Frank Castle is back. The Punisher has finally debuted on Netflix and we’ve obviously binged the entire season. There’s been plenty to dissect across the season, with numerous villains, a giant conspiracy and Frank seeking revenge against those who hurt his family. It’s been the first Marvel Netflix series to be spun out of a previous project, and it’s definitely worked well. When Frank debuted during Daredevil season two, fans were already itching for some more brutal Punisher action, and his solo series delivers. With bloody fight scenes, an emotional depth to the character and a grounded military story -- The Punisher manages to be a very entertaining action series as well as a comic book adaptation.
But let’s not be completely positive, the series also has its fair share of problems. Whether it’s empty promises made by people at Marvel, or a weak villain, the show isn’t perfect. It’s enjoyable, but we do have our issues with it. It doesn’t achieve the thrills that Daredevil consistently provided, and it doesn’t have the impressive noir elements that Jessica Jones could boast about. But it does carve out fast-paced action balanced with a political slow burn. Here are eight things we like about The Punisher, and seven things we hated.
15 LIKED: FRANK CASTLE
This seems like a no brainer doesn’t it? Of course we like Frank Castle, he’s the hero of the show and the one that we’re all using Netflix to watch. But it’s the fact that he’s a morally ambiguous hero that makes him so much more likable. Which is strange to say given that his stoic and gruff nature would usually make him difficult to empathise with.
But because we know what he’s already been through thanks to his appearance in Daredevil season two, it’s easier to sympathize with how he acts. Especially when we see how he’s haunted by nightmares of his family’s deaths. It suddenly becomes a story about loss and PTSD rather than just a ruthless vigilante handing out his own brand of justice.
14 HATED: WHAT COSTUME?
The series is incredibly grounded, much more so than the other Netflix series that all involved superpowers, the supernatural or a full superhero costume. The Punisher deals with real world threats. And because of this, Frank Castle dresses in tactical black outfits whenever he’s mid-fight, or he’s in his army combats.
So it’s disappointing that he’s barely in the iconic skull bulletproof vest throughout the series. He burns the one he made at the end of Daredevil season two, and makes another one during episode 11. For the rest of the time he dresses in plain clothes, mainly to stay out of sight and not to draw attention to himself. But considering all of the marketing for the show involved the skull it was annoying not to see more of it.
13 LIKED: MILITARY STORY
It would have been quite easy for Frank Castle’s solo series to just follow a similar theme as his character arc during Daredevil. After all, seeing him hunt down gangsters was incredibly satisfying once we knew what he’d been through. But the series uses the 13-episode length to tell a wider backstory without re-doing a simple origin story.
We learn more about Frank’s military career and how it ties into what makes him The Punisher. After all, he wouldn’t have made it as far as he as without his elite military training. And when that backstory weaves its way into the current conspiracy, it becomes all the more enthralling. Rawlins, Schoonover and Billy Russo all have a part to play against Frank, and those broken relationships wouldn’t be nearly as exciting without the military history behind him.
12 HATED: RE-DOING THE DEATHS OF THE CASTLE FAMILY
So one of the key parts of The Punisher’s origin story is that his family are caught in a violent crossfire between warring gangs. That was covered perfectly during Daredevil season two without even needing to show it. But the solo series felt like it needed to drag out their deaths for a little while longer.
It’s revealed to Frank that the killing in the park wasn’t an accident, it was all a cover up in an attempt to kill him because Rawlins believed it was him who leaked the video of Zubair’s murder. But it just felt like a cheap way of getting Frank angry enough to embark on a violent murder spree. The military aspect of the show was already entertaining enough, there was no need to tie it back to the deaths, it just felt strung out.
11 LIKED: THE ACTION
Whilst there isn’t an iconic hallway scene for Frank like in Daredevil, Luke Cage or The Defenders, the action is fast paced and brutal. There are so many high-octane scenes that don’t hold back on the brutality or the ingenuity of the character. But the fast-paced nature of the action sequence lend themselves to the type of violence that we see on screen.
Whenever he’s engaged in a fight, Frank is constantly moving. He’s ducking, weaving and outmaneuvering his opponents. One great example of this is when he takes out an entire group of terrorists single handed after his unit is ambushed. He’s like a wave of rage, blasting down corridors and picking up weapons from fallen enemies after he wipes them out. Frank Castle is a violent force of nature.
10 HATED: FRANK ISN’T GRATEFUL TO MICRO
Yes, their relationship is to be anything but friends, it’s to benefit them both on the whole but they don’t have a respect for the other. Frank doesn’t like it when Micro goes behind his back, and Micro isn’t fond of how close Castle had become with his family. Which is understandable, but it makes things extremely complicated for the pair of them.
But our biggest problem between the two is that Frank isn’t grateful for the amount of help Micro gives him. If it wasn’t for the hacker, Frank wouldn’t have ended up on the right path throughout the conspiracy whatsoever, in fact he’d actually be dead. Let’s not forget that Micro was the one who rescued him and got him to safety after that fight in the woods.
9 LIKED: GUN CONTROL DEBATE
Because of who Frank Castle is and the violence that he dishes out in a brutal manner, he’s always been a source of controversy. So it stands to reason that the series would address some of that whilst also looking at the larger issues that are also very real in our world. It brings in the gun control debate.
It does so by showing the violence Castle inflicts on others and asks the audience whether they should really be enjoying it or not. It’s smart enough to not give us a definitive answer, but it does at least show us that Frank is equally effective with his bare hands as well as with an arsenal of weapons. It allows the audience to make their own minds up about the issue of gun control.
8 HATED: DAREDEVIL DOESN’T CAMEO
After such an incredible second season of Daredevil that not only set up The Punisher but The Defenders too, we couldn’t help but wonder if Matt Murdock might show up during Frank Castle’s solo series. After all, they had an incredible dynamic during that season.
Yes, we know Matt was left in an injured state at the end of The Defenders -- but this would have been a great way to hype up anticipation for the third Daredevil season. We just want to see a hallway scene with both Daredevil and The Punisher dishing out the pain. We all know he’s coming back anyway, the showrunners should have capitalized on it. Even if it Matt wasn’t even in costume, we’re sure there could have been some legal issues that needed consultation… We just want more Daredevil, okay.
7 LIKED: PTSD
Whilst many expected The Punisher to be a show just filled with glorified violence and plenty of action sequences, what we’ve been given actually has an intelligent, sympathetic undertone. With Frank himself suffering from PTSD after the deaths of his family, it shows us the degradation of his mental state at times. Violence and strength seem to be his catharsis for easing the pain.
But another side of it is seen from the point of another ex-serviceman, Lewis Walcott. He becomes disillusioned with the country and how it treats its veterans. He counters this by becoming a terrorist, and is Frank’s opposite. They’re two sides of the same coin, to the point where the media think the two are working together. And although it does take it to the extreme, the show carefully shows how devastating PTSD can be.
6 HATED: NO NEW HERO
Back in August, the new Editor-In-Chief of Marvel, C.B. Cebulski made a statement that “another Marvel hero may be showing up”. So whilst this wasn’t a confirmation of a previous character coming onto the show or a completely new vigilante’s introduction, it sent the internet into a frenzy over who could show up.
At first it seemed like Daredevil could’ve shown up but obviously that didn’t happen. Frank Castle could have been the in route into bringing any number of grounded heroes into the world. One such character that could’ve worked perfectly was Marc Spector aka Moon Knight. Especially since they both share a military background, it would have been great even just to drop his last name in somewhere. That was a missed opportunity, Netflix.
5 LIKED: KAREN PAGE
One brilliant aspect of the Netflix series’ are how they all intersect and crossover. They could go down the obvious route and have any one of the other heroes crop up, but that would be too easy. They make the world feel more fluid and real, because of course Karen Page would end up covering a story about Frank Castle and a conspiracy. That’s just who she is.
So when she appeared in the series as another investigative route as well as an emotional anchor for Frank, it worked brilliantly. There seemed to be something of an unspoken relationship building between the two of them, but it was always better left unsaid. But the dynamic between Deborah Ann Woll and Jon Bernthal was fantastic, just don’t tell Matt Murdock.
4 HATED: NEW YORK HUNTS FRANK CASTLE… AGAIN
When The Punisher first made his bloody debut in Daredevil, he had the entire city of New York looking for him as he waged war on anyone associated with the park massacre. And for good reason, it made sense. But when it came to his own series, the writers once again placed Frank on the run.
It felt like a lazy plot device in what is otherwise quite an intelligent series. It felt safe by putting a familiar pressure on the character when really it would have been more interesting to see Frank operating without that level of scrutiny. Sure, insinuating that he worked with the terrorist was a mildly different way of looking at things. But that was resolved so quickly it didn’t have enough time to resonate with the audience.
3 LIKED: FRANK AND MICRO
When Micro was teased at the end of Daredevil season two, many wondered how the partnership would work between the hacker and Frank. Thankfully, it’s not just a clear-cut friendship. To begin with they start out more like ‘frenemies’, instead of just immediately working together. Micro is an Edward Snowden type figure for the MCU, and he works brilliantly.
But combine him with the volatile nature of Frank Castle and suddenly you have a captivating dynamic. Add Micro’s wife being attracted to Frank when he helps her around the house in Micro’s absence, and it takes the pair in some entertaining directions. Ultimately, it’s the character relationships in the series that show just how well written it is rather than the conspiracy or the action.
2 HATED: RAWLINS
When we first got a glimpse of Rawlins in the initial trailer for the series, he looked extremely menacing. But the final product couldn’t be further from the truth. He doesn’t have an intimidating presence in the slightest. Yes, he looks like a villain and torturing Zubair was uncomfortable, but aside from that he’s hardly very memorable.
The captivating villain of the series were the people that felt closer to Frank, Billy and Lewis Walcott. Rawlins was intended to be the criminal mastermind, the puppet master behind the whole conspiracy -- but instead he just felt like a weak man with a boring vendetta against Frank. We would’ve rather they focused on Billy more than Rawlins to be honest. Rawlins didn’t have the exuberance of Killgrave, the menacing brutality of Kingpin or even the slick charm of Cottonmouth. Shame.
1 LIKED: BILLY RUSSO
Well, it looks like we have our villain for season two. The series spent a lot of time establishing Billy as Frank’s best friend during his time in the military. But it slowly picks apart Billy’s history in group homes as a child and the abuse he faced. We come to realize that he’s actually quite disturbed by the end of the season, even wanting to die because his appearance becomes horrifically ruined.
Yes, that’s right. They embrace the character’s terrifying look from the comics, they’re pointing Russo in the direction of becoming Jigsaw. Frank drags his face down in a shattered pane of glass and it is brutal. He’s left for dead by Castle, but we don’t doubt that he’ll be coming back to cause havoc.
What did you hate and like about The Punisher? Let us know in the comments!