Marvel’s The Punisher Episode 1-6 Review – Welcome Back, Marvel

Recently, Marvel has accomplished the unthinkable, they suck. Marvel’s Iron Fist was a disaster of Scott Buck proportions which only became worse when he decided to partake in Marvel’s Inhumans as both an executive producer and showrunner. While it was announced in July, Buck was removed from his position as showrunner and executive producer on Iron Fist season 2the damage was already done to Marvel’s reputation. How in the hell could they come back?

Then came Frank Castle, a man who speaks softly but with a purpose. Hiding in the shadows, he delivers justice with full brute force strength. While his storyline was handled with love during Daredevil’s second season, Jon filled me with both trepidation and excitement. One satisfactory storyline does not make a great spinoff. Heck, we all just seen the mess that was The Defenders.

Frank Castle is dead but that’s not stopping a string of violent murders plaguing New York City. Bodies are everywhere and it looks like the work of Frank Castle but he’s dead. The police are baffled except for a hacker named Micro and a CIA agent who seem to know what really happened the night of Castle’s death and are determined to uncover the truth. However, the path of uncovering the truth leads to a government coverup, revenge, and unlikely allies.

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Marvel’s The Punisher is a four-page love letter sealed with a kiss that apologizes for every misstep Marvel has ever taken. Piss poor villains, the casting of Finn Jones, the employment of Scott Buck, Inhumans, lopsided Agents of S.H.E.I.L.D.; they even apologize for that one time when you couldn’t get the seat you wanted when you first saw Iron Man in the theater.

Premiering on November 17th, Marvel’s The Punisher is everything you hoped for and more. From the opening sequence, it is violent, bloody, tense and suspenseful. Blood splatters the screen on every corner as criminals who were once brave and bold cower in corners and silent prayers for the wicked are prayed as they are executed one by one. However, the man holding the trigger is a broken shell of a once vibrant and happy man. After watching the massacre of his family, he has transformed into a man of little words, filled with pain and heartbreak, he is determined to dish out his own version of justice.

The first six episodes of the show are one of the best in the MCU. Filled with multiple layers, complex characters and a backstory that manages to stay fresh and devastating. Unlike previous Marvel shows where you had to wade through various characters and confusing multiple storylines, this hits the reset button — bringing together a smaller cast and a well-polished script. This results in top-notch performances from each actor that’ll have you applauding after every episode.

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There is a methodological pace of the show that reflects Castle’s mindset. The slow-burn brings a sense of buried secrets that reaches across all cast members which can push everyone to the point of no-return. Masterfully crafted, screenwriter Steve Lightfoot takes devilish pleasure in teasing us with information that will lead to a bigger plot as what starts out as a show about revenge transforms into a political thriller.

There’s a sort of beauty to watching Jon Bernthal on-screen. His anger and rage are unshakeable, but captivating that’s a haunting gateway to his sensitivity and vulnerability. Constantly on the edge of a violent breakdown, he delivers a powerful performance that’s intoxicating and conflicting each episode. A man of little words, Bernthal speaks volumes with his body language; his eyes constantly filled with pain, you can feel the heaviness he carries in every scene. Castle is a killing machine that will destroy anyone who doesn’t adhere to his code. However, Castle is a man with many layers and internal conflicts, always asking “what if?”

Marvel’s The Punisher is more than a shoot-em-up but tackles the sensitive topic of PTSD. As a former soldier, Castle is being chased by memories of a mission that resulted in the death of a captive that may be connected to a larger plot. Along one of those missions was Lewis Walcott (played by Daniel Webber) who is struggling to adjust to life as a civilian. No matter how hard Walcott tries to blend in with society, he can’t relate to the mundane life as a civilian. Haunted by his memories, he slips further into the abyss as his actions become more reckless. Similar to Castle’s pain, his suffering begins to wear on him as people deliver the silent “get over it” stare. Webber gives the most honest portrayal of a PSTD sufferer since American Sniper. He can’t simply “get over it,” it’s a pain he carries 24/7 and often masks itself in rageful outbursts, isolation, fake smiles and lifeless hugs. Webber is cold, determined but can’t shake the feeling that he no longer belongs in this world no matter how hard he tries to play by the rules.

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Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Micro surpasses his Marvel Comics version as basic tech support and his portrayal as a man determined to help Castle whether he wants it or not will raise the most questions. As their relationship grows from torture to less violent, Micro is revealed to be a man of many layers as one of the better-developed sidekicks in the MCU even if you can’t help wondering if he has a sinister motive.

Amber Rose Revah takes the reigns as Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani; a woman determined to uncover the mystery behind the recent violent murders. Despite playing the annoying female role, she soon goes head-to-head with any man, woman or government official. Dinah’s partner Sam, played by Michael Nathanson is at the surface lazy, awkward and often provides random bits of comic relief. However, as the story progresses he proves his worthiness and loyalty. 

Then there’s Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle. Moore is a sunshine of hope and love as Castle’s former Marine partner. The few scenes he shares with the cast are heartfelt as he becomes the calming voice for Castle’s chaotic mind. Offering peace and understanding, he shows that not all soldiers are the same. Somehow escaping the same fate of Castle and Walcott, he offers forgiveness as he hopes to give a guiding light to soldiers who are lost and confused in their new reality.

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Marvel’s The Punisher is the most focused, passionate show in the MCU. Grounded in realism, the violence never overshadows the story or the actors’ performances. Instead, it is a reminder that life isn’t all jokes, superpowers and hallway fight scenes. It’s painful; people die, we’re left alone chasing their ghosts and it is up to us to figure out how to move on. But in the midst of darkness, there is a slither of promise that justice will be served and there are average people who are willing to guide us out of the hole we unknowingly dig ourselves into so that one day we can open our heart to stop chasing our ghosts of the past.