Nicole Rivelli/Netflix
November 17, 2017 at 09:00 AM EST

Marvel's The Punisher

TV Show
Action Adventure, Comic Book Adaptations
run date
Jon Bernthal, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Deborah Ann Woll
Marvel Television
Current Status
In Season
We gave it a B

Well, here we are. In the ongoing collision between pop culture and real life that is the year 2017, The Punisher has already suffered from bearing perhaps a too-strong resemblance to real news events. Comic books are typically thought of as “escapist” literature, but the story of a lone man with guns wreaking his vengeance has a different resonance in a world where mass shootings now happen so often they barely even register in the news anymore. I want to be up-front: This show is going to produce some uncomfortable associations and parallels with our current hellscape of a world. We’ll discuss those as they come up, but my co-recapper Chancellor Agard and I are still interested in processing this show as entertainment, and we’ll judge it that way.

The first fascinating thing about this show is that it begins at the end of Punisher’s journey — or at least, it seems to. When we first met Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle back in season 2 of Daredevil, he was a man on a mission to avenge the people who murdered his family. In this show’s opening montage, Frank finally finishes his job. We see him cross off the last few people he believes have connections to the massacre: Frank runs down a few armed motorcyclists, chokes a guy to death in an airport bathroom with his own necktie, and snipes a Mexican drug lord from all the way across the border in Texas.

Although it’s a fun montage, it also has some of those disturbing parallels I was just talking about. That sniper shot is the kind of lazily violent fantasy that feels all-too-common in modern America; together with running down the cyclists, it’s a dream of killing people who ostensibly deserve it without ever leaving your house or car. The point-of-view cinematography that lets viewers look through Frank’s scope as he guns a man down is particularly uncomfortable since we don’t even really know what this criminal did. The rest of the episode carefully builds up another set of villains in the form of Frank’s co-workers at a construction site. We see these men plot, scheme, rob, and generally act cruel to their fellow man, so when the episode ends with Frank destroying them, it feels genuinely cathartic.

How does Frank end up at said construction site, you ask? Well, after finishing off that guy in the airport bathroom, Frank gets rid of his weapons, burns his signature skull-emblazoned shirt, and tries giving up the Punisher mantle to try living in peace with his ghosts. It doesn’t last long. (Recap continues on page 2)

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