Warning there some minor spoilers in this review .
The latest Marvel TV series has arrived on Netflix. The Punisher represents a further expansion to the universe of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and the Defenders series. For fans of Marvel films wanting over the top action, CGI and humour these series are not for you.
Season 1 follows the story of Frank Castle (The Punisher) played by the fantastic Jon Bernthal. Following the murder of his family Frank hunts down and gets revenge on the gangsters who carried out the crime. Following this we find him living in a run down flat whilst working construction. Members of the government believe he is dead and only Curtis Hoyle who runs PTSD groups knows he is alive.
Castle quickly crosses paths with an ex NSA agent named Micro who is believed dead by his friends and family after agents attempt to murder him for uncovering torture and murders by the government in the Middle East. Throughout the series they begin working together despite massive trust issues.
In the process of investigating and finding out who ordered and organised the murder of his family, Castle and Micro uncover a conspiracy that goes far beyond Castle’s and Micro’s family. Through contacting former comrades and battling members of the conspiracy a homeland security agent played by Amber Revah discovers Frank Castle is alive and wants to hunt him down after crossing paths. This alerts moles including Castle’s former best friend Billy Russo who is part of the conspiracy and intent on killing Castle after orders from his superiors.
The Punisher is the best new TV show of 2017. What is really enjoyable is that it has brought across the gritty and grisly tone of Daredevil and Jessica Jones but has taken that extra step. The action feels real and authentic, the storyline and the visceral deaths and injurys really add to the feel that Frank could die. But crucially the impact of this is the people beyomd Frank it effects. You feel the trauma from the vision of his family been murdered in his nightmares.
His relationship with Micro is also a refreshing change to the usual MCU. Neither character likes each other and at the beginning of the series Frank appears set on killing or harming Micro. However, as they realise they have a common enemy they slowly co-operate with each other. Micro always remains an enigma. His reactions to Frank interacting with his family range from jealousy to appreciation and murderous thoughts out of protection.
There is some humour but this does not detract or ease the tension through out the season
For fans of Jon Bernthal it should come as no surprise to see him flourish in this role. Following his troubled and psychotic portrayals of Shane in the Walking Dead and Joe Teague in Mob City the role of playing a traumatised yet dangerous ex soldier. What makes Bernthal’s potrayal truly special is that you can see the vulnerability behind his drive for revenge and how close he is to cracking. It is truly a fantastic performance to build this element into his performance.
A major highlight for me was the cameo of Deborah Ann Woll playing Karen Page. Her link to the Daredevil series and Castle is well played and not over relied on. These cameos stand out due to her ability to bring an extra layer of vulnerability to the show. You can sense her fear as she helps Castle anyway she can. You can also feel the sexual tension of her character whilst Frank is cold and filled with hate. I truly hope this is explored further.
Finally, the other standout in this series is Ben Barnes playing Castles former best friend Billy Russo. His betrayal of Castle could have been easily telegraphed however, due to the ability to give his character hints of honesty and loyalty to Frank allow you to believe he is searching for his friend when he discovers he might be alive. The characters ability to use his sexuality to get what he wants and seduce Dinah at homeland security is a refreshing take on men using sex as a weapon to get what they want.
Overall I would rate Season 1 4.5 stars out of 5. The cast are fantastic and the realistic brutal fights are a fantastic change compared to Marvel’s films. Where the series needs to improve is by digging further into the criminal underworld and allowing characters such as Karen Page further screen time. This will also allow to see further developments in Frank Castle’s relationships which will allow Jon Bernthal to really demonstrate his incredible talent.