Review: Netflix’s ‘The Punisher’ a brutal addition to Marvel


Credit to Netflix

Dylan Wright, Arts and Entertainment Editor

Marvel has adapted the comic book character The Punisher many times in the past. The brutal, gun-toting vigilante has been in two feature films, several animated television shows and countless video games. No adaptation has portrayed the character exactly like he is in the comics because of censorship and misreadings of the character.

Netflix’s latest Marvel show, “The Punisher,” manages to get as close to the comics as it can.

Frank Castle, played by Jon Bernthal, is allowed to be as violent as he wants on this show, often leading to scenes of gruesome bloodshed between the Punisher and his enemies. This may be a drawback or a positive, depending on the person, but the show doesn’t actually shine during its visceral fight scenes. It actually is at its best during the quiet moments.

Bernthal’s performance is nuanced, showing the pain of Castle as he copes with his family’s murder. He brings a depth to a character that in the past has been played as a gun-wielding maniac. He really shows a hurt and an emptiness that makes the audience feel his pain.

The supporting cast shines as well, especially Amber-Rose Revah as Dinah Madani. Her portrayal of the character is a highlight of the series, giving a strong performance that creates a lasting impression as the season continues.

The show is about dealing with loss, whether that be the loss of a family or the loss of a cause. It delves into the post-traumatic stress disorder experienced by members of the military and the struggles they have to deal with when they come home from deployment. It is refreshing to see servicemen at a support group talking about their experiences and struggles, and the show definitely finds some heart in that.

However, the series gets muddled in politics, causing the pacing to slow down just to address the elephant in the room: the idea that the protagonist takes to the streets to kill people.

The subject matter of the show, a man seeking vengeance for the death of his family, is a difficult one to cover. A character that seeks justice through guns and death is controversial, and “The Punisher” does its best to try and address these issues. However, it never quite takes a stand. Is Frank Castle right in killing these people? Should this type of vigilantism be condemned or praised?

The series tries to have it both ways and ends up coming across as muddled. In the latter part of the season, it even goes into mass killings and attempts to start a debate about gun lobbying. However, by failing to properly come out on one side or the other, it falls short of its mark.

A storyline where a soldier who fails to adapt to society again seems especially confusing. It attempts to create a number of reasons why the soldier is close to the edge and fails to settle on one. It’s a storyline that is important to address, but it seems like the creators don’t know how to properly approach it.

The ideas and themes presented in “The Punisher” are massive and if done correctly could make the series an outstanding portrayal of PTSD and soldier trauma. However, the show gets wrapped up in trying to say something important that speaks to both sides of the political fence. It fails to say anything meaningful.

Contact the writer: [email protected]