Producer(s): Steve Lightfoot, Jim Chory, Alan Fine, Jeph Loeb, Joe Quesada
Director(s): Jim O’Hanlon, Jeremy Webb, Iain B. MacDonald, Jamie M. Dagg, Stacie Passon, Jet Wilkinson, Michael Offer, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Alex Garcia Lopez, Meera Menon, Stephen Kay,
Writer(s): Steve Lightfoot, Ken Kristensen, Angela LaManna, Dario Scardapane, Christine Boylan, Felicia D. Henderson, Bruce Marshall Romans, Laura Jean Leal,
Composer: Tyler Bates
Starring: Jon Bernthal, Ben Barnes, Amber Rose Revah, Josh Stewart, Giorgia Whigham, Alexa Davalos, Jason R. Moore
Genre: Action, Adventure, Crime, Drama, Thriller, Sci-Fi
The Punisher is an American television series created by Steve Lightfoot (Executive Producer of Hannibal) and produced by Netflix which is based on the Marvel comic book character. Set in the widely popular Marvel Cinematic Universe lead by Kevin Feige, it shares continuity with the other Netflix and Marvel collaborative television shows such as Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. In 2011, Fox ordered a pilot episode centered on the character of The Punisher. The series would have been an hour long crime drama following New York City police detective Frank Castle who moonlights as a violent vigilante dealing justice to criminals who escape the justice system. Development of the pilot stalled and the character’s film rights reverted back to Marvel. Subsequently, after the partnership with Netflix, Marvel Television, and ABC Studios, Netflix announced its development of Marvel’s Daredevil. In June 2015, Netflix announced the addition of The Punisher in the second season of their mega-hit Marvel’s Daredevil with Jon Bernthal as the brooding anti-hero.
Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of The Punisher in Marvel’s Daredevil season two was received with critic and audience praise. In January 2016, development on a spin-off series titled “The Punisher” with Bernthal at the helm began before the second season of Daredevil was released. The first season was released on November 17, 2017 and was met with positive critic ratings and well received by fans. Soon after, the series was renewed for a second season. Unfortunately, the show has fallen victim to Marvel Entertainment and Netflix’s separation, and has suffered the same fate as Marvel’s Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Iron Fist, Luke Cage, and The Defenders. On February 18, 2019, Netflix announced it had canceled the series after two successful seasons, leaving fans unjustly dissatisfied.
Spiritual Content: John Pilgrim is a mercenary who is a devout Catholic. He often recites scripture and prayer throughout the season.
Violence: The series contains extreme violence. There are multiple gunfights which lead to death. Blood is visible throughout the violent encounters. Hand-to-hand combat with knives, blunt objects, and use of the environment lead to injury and death. Fight scenes are brutal and ultra violent.
Language/Crude Humor: There is use of F**k, B***h, A*s, and other foul language throughout the entire season. However, it is not abused and feels natural.
Sexual Content: There are a handful of intense sex scenes which occur in the season, where some nudity is present.
Drug/ Alcohol Use: Many scenes take place in a bar where beer and liquor are consumed. There are a few characters who abuse illegal drugs.
Other Negative Themes: Misuse of Holy Scripture to justify injuring and murdering others.
Positive Themes: Surrogate father and daughter bond is developed.
The Punisher season two takes place shortly after the events in season one where Frank Castle uses brutal and violent methods to fight crime as “The Punisher.” Frank Castle, known throughout New York City as a vigilante, sought revenge on those responsible for the murder of his wife and children, and uncovers a larger conspiracy beyond his imagination. Now a vagabond, Frank has been living a quiet life on the road until he is thrust into a mystery surrounding the attempted murder of a young girl by a group of highly skilled mercenaries. Frank’s choice to protect this mystery girl leads him into intense fire fights, gruesome hand to hand combat, and, eventually, back to New York City. Back in the NYC, Frank is forced to encounter an old familiar enemy with old business to be settled. Frank must also face off with a new equally deadly foe whose unwavering determination is only matched my Castle’s unshakable resolution. Frank is faced with a choice: Should he embrace his life as The Punisher, or choose to live out his days without the title?
Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, Baby Driver) once again embodies the title character with brutal perfection. Bernthal perfectly combines his ability to portray intense sadness and pain with explosive rage, which makes him believable every second he is on screen. Your eyes are drawn to every nuance on Bernthal’s face covered in grief and bitterness. The moments where Bernthal cracks a smile or let out a joyous laugh are few and far between, but when he does, it is genuine and deserving of empathy. The Punisher will forever be Bernthal’s crown jewel. As the helpless young girl, Giorgia Whigham (Sierra Burgess is a Loser) successfully matches Burnthal’s intensity with sarcastic wittiness. The chemistry between Bernthal and Whigham is palpable and authentic. Their banter is a joy to watch and the development of their relationship is absolutely satisfying to observe. As one of the serie’s antagonists, Bill Russo (West World’s Ben Barnes) plays an out-of-touch, disjointed vet. Though many of Russo’s lines of dialogue would otherwise seem corny and cheesy, Barnes pulls it off with likable charm. Barnes’s vulnerability, along with his psychosis, brings a sense of unpredictability to his character. Josh Stewart (The Dark Knight Rises, The Finest Hours) joins the cast as John Pilgrim, a ruthless and merciless mercenary hellbent to complete his mission. Stewart’s steadfastness and deadpan line delivery is a perfect match to Bernthal’s unwavering Castle.
The Punisher’s second season excels at complex story telling. The series as a whole examines the lives of victims who suffer PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), whether it be from military experience, work related experience, or childhood trauma. The characters all suffer this plight. The series respectfully and theatrically sheds light on the repercussions of their trauma. It examines how different people cope with psychological, emotional, and physical harm differently. While some seek justice by any means necessary, others resort to crime and substance abuse. The extreme violence the series is known for is a representation of the internal turmoil within Castle and others players. It is explosive and predictable, similar to the emotional state of many of the characters.
The Punisher season two continues the legacy it started in its first season by combining great story telling, development, sympathetic characters, and brutal violence. Season two doubles down on the savagery, yet it never feels forced. The series doesn’t glorify its violence; however, it is depicted with a sense of realism which explores the consequence of such violence. There is tremendous heart in this season, and the brutality serves as a juxtaposition to the emotional connections developed by the characters. They are flawed and their shortcomings are explored in great detail. The series could benefit from a shortening of the season by one or two episodes. A ten episode season would avoid some of the slight pacing issues the Marvel Netflix shows tend to have. In spite of this, the second season of The Punisher is a fantastic achievement in television. Its success can only be matched by its untimely and unjust cancellation.
The Bottom Line
Marvel's The Punisher is a perfect balance of great storytelling and heart-pounding action. It will keep you on the edge of your seat and biting your nails. In spite of its early cancellation, season two of The Punisher is a must see.