The new Punisher series picks up a little while after the end of Daredevil season 2.
Frank Castle hunts down the last of the Hell’s Kitchen gang members who thought they escaped his violent cleansing. Satisfied with his work as a well-armed reward for bad behavior being done, Frank redubs himself, Pete Castiglione.
Pete is a very quiet, very focused construction worker. He has to be because every time he lets his mind wander even slightly he’s confronted with the memory of his family being murdered. These flashbacks aren’t annoying in the way that flashbacks typically are. Instead of filling in holes in storytelling or character development, these really build up the character’s development and add dimension to the story. The flashbacks are, in a way, an additional character. They are the Frank the audience never got to meet and the Frank The Punisher never got to be.
The series weaves together the lives of so many people who get shafted for being loyal and honorable members of their government’s team. Following orders? You and your family get assassinated. Using the proper channels to report war crimes? Framed for treason and murdered in front of your wife. Just want to do your job well? That nonsense will get your job and your life threatened.
It’s strange how few people in positions of power are “good” people in this series though. Essentially anyone above middle-management is murderously corrupt. Anyone below middle-management is categorized as grunt, red-shirt, or inconvenience.
The topic of veterans’ PTSD is addressed in a real if hyperbolic way via Lewis Wilson. However, seeing the lack of resources or support available to him and no real resolution for that is disheartening. It, again, reinforces the idea of management vs. resources. Trust the system and you’re fucked; go rouge and chase paychecks, you’re a winner. Hell, he even tried a peaceful protest and was forcibly shut down by a fellow uniform (police officer).
Out of the many MCU shows, Punisher does one of the best jobs rounding out characters on all sides. Billy Russo is handsome. So handsome it’s distracting and disarming, and he knows it. Russo also knows what it’s like to feel worthless or, worse in some cases, be only valued superficially. When he determined his own worth, he also decided he should determine the worth of others as well. So is the slippery slope that brings us Billy Russo, self-made sell-sword.
Being able to understand both how and why behind unfathomable actions doesn’t create a rooting interest for the villain but does add a great deal of dimension to the fight. Some of the adjacent baddies really are just motivated by power and a sense of superiority.
Similarly, Micro is introduced as a new member of the good guy team. He’s driven to do the right thing but thwarted to the point of becoming an outlaw.
Regardless of the depressing depiction of essentially every form of law or military, the storyline is compelling and stays interesting on multiple fronts. There were small laughs throughout and, of course, gratuitous violence.
Most surprisingly, The Punisher was a touching kind of buddy comedy with two very different outlaws trying to work together against the man.