“One batch, two batch, penny and a dime” The Punisher (And no its not a real book if you have been wondering that)
Here we go number one, the one you have been waiting for, the best version of the Live Action Punisher. And is you watched it, it should come as no surprise that it is the now cancelled Netflix Series starring Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle aka The Punisher. Making his debut in Season Two of the also fantastic Daredevil series, the Punisher Netflix show is the definite version out there. A complete and very accurate origin, filled with violence, great acting, great supporting characters, the whole package. It is without a doubt the end all be all Punisher that fans have wanted for so long. Unfortunately it was only two seasons long, well three if you count Daredevil.
Frank Miller was responsible for giving Daredevil the shot in the arm to make him a major player in Marvel Comics. In fact the work of Miller was so ahead of its time, it saved the series from cancellation. He introduced new characters, made the story more gritty and violent, and threw in some old characters into his run as well. One of those was tailor made for the 80’s. The Punisher. A violent vigilante who killed the criminals he chased. Daredevil is Catholic so he does not kill, he actually walks a very fine line between justice and vigilantism. The Punisher was a perfect partner / foil for him and the two made comic book magic. So when Netflix decided to do a Daredevil series it was a no brainer they would use the Frank Miller run for inspiration.
Daredevil was a critical success using the Man Without Fear storyline mixed with the rise of the Kingpin for its first season. It was so well done it was immediately green lit for season two. That season set the stage for the Elektra and the Hand storyline as well as setting up the crossover series the Defenders. It also served to introduce The Punisher into the universe. John Bernthal was cast to play Frank Castle and the performance and storyline was so strong in that second Season of Daredevil a spin off of the Punisher was immediately put into motion. In fact it went into production before the Daredevil season even aired. The series was a hit with fans and critics alike and was renewed for a second season almost immediately after the first season dropped.
Daredevil season two takes place shortly after Wilson Fisk aka The Kingpin has been brought down by Daredevil who is still protecting the streets of Hells Kitchen. When an Irish cartel is gunned down one of the survivors goes to the law firm of Nelson and Murdock for help. Murdock is of course Daredevil. Turns out the faction the Irish are waring against is a biker gang called The Dogs of Hell. The Dogs area also being murdered by a new vigilante in town. That man is Frank Castle. Daredevil mages to track him down, but gets shot in the process. Luckily his armor protected him. He manages to track Castle down again but is knocked out and tied up. We then learn that Castle is not a criminal but a vigilante. He finds criminals to be beyond redemption so he murders them to stop them from harming others.
Eventually the Punisher is captured by the Irish but saved by Daredevil. He is arrested and goes to trial. It is there we find out he was a highly decorated war hero whose family was murdered by a Carousel in a small park in New York. Frank was also shot but survived. Its actually part of a government cover up that we learn more about during the Punisher series itself. Castle is sent to prison where he meets Wilson Fisk. Fisk tells Frank about the man who controls the Prison and tells him he has info on who murdered Castles family. Frank of course kills him but is double crossed by Fisk who is only doing this so he can become the Kingpin of the prison. Frank kills multiple prisoners in a very violent scene and survives. Fisk realizes that with Castle on the outside killing criminals it will thin out the heard for when he gets out to reclaim his empire. He arranges for Frank to escape prison. It is then he goes to kill his his old commander, The Blacksmith . He finds a massive arsenal after doing this and in the defining moment of his story arch spray paints a white skull on a flack vest. He ends up helping Daredevil defeat members of the Hand before leaving town to pursue others who may be involved in his family’s murder, as well as any other criminal who he comes across.
When the Punisher begins his own show he has moved to a new area and is working construction. He has nightmares about his family and mostly keeps to himself. That is until he is working one night and a group of his co workers show up. They just botched a robbery from a group of gangsters and have returned to the construction site to kill one of their members who caused the job to go south. Frank interviews murdering them in brutal fashion with a sledgehammer. He tells the lone survivor to leave town. He then goes to the visit the gangsters they robbed, killing them as well. Shortly after he is contacted by a man named Mirco who has proof that Castles family was killed in a botched attempt to kill Frank to cover up things his unit did in Kandahar. Through all this Frank learns his old Army Buddy Billy Russo was behind this. It eventually leads to Castle not only helping to reunite Micro with his family but it leads him to confront Russo and smash his face against multiple pains of glass leaving him permanently disfigured.
When we find Frank in Season two Frank is immediately drawn to helping save a girl who is attacked at a bar by a group of highly trained agents. Frank murders them and goes on the run with the young girl. Turns out she has photos she was paid to take by a group of Russians of two men kissing. One of those men is a powerful criminal who hires a religious mercenary named John Pilgrim to find the girl and murder her and Castle. While this is going on Billy Russo awakens and escapes custody organizing a group of criminals calling himself Jigsaw. This all sets up the inevitable confrontation with Frank as he must fully embrace becoming the Punisher and killing these groups. In fact during the epilogue of the season we find Frank fully embracing life as the Punisher as he takes out a group of criminals in full costume.
Now I know this is a very short synopsis of two (three if you count Daredevil) seasons of a show, ut to explain and fully break them down would take more time than anyone wants to read. Lets say this show is violent. Brutally violent. Bernthal fully embraces the character from grieving father to cold blooded killer. He plays this part to perfection. Graphic violence, tons of easter eggs from the comics, fantastic edge of your seat story lines, this has it all. A hard R rated show to say the least it has a few changes added to make it more episodic in terms of storytelling. Especially the entire Billy Russo cover up origin, but it still keeps the narrative of the Punisher intact. The white skull is in full effect when Frank dons the costume, and the spirit of the show really is the comic book come to life. Sadly it was cancelled after season two but there are already talks about it moving to a new home with Bernthal continuing to play The Punisher.
So there you go, Jane, Lundgren, Stevenson all good, but no one better than John Bernthal. The origin, outfit, tone, everything about the Netflix show was perfect. Gripping storylines and over the ton graphic violence you would normally see in a grindhouse picture. The Punisher series is the definitive version of the character and it is ranked number one on my list.