Netflix and Marvel have teamed up before to deliver solid action/drama/comic book fare. They have a pretty good track record too. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage have all had strong showings in the story and writing categories. Each tackled interesting side stories with solid acting and inventive action scenes. On the other side of the spectrum, we have Iron Fist and The Defenders with their weaker writing and even weaker acting. So when the Punisher was announced, anticipation was high for this show to deliver us back to the high bar that had been set in the past and help many of us forget about the mistakes of the last two shows. Thank the Gods for actors like Jon Bernthal and a writing team that took the time to deliver a plot that not only delivered a strong backstory but also took us on an introspective journey as a nation at war that does not know what to do with its weapons when we bring them home.
Pros and Con’s of this binge-able entry into the Netflix/Marvel catalog. Pro’s: The side story, which has been slow down points for some other Marvel shows, was well told and felt like it had a place in this world and timeline. It is a stimulating dialog on PTSD and veteran’s issues that is not overly heavy-handed. It manages to work its message into the narrative in a respectful (in my opinion) way, while not losing momentum in the narrative. The directing team and writing team know how to pull the best performances out of their actors by staying out of the way. The action is tight and well-choreographed and they make sure to show the audience that The Punisher is mortal and gets hurt. A lot!
Con’s: I never felt that Agent Madani really found her groove. The character seemed to be out of place but necessary from an aspect that we needed someone to be hunting down the bad guys including the Punisher. The writers kept putting in little things to push the watcher into a place of sympathy for her while portraying her as strong, but I ended up just not caring too much or getting too invested in her role. The violence is GRAPHIC! The Punisher is a hard character and not an easy one to get on board with his code. Marvel made the choice to make him the most violent and bloody character I think in part to remind the audience that even though he goes after the bad guys, he himself is not clean or free from sin. He gets his hands dirty while following his code and mission. Because of this, I have always felt conflicted about this character, both in the comics and on the screen. His actions are not heroic most of the time, just painted with the idea of heroism because even worse bad guys get taken out as he enacts his vengeance.
The viewing of The Punisher deserves more than a single blog so in the next two installments, I am going to dive into the above themes a bit deeper and discuss why even the con’s of this show helps to make it such a strong show. For now, take my advice. If you can handle the explosive violence and heavy themes, go watch The Punisher. It is beautifully shot, amazingly acted (for the most part), and might even stimulate you and your fellow watchers to have some deep discussions you would not expect to be inspired by a comic book show.