Marvel and Netflix's first post-Defenders collaboration is here, and its bringing back a fan-favorite character. The Punisher, who debuted in Daredevil's second season, has his own show, which raises a bunch of questions.
Can the tale of his revenge be better on Netflix than it was in a series of mediocre (at best) films? Can it be more than just gunplay and explosions? Is it tasteless to have a show about a machine-gun toting vigilante in our current political climate? Can it get the taste of Iron Fist out of our mouths?
It all depends on whom you ask. The series is getting mixed reviews (mostly based on the first few episodes), earning praise for ambitious statements about how we treat veterans at home and acting by lead Jon Bernthal, and scorn for being boring and lasting far too long.
Here's the good and the bad:
"Reading The Punisher didn’t make me violent," Entertainment Weekly's Darren Franich wrote, "but watching The Punisher sure made me bored." He found that the show padded the story to try to absolve Frank Castle's, well, punishment, which ultimately makes it repetitive.
"Bernthal’s a good performer, no doubt... his presence radiates curiosity, intelligence, dark humor."
"The whole season’s like that first episode, with padded storytelling eventually broken up by action just interesting enough to keep you watching."
"It doesn’t help that the military-corruption plotline feels beamed in from a lesser season of 24, except with longer torture scenes."
Dannette Chavez at the AV Club also offered a mixed review, praising the first six episodes for exploring Castle as a veteran with PTSD and the moral quandaries of vigilantism. But by halfway through the season, it might be overstaying its welcome.
"Thanks to Bernthal’s raw and wide-ranging performance in his introduction, the small-screen Punisher has always had nuance."
"Like its protagonist, The Punisher isn’t looking to let anyone off the hook. Rather than hold Frank up as a lone wolf, the series explores the relationship between violence and righteousness, as well as order and chaos."
"It can’t quite evade the same roadblocks that have popped up in other overlong comic book adaptations, like having more time than plot."
On Slashfilm, Chris Evangelista notes that The Punisher, unlike the other Netflix shows, seems to stand alone, and it does a mixed job when it comes to acknowledging the gun violence-based elephant in the room. And yes, like other Netflix shows, fewer episodes may have helped.
"To The Punisher’s credit, it doesn’t shy away from the highly-charged topic of gun violence, but I can’t say it handles the topic in a sensible way."
"There is no conceivable reason to drag The Punisher out to 13 episodes, especially when there’s so little going on here."
Polygon's Susana Polo praised the show for confronting weighty political issues and the War on Terror, though it's showing signs of the same mid-season slowdown that Marvel's other Netflix series have encountered.
"The show fills out Frank’s supporting cast with some real character gems."
"And The Punisher is certainly about a lone gunman — but in its first six episodes it’s much more about America’s intelligence ecosystem in the era of the War on Terror, and the lives of soldiers once they return to our shores."
"The fifth and sixth episodes already drag more than the others, an indication of the usual mid-season Netflix slump."