Isambard watched the first episode of The Punisher without me and reported back disappointment, to the point where he wasn’t even recommending I watch it.
As it turns out, The Punisher is one of those shows where you need someone else to watch it with you so you can talk shit through all the stupid parts. (It’s a real testament to how boring The Defenders was that doing that didn’t help it any.)
Right off the bat problems begin with Special Agent Mannequin, most boring character ever. A tough, pretty, perfect-in-all-ways, immigrant government agent out to fight for justice and show up everyone around her! She’s a block of wood. Her scenes are unbelievably dull especially at the beginning, stuffed with badly done exposition. Character interactions are flat and completely fail to make you care about these people. Madani is simply awful. She’s supposed to be cool. They want you to think she’s cool. Look at her super cool car! Look at how she shows everyone up by being right and they’re wrong! In case that’s not good enough they’ll go and tell you she’s cool. Everybody thinks she’s a “badass” for being an idiot and getting her classic car totaled. She’s just like Frank Castle too. I don’t know how but Steiny says so I guess we’ll have to take ol’ bug-eyes at his word.
The writers don’t know what hipsters look like if they think Frank looks like one at any point. Having a beard doesn’t make you a hipster. Mr. Brilliantine looks more like a hipster than anyone.
He’s also one of the most blatantly obvious evil characters I’ve ever seen. No doubt the writers assumed that fans would just know who he was so they didn’t bother to make it a twist for people who aren’t up on the comic books. The problem with that though is that when a character is stupidly, obviously evil then the other characters in the show seem stupid for not noticing.
Speaking of stupid… Oh, Karen, why are you so dumb? She spends so much time telling Matt that he shouldn’t be cool in the other series but when Frank, whom she knows to be a mass/spree/serial murderer, asks for help, she’s like sure! right off the bat and only has qualms about it later.
The whole “veterans abandoned by the government” storyline has been done to death. So has the “crazy vet” one. (I’m sure there’s older examples but the Shadow radio show had one back in the 1930s.) Regardless, the show ruins what could have been a tired but solid subplot by adding the evil NRA guy spouting off cliches and nonsense, reminding us that old white guys are bad. And as of episode 6, I couldn’t care less about Lewis. We’re supposed to feel bad about guys like him who’ve been dumped back into society all screwed up, but screwed up is not the same as retarded and Lewis is both. His subplot also isn’t helped by it being unrealistic. Isn’t this set in New York? What is he doing with an AR outside in his foxhole in a city/state where assault weapons are banned?
Again Netflix is showing they’re terrible at pacing–though admittedly a lot of Punisher‘s problems stems from being really irritated any time Mannequin shows her face. There isn’t, however, a good balance between long stretches of mostly talking and intense violence. The long stretches are allowed to go on too long. There’s also the problem that you could probably lose an episode’s worth of run time if you cut all the sex scenes out. Most people nowadays couldn’t care less but I wish Netflix had an “I am a prude” button so they’d skip automatically.
The Punisher feels like it was being written by two different sets of writers, one for the parts with Frank and Micro and one for all the SJW crap. The first set does really well, the second is, well, crap. This makes the show almost schizophrenic in tone. On one hand we’ve got the old white guys are evil, misogynist, corrupt, and/or NRA members and this person of color, immigrant woman is the most smartest, awesomest person evar. On the other, family is important and fathers are important. On one hand, we’ve got Madani and Steiny having the most chemistry-less, unbelievable friendship of all time. On the other, Frank and Micro have a great mix of camaraderie and antagonism.
The end product is so frustrating because the show is half good and half terrible. If the ending had been less of an anticlimactic dud, then I might have been inclined to think it a little more good than terrible. But it was a dud so the show, while better than some of Netflix’s recent offerings, is still quite disappointing.