SUPERVERSIVE: Why “The Punisher” is only ALMOST a Great Show

Tuesday , 21, November 2017 8 Comments

Image result for the punisherThere’s a saying I’ve heard used before that I think applies here: This drink would be great if they didn’t pour sewage in the water.

Unlike our friend the Warpig, I had no issues with the pacing of “The Punisher” (and incidentally I will argue until the day I die that he is wrong, wrong, WRONG about season one of “Daredevil”, which is AWESOME. Mediocre. Pah). Interestingly, I think some of the so-called “filler” episodes were pretty good! In fact, part of what made it good was that it was willing to do these little bits of “filler” whenever the story was in danger of slowing down. And Joe Bernthal was absolutely fantastic, a tour de force in the role who should, but won’t, get some Emmy love for his work. Micro was also a fine and entertaining character, supposedly set up as comic relief but with an extra level of depth and pathos that made him very likable.

…But it virtue signaled, sometimes less, sometimes more – but it virtue signaled. And its issues tended to be the same issues endemic to most non-indie entertainment coming out these days.

So take a guess who the villain of the “The Punisher” is. Go on. Guess.

If you guessed “A middle-aged rich white dude” you’d be wrong. It’s TWO middle-aged rich white dudes. Whoops.

Early on in the show the Punisher is working on a construction job, and his lunch is squashed by two jerk white guys. No worries though, because a magical negr – er, cool hispanic dude is nice to him and offers him half a sandwich. Later, said hispanic dude is bullied into a robbery by two white dudes, who attempt to murder him until the Punisher comes and saves the day. So there’s our start?

The show does some fantastic work showing the plight of veterans returned from the war and how they are essentially abandoned by the government. Really great stuff! Of course, they need to show one vet slowly go insane until he turns terrorist, bombs a building, and attempts to murder an anti-gun activist senator before he is stopped by the Punisher (this, by the way, is a great episode). This, of course, perpetuates the weirdly common and completely bullshit myth that vets with mental issues are almost literally ticking time bombs a hair’s breadth away from exploding and killing everyone. It’s a weirdly common trope that has next to no basis in fact at all. This kid is, of course, brainwashed by a super-conservative vet who babbles right wing talking points written by people who clearly have never met somebody who actually holds right wing opinions. As it turns out, the vet was lying about his service record, so he’s a liar as well as a right wing gun nut.

Image result for the punisher madani

Well she really is unbelievably hot

Our deuteragonist is an unbelievably hot Iranian-American (presumably to throw off accusations that they’re anti-muslim or something) woman in Homeland security who tried to expose the murder of an Afghani by U.S. soldiers running an illegal drug smuggling operation. She is smarter and more moral than everybody else, but the story is smothered by – you guessed it – a middle-aged white guy who also happens to be a misogynist. He, of course, is one of a string of people I’m pretty sure were made up entirely of middle-aged white guys, apparently the most evil demographic on the planet.

And all of this makes the show sound terrible when it’s so NOT terrible. It’s actually damn near close to great! The plot was well designed and well-executed, the action scenes were brutal and mesmerizing (as they should be in a Punisher story), and more than one episode was not just good but fantastic, among the best stuff that the Netflix MCU has put out to date. The subplot of the issues of the vets was portrayed with brutal honesty and a chilling effectiveness. The characters, especially The Punisher and Micro, were well-realized, well-acted, and entertaining to watch. There’s even a multiple episode sequence where they – shockingly overtly and strongly – criticize anti-gun activists, which you may or may not agree with but is countercultural in a way almost never seen in modern television. Even the final villain was a compelling character, and it ends far more positively and, dare I say, superversively than I ever thought it would.

If it weren’t for the sewage poured into the drink, it would be absolutely fantastic.

The question is this: How long is it before enough of us say “I’m tired of drinking sewage water. The drink is very good, but the sewage is making me sick. It’s infecting millions of people. I think we should stop drinking it.”

When do we reach that point? Are we there now? Should we stop watching Netflix completely, Hollywood completely, television completely, until the indie movement brings its platform over to the big and small screen? Only watch used movies sold through ebay and Amazon?

I don’t know. Maybe.

We should at least think about it.

Image result for the punisher jon bernthal

  • Xavier Basora says:

    Great defense. Here’s my take for what it’s worth:
    write to the show and write constructive criticism. Praise the writers for good dialogue episode and criticize where they fell flat. Then we can always suggest alternatives to the lazy trope or writing.
    At least that’ll show we’ve paid attention and if enough people write day in day out (no not like the 4chan guys) they’ll get the message.

    No need to be in your face they expect that but they’ll be blindsided in a good way if we hold them up to a higher standard and never relent.

  • Skid says:

    Oh, there were a couple of decent episodes, but it was definitely not good. ( you can skip episodes 2-9 in there entirety, and not miss a thing.)

    It was better than Iron Fist or Luke Cage, but not by a lot.

  • Wolfman says:

    The hardest thing to suspend my disbelief for was the idea of an Afghan National Police Colonel who WASN’T corrupt. That’s how we know there are superpowers in this universe.

    Rating 6/10

  • Damrosch says:

    The more people indulge in mediocre art, the more they lower their standards and try to convince themselves that said art “isn’t really so bad.”

    It’s best to abstain from such things entirely, as you suggest. It makes for a clearer head and a keener sense of quality…which strengthens your own art while removing support of the sewage.

  • H.P. says:

    “So take a guess who the villain of the “The Punisher” is. Go on. Guess.

    If you guessed “A middle-aged rich white dude” you’d be wrong. It’s TWO middle-aged rich white dudes. Whoops.”

    Correction: The main villain was born poor. It is no accident that the main “good guy” (The Punisher falling squarely in the middle) was born rich. To borrow a line from your post on The Once and Future King, to the writers of The Punisher, “people are Good or, if they are not Good, are victims of fate beyond their control.”

    Both characters are robbed of agency and are the less for it.

    (I still put The Punisher above Iron Fist, The Defenders, and Luke Cage. Which reminds me that Luke Cage was also much better when he wasn’t in his own show.)

  • David says:

    Just finished watching the show, catching an episode here and there as schedule permitted. I am in agreement with your main points.

    spoiler alert below-
    Daredevil Season 2 was the best origin story for the Punisher I have seen, and this season was the best origin story for Jigsaw that I have seen. I didn’t see it coming until the final fight.

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