After blowing audiences away with his penchant for aggression and depth, Jon Bernthal‘s The Punisher is finally streaming on Netflix and we’re here to give you our two cents on each episode in the coming days. If you haven’t seen any of the episodes yet, we highly suggest that you look elsewhere as we will get super spoiler-y with our reviews.
Holy shit. That was my literal reaction as soon as the episode ended on one of the most iconic comic book phrases associated with The Punisher. WELCOME BACK, FRANK. It’s a sentiment that echoed with me as I watched the credits roll, amazed at how tight-knit this episode was. Like Micro, I was thrilled to see Frank back in full action.
Poignant yet violent, the episode opens with a glimpse of Frank’s previous life. We know from the trailers alone that our boy Castle is a bit of a guitar enthusiast, teaching his children how to play some tunes. It’s a beautiful look at once was but is quickly eclipsed by the violence of Frank’s present. Rural Alabama, Juarez Mexico, and New York City. Bodies pile up as Frank’s quest to wipe out every scum involved in the Central Park massacre reaches its end. Lost with nowhere to go, Frank takes up a meager construction job, spending his days and nights sledgehammering walls. His co-workers think he’s screwing them over by working way too hard to the point of rendering overtime useless but to Frank, it’s his daily therapy. Like a veteran coming home from a tour, Frank feels lost once more, alienated by his past and shittiness of people in general. Despite it being the centerpiece of the premiere, I absolutely love how independent Frank’s arc is from the big picture.
Jeph Loeb and company have promised the emphasis the show has on PTSD and the plight of the US serviceman and the episode does a great job of introducing the audiences to the real-life horrors of fighting a war and going home. We get introduced to some soon-to-be regular faces in a veteran support group (where we see Jay Landsman from The Wire who plays a gun-toting Christian NRA-supporter). Curtis Hoyle is a character that particularly stands out to me. Sam Wilson similarities aside, I think it’s such a refreshing twist that we have a character who completely sympathizes with Frank’s actions in Daredevil Season 2 and would even fight side by side with Frank is asked but also manages to be a sound voice of reason for the character. I cannot wait to see where they take Hoyle down the series.
Frank’s arc with his asshole co-workers may be independent of the larger things at play in the season but its Dinah Madani’s introduction that puts things in perspective for the coming episodes. Madani is a Homeland Security agent hellbent on investigating the murder of a close confidant in Kandahar, a murder she believes to be connected to the ‘coincidental’ deaths of Frank Castle and The Blacksmith from Daredevil Season 2. It’s her subplot that ties the entire thing together. Amber Rose Revah plays Madani with graceful ferocity, a convincing believer in the system that allowed her family to prosper in America, the very system that condemns the struggle of veterans like Lewis. She might be my favorite female character in the Marvel-Netflix world not named Claire Temple.
The cherry on top of this already solid premiere is that explosive and ultra-violent ending. Seriously, barring the prison hallway fight, I don’t think any Punisher moment from Daredevil Season 2 rivals the energy of this episode. Seeing Frank Castle beat those dipshits up while Tom Waits screams about hell breaking loose incites a wildly exhilarating feeling. Sure, their beatdowns are telegraphed the moment they come into frame but that doesn’t stop it from being a fun Punisher moment.
4.5 Live Cement Burials Out of 5. Next to the first ever episode of Daredevil, this might be the best opener a Marvel-Netflix has had.
That freaking Gnucci reference! Fans of the Ennis run, rejoice!
The shootout in the end was heavy metal AF. Makes the Kitchen Irish shootout in DD2 look elementary.
Can I just say how great it is to have nuggets of Punisher destroying common criminals as opposed to taking down bigtime government conspirators?
I love the tension in the stick-up scene!
Going forward, I feel like deaths in this show will get crazier and crazier. If you thought someone getting decapitated by a car door was crazy, wait till you see Frank bury people alive in a cement mixer.
The opening sequence for this show is a beaut. Another favorite of mine. I’m digging Tyler Bates‘ Johnny Cash-inspired theme music for the show too.
Bernthal is such a star in this show. The nuance he brings to Frank is incredible.