The Punisher is brutal, dramatic, and a near home run for the latest Netflix/Marvel collaboration. Much Like the part, he played in upping the dramatic tension in Daredevil Season 2, Frank Castle is back and gruffly chewing up and spitting out the bad guys that are responsible for the death of his own family.
When it comes to drama and tension building, few shows deliver like The Punisher. There is a lot I like about this show, but that is not what this article is about. This is about where the writers and actors missed their target.
First and foremost, Agent Madani. Neither the actress nor the character came off as invested. I continually felt that the writers were trying to force a stronger bond between her and the audience. Almost every scene with her seemed to drop in energy and the show would trudge through molasses until the character was gone. The main problem was that as dry as she was, she was also integral to the arc and to tie together the storylines of Frank Castle’s past with his present.
It was that necessity that grew more frustrating as the show progressed. Madani continued to be more important when it came to ratcheting up the tension between Frank and his targets and also his friend and confidant, Micro. As intense as the actress worked to play her, I never bought Agent Madani as a well flushed out character.
The other major flaw I encountered with this show was the choice to make him so primal when it comes to killing. When he switches over, we lose the tactical genius that he tends to display when getting ready and even during the execution of many of his tasks. Honestly, I get the switch over. It is almost necessary for him to compartmentalize the violence that he has to enact and endure. I do not entirely appreciate how the directors and showrunner utilize Franks violence to such graphic extent. It crosses into the fetish stage at times, glorifying the splatter and crunch of bone in the name of edginess. Being gratuitous does not make you edgy. It makes the scene exploitative and, honestly, lazy.
Another missed opportunity, or at least misdirected, was the discussion the writers worked to engage with regards to gun control. While I appreciate the view that some do not believe that meaningful gun control legislation is necessary or even possible, I did not appreciate the demonization of the gun control politician. He was built as a hypocrite as if to envision all politicians that work towards a more reasonable gun control are all full of it. Not to say they are not. They are politicians after all, but I believe they could have had a more nuanced approach to this hot-button item then the one they opted for.
This exploitation of Franks violence was first expressed when he appeared in Daredevil and was fully realized in a couple of scenes that frankly could have been cut by a few seconds and still gotten the same affect.
It is for these reasons that I cannot fully recommend The Punisher to every person I know. While I do believe the overall messages that get brought up are valuable and important to explore, the vehicle is a bit tone deaf at times when it comes to the same violence it is trying to vocalize about.