Marvel's The Punisher Divides Critics in Early Reviews

jon bernthal as the punisher

With the embargo lifted on reviews for Marvel's The Punisher, the floodgates have opened, revealing that television critics are decidedly split on the upcoming Netflix drama. Seriously, opinions run the gamut from boring to brilliant, with plenty falling somewhere in between.

Review: Marvel's The Punisher Isn't About Violence, It's About Loss

CBR's own review of the first six episodes found The Punisher to be a surprisingly thoughtful story about loss and grief, with star Jon Bernthal delivering one of the strongest performances of his career, and possibly of Marvel's Netflix series.

Ahead of the drama's release on Friday, here's a selection of what other outlets are saying about The Punisher:

Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly: "I suspect anyone who sat through all of the brand’s 2017 output will appreciate The Punisher as ;A Thing That Is Better Than Iron Fist.; But set aside the occasional bullet-ballet flourishes and the whiff of government paranoia, and you’re left with something that feels like a melancholy riff on some CBSy procedural like Seal Team. Which isn’t bad. But it ain’t frickin’ good."

David Betancourt, The Washington Post: "This version of The Punisher puts all previous attempts out of their misery. It’s a definitive adaptation that doubles as Netflix’s best Marvel show to date."

Nick Venable, CinemaBlend: "Fans coming to The Punisher expecting a never-ending spray of machine gun bullets are going to be surprised to find how brutal this show is with its emotional underpinnings. Adhering to a more realistic aesthetic works wonders for The Punisher, which gets to the heart of Frank's tragedies in interesting ways, and allows comic characters like Micro and Billy Russo to find dramatic relevance in live-action that they never quite had on the page. Its violent narrative may feel extremely timely in 2017, but the psychology and heart at its core are timeless."

Liz Shannon Miller, IndieWire: "[W]hile the show’s commitment to character-focused storytelling is admirable, it does remain trapped in the political climate into which it launches. By far the most awkward element is the fact that the media, in the world of The Punisher, calls Frank Castle a terrorist. In our current society, that’s a word which any white male who commits a great deal of violence seems to dodge, for some reason. Frank racks up quite the body count over the course of the season, but calling him a terrorist in this fictional context makes no sense given the fact that in the real world, that would never happen."

Chris Cabin, Collider: "This is incredibly serious material, and it’s a testament to the ambition of The Punisher that the show’s creator, Steve Lightfoot, does not shy away from the isolationism and inner torment that veterans live with on a daily basis. One soldier that attends the same discussion group that Castle drops in on, run by fellow soldier Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore), is found digging a ditch in his backyard in the hopes that it will help cure his anxiety and insomnia. Another, much older veteran talks cynically about a careless government and the need for an armed uprising. Stolen valor and high-end private security firms also factor into the narrative along the way. The series is nothing if not timely, and when the focus is on these matters, The Punisher is more challenging and captivating than anything the MCU or Marvel TV programs have produced thus far."

Merrill Barr, Forbes: "The Punisher is the best Marvel series to date set within the fictional MCU. Why? Because it does its own thing."

Alan Sepinwall, Uproxx: "Bernthal’s Punisher isn’t Batman or Godzilla, but he’s not hugely dynamic, either. Lightfoot tries to emphasize the combat veteran part of his origin and nature wherever possible, but this Frank just seems grumpy most of the time, except for the rare instances where we get to see him fully in action. Bernthal moves fluidly and look natural with guns and other props — there’s a reason he keeps being cast as tough guys in projects like this or Baby Driver or The Walking Dead — but the wave of bland supporting characters (which also includes Ben Barnes from Westworld as another ex-Marine) seem as much about Frank being too thin for the vessel in which he’s been placed as about the story being the same."]

Sonya Saraiya, Variety: "At first, Marvel’s The Punisher seems like another misstep. In the television landscape at large, another overwhelmingly gray and brutally violent show centered on a dysfunctional antihero is superfluous. Within the superhero genre, it’s even more so. But The Punisher transcends what it appears to be. Not completely, and not always; this is still a very violent show, saturated in tortured masculinity. (In just the opening credits, an array of semiautomatic weapons float in the air to arrange themselves in the skull-shaped logo of the Punisher.) But thanks to Jon Berthal’s seamless performance as the non-superpowered vigilante Frank Castle and showrunner Steve Lightfoot’s sharp, conscious storytelling, The Punisher approaches the high points of “Marvel’s Jessica Jones” by introducing a damaged, deadly character and telling his story as one piece of an unjust whole."

Arriving Friday, Nov. 17, on Netflix, Marvel's The Punisher stars Jon Bernthal, Ben Barnes, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Amber Rose Revah, Deborah Ann Woll, Daniel Webber, Jason R. Moore, Paul Schulze, Jaime Ray Newman and Michael Nathanson.

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