comic-book character’s surprisingly great standalone series”, and this is backed up by the meat of their glowing summary.
The Punisher transcends what it appears to be. Not completely, and not always; this is still a very violent show, saturated in tortured masculinity. But thanks to Jon Berthal’s seamless performance as the non-superpowered vigilante Frank Castle and showrunner Steve Lightfoot’s sharp, conscious storytelling, “The Punisher” approaches the high points of “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” by introducing a damaged, deadly character and telling his story as one piece of an unjust whole.
Also very much erring on the side of positive were The Wrap, who offered up the following praise:-
Like all good noir stories, The Punisher can be very dense at times, but in a surprising twist for a Marvel show it does all come together in a way that makes sense. It keeps a handle on its various plot threads, paying all of them off — this is nothing like The Defenders, a show full of threads that don’t go anywhere, or Daredevil, which creates threads all over and never attempts to reconcile them. The Punisher actually holds itself together as a thematically cohesive unit.
Comicbook appeared to align closer to the idea that The Punisher suffers from the same flaws inherent with Marvel’s Netflix output, but was still quick to underline the strength of the show.
The Punisher may seem like the latest in the assembly line of Marvel Netflix series, but it definitely breaks the usual mold to offer fans a surprisingly deep and nuanced tale of violence and the trauma it leaves in its wake. It’s unlike anything else in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and ranks up there with the best of the Marvel Netflix brand (Daredevil season 1, Jessica Jones)… For those worried about previous Marvel Netflix series problems coming into play, there are definitely two that do. First: The Punisher is as formulaic in structure as any Marvel Netflix series… In that same vein, this first arc ends with some equally obligatory twists, which could send the second half of The Punisher into some very Luke Cage-ish territory.
The negative notices can be found firstly in The Daily Dot, who sat The Punisher alongside Iron Fist as Marvel’s worst output to date.
The Punisher has more in common with Iron Fist than Jessica Jones or Luke Cage, although I wouldn’t insult Punisher with a direct comparison. Where Iron Fist was painfully incompetent, The Punisher is just slow and overly long, failing to grasp the power of its title character. It also suffers from a recurring problem in Marvel’s Netflix franchise: uninspired crime writing. Madani’s investigation was simple yet hard to follow, often seeming to “discover” something we already knew.
Uproxx perhaps unfairly criticised the show for its timing in the wake of the horrific gun tragedies suffered by the people of America over the past month, but were also less forgiving about the familiar flaws in the Defenders universe.
As has unfortunately been the case with Daredevil and the Marvel shows that followed it, Punisher has many more episodes than story to fill them with. Though Netflix provided critics with the whole first season in advance, I ran out of patience after six episodes; they featured maybe enough material to justify three episodes, and probably two. Where the early shows like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage tended to start strong before running out of steam, the last few like this, Iron Fist and Defenders, have simply started slowly and then meandered from there.
As always, the most important opinion is your own, and you can form that when The Punisher hits Netflix on Friday 17th November.
After exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his wife and children, Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) uncovers a conspiracy that runs far deeper than New York’s criminal underworld. Now known throughout the city as The Punisher, he must discover the truth about injustices that affect more than his family alone.
The Punisher features a cast that includes Jon Bernthal (Frank Castle), Deborah Ann Woll (Karen Page), Ben Barnes (Billy Russo), Jason R Moore (Curtis Hoyle), Michael Nathanson (Sam Stein), Daniel Webber (Lewis Walcott), Amber Rose Revah (Dinah Madani), Ebon Moss-Bachrach (Micro), Jaime Ray Newman (Sarah Lieberman), Paul Schulze (Bill Rawlins), Shohreh Aghdashloo (Farah Madani) and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in an as-yet-unrevealed role.