Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) is presumed dead. After the murder of his wife and children, he went on a killing spree to punish those responsible, ending in what can only be described as a bloodbath. Now he lives a quiet life alone, trying to keep his head down and stay off the radar. However, when a mysterious hacker calling himself Micro finds out Castle is alive, he recruits Castle in the hopes of creating a tenuous alliance with his alter ego, The Punisher.
This series shares common ground with Netflix’s other Marvel series that run collectively under the umbrella of The Defenders. The Punisher isn’t one of The Defenders, but his newest onscreen incarnation made its debut back in season two of Daredevil. There have been other versions of The Punisher to hit the big screen, even as far back 1989 starring one Dolph Lundgren, but nothing on live-action TV until now. This newest incarnation is deeper and more intricate, a likely result of having 13 episodes available to tell its story.
While many details have been changed in the migration from comic book to Netflix, this winds up being a very accurate translation of the comic book character. Castle doesn’t tell jokes and rarely smiles. He’s gruff, unsociable and is otherwise unlikable. His two redeeming qualities seem to be that he genuinely cares about those few people he’s close to and that he only brutally murders bad guys. The Punisher does show Castle in some very human moments, a stark contrast to his brutal assault on thugs, evildoers and those who have betrayed him. Still, there aren’t quite enough of these tender moments to make the character redeemable. Instead he is given just enough humanity to keep the audience rooting for him and left as properly ambiguous anti-hero.
I should warn potential viewers that this show doesn’t shy away from dark themes or graphic violence, making it distinctly different from other titles coming out of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This made The Punisher stand out in a crowd, and if nothing else, it shows there is still room for the Marvel universe to grow and push its boundaries from time to time. However, there will be other potential viewers who may find the hyperviolence and gritty subject matter unwelcome.