The moment Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) made his debut in season 2 of Daredevil, it was almost a guarantee that his own show would come soon after. Initially, the plan was to have the four individual series (Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage & Iron Fist) leading up to the team event The Defenders, but Bernthal made such an impact as The Punisher in the same regard that Tom Holland’s Spider-Man made an impact on the MCU. Once both iterations of the characters showed up in their respective universes, they were instantly regarded as the best versions. Not capitalizing on Bernthal’s performance would have been a missed opportunity.
I very much like Thomas Jane’s version of Frank Castle in both the movie and the short film he put out after. The movie itself isn’t a strong comic book film in the slightest but Jane still was an imposing force of nature. Jon Bernthal cranks that up 100 notches – he’s more emotional, damaged, honest, loyal introverted, brutal, and charismatic in the role. From his time on The Walking Dead whenever his name pops up for a role, you know an outstanding performance will come with the territory. Jon Bernthal was born to play Frank Castle – just like Vincent D’Onofrio with Wilson Fisk and Robert Downey Jr. with Tony Stark.
After the death of his family Frank has been on a one-man wrecking crew mission to kill every person who may have had a hand in their deaths. Frank, keeping a low profile works on a construction site who gets dragged into helping a co-worker survive an attack after a failed score went south. Getting the attention of a hacker simply known as Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) the two reluctantly decide to work together to get their lives back in order. Micro aka David Liberman was a former NSA agent who discovered the Kandahar torture videos, sending them to Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) which got himself shot and forced David to fake his death living off the grid.
Like the previous individual seasons that came before it, The Punisher returned to the 13-episode season proving once again that for these shows it’s too much time spent. The Defenders went the 8-episode route and flourished while 13 seems to lag in the middle parts of the season with their B and C plotlines. Characters like Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) and Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore) fill out the picture while the love story between Billy and Madani and Lewis (Daniel Webber) hold the story back completely.
Both have their strengths and their weaknesses; Lewis’s storyline shows an in-depth look at the impact of war and how it affects mental health. Credit to Daniel Webber for his sick and twisted performance, he knocks it out of the park, even comparing himself to Frank at one point saying they are the same when the juxtaposition between their actions says different. Frank is a killing machine yes, but only going after those who have any part in the conspiracy in the death of his family. Lewis is just damaged and psychologically disturbed since returning home. He can’t differentiate between right and wrong. Switching to his storyline kills any momentum that Frank and Micro build up. Just like with Daredevil season 2, the Elektra storyline holds the season from reaching the greatness season 1 achieved.
The Netflix series have been consistent through each series staying grounded and street-level with its universe. Supposedly this universe is the MCU but aside from scattered lines mentioning the attack on New York, no connection has been made in the films of a rampaged lunatic killing anyone and everyone who’s in his way. Well, not everyone – Frank is a good person, he helps people, Sarah Lieberman (Jamie Ray Newman) and her two kids Leo (Ripley Sobo) and Zach (Kobi Frumer) while David is playing dead. Frank is also consistent in saving Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) whom the two share a special bond formed when Nelson and Murdock were still in business. Karen is being turned into a damsel in distress secondary character when she has proved her ability in previous series.
Family and brotherhood are The Punisher’s centralized themes in which both are established early in in the season. Both Frank and David are on a journey together and quickly form a bond over their families – one seeking absolute justice for his and the other looking to find his way home. But among Frank and David is a brotherhood that soldiers form – Frank and Billy together stand out more, sharing something that a fraction of the population gets to experience. In a way they are two sides of the same coin – fighting for what they believe in but Billy acting in a more selfish manner. All he cares about is money, cars, and girls. What a perfect set up for a handsome character to turn into a disfigured mess at the hands of frank castle, his brother.
The Punisher fits perfectly into the Netflix universe but takes the violence, rage, serenity, and brutality to new heights. Jon Bernthal fits the character like a glove – he was born to play this role. With a solid supporting cast, the length of the series and certain plots kill momentum leaving the inaugural season in the middle of the road among the previous series. Not as good as Daredevil ad Jessica Jones but not as bad as Iron Fist. Give me more Jon Bernthal in anything especially as Frank Castle with the punisher Skull wreaking havoc on the criminal underbelly.
Created By: Steve Lightfoot
Music By: Tyler Bates
Starring: Jon Bernthal, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Amber Rose Revah, Daniel Webber, Paul Schulze, Jason R. Moore, Ben Barnes, Jamie Ray Nathanson, Deborah Ann Woll
Where to Watch: Netflix
Release Date: November 17, 2017
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%
My Score: 3 out of 5
Based On: Punisher by Gerry Conway, Jhn Romita Sr. & Ross Andru