Liam Hoofe reviews the first episode of Marvel’s The Punisher…
It’s fair to say that the Netflix branch of the MCU has faltered somewhat in recent outings. Iron Fist was universally panned, while The Defenders did the bare minimum required of it to be classified as ‘good’. Fans are hopeful then, that The Punisher, the much-anticipated spin-off show, can get things back on track for the franchise.
Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of Frank Castle was the best thing about Daredevil season 2. The Punisher has been tackled on the big screen many times before, but this incarnation of the character managed to successfully bring a lot of nuisance to a character whose MO is shooting people in the face. Bringing that level of depth to a supporting character is one thing, though, and the real test is going to be whether they can sustain that over a full series without it just becoming another generic shoot-em-up. The show’s opening episode, you’ll be glad to hear then, gives plenty of cause for optimism.
Things pick up where they left off, with Frank finishes off the last of his victims in a great pre-credits sequence that will hopefully set the tone for the rest of the series and after that, we skip forward six months and Frank, now presumed dead, has been given a new identity and a job working on a construction site.
The Netflix shows were always at their strongest when they had some sort of social conscious at their core, and it looks as though the issue we could be dealing with here is PTSD. Frank is portrayed, as he was in Daredevil, as a man struggling to deal with his past, and it looks as though the series is going to be dealing with that on a much bigger scale. This is pretty much clarified when we are introduced to Frank’s friend, Curtis, a man who holds self-help groups for those dealing with these kinds of issues. PTSD is no doubt going to prove a very sensitive subject to handle throughout the show, and hopefully, Marvel is capable of handling it well. We are also given flashbacks of the murder of Frank’s family as well, operating as a nice catch-up for those who either didn’t watch Daredevil or who simply needed a reminder.
The episode also introduces several new characters who are likely going to be key players this season, most notably, Dinah and Sam, two agents investigating Frank’s past, with special focus placed on the former and her quest for the truth. We are also given some throwaway villains in the shape of Frank’s co-workers and given a tease at the end of the episode about an upcoming character.
An obvious inspiration for Frank Castle in this series has been John Wick, and there definitely parallels to be drawn between moments in the opening episode and the two Wick movies, not least of which, Frank’s sledgehammer coping mechanism. If the show is going to be drawing inspiration from those two movies, then I’ve absolutely no problem with that at all, the characters are near identical and it would make sense for the show to follow those similar character beats.
It is also worth noting that the episode is surprisingly low on violence, with there being no action right up until the last five minutes. For me, this wasn’t an issue, with the episode manages to sustain a gritty tone throughout and the episode’s final scenes, including one where Frank went full Triple H and destroyed everybody with a sledgehammer, felt justified, as opposed to just being there because it’s an adaptation of The Punisher.
‘3AM’ was a steady introduction back into the troubled world of Frank Castle, one that used violence sparingly and set plenty up for the coming 12 episodes.
What did you think of ‘3AM’? Let us know in the comments below, and let Liam know on Twitter @liamhoofe