There have been three incarnations of Frank Castle/The Punisher on screen. The first was back in 1989 with Dolph Lundgren as the lead. a campy 80s comic book movie that was not all that well received. The second iteration of Frank Castle was in 2004 with Thomas Jane, a portrayal many feel captured the character’s comic book essence perfectly. Then, in 2008, came the Lexi Alexander directed Punisher: War Zone with Ray Stevenson as the titular character, an uber violent gory movie that became a cult hit. All three movies were box office bombs so the character seemed destined to remain on the sidelines forever until he was brought into Daredevil season two. Jon Bernthal revitalized and redefined the role of Castle. Based on the character’s reception in his supporting capacity, he was give his own show by Netflix. And it’s a grand slam.
The show’s overall plot is simple – Castle goes after the people who destroyed his former life. One might think that had been resolved at the end of season two of Daredevil, but it turns out there is a much bigger conspiracy afoot that includes much more than the deaths of Castle’s family. Like Jessica Jones, Punisher explores taboo subjects that other TV shows often avoid. Jessica Jones tackled abuse, rape, and consent, whereas The Punisher tackles themes like PTSD, soldiers coming home from war and adjusting to life outside of the combat zone, and gun violence. Also, like Jessica Jones, this show is narrowly focused from start to finish with no episodes that feel like filler.
As in Daredevil, Jon Bernthal’s lead performance delivers on multiple levels. There is a great supporting cast behind him that all deserve praise for the parts they play in this show. Like other Marvel Netflix programs, it starts a bit slow but once it gets going, it becomes an intense and thrilling ride all the way to the end. If violence is your thing, you won’t be disappointed at the level of gritty realism Marvel/Netflix has infused this show with. It easily earns it’s TV-MA rating. But the blood does serve a purpose to the story. Violence is a part of the main character’s life. The scenes are not candy-coated in the least but serve the overall story.
In conclusion, The Punisher is one of the most complete Marvel shows, story wise, to date. The political and social overtones of the show are fleshed out better than it’s contemporaries, which is a testament to the writers who keep the interesting over it’s thirteen episode run. The Punisher is more than just another Marvel show. It transcends the comic book genre and brings so much to the world of television.