There’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.
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.