I don’t normally talk about TV shows on Netflix, but I have to make an exception for The Punisher Netflix series.
I have watched:
- Daredevil season 1 & 2. (Currently watching S3)
- Jessica Jones season 1.
- Luke Cage season 1.
- The Defenders.
I completely skipped Iron Fist because nothing about that show appealed to me. I wasn’t interested in a show about another generic rich white guy becoming a Kung Fu master. Even worse was the fact that the actor didn’t have any fight experience and the show refused to use stunt doubles. No thanks.
At first, I was reluctant to watch Punisher. I loved the character when he showed up in Daredevil but I didn’t think he could carry his own show. Boy was I wrong. With the season complete, I can say that
The Punisher is the best out of all the Marvel Netflix shows.
To illustrate this, I am going to compare Punisher to Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, and Daredevil.
Of all the Marvel Netflix characters, Luke Cage is the gentlest. Unlike the other “heroes”, Luke Cage is rarely mean or cruel to anyone. He might be secretive or distant, but he never intentionally hurts someone’s feelings.
I liked this about Luke Cage. I liked that he was a genuinely nice dude. What I didn’t like was how corny his show was.
Whenever he uttered the quote, “Never backward, always forward.” I couldn’t help but cringe. The acting from the villains was annoyingly melodramatic, and Luke Cage, although sweet, was duller than a butter knife.
Cottonmouth was an interesting villain, unfortunately, he was replaced by the over the top Mariah and the laughably corny Shades.
Look how awful this dialogue is.
I apply foot to ass. And match lead for lead. I put murderers in handcuffs. I don’t just seek justice. I stalk it.
You’re absolutely right. I’m not gonna touch him. Not the way I should. Since I can’t touch the king, I’m gonna take his queen, his knights, his rooks, I’m knocking all his pieces off the board.
I gave you wings! I sent you to hell, and you come back with superpowers! Ain’t that a bitch?
And the last one.
Let me make one thing crystal clear, ‘Che.’ You bust up in my office like that ever again, I will cut your balls off and roll them like dice.
I think I’ve made my point.
So let’s move onto Daredevil.
Daredevil was the pioneer show that put the Marvel Netflix shows on the map. The fight choreography was spectacular, the hallway fight scene was legendary, and Charlie Cox was a great choice to play Daredevil.
But Matt’s motives for becoming Daredevil and the Catholic guilt that surrounded him struck me as disingenuous.
Whenever Matt went to a confessional to tell the priest about his “sins.” I couldn’t help but question the authenticity of the character. Once those doubts settled in, the rest of the show started falling apart.
Why does Matt Murdock love New York City? And why is his Catholic religion so important to him?
Season 3 answers the religion question but I don’t buy it. I know there are sections of the U.S.A. that are deeply religious, but a majority of them are not Catholic. If Matt Murdock grew up in Italy, then I’d get his need to confess.
I’ve yet to meet any Catholic who kept going to confession after grade school.
In the modern age, confession is a relic of the past. This might be more relevant in places like Vatican City or other deeply religious parts of the world but in New York? There’s no freaking way thirty-year-old Matt is still doing that. Especially when it involves committing illegal acts of vigilante justice.
I also don’t understand why Matt loves New York City. I know why I like NYC. Great food, awesome shows, bustling nightlife, great people, but why does Matt love NYC? Matt lost his father to crime, grew up in an orphanage, and has no justifiable reason as to why the city is so important to him.
And I apply this rule to all superheroes, not just Daredevil. Green Arrow and Batman both have the same motive and it still doesn’t feel genuine to me.
For modern stories, I need to see why the hero loves their hometown.
Let’s say there was a park down the street from where you lived. You met lifelong friends there and you used it as a place to relax and find happiness. Then one day, there’s drug dealers sitting on the log used to sit on. Graffiti on the playground sets and the park has become dangerous at night. Then I could believe, “I need to protect this park.” That makes sense to me.
As a result, Daredevil is a good show but the character is not compelling enough to maintain my interest.
So the last person we have on this list before tackling Punisher is Jessica Jones.
I strongly dislike Jessica Jones. I know we’re supposed to cheer for “strong female characters” but Jessica Jones is an asshole. JJ is not selfless, doesn’t care what happens to other people, and is a complete jerk to all of her friends. And you may say, yes this is because she has been mind controlled and manipulated into doing terrible things, but that’s not enough. Frank Castle has gone through way worse.
As the second show in the Marvel Netflix lineup, Jessica Jones fails to make JJ into a likable character. In the Defenders show, JJ is the one who whines the most about having to save the city. I couldn’t suffer a character with no redeeming qualities, so I completely skipped on season 2 of Jessica Jones.
The Punisher is the only Netflix show that tackles themes and storylines relevant to today. Punisher discusses things like gun control, PTSD, veterans returning from war, and losing a father figure.
Frank is a flawed hero but he has redeeming qualities.
He doesn’t have to be forced into doing the right thing like Jessica Jones, he does it. The Punisher has an explosive temper, but he knows when to reign it in and be gentle.
Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and Luke Cage all featured antagonists that the heroes were not related to. Matt wasn’t friends with Kingpin, nor was Luke Cage friends with Coppermouth, and JJ has no friends. In The Punisher, the enemy is one of our own. A fellow soldier who returned from war with some serious baggage.
Rather than focusing on mystical ninjas or mind controlling maniacs, Punisher gives us a villain that is real. A mass shooter, a terrorist, an individual who has lost their shit.
We’ve suffered the tragedies of Sandy Hook, Orlando, Las Vegas. We were there wishing for a “good guy with a gun” to save the day. Punisher finally gives us that hero, but it doesn’t dare paint him as “the good guy.”
Frank has a strong reason to be aloof and angry. He intentionally killed an innocent man without any influence from drugs or mind control.
The consequences of this assassination lead to his family getting murdered by the people who don’t want the truth to come out.
This might be a trope for a lot of characters. But in The Punisher, this cliché works. Frank haunted by memories of his family getting murdered ties in perfectly with the story of a marine suffering a mental breakdown from PTSD.
Not only do the themes and music tie together perfectly, the dialogue is also short and to the point. In Daredevil, if a character asks, “What would you know about my life?” Inevitably this would lead to a long backstory of how the character suffered a similar tragedy. Never a straightforward answer.
Meanwhile Frank would say something along the lines of, “I’ve seen some shit. Let’s leave it at that.”
But what makes Frank truly special, is that despite being a rampaging lunatic, he is as the show says, a good man, extremely flawed, but good.
Throughout the season, Frank is given several opportunities to get what he desires. But in order to do so, he would need to betray his principles for happiness.
It’s these stories that make The Punisher a cut above the other Netflix series. Instead of putting the hero in physical danger, the show puts his conscience and moral values in danger. For me, a hero struggling between right or wrong is so much more interesting than a hero facing off against mystical ninjas.
This opinion could be biased because I wrote a book about a female anti-hero. A Punisher with superpowers. If you want to read a sample of my work, check out the link below.
A disgraced cop takes matters into her own hands when the murderer who killed her partner comes after her family. To stop him, Cindy Ames fuses with a prototype suit and transforms herself into a superhero.
But the suit has a mind of its own and is determined to execute its hidden agenda.
The puppet has become the master, and the hero has become the monster.
Super powers can save a city but break a hero.
A Bitter Winter is book 1 of The Silver Ninja series.More info →