One of the more recurring complaints of the Marvel Netflix shows are that they’re slow starters. It takes a few episodes for them to really get going and establish the hero and the threats. If 3AM is any indication, The Punisher will easily avoid those problems. Thanks in part to its easier to translate from the comics formula, it’s not a stretch to think this could be the new gold standard for Marvel Netflix collaborations.
Since has last appearance helping Daredevil and Elektra take down The Hand, Frank Castle aka The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) has been taking names and gunning them down. He’s killed all the remaining members of the gangs responsible for his family’s death. Rather than going the obsessive Batman route, Frank burns his ‘costume’ and tries to lead a simple life on a construction site.
Writer Steve Lightfoot quickly builds the case to prove a regular 9 to 5 won’t help Frank. He’s still traumatized by his family’s death and keeps dreaming about his last day with them before they got gunned down. Not even listening in on veteran support groups run by his buddy Curtis (Jason R. Moore) helps.
The support group came off very timely as it put a nice spotlight on how veterans are discarded after a war. This was a respectful scene that helped show the struggles for soldiers after a conflict has ended and the need to still belong. For Frank, that solace and relief was in his family and with them dead, he’s lost.
Bernthal was one of the better casting choices in the Marvel Cinematic Universe let alone the Marvel Netflix wing. He’s able to fully channel Frank’s quietly seething rage. But just as important, Bernthal conveys the sense of loss. Frank didn’t just lose his family, but his sense of purpose after completing his previous objective on the battlefield.
Breaking down walls at construction site is the only positive way Frank has found to channel his rage. He appreciates the efforts by well-meaning co-worker Donny (Lucca De Oliveira), but Frank views friends as another opportunity to get hurt. Like Curtis said, the only person Frank is hurting at this point is himself.
In the subplot that is on a slow boil, Detective Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah) and her new partner Sam Stein (Michael Nathanson) start their investigation on Castle. Madani is convinced Castle is still alive and Stein reluctantly goes along with her still developing plan. Ordinarily, this would be one of those subplots I wish would stop killing time, but it’s clear Madani and Stein are filling in for Molly and Soap, two major supporting characters in Garth Ennis’ acclaimed Punisher series.
If the Ennis affection wasn’t clear, two of Frank’s annoying co-workers recruit Donny to steal from the Gnucci card game. In Welcome Back Frank, The Gnucci Family was The Punisher’s main adversaries. Donny isn’t suited for the robbing mob families game and they spot his license making him a major liability. Good thing Donny showed Frank a little kindness earlier as Frank brought the punishment and the pain.
Director Tom Shankland patiently built up to the big action scene and it was beautiful carnage. Punisher isn’t an acrobat or have super strength — he just ends his fights as quickly and efficiently as possible. The violently abrupt ways Frank took down the construction guys was impressive. More importantly, it felt like this is how Punisher would behave in a fight. Shankland wasn’t gratuitous with the violence, but he didn’t shy away from showing the real consequences of actions like say a sledgehammer against someone’s face.
Rather than sit around and wait seven episodes, Frank took a proactive approach and went after the Gnucci crew before they came for Donny. This was But his actions didn’t go completely undetected. Someone — clearly Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) is watching and welcomes Frank back.
If there was any concern this show wouldn’t deliver, 3AM blew them away. This feels like the kind of gritty, violent and rugged show Punisher needed for his standalone series. This is a great start. Hopefully that momentum carries on through the rest of the season.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix