The Punisher – Season 1 Episodes 1 – 4 Review

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The latest entry into the Netflix side of the MCU has arrived in the form of The Punisher. What I love about both the comics world and this one is how many completely different stories can be told within it, and nothing has exemplified this more than having watched Spider-Man Homecoming a few days ago followed by watching this! So let’s take a look at the beginning of the Punisher’s solo outing, after a great start in the Daredevil Season 2…

Synopsis:

Former Force Recon officer Frank Castle, known throughout New York City as “the Punisher” after exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his family, uncovers a larger conspiracy beyond what was done to him and his family.

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

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The Punisher, hiding as a homeless man. … He’s on the left, just in case you thought he’d created a REALLY good disguise…

Frank Castle / The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) – The Punisher has finished his goal and killed all the cartel members even slightly responsible for the death of his family. Now Frank Castle has started to live a normal life again… well, a life again… well, spends his time slamming a sledgehammer against a wall and then sleeps. Either way, he remains ignorant to the truth behind his family tragedy…

David Lieberman / Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) – Micro had found some top-level cover-up awfulness from his job as a data analyst and decided to make it known. He was soon found out and seemingly killed, leaving his wife and two children to morn. He lives as a top-class hacker, but wants nothing more than revenge against those who did this to him and to be reunited with his family. Luckily he knows someone else who has had trouble with the same people, if only he could find him…

Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) – A Force Recon partner and friend of Frank Castle, Billy Russo got out of the army before it crushed him, and eventually started a private military corporation named Anvil. There’s a good “is he good or evil” thing going on with his presentation, if only I wasn’t familiar with the comics…

Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) – Dinah has been looking into the death of her friend from Afghanistan for sometime now, and even though she knows she has been transferred away from her post there in order to stop her investigation, she will not give up until she finds out the names of the conspirators…

William Rawlins (Paul Schulze) – A high-ranking CIA man who is at the top of this conspiracy that has enveloped so many people’s lives.

Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore) – A friend of Frank’s who lost part of his left leg in combat. He now holds meetings for ex-soldiers who are trying to come to terms with life outside of the force. He is also one of the few who know Frank Castle is still alive…

Lewis Wilson (Daniel Webber) – A young former soldier who is seriously mentally effected by his experiences there. He dangles on a fine line as to which way his mind is going to snap…

Plus more!

The Good:

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The reclusive hacker character, now with actual sad backstory! Hooray!

If a series has any proper length to it, I always try and split it into three because of the very true adage that “every story has a beginning, middle and end” and therefore it’s fun to dissect how well they tell the story in these three parts, before doing an overall review (so long as the series has an overall arc to it, of course). I say this because these four episodes are a great example of how to do a beginning. Episode 1 perfectly reintroduces Frank Castle / The Punisher and shows where he’s at, and then the next three slowly introduce the other players in this story and starts to tease the bigger picture. It deserves proper praise for that.

Once again Jon Bernthal is perfect in the role of Frank Castle, he plays bad ass so well, but also constantly shows the character’s broken mental state. As I will one day say in my Daredevil Season 2 review, whenever I get round to re-watching it, he is the first Punisher I feel sorry for. Mostly he’s just a 90s cool gun guy cliché whose sole reason for existing to do cool “bad ass” things, and while that’s fine, this is definitely a far more interesting character to watch (with some “cool bad ass things” still happening from time to time!). From constant flashbacks to his lost family life, to the fact that you know full well he could have settled into a new life but instead jumps at the chance for there to be a new enemy to hunt and kill for revenge because that’s the only thing he really lives for any more, he’s a sad character to watch, but also an immensely compelling one.

This is where the story with Micro comes into it brilliantly. He has the same story as Frank, but his family lived. He watches them via hidden cameras and laments his inability to visit them, much to the Punisher’s ire, as he doesn’t have that luxury. The fact that Frank soon inserts himself into Micro’s family’s life starts off as a cruel way to get under Micro’s skin and get his attention, but then seemingly turns into a cruel tease for Frank when he finds himself in a similar situation as to when he was with his own family. It’s a situation that makes both of them miserable, but neither can stop the other, or themselves…

The other major player in this game is Billy Russo. Now if I didn’t already know what comic character and classic Punisher villain that’s the real name of I’d still be pretty sure he wasn’t as nice as he seemed. I mean anyone in a suit all the time standing under a large banner with a military group called “Anvil” is not likely to be a good guy, but I do appreciate that much like Kingpin and Purple Man before him, he seems to be a bad guy with a interesting backstory and most likely some sort of validity that makes you understand how he fell down the wrong path. I hope so, anyway. Either way he is played well, both in the scenes in the past with Frank at war, and in the present.

I also have to mention Dinah Madani, who while is currently your classic good cop (or agent, I guess) obsessed with one case that became personal at the expense of everything else, she is at least playing it well. In Episode 4, when Punisher and Micro steal the guns that she was using for a sting operation, her chase with Frank and eventual car crash was a great scene, and the fact that she now knows Frank is alive is a good indication of things to come.

The other characters are pretty much just Curtis Hoyle and his recovering soldiers, which are sometimes unpleasantly realistic, particularly Lewis Wilson and his regression into digging a hole in the back garden to sleep in, because it’s where he “feels comfortable.”

The standout episode of the four I think has to be “Kandahar”, where we see plenty of great interaction (and interrogation!) scenes between Punisher and Micro, as well as flashbacks that tie them both together, as well as plant important seeds for later. That’s not to say any of the other episodes were bad by any means!

The Bad:

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Some serious issues are also on display. (that’s not a bad thing, for the record!)

Not much, to be frank (ha! I didn’t even mean that…) As I said at the start of the “Good”, this is purely reviewed for its effectiveness as being a beginning to the story, and in that sense I can’t fault it. Nor can I fault the acting, directing… anything. It’s a return to Daredevil Season 1 / Jessica Jones level acting and storytelling, and fingers crossed it continues…

Overall Thoughts:

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I forgot to mention Dinah’s hopeless partner Sam. He’s also a fun character to follow.

So, as I’m sure you can gather, I really enjoyed this. Top class storytelling, acting and direction, and a perfect way to start a story and get the viewer interested in seeing how it all plays out. This version of the Punisher continues to be a great, multi-layered character that’s equal parts tragic and cold, making you feel sorry for him and wishing he’d get help. Punisher is off to a great start, let’s hope it can continue the momentum!

5 Star Watch

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