The first reviews for Marvel’s The Punisher are out, and they’re mixed. Some are complaining the show is too violent, while others are praising the show for finally doing the character justice in a live-action portrayal. Either way, it’s generally said to be a better outing by Marvel Television than Marvel’s Iron Fist and The Defenders.
One review from Vox starts with this headline:
The review starts out with:
Fans who have been following Castle’s story from the second season of Daredevil know that he’s killing because his family was killed; The Punisher, through its excessive violence, wants to test whether there’s a limit . It wants to ponder what could happen if everyone who’s ever been wronged started acting like Castle. And it does so in a heavy, bracingly vicious way.
Then, it suggests that the show was released too soon after the events of the Stephen Paddock Las Vegas shooting:
However, in the aftermath of the October mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed more than 50 people and injured hundreds, and the more recent mass shooting at a church in Sutherland, Texas, some of The Punisher’s action sequences can feel more like deceptively simple approximations of what true depravity and terror look like. This isn’t a knock on Marvel, but rather my inability to shake such tragic real-life news combined with the way reviews work; The Punisher will be released on November 17, but its 13-episode first season has been available to critics since last month, and I first watched it right after Vegas.
If the show had been released months ago, or if I’d been able to watch it when the pain of a real mass shooting wasn’t so fresh, I know I’d feel differently about its exploration of hyper-violence. But currently, The Punisher’s gun porn and luscious brutality — which the show is clearly banking on as a draw — feel like an exercise in numbness and exhaustion rather than shock and awe.
The review then goes into some very interesting territory:
The Punisher is a story about what violence means to white men. Beneath The Punisher’s scrim of bullets, guns, and blood is a raw look at what violence means to men. Castle’s story, of course, is at the forefront.
It then suggests that parts of the show imply racism:
Without giving too much away, the show plays with the idea of what we think our “enemies” look like — suggesting that we’ve been taught they’ll always be brown, Muslim, Middle Eastern — and then introduces white, male characters who are more than happy to manipulate this stereotype and abuse it for their own benefit. These men are more than happy to play up the idea that brown skin equals bad guys, casting nations of people as faceless, dehumanized monsters who are to blame for every ill. Violence against thosepeople, the men believe, is what turns Americans into heroes.
However, it turns out the show is actually good – according to the review:
Even when its stylized viciousness is undercut by real-world tragedy, The Punisher, like Marvel’s very best Netflix series, gives its title character a bloody good introduction.
Reactions to the review, were also interesting:
A review from Uproxx, had some similar statements, saying the show was wrong show at the wrong time:
It’s a conundrum: The Punisher is most effective when its title character is indiscriminately slaughtering his foes, but that’s also when it most consistently evokes the kinds of real-life horrors that pushed the premiere back once, and could have kept pushing it back indefinitely. There may hopefully be a time when Frank’s actions don’t instantly recall horrors from our world, but that version of his story will still need to be told much more compellingly than this.
The verdict on the show seems to be that if you’re bothered by gun violence or ultra-violence, you probably shouldn’t watch it. However, if you’re a big fan of the character, you should enjoy it.
The Punisher himself, Jon Bernthal, offered his thoughts on gun violence:
“I think and I’m not… look, I think art, sort of the best thing that art can do is be a mirror to society and reflect what’s going on and make you ask questions, force you to ask questions not necessarily try to answer them and I think one thing that the show does and you know in talking to Steve [Lightfoot,] I’m not even sure whether he did this on purpose or not — Steve’s the writer — but I really think that there’s nothing preachy about this show.”
“Look, let’s be honest, we put off the premiere of this show because of gun violence in this country and now the night before we premiere there’s been another bout of it. There’s been 900 gun deaths since Vegas, you know. There’s clearly an issue. We clearly have a problem and what we need immediately I think is some open dialogue on it.”
Everyone will be able to give Marvel’s The Punisher their own verdict when it hits Netflix this Friday.
The show’s synopsis: 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.
Are you looking forward to the series? Be sure to tell us your thoughts in the comments!