The Punisher has made its hugely anticipated debut on Netflix, and critics have cast their verdict on the small-screen adaptation of the Marvel comic.
The show stars Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle, who adopts the Punisher moniker after becoming a feared vigilante with a reputation for battling the criminal underworld.
But while Marvel’s small-screen offerings have previously split both audiences and critics down the middle, it seems that The Punisher could be one of their best offerings yet.
Vox’s Alex Abad-Santos claimed that the show is one of Netflix’s most violent creations to date, but praised Bernthal for bringing an element of humanity to the role of Castle.
“Despite its name and Bernthal’s intense performance, The Punisher is about more than just its ruthless antihero, and proves much more incisive than it may initially seem to be”, he wrote.
“The show earns its despondent and bleak tone, not just by leaning into its boiling savagery but by addressing and illuminating its characters’ relationship to violence, and specifically how its male characters use violence as a way to communicate, to be understood, to right perceived wrongs”.
Variety’s Sonya Saraiya was similarly impressed, singling out Bernthal’s performance for praise.
“Thanks to Jon Bernthal’s seamless performance as the non-superpowed vigilante Frank Castle and showrunner Steve Lightfoot’s sharp, conscious story-telling, The Punisher approaches the high points of Marvel’s Jessica Jones by introducing a damaged deadly character and telling his story as one piece of an unjust whole”, she wrote.
But not everyone was quite as impressed.
In a damning review, Wired’s Matt Kamen criticised the “orgiastic gun play” within the show and the “slow, ponderous developments” of the plot.
“The Punisher feels like it wants to be a more complex show than it is, and sometimes shows flashes of something genuinely thought-provoking, but never quite achieves it”, he concluded.