Netflix Marvel’s Punisher Episode One “3am”
Action, Adventure, Comic Book
TV-MA: Strong Violence and Language
Review by: Benjamin Ferrarini
This is a spoiler free review of the premier episode of Netflix and Marvel’s “Punisher”
The Punisher has always been one of the darker comics in Marvel’s compendium. Frank Castle also known as the Punisher first appeared in an issue of “The Amazing Spiderman” in 1974. In that issue Castle was portrayed as a rogue mercenary who takes a contract to kill Spiderman. The Punisher appeared in other comics teaming up with other Marvel heroes until being given his own comic series “The Punisher” which ran from 1987 to 1995.
In ’95 Marvel ended “The Punisher” comics due to poor sales but did see a revival in a 12 issue mini series during the early 2000’s. He then got a continuing series in 2004 as part of Marvel’s more mature MAX line of comics. Over the years The Punisher has largely been seen taking on organized crime from the Mafia to the Yakuza. He’s known for going after villains the law can’t touch with deadly force.
Theatrically the character of the Punisher has had three feature films. The first was in 1989 in which Frank Castle was portrayed by Dolph Lundgren. The second was released in 2004 and stared Thomas Jane as the titular character. The Third “Punisher War Zone” was a sequel of sorts but saw Castle recast with “Black Sails” actor Ray Stevenson. None of these films fared particularly well critically With the 2004 “Punisher” coming in at 29% on Rotten Tomatoes. “War Zone” fared a little worse coming in at 27%. Though Punisher has featured in a number of Marvel animated shows and films, none of them were huge commercial successes. Thus adaptations of “The Punisher “ have had a somewhat troubled history to date. However, we seemed to hit a turning point last year when the Punisher joined season 2 of Netflix’s Daredevil series. This time the character was played by “Walking Dead” veteran Jon Bernthal. This inclusion turned out to be a popular and widely celebrated aspect of the season. So it was no surprise that Netflix would build on the popularity of this new incarnation with a stand alone series focused on Frank Castle.
“Marvel’s Punisher” premiered on Friday November 16th leading off with the first episode “3am”. This first episode takes place after the events of Daredevil Season 2 and finds Frank Castle attempting to hide out under an alias quietly working a construction job. It seems then that this season will continue building on the story of Castle’s evolution into the Punisher rather then just jumping to a point after he took on that mantle. Castle continues to be tortured by the ghosts of his past even after finding vengeance for the deaths of his family. However, an emerging situation among some of Castle’s rowdy co-workers pulls him out of his stupor. Elsewhere the show introduces a new character, Dinah Madani, played by Amber Rose Revah (“The Bible” Mini-series). Dinah is a federal investigator recently returned to the states from Afghanistan. Dinah is obsessed with finding answers in relation to an American military operation that took place there, which may connect to Frank Castle. They may be setting up Dinah as an early antagonist, someone who will pursue Castle in her search for answers but I suspect at some point she will become an ally.
There’s no getting around the fact that “3am” is a series of set ups. There’s nothing wrong with this per se, indeed the first episode of any show has to carry some exposition and set up the series. However, this is best when folded into a narrative that exemplifies what the show will be like. “3am” falters a bit because it doesn’t give enough of a sense of how the events connect to whats coming next. That said the dialog and acting are passible with Bernthal anchoring the cast. He doesn’t have a ton of dialog and much of his performance rests on his mannerisms and physical presents. Though Bernthal is up to the task and conveys Castle’s mental state perfectly.
The main nitpick I have is the cinematography. It’s just a little too bland and uninteresting. “Daredevil” established the Marvel Netflix shows as a formidable force when it came to visual style. The “hallway fight” from the second episode in season one, which used a single unbroken camera take, added something unique and beautiful to the dark and gritty world in which the show took place. “Jessica Jones” and “Luke Cage” continued this trend. In contrast “Punisher” offers a desaturated color pallet and grey tones which do add to the bleak oppressive atmosphere but it’s been done so often that it holds the first episode back from having any distinct personality.
The Punisher “3am” has some interesting elements and it’s good to see them spend some time in the aftermath of what happened in “Daredevil”. There’s plenty of potential and “Punisher” could join the best of the Marvel Netflix shows, but unless they do more to lift it from its generic start it may devolve into a bland try hard similar to “Iron Fist”.
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