“The Punisher” packs a serious punch

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“The Punisher” packs a serious punch




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The highly anticipated Marvel series “The Punisher” made its debut on Netflix on Nov. 17 as the streaming service released the inaugural season simultaneously, as is their custom.

“The Punisher” aka Frank Castle, initially appeared in season two of Marvel’s “Daredevil,” which was also first aired on Netflix. The character wasn’t originally supposed to have his own show, but fans reacted so enthusiastically to his role in “Daredevil” that the higher-ups opted to generate a spin-off series.

Created by Steve Lightfoot and taking place in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “The Punisher” is set in modern-day New York City a few months after the events in “Daredevil.” When we last saw Castle he was faking his own death after a brutally murderous rampage. The plan has proven successful as he is now keeping a low profile, working construction under the alias Pete Castiglione.

Played by Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, Baby Driver), Castle is a former Force Recon officer in the U.S. Marines who was involved with an off-the-books assassination team in Afghanistan known as the Cerberus Squad. After three tours of duty he decided to retire and rededicate himself to his wife and two young children, who are subsequently gunned down at a local carnival.

Consumed by grief and rage, Castle resolves that his only remaining purpose in life is to avenge the death of his loved ones or die trying. The problem is that he doesn’t truly know who it is that needs to be held responsible.

In his quest for vengeance, Castle viciously massacres every enemy he comes across, but he does have a code. He only kills people who he views deserving, and many times goes out of his way to save the innocent. While most other vigilante heroes portrayed in the Marvel series’ try to trust in the justice system to keep the criminals they apprehend behind bars, Castle has no such moral qualms.

Early on in “The Punisher” Castle is stalked and eventually contacted by a mysterious hacker who goes by the alias Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach). In most scenarios, anyone who comes close to threating him in any way ends up six feet under the ground, but Micro has crucial information on the people whom Castle is hunting, including the shadowy Agent Orange (Paul Schulze).

Micro is one of the few people who can fully appreciate the magnitude and desperation of Castle’s situation. Just a year prior, he was employed as a National Security Agency (NSA) analyst and stumbled upon incriminating evidence of the illegal activities that Castle and the Cerberus Squad were involved in. When he tried to expose the conspiracy anonymously to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agent Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah), Agent Orange sends his minions to apprehend Micro by any means necessary and he too decides to fake his own death, abandoning his family.

Once Castle determines he can trust Micro, they band together to take down Agent Orange and anyone associated with him. This is when the speed and viscosity of “The Punisher’s” plot flourishes, elevating the series from excellent to fully binge-worthy.

Unbeknownst to Castle or Micro, Madani has been after Agent Orange for months as well, and has enlisted her partner at the DHS, agent Sam Stein (Michael Nathanson) in her search. She is also one of the few people who isn’t convinced by Castle’s death charade. The two tandems independent quests for justice sets them on a collision course in which no one is safe.

What distinguishes “The Punisher” from the previous Marvel shows on Netlfix, aside from the unprecedented and incredibly ruthless violence of Frank Castle, is that the protagonist doesn’t have any form of super power. In fact, there aren’t any elements of science fiction or the supernatural in his saga. However, thanks to his elite military training he is adept in all types of combat and with any weapon, making him the most tactical, lethal, and badass of them all.

From the periphery “The Punisher” may seem singularly focused on brutality and gore, but this assumption is supremely false. The plot delves into a multitude of modern-day issues with its deep exploration of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in troops and the disconnect they experience when returning home, as well as elements of governmental corruption and domestic terrorism.

As a whole, the cast in the series is exceptional. Bernthal exquisitely encapsulates the pain and torment that drives Castle as he becomes further detached from his humanity. Moss-Bachrach, Revah, and Schulze all are very well suited for their roles, as are Ben Barnes and Jason R. Moore who play Castle’s surviving friends and platoon-mates from the Cerberus Squad.

In addition, Deborah Ann Woll effectively reprises her role as Karen Page, Castle’s most-trusted ally dating back to “Daredevil.” But the unsung star of the troupe is Daniel Webber who portrays Lewis Wilson, an immeasurably troubled young veteran struggling to adjust to and accept how society has cast him off now that he has returned to civilian status.

Currently the 13-episode debut season of “The Punisher” carries an average rating of 9/10 from over 50,000 users on IMDB.com and a 61% from 54 critics on rottentomatoes.com.

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