Edgy, emotional, and full of gratuitous violence, Frank Castle arrives on Netflix with a new level of brutality for the Marvel shared universe.
After exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his wife and children, Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) uncovers a conspiracy that runs far deeper than New York’s criminal underworld. Now known throughout the city as The Punisher, he must discover the truth about injustices that affect more than his family alone.
Marvel and Netflix’s joined venture in taking on some of Marvel’s lesser known/popular vigilantes has been hot or miss, touch and go, here and there. And while I have not had the pleasure of sitting through every episode so far of the latest hit series, The Punisher’s first episode left me anxious and hungry for more episodes immediately.
Frank Castle is not exactly a changed man since last we saw him taking revenge on those who took away his family during Daredevil’s second season. In episode one of his own series, Frank has an alias living in a rundown dilapidated part of New York trying to lay low while working construction as he takes his frustrations out with a large hammer against concrete walls. Even though his name has changed, Frank is still the same old sociopathic vigilante motivated by his own twisted form of justice that is served with just the right amount of gratuitous violence.
During his time at the construction yard, Frank makes some enemies with a few co-workers of whom are deadly criminals. One evening, the construction goons go out for a large score against a local mafia family during which everything goes wrong and their identities are compromised. Figuring their only way out is to kill a member of their group that put them at risk during the heist, they all head back to the construction yard to dispose of him. Well, Frank is there too letting off a little steam with his hammer when he hears the commotion. He steps in to save the kid and ends up killing the others, disposing of their bodies in a pool of concrete.
Once Frank gets the info on the mob they stole from, he goes after them at their hideout and viciously murders them all. Castle is unaware that at the same time all of this is going on, an unknown party is spying on him with a software program. On the other side of town, Homeland Security is looking into details of a murder of an agent’s former partner and a heroin smuggling operation.
Tensions are running high as Frank comes to realize that his demons won’t simply go away on their own, and that the only chance he has to silence them if only for a moment, is to bring down the swift hand of vigilante justice and punish crime in his own way.
Jon Bernthal is at the top of his game, with a cast of new characters that I can’t quite say I have grown attached to yet but I think I am getting there. If you are looking for the pace to pick up and jump right into the action, you might be disappointed. There does seem to be a bit of a slog at times to setup Castle’s state of being, which is purely intentional on Marvel/Netflix’s part. The MCU from a film and television perspective is as large as life, and there are many angles of many stories that need to be told, and there is no exception with Frank Castle.
As the story begins to unfold, you can tell the direction that this show wants to go, and it is headed there in red. Just don’t expect guns ablaze every minute of at least the first episode. Frank is intense, but he is also a person with feelings and motivations that are not always about using guns. They just usually happen to end in using guns.
With all of the violence across America these days, there has been some concern with the character, his motives, and his actions. Although I agree with the sentiment, we must understand that his is nothing more than a show that means to entertain and tell a story, nothing more. If that is enough to turn you away, then I understand and respect that completely. However, from a simple story-telling perspective, you would be doing yourself a disservice in avoiding The Punisher, especially if you are a comic book fan.