First Reviews: The Punisher is a Mixed Bag

So far in 2017, Marvel and Netflix have released two TV shows, but neither Iron Fist nor The Defenders was as successful as Daredevil, the series that sparked our excitement over this collaboration in the first place.

The Punisher is 2017's third Marvel/Netflix series. Unfortunately, if the first online reviews are any indication, it doesn’t meet the fans' expectations, which were heightened by Jon Bernthal’s portrayal of the character in Daredevil’s second season.

The Punisher (Netflix)

Nevertheless, the critics almost unanimously lauded Bernthal's portrayal, so at least we have that. Check out the first reviews below!

ColliderThe Punisher is riveting, politically adventurous entertainment, willing to get mired in the complexity of a nation that has come to define itself through the incalculable damage and untold amounts of killings done in the name of peace. When the need to set up, reiterate, or preempt the plot becomes its more prominent concern, however, it’s emblematic of everything wrong with comic-book adaptations, on TV or elsewhere.

ForbesThe Punisher is the show Marvel Television needed. It’s the show that proves there might just be hope yet for the studio’s small screen ambitions. And yes, if we’re judging purely on the act of transforming into a character, Bernthal absolutely deserves an Emmy nomination for this one. His performance has been far elevated from the days of Daredevil.

IndiewireFor a show which seemed, given the timing of its launch, to be so controversial, its most controversial element is its lack of controversy. Frank Castle does some bad things, but nothing as bad as what happens in America on a regular basis. As a narrative about veterans trying to find their place in the world, The Punisher has something to say. But it could have been so much shorter, and its placement in the Marvel universe feels tangential at best.

Micro (Netflix)

PolygonThe Punisher’s first episode is sleepy and repetitive; nothing in it is anything we didn’t see in the second season of Daredevil. Along those same lines, the fifth and sixth episodes already drag more than the others, an indication of the usual mid-season Netflix slump. But at least Punisher’s repetitive beginning is part of the first narratively necessary step in the show’s plot: moving the goalpost on Frank’s revenge.

UproxxIt’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 WrapI almost want to declare the existence of this Punisher show a miracle. I don’t know, really, what I was expecting from it, because from the moment it was announced it didn’t really feel like it fit with the other Marvel shows on Netflix. And aside from a few appearances by Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll), and a couple cameos by very minor characters from other shows, it really does just go its own way. And thank the Lord for that, because I like watching legitimately good TV shows. And The Punisher, somehow, is legitimately good.

VarietyIn all, The Punisher is not just satisfying, but surprising - an interpretation of Netflix and Marvel’s tried-and-true partnership that offers more depth and challenges to the audience than even the gritty world of Marvel’s Jessica Jones. Free from superpowers and superheroes, the Marvel universe is more forgiving - and more interesting. Of course, the slightly cartoony Marvel Cinematic Universe is still a world where people named Carson Wolf show up and act as if they are not obviously villains. But The Punisher’s place in it is a welcome morass of thorny questions and unresolvable answers. At least in this part of the television landscape, there is room for another anti-hero.

Micro and Punisher (Netflix)

IGNMarvel’s The Punisher did an excellent job reintroducing us to an iconic character, with the help of a brilliant performance from Jon Bernthal. While some of the supporting cast members are less memorable, there is still plenty of time for more character development down the road.

We Got this CoveredAt the end of the day, for hardcore fans of the character, The Punisher is bound to offer a better experience than the three failed big screen adaptations. But those looking for more escapism in their superhero storytelling might be better off revisiting the other equally dark, but less dour, Marvel/Netflix shows.

The first 13-episode season of The Punisher will be available on Netflix on November 17.