Episode 63: The Punisher Season 1
Produced by Relevant to Our Interests
Hosts: John R. Belliston and Frank Shaw
Scripting by: Frank Shaw and John Belliston
Edited by: Frank Shaw
Graphic Design by: Nathan Newell and Frank Shaw
Intro Music: Morning Activities by F.G. Shaw
Outro Music: Morning Activities by F.G. Shaw
Man! The Punisher! If you haven't watched it yet, and you're a fan of the Marvel series, you need to do that right now! It's amazing! I've used a lot of exclamation points in this first paragraph so far to make my point, but I mean it. The series is well paced, well thought out, brutal as fuck, and it has some fairly thoughtful moments. It's the least comic-y of the Netflix Marvel series. Don't get me wrong, it still has that comic-book vibe in spots, but I could easily see it as a completely unrelated series and doing well, even if the Punisher didn't exist as a character.
The series hints at social commentary with-out ever fully taking a side or becoming overtly political. Which honestly I think works. The main focus of the series is grief and PTSD neither of which should have any political side. The series never uses the "PTSD" through out it's 12 1/2 hour run. It doesn't need to. We see men haunted by things that they'd done, things that were done to them, and things that they still have an itch to do.
It doesn't handle PTSD without fully delving into film cliches however: The radicalization of Lewis was a massive misfire in my opinion, and I agree with Michael Rougeau from Gamespot: this was a large "misfire". I think it could have been handled better, and perhaps been true of the actual real dilemma if Lewis had killed the older vet O'Connor and had to deal with the ramifications of just that. Frank Castle didn't need another analogue to his character. A "bad cop" to his "good cop." I think there was potential to deal with Lewis' tragic and all too real story (to a point) without denigrating it into the homegrown terrorist cliche we see in action films. It's not that these individuals don't exist, they do. Unfortunately. But that this is something that a series like 24 would try and do, and the Punisher is quite honestly a better thought out series than that.
The other elephant in the room is the gun-debate. Yes it does come up in the show, mostly around Lewis' character and his actions with a senator that is very pro gun control. The debate itself is... well I feel it's a non-starter. It's there to provide some fodder for Lewis' radicalization and that's all. The show stays fairly neutral in its stance* and the debate itself is a plot device. It was chosen I'm fairly sure, because it is such a topical issue right now. So while it is there, and it is front and center later on in the series, it's not something that be taken as a theme of the series, and it's not either for or against. And here's the thing: It shouldn't be a big focus of the series. The Punisher isn't here to decide the gun debate one way or the other, nor is it here to bring the debate to the table to serious discussion. The two episodes that feature the debate are quite honestly there to provide motivation and an end to Lewis' character while inching Frank Castle's plot forward.
Now John and I did talk about a couple of charities during the episode, and we want to make sure they get a mention again: I talk a little about The Wounded Warrior Project, which is a fantastic charity helping vets and their families. If you're a veteran and you're not a member you can check out the website and see what they do. You can also donate, which I encourage you to do. The other charity is Pet's for Vets. I love he idea of this one as it gives animals a new friend and family member and it gives the vet a loyal companion as well. I love getting pet's into peoples lives so this is another one I highly endorse.
All that said, The Punisher is fantastic. If you can handle the brutal violence that the series has to offer, and the emotional violence as well, then perhaps binge it in a weekend. If you're like John and I however, take your time with it. Watch a few episodes in a sitting and let things gel. But whatever you do, give it a watch, especially if you're a Marvel fan, it's worth watching.
*It's very much worth arguing that Frank Castle, the character would be very pro-gun, and because of that the show itself is pro-gun. The thing is, it's never really preachy, even when the gun debate comes to the front of the series. HOWEVER, I feel if the debate ever did come up in the serious it would be considerably nuanced, at least until it wasn't any more. The show, when dealing with gun-violence, is very much still a "Hollywood" affair. It may treat the subject more seriously than say, John Wick, but it's still very much grounded in that language of cinema.