This new blog series, is about the bingeable, the shows that you can watch in one sitting – or two. Perhaps not the latest of series, these are what I’ve been binging on lately – and been enjoying.
I must admit I was wary to start The Punisher, mainly because I was a big fan of the character from the second season of Daredevil, my fave after only Elektra, and I was nervous about Frank Castle getting his own show, especially after the debacle that Iron Fist was, but nevertheless I embarked on watching it.
And I loved it.
Boy, I really loved it.
I loved it like I loved Jessica Jones, and that’s saying a lot.
The problems with the Marvel/Netflix shows are well-documented – there are too many episodes, the villains are flimsy, and there are always too many stories happening at the same time. But while I do think The Punisher would have been better if the season was shorter, it had a compelling enough to story to keep me hooked right through.
The Punisher follows Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) after his stint on Daredevil whereby he escaped prison and faked his death in order to pursue those who had his family murdered. This takes him to an operation that involves the higher ups in the American government, a conspiracy and cover ups upon cover ups. While the story and motives are lacking at points, and fails to tell a story that we haven’t seen before, what The Punisher does well is tell an excellent story of PTSD and what it is like returning home for soldiers.
I enjoyed Jessica Jones because it was so much more than a superhero show, it tells the story of female oppression and sexual assault, and the same with The Punisher – it featured the very real pain of PTSD and gun violence. There was a lot of talk when The Punisher was released because of Frank Castle’s penchant for violence (especially with guns) and many in the alt-right taking The Punisher as their unofficial icon, but the show employs a lot of nuance in undertaking the gun issue – showing how in the hands of the wrong person it can cause havoc, but also explaining why some people feel safer with a gun. There is even a full on debate between a senator and Daredevil’’s Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) about gun control which is interesting.
An excellent example of how this story is developed is via Lewis (Daniel Webber), a former soldier, who comes back from war – broken, angry and a need to release the pent-up rage he has inside – we see him dealing with this, with the help of Frank and Billy’s friend Curtis who runs a support group. Lewis is seen as the extreme, but we also see Billy (Ben Barnes), Frank and Curtis (Jason R. Moyle) dealing with the horrors of war in their own ways, and how what they did in the battlefield still affects everything that they do.
It’s no secret that Jon Bernthal is an excellent actor – from the action scenes to the pain to even the lighter scenes – he brings his A-game and I can fully see him playing excellent lead roles in films and TV in the future, The Punisher was an excellent showcase of his abilities. We were introduced to Frank Castle, the revenge-machine in Daredevil, but The Punisher gave us a look at Frank Castle, the man. We meet his wife and children through flashbacks, we learn more about his love for them, we learn about his friendship with Curtis and Billy and why they have such an important bond, we see him wrestling for his ambiguous feelings for Karen Page (I ship it, obviously).
The best relationship, however, is between Frank and David aka Micro, who form an alliance to take down the bad guys who both of them faked their deaths to escape. They work together, become vulnerable with each other, share details of their lives, argue, laugh, it’s an interesting and compelling dynamic between two men who wouldn’t have spent time together if it was not for dire circumstance.
Ben Barnes is also exceptionally good as Billy Russo, the problematic villain that doubles up as Frank Castle’s best friend, and when we see flashbacks of their friendship (especially the time that Billy spent with Frank’s family) the betrayal hurts even more.
There is so much to say about The Punisher which I probably will as it comes to me, but for now I want to encourage you to watch this show, and leave you with my favourite scene: