Posted November 30, 2017 by Jasmin in Reviews

REVIEW: The Punisher S01E01 – 3AM

Episode: S01E01 – 3AM
Directed By: Tom Shankland
Streaming Available: November 17, 2017
Created By: Steve Lightfoot
Based on Characters By: Gerry Conway, John Romita, Sr., Ross Andru
Starring: Jon Bernthal, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ben Barnes, Amber Rose Revah, Paul Schulze, Jason R. Moore, Michael Nathanson, Daniel Webber, Jamie Ray Newman, Deborah Ann Woll

If this is your first jump into the Marvel/Netflix TV pool, it can be a little tedious getting into The Punisher as a stand-alone series. Daredevil season 2 laid excellent ground work for bringing this version of Frank Castle to life. That being said, if “3AM” is any indication as to what we can expect going forward with The Punisher, SIGN ME UP.

© Netflix

The theme song gives me Justified vibes, which is an excellent start for what looks to be a series about a one-man-show. Frank Castle is a man on a mission determined to get the results he wants, no matter the cost. Vengeance runs deep, making this Batman fan feel right at home. I like my anti-heroes dark, moody, and violent — Punisher ticks all of my boxes. Long before this character was gifted a solo series (not originally part of The Defenders/Netflix announcement back in 2013), Castle’s unwavering blood-thirst was a perfect foil to Matt Murdock’s (original) upstanding values in the criminal justice system.

Interestingly, this Punisher premiere structure is similar in arc and pace to the Luke Cage series premiere. Both characters were introduced in a previous series, effectively eliminating much of the build up required for origin stories. Each man obviously has a past he finds shameful in some way, and the audience meets them in the present seemingly assimilating to a new life. However, all it takes is a young man barreling down the wrong path to pull the titular characters back into their old habits. Had the two series’ premiered closer together, this could have been problematic and redundant. But given the distance between Luke Cage season 1 and The Punisher season 1, “3AM” almost feels like coming home for regular Marvel Netflix viewers.

Frank’s ruthless nature and relentless drive are showcased immediately. Despite the violent montage of him eliminating loose ends connected to his family’s murder, it is apparent that he’s battling his own demons and is barely hanging on to any semblance of sanity. An unexpected highlight is the way the series treats PTSD.

© Nicole Rivelli /Netflix

We already know (from Daredevil season 2) Frank and his squad got into some shady dealings while they were still on active duty, but the atrocities of war had affected Frank long before his rampage through New York City. In “3AM,” we meet Curtis, a former squadmate of Frank’s who leads a support group for veterans. There is a hodgepodge of attendees, but it’s evident that a young man, Lewis, and an older, more bitter and jaded man, O’Conner, will have larger parts to play. The younger former solider is having a very hard time adjusting to life after service, and the writers pull no punches in the dialogue about the way veterans are mistreated when they return home.

“All I know is that we risked our lives, did terrible things, and it meant nothing when we got home,” Lewis says to the group. That’s rough and the reality many of our veterans face when they return from war. This support group adds weight to the show, further blurring the lines between reality and Marvel TV. With The Punisher, we have not been introduced to any kind of non-human or superhero element. That “normalcy” serves to make the series feel like watching an episode of Law & Order or NYPD Blue, but told from the criminal’s perspective instead of the dedicated detectives.

© Nicole Rivelli /Netflix

In addition to playing the empathy card, The Punisher uses the city itself as a major character. This is something that all of the Marvel Netflix properties have done well. Each series is able to provide a unique viewing experience by utilizing the same setting with dramatically different tones. Color was a large cinematography feature of the previous shows. The play on those individual series’ pallets is magnified in the team up, The Defenders. Hues of red (Daredevil), purple (Jessica Jones), yellow (Luke Cage), and green (Iron Fist) are prominent throughout the series. From the looks of it, dark shadows is The Punisher scheme. Completely appropriate and expected given the other shows were colored based on their character’s original costume.

If episode 1 is any indication, this series is an adrenaline junkie’s dream. Fans of gunplay and brutality (John Wick, Atomic Blonde), this series has your name written all over it. There’s heart, to be fair. The flashbacks of Frank and his family are poignant memories that make his present state understandable. His actions at the beginning and on the construction site are horrific. But in a series of bad guys and worse guys, there’s no question who to root for in “3am.”

© Nicole Rivelli /Netflix

This episode barely touches on Frank’s past like we saw in the third season of Daredevil, but there is enough information to leave casual viewers wanting more. Very little dialogue, no cheesy one liners (yet), and hyper violence definitely have a specific audience. The Punisher is a whole new element for the Marvel TV shared universe. Think Deadpool without the humor, or Logan without the dramatics. If blood and brain matter don’t bother you, The Punisher is as dark as we’ve seen Disney Marvel get.

I can’t wait to take this ride.

The Punisher is currently streaming on Netflix.

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Jasmin loves Batman, sci-fi, and movies with lots of explosions. When she’s not writing about geektastic things, she’s probably playing video games or watching sports. Her ultimate goals include traveling the world to watch tennis and working for BioWare to revive the essence of the original Mass Effect Trilogy.