Nearing a few years ago now, Marvel teamed up with Netflix for a new corner of adaptions surrounding more street level and lesser known characters including Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist. The shows were meant to build up to The Defenders, which would act as an Avengers model for these characters. Majority of these shows were both critically acclaimed and major milestones for Comic Book Adaptions. One supporting character in particular, however, stood out as a lead and drew an outcry so strong that the studios couldn’t ignore it.
They gave the world The Punisher. With the first phase of this corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe wrapped up, we got our next dose of The Punisher in his own titular show. Its now been a month and those who wish to have seen it likely have seen it, so here we are sitting down with our spoilers to discuss the show and determine whether it held up to expectations and if it deserves another go of it. For those who have yet to get around to watching the show, skip the jump to the concluding paragraph for a spoiler-free recommendation.
They reconnected the backstory behind Frank with expanded details.
As it turns out the mob hit was a cover-up for a larger conspiracy. Did it work for the better or was it for the worse?
Trey – I didn’t like it all. When I was watching the show, I felt that it was at its worst when it was directly referencing things that happened in Daredevil Season 2; mainly because the Punisher centered storylines were far better in that show than they were here. The plot line in Daredevil where his family’s death was caused by a drug bust gone wrong due to tension between multiple gangs and an overzealous district attorney was convoluted enough, but turning it into the cover of a hit on Frank and his family was a step too far.
It’s the kind of over the top, convoluted storytelling that I expect to see out of a show like Venture Brothers, which is a parody of these kinds of storylines, and not only was it impossible for me to take it seriously, but it actively tainted my view of the better parts of that season.
Jennifer – I personally thought it worked very well. First, I love that they used the story to show off real struggles with PTSD and I think this retcon played into bigger aspects later on with Franks PTSD which allowed for further character development, as well as, the side story with Lewis not only being allowed to exist and show these things but allowing there to be another side to Frank Billy and really all of the military characters and how they are viewed by the general public at once.
Maybe because of this some of the scenes were a little bit unnecessary, and by this, I don’t mean that they were too violent, but that perhaps some of the scenes were nonessential to the plot and perhaps pointless all together, but the majority of them built into one another. The fact that the “mob hit” was a cover-up for a government conspiracy was 100% believable. So, in my opinion, it absolutely worked for the better! This series is better than any Punisher move a studio could crap out so far.
Jack – This is a give and take because it allowed them to show certain sides of Frank never shown, which is the side of Frank that makes me enjoy this character, but the reason this character was so revered before was because they didn’t shy away from the fact that he was still a psychotic lunatic. They did show glimpses of this indication here and there in this season as well, but not anywhere near as by and large as when he appeared in Daredevil. In the end, the retcon plays to a balance and it all worked well together, but with the retcon, it felt that because of it much of the mechanics throughout were forced to make the single intended plot point happen.
Perhaps with building more off of Daredevil, they could have told an entirely different story, but with Frank being a supporting character there, the double origin kind of needed to happen, even if it made much of the second go of it drag on and seem clunky. This next season should have the opportunity to come out much more well rounded.
Tristan – It made for a good story that allowed for a lot of new characters and sub-plots, but personally, it would not have been my first move to continue with something surrounding his family. I believe they could have still shown these things about Frank and micro with a more original story.
Karen and Frank, what was going on with that and did it work? Where would you go with this in the future?
Trey – I….really don’t know. It’s like watching two platonic friends who really want to sleep with each other, but act like there isn’t any sexual tension between them. It’s just not something that I find very appealing and her only real function was to tell Frank how to find Micro which could have been handled another way. Overall, her inclusion was something that just felt forced.
Jennifer – Obviously, a lot of tension there, seemed like she was in love with him to me, maybe even reminded him of when his wife was alive, much like with Micro and his family? I know the character is Frank Castle and he isn’t a happy character, but he doesn’t come off as even a little happy to have her help. I would like to see a little more into their relationship next season, perhaps some delicate retconning to their history with some flashbacks that are set in the Daredevil’s second season? There was something there for sure, but it felt like they weren’t ready to decide what that is.
Jack – I felt like this actually worked having her involved because this was very much about Franks morals behind his killing and him still discovering them. We see many characters that are from his past that he feels he owes a debt to, regardless of what the world thinks of him, these people know the true frank and in turn, help us understand him better; whether directly or indirectly everything done is done to paint a picture of this character.
Brian – It worked, but it had a bit of a daily bugle feel to it, in the sense that she was ultimately only there to sway the media in the direction that the plot called for. One of the biggest problems was that this show was a Frankenstein of plot devices, and to add to it, they were usually obvious and detached.
Marlon – I believe Karen acts as Franks bright light and last share of humanity at least coming into the season before seeing this in Micro and his family. So, I think it worked to have her included, but I don’t see the relationship working since Frank doesn’t want her to get hurt and perhaps the best route to keep that intact is to disclude here from here or at the very most, make here a cameo character.
Tristan – It was nice to see Frank care deeply about another person, but I would prefer to have him continue to keep people at a distance. It adds to the idea that he refuses to let people end up like his family.
Jonny – Well, I think it did work. While not all that interesting, it added a little something extra. You can really tell they have the hots for each other, but that Frank want to get too close because of how he lives his life. The problem is that while she is clearly willing to brave the dangers, but like Matt Murdock, she wants Frank to give it up in the end, not for her but for them. These characters are too far lost to give it up and the relationship would inevitably fail.
Billy Russo; did you see that coming, and did it work out well or did it seem forced? Jigsaw to be it seems; was that the right move bringing this character back in a more progressed form or would you have rathered the next season be something entirely different?
Trey – The biggest problem with this show, I feel, is that it’s less an adaption of comics and more of a typical low budget spy thriller, having more in common with the Jason Bourne films and the Metal Gear Solid games than its comic counterpart, and Billy Russo is easily the best example of this argument. He’s impossibly good looking, ridiculously nice, and an incredibly loyal war vet with everything going right for him. In other words, too good to be true.
So, the twist with him was something that I saw coming and it really felt cliched because this sort of thing happens in every spy thriller. But the later dramatic stuff concerning how close he and Frank actually were and how far they had drifted since the end of their last tour? The personal one on one duel in the park? Those were great. Those were easily some of the best parts of the show and I am interested in seeing where they go with this if/when they do another season.
Jennifer – They tried to make him seem like a good guy, but I could tell he had his own agenda since the first introduction of his character, even more so when Frank wasn’t sure if he could even trust him. Jigsaw seems like a promising target for Frank next season, but they have room for other characters and even more backstory. Hopefully, they don’t put all of their focus solely on Russo/Jigsaw.
Jack – Again, the ensemble of characters helped hide this fact because it almost seemed as if they were going to unite an army behind Frank and move him past the Lone Wolf mentality only to break him once more with someone dying. Now, that’s sort of what they did, only less drastically. This illusion helped hide the fact that this character was too good to be true. In fact, I thought that Rafael would be the turncoat, but I was wrong. Once again they threw me off the scent when it became apparent that that was not happening due to the fact that Frank didn’t want people involved because he didn’t want to be responsible for more deaths.
This did two things for me. First, like I said it deterred me from the truth of Russo because I focused on this rather than a distrust. Secondly, it showed once again that Frank is a human with morals behind his psychotic killing. As far as Jigsaw goes, I’m really excited for this for two reasons. First is that we only caught a glimpse into the mind and backstory of Billy Russo this season, but it hinted at some seriously fucked up shit that could explain a lot. Secondly, one of the best aspects of this season was the intimacy between Russo and Castle.
They knew each other so well that they became perfect adversaries. Now as Jigsaw and with his facade he worked so hard to build broken, we can see the true demons of Billy Russo and hopefully once again shine a light on more of Franks being that they have a much-undocumented history together.
Brian – The downside and giveaway to the character were that he didn’t pull off the hardened vet role well enough, whether that was intentional or not doesn’t matter; if they made that a little more believable the twist would have come a little more unexpected.
Tristan – I think that it worked out really well. I had forgotten Jigsaw’s real name, so it caught me by surprise, but looking back on his character and the way he acted about his looks, it all made a lot of sense; especially towards the very end when he talked about how important his appearance was. The scene where he gets his face disfigured was so brutal and just so perfect to help portray how unforgiving Frank can be. I also think that with everything they did with the first season, not bringing Jigsaw would be a mistake, and honestly, I’m glad they set it up that way; I can’t wait to see what they do with him in his final and likely more deranged form.
Did Bill Rawlins serve as a compelling enemy? Explain.
Trey – I didn’t care for him in all honesty. He was very much a stereotypical CIA big bad. A guy who was just impossibly evil and does all the evil things we come to expect from such a character. Kills his subordinates when they are no longer useful to him? Check. Kills innocents? Check. Bizarre justifications for his actions? Check. Motivated only by power? Check. We’ve seen it a million times before and we’ll see it a million times again, but we’ve seen this kind of character done far better elsewhere.
Jennifer -No, I wouldn’t call him a compelling enemy as much as I would a cowardly one. He wanted minimal blood on his hands, but with all the gore. I enjoyed seeing him getting pummeled by The Punisher and losing his eye, and thereafter, losing both for good. I also liked how they stuck close to characters comic counterpart.
Marlon – Yes, the asshole we love to hate. Makes you want to strangle him. He knows he is untouchable and uses it very well. This does two things. Firstly, It brings the emotion out of the audience and therein creates a compelling case for Frank to take him out in his signature style. Secondly, it provides an enemy that makes Frank work differently. When it all boils down that makes a fantastic and brutal encounter, which is exactly what we are looking for with this type of character.
Tristan – He didn’t appear too much during the season, so it was more so the idea of what he did and not so much him as a character that made things as compelling as they were. He became more interesting towards the very end when he was more present, especially during the torture scene, but still only mattered to a certain extent.
Jonny – What can I say about this guy other than I wanted to slap him so badly? The upside to the character was that they wrote the archetype perfectly, it put a clear image of what happens during wars. Downside and character killer was that his portrayal was bland and that he came off as too much of a smart idiot for him to be compelling.
Do you think that Lewis was a shallow filler meant to fill a single plot or was there more than meets the eye there?
Trey – I feel like there was more, but it was mostly filler. The problem with most Netflix shows is that each season follows a single, continuous storyline that goes on for the length of the season which is usually13 episodes. As a result, plot points go on for far too long and other things begin taking up screen time and the Lewis subplot felt like something that they may have come up with to fill a few slots. But in regards to the show’s themes and how they frame Frank as a character seems to be serving a greater point.
His role seems to be that of a dark parallel to Frank; the kind of uber paranoid, conservative nut who felt he should take his warped perceptions of justice into his own hands, giving us a clear divide between the kind of people like Frank tend to turn into and showing how different his character actually is from them. So, it is a bit of a mixed bag. Its mechanical function was obvious and detached from the rest of the series, but its thematic purpose kind of fit the greater theme of the show. So, it’s kind of up to the individual to decide which wins over and I am honestly not sure.
Jennifer – Absolutely more there. His character brought in quite a few important points about PTSD. As far as that part of the story goes, some parts of that were also well thought out as to how they affected other elements of the overall plot, as well as, kept me on the edge of my seat. Also made way for introducing Curtis and who he really is as a person. After being beaten with your own leg, if you’re willing to forgive a person who tried to kill you….that shows amazing character.
Jonny – I think his main purpose was to show us that there are many victims of war and that given the right circumstances, anyone of us can get caught up in a nightmare; that you don’t already have to be of the nature like Frank to do sinister things, sometimes the mind is just pushed too far. I think this kind of set the difference between Frank being just a psycho with no goal and Frank being someone who is driven by vengeance, which is something they came at us with before in the courtroom during Daredevil and stuck so well with people.
Beyond that, I don’t see what he brought to the table, especially being that his main purpose was something we’ve already had emphasized in a far better way. Perhaps they will reveal something more in the future, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
Brian – We’re all in agreeance in the two things Lewis did for the show, show the difference between what people like him do and what Frank does, as well as shine light on vets experiences when they return home. Too many other aspects helped emphasize the former which ultimately made it unnecessary and a shallow attempt to mask another loose plot device.
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Micro seemed to have been intended to serve a purpose to Frank, what about this partnership and how it all went down stood out as good/cringe-worthy if any?
Trey – The only things about it that I found cringe-worthy was how it started and anything dealing with Micro’s wife. The former, once again, seems like the victim of its 13-episode length. It’s like they had to stretch eight episodes worth of material into thirteen, and one of the casualties was the pacing on their introduction, which took forever. Then there was the stuff with Micro’s wife. It was so awkward watching his wife flirt with Frank while Micro was watching that I found myself wincing whenever I knew it was going in that direction. Everything else I felt worked for the most part.
Some of their interactions were easily the most human we have ever gotten to see Frank and I think those kind of grounding moments are important, especially when the character’s main calling card is mass murder. I also thought it was interesting how Micro constantly refused to be bullied by Frank and did his own thing when he felt it was right. It kept a decent amount of tension in the air between the two which gave a slight edge to everything that was going on.
Jack – I feel that what they did with Micro and Frank was not only essential but well done. This did a few things for the development of the characters. First, it gave Frank a sense of hope that he might be able to pull from one day, as well as, gave him a new sense of comradery that he had lost with his family and likely even before so when the military let him down. In one of the flashbacks showing that Frank had already planned on leaving you could tell he was unsure how he would live his life without the flag on his shoulders and I think this relationship between him and Micro may have shown him the way.
Secondly, it helped Micro realize that things could always be worse and that Frank is actually a much better person when he’s not completely plagued with hate and vengeance. I could think of another comic adaptation where this went over almost everyone’s head, specifically one where they didn’t understand why this one character was unusually dark and violent. Well, that’s why; that’s the difference maker. Hope can flip a script very fast for those who walk the edge of the abyss. It all helped Micro’s trust in people again and allowed him to vent. Lastly, It helped Micro’s family, who didn’t know the truth and acted accordingly.
The scene in the kitchen with Micro’s wife was brilliant. Frank, Micro, and his wife all were suffering from the same loss so it would make sense they would all try to move on and get through it. With Frank knowing Micro and acting on his behalf it also makes sense she would sense him. What worked the best about it is that none of them truly had any interest and this helped show Franks loyalty to not only us but now Micro and his family, solidifying the iconic partnership between the two. These two are the perfect blend of Black and White.
Brian – Micro didn’t seem to need Frank like they wanted us to believe. In the end, he went to the authorities anyways and the only reason he needed Frank to pull it off as because of Franks involvement in the first place. Madani fell into his lap and would have with or without Frank Castle. The drunk Micros scene was cringe-worthy with the “hung like a donkey” bit being a little too much, but I guess that was the point.
Tristan – Everyone always needs a computer guy to expand their wheelhouse and having a companion give someone for Frank to interact with and help move through some things with. They feed off one another for depth. So, regardless of opinions, the character was essential for Franks character development. The character alongside Frank needed to be someone who was already in the predicament that Frank tried so hard to keep everyone else away from and that’s why everything around these two characters backstory and plots worked so well together; they served as an example for the other supporting characters.
Jonny – What stood out the most to me was Frank’s Intolerance of Micro, but that when it mattered, Frank had his back. I think they really tried to get across what a real friendship is. Mar favorite part of the partnership was when they first met face to face; an excellent bout of strategists that showed the best friends are often the best enemies. They did this with two ends of the tunnel here with micro and elsewhere with Billy.
Agent Madani, she went through a lot, losing partners, facing off with Frank Castle and Billy Russo, being deceived at the highest levels; what were your overall impressions of her and how all that went down?
Trey – I have to be honest. I really didn’t like this character. She seemed like a checklist to me. It’s as if the showrunners went down a list of tough chick cliches and decided to incorporate them all into this character. Minority? Check. Sexually aggressive? Check. Doesn’t take anyone’s crap? Check. Gets screwed over because of it? Check. The most competent person in her job? Check. That was all just WAY too distracting for me to take her seriously as a character or get invested in her subplots.
Jennifer – I did like how they initially made you suspect her partner; if I hadn’t binged watched it, I do believe it would’ve kept me on my toes in between episodes. For a Federal Agent, even though she did have her doubts, they made her come off a little too naive to what was going on around her; even so as much to say she was mildly oblivious.
Jack – I for one felt that here detective skills should not go unmentioned. I feel she did exceptionally well under the circumstances. She worked a case that nobody else could work and she pick it apart from the ground up and adapted to roadblock after roadblock until she got the truth. The highlight for this was the hotel room. She knew exactly what went down even if she didn’t yet want to admit it to herself entirely.
Marlon – She was a strong character who did what she had to do so that justice can be done at all costs. Remind you of someone? Here we go again with them showing two different paths and how a person Frank is necessary, but becoming like Frank is not. I think what she went through will make her stronger and smarter and I’d like to see more of her character next season; there are a lot of places they can take her progression.
Tristan – I feel like she played too stereotypical of a role. The tough female cop played by the one guy she trusted AND slept with. Not impressed, but still added just enough to the plot to not make me be bored by her. I’d be open to seeing her come back but they really need to work on her in a more unique way.
Jonny – I loved her story arc. One of the aspects of this show that they kept doing so well, was to show that they are human and that they have their flaws and their weaknesses, but that they can be strong enough to persevere. Madani was probably the pinnacle of this with all that they put her through. Smart enough to catch on, yet not paranoid enough to avoid the deceit altogether. Gungho enough to hold her own, but too gung-ho to keep control. Genius.
Do you feel that the writing in this season gave a proper Punisher story or did they go too far off course?
Trey – Honestly, I felt that they went a bit too far off course. The thing about the version that we got in Daredevil Season 2 was that it made it abundantly clear that while he was awesome, Frank Castle was extremely dangerous and everyone around him was in immediate danger just by being in the same room as him as well as acknowledging the fact the character has more in common with Batman villains than the heroes of Marvel; a man who suffered an unimaginable loss and was broken by it.
This version, however, wants him to be more of a straight-up action hero. The people he faces this time around are clear-cut bad guys and there isn’t any real discussion as to whether or not they should be killed, whereas, in Daredevil, it was one of the main conflicts of the season. This time around it felt as if they were trying to make him into Jason Bourne or something and while I don’t think the show was necessarily bad on those grounds, it’s a massive leap back from the character that they constructed for Daredevil.
Jennifer – Overall it was a great storyline. They didn’t really go off course; more like paved the way for a few different courses though. Looking forward to what they come up with next season now that they have more freedom of where to go with the character.
Jack – I feel like somehow despite the writing being very textbook, they picked the right elements and meshed them well; obvious, but well regardless. They need to take bigger risks next season. They need focus harder on select characters and they need to understand them better themselves. The best parts of this season were when they let the characters take them as opposed to them taking the characters.
Tristan – The writing was phenomenal. The story that they were going for was done extremely well and allowed us to see many different sides of The Punisher.
Jonny – I felt like they did The Punisher justice. Like they really dug into the character and fleshed him out. I never was a fan of The Punisher until seeing him on Daredevil. Happy they gave him his own show, the character has really grown on me; I think that’s always the goal and so this season was done well.
What would be one thing you would have added or changed about the last season if you could have?
Trey – More prolonged gunfighting. From the trailers, it looked like we were going to get something a bit more action-packed and I found the show’s deliberate pacing a bit frustrating and a few gratuitous, over the top gun fights might have made it a bit better. They did have a few, but they weren’t all that imaginative and seemed to have been going for a more realistic vibe which is respectable but kind of boring when all is said and done.
Jennifer – Nothing really, I liked each episode more than the last and more than the movies or comics, so for me, this was a great time. If I had to pick one thing, I’m a big fan of tie-ins and so I would have liked something more perhaps something with the defenders.
Jack – A few things actually, as for crossovers, either Matt as an information connection or Misty Knight as the cop in the hotel room. Misty would have bridged the connection to more than just the characters from Daredevil. Another thing is definitely the action. They needed to put far more intense action sequences. The gore was good with scenes like Rawlinswlins and such, but the action sequences were kind of just par. Lastly, I would have ended the show with Jigsaws face being actually revealed.
Brian – I would’ve gone over the killing of the family and the morph into the Punisher once more in a kind of creative recap; could have used those hallucinations and dreams to do so. I feel like they should take into consideration that some of their shows don’t click with everyone and some key elements could be passed over. In my case, I never got into Daredevil and much of the areas surrounding these things were very confusing.
Marlon – I would have loved to have seen a cameo by either Daredevil or even Matt Murdock, plenty of the defenders have useful skills and assets to Franks endeavours, but he hasn’t quite met them like that yet, so I would have had him get his info from Matt instead of Karen and do a little conversation between them with the Karen tension in the midst.
Tristan – I feel like a cameo of one of the other defenders would have been nice. Just to kind of emphasize the connection between them all. Having Karen there was nice, but having an actual defender there would have been interesting.
Jonny – I would like to have seen what happened to the fool construction worker from the beginning. They spent all that time introducing him and exploring his arc, then they just dropped him. A flash at the end of him in some funny situation would have been nice.
Was this season one worth watching? How did you feel about it as a whole? Did it beat out previous Marvel and Netflix shows or did it fall short?
Trey – I feel as if it fell into the same area as Luke Cage did. Not nearly a good as Daredevil or Jessica Jones and not as fun as The Defenders, but not nearly the slog that Iron Fist was. I feel like it’s a good show to watch if you’re a fan of this version of the character, but like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., it’s not going to convert anyone who isn’t already invested in the Marvel Netflix series’.
Jennifer – Absolutely worth watching! Punisher is standing tall solo as far as Netflix Marvel shows go. Much, much…much better than Iron Fist and Jessica Jones. Hoping we are not going to be waiting until 2019-2020 the second season.
Jack – I felt it ranked on the higher end of the scale, but it worked with limitations due to its story originally being closed within alternate parameters. This next season should be far better if done right with the ability to continue in their own manner. I definitely recommend watching it though.
Brian – It was worth watching. I thought it was entertaining and probably one of the best if not the best Marvel show to date, but it did not go without its issues.
Marlon – Jon Bernthal is the embodiment of the Punisher, so while this show was a great addition to the Marvel Universe, but not perfect, the fact is that this is still the best Punisher title to date.
Tristan – This season was absolutely worth watching. and it may even be my favorite Marvel show so far.
Jonny – I thought they did a pretty good job with the show. I don’t know about outperforming other Marvel or Netflix shows, but it’s on par with the best if them. I would highly recommend watching this show to anyone.
In Conclusion, The Punisher was a well thought out show that did everything it could to show you the dimensions of the titular character and did so wonderfully, but a show that regardless of its quality leaves much to yearn for. If you enjoy the character, comic books, comic books shows, or even spy action-thrillers, this is the show for you. Don’t go in expecting the greatest show on earth though; sit back and enjoy the ride.
Stay Tuned for our upcoming Nerds of the Roundtables where we will discuss our thoughts on Stranger Things S2, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Crisis On Earth-X, and More.
Writing Contributions by, Jack Flowers, Trey Griffeth, Jennifer Gritten, Tristan Dillon, Jonny Crash, Marlon Ortega and Brian Stewart.
Editing by, Jack Flowers.