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Ever since audiences first saw Jon Bernthal portray The Punisher in Season 2 of Daredevil, they've been eager to see the anti-hero in a standalone series. Now, critics have seen Netflix's soon-to-be-released drama The Punisher, and they're splattering their thoughts across the web not unlike the way Frank Castle decorates walls with his enemies' blood. And while the noise is mostly positive, there are some dissenters to be found.
Indeed, there's almost no middle ground when it comes to how critics reacted to The Punisher. On the positive side of things, CinemaBlend's Head TV Editor Nick Venable is a huge fan, and even went so far as to call the series "Marvel's best TV show," and remarked the effort will be near impossible to top in future efforts. (Read the full review.)
Nick isn't the only reviewer heaping high praise atop The Punisher, as Variety's Sonia Saraiya is among several others who said the series introduced a level of humanity to the character in a similar way to how Jessica Jones made its lead character so multi-dimensional. As some may have guessed, Jon Bernthal's performance as Frank Castle was also a high point when the series was discussed. From Saraiya's review:
...thanks to Jon Berthal's seamless performance as the non-superpowered vigilante Frank Castle and showrunner Steve Lightfoot's sharp, conscious storytelling, 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. Despite first impressions, Frank Castle is in fact a marginalized figure --- because he is a veteran.
While many critics have showered The Punisher, its lead actor, and showrunner Steve Lightfoot with high praise, there are also a large number of critics who are proclaiming the series was a massive misfire. Not just flawed, but a complete miss altogether, according to Slashfilm's Chris Evangelista, who shared his thoughts via Twitter ahead of his full review:
Evangelista's tweet at least prepares potential readers for the news that The Punisher might be a massive disappointment before they dive in. Uproxx's Alan Sepinwall skipped the warning and just dropped his pan-filled review, which agreed with Evangelista in stating the series had far more episodes than its story should have been told in:
Though Netflix provided critics with the whole first season in advance, I ran out of patience after six episodes; they featured maybe enough material to justify three episodes, and probably two. Where the early shows like Jessica Jones and Luke Cage tended to start strong before running out of steam, the last few like this, Iron Fist and Defenders, have simply started slowly and then meandered from there.
About the most neutral critique The Punisher has received that appears to reach a middle ground between "amazing" and "garbage" comes from ComicBook.com's Kofi Outlaw. Outlaw manages to pound at the show's dragging plotline, but still maintains that this is the best Punisher adaptation to date. For those who were already fans of the hero, this sounds like good news:
For those worried about previous Marvel Netflix series problems coming into play, there are definitely two that do. First: The Punisher is as formulaic in structure as any Marvel Netflix series, with the obligatory staples like a hallway battle, an episode where the hero is injured or immobilized in some way, and an episode heavily built on flashbacks. In that same vein, this first arc ends with some equally obligatory twists, which could send the second half of The Punisher into some very Luke Cage-ish territory. We'll soon see. All in all, however, Marvel's The Punisher is the most successful adaptation of the character by far, and should give fans hope that there is still a lot of potential for some great Marvel Netflix series to explore outside of the main Defenders storyline.
Netflix's The Punisher hits the streaming service on Friday, November 17th, at 12:01 a.m. PT. Those who can't possibly wait until then should check out this badass scene of Frank Castle going to work on a guy in a stairwell. For more on other fall programming coming soon, visit our fall premiere guide. For a list of shows that didn't make it out of the year intact, head on over to our cancellation guide.