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The Punisher Reviews: Critics Are Split On Marvel/Netflix’s Latest Standalone Series

The first reviews are in and the early consensus has deemed The Punisher to be a riveting, yet flawed take on the titular anti-hero.

Not unlike Justice League before it, The Punisher has split critics right down the middle.

Ahead of its arrival this Friday, November 17th, Marvel and Netflix released six episodes prior to broadcast, and the industry’s pool of TV critics have now weighed in with their individual verdicts.

Indeed, it’s difficult to gauge a consensus from what is essentially a mixed bag. For instance, some have hailed The Punisher as a “riveting” and “deeply compelling” take on Frank Castle, while others believe Marvel and Netflix’s latest standalone series fails to justify its 13-hour running time. And though that may be true, one thing that everyone seems to be in agreement on is Jon Bernthal’s remarkable performance as the titular anti-hero, who submerges himself in the criminal underbelly of Hell’s Kitchen in order to avenge his family

And so, in anticipation of release, we’ve collected a handful of review samples for you to peruse, beginning with our own:

WGTC: Not as much fun or as engaging as most other Marvel/Netflix shows, The Punisher still prevails, thanks in large part to Jon Bernthal’s performance as the damaged antihero.

The Hollywood Reporter: Bernthal’s Punisher is a perfect character for a four-to-six-hour miniseries and then maybe to occasionally weave into other parts of Netflix’s Marvel Universe. Unfortunately, whether the fault lies with Marvel or Netflix, this is a partnership that violates all of Netflix’s “Tell your story the way it needs to be told” rules for other shows. With the exception of The Defenders, which was always announced as a miniseries, each and every one of the Marvel/Netflix shows has been 13 episodes and they’ve all had comparable lags in pacing and stumbles in storytelling to reach that number. But Marvel’s The Punisher is the first one that feels at least twice the length it should be.

The Wrap: I almost want to declare the existence of this “Punisher” show a miracle. I don’t know, really, what I was expecting from it, because from the moment it was announced it didn’t really feel like it fit with the other Marvel shows on Netflix. And aside from a few appearances by Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) and a couple cameos by very minor characters from other shows, it really does just go its own way. And thank the Lord for that, because I like watching legitimately good TV shows. And “The Punisher,” somehow, is legitimately good.

Variety: In all, “The Punisher” is not just satisfying but surprising — an interpretation of Netflix and Marvel’s tried-and-true partnership that offers more depth and challenges to the audience than even the gritty world of “Marvel’s Jessica Jones.” Free from superpowers and superheroes, the Marvel universe is more forgiving — and more interesting. Of course, the slightly cartoony Marvel Cinematic Universe is still a world where people named Carson Wolf show up and act as if they are not obviously villains. But “The Punisher’s” place in it is a welcome morass of thorny questions and unresolvable answers. At least in this part of the television landscape, there is room for another antihero.

Collider: The Punisher is riveting, politically adventurous entertainment, willing to get mired in the complexity of a nation that has come to define itself through the incalculable damage and untold amounts of killings done in the name of peace. When the need to set-up, reiterate, or preempt the plot becomes its more prominent concern, however, it’s emblematic of everything wrong with comic-book adaptations, on TV or elsewhere.

The critical consensus continues:

IGN: Marvel’s The Punisher did an excellent job reintroducing us to an iconic character, with the help of a brilliant performance from Jon Bernthal. While some of the supporting cast members are less memorable, there is still plenty of time for more character development down the road.

Total Film: Frank begins the 13-episode run alone and assuming a new identity; but it’s when he starts to open up that the man behind the scope begins to emerge. The show may not be to everyone’s tastes – fans may expect something more visceral, despite the fair amount of gore – I just sincerely hope people are patient with it and let the show develop, despite its odd missteps. It’s left me wanting more of The Punisher before even any of The Defenders return – and I’m eager to see what Frank does next.

Forbes: In addition to being the best, The Punisher is also the most violent, unhinged series ever produced by the house Feige (or in this case Jeph Loeb) built. Punisher fans are going to be truly pleased by the series’ take on the character. However, unlike the lackluster two (three if you count that 1989 one) feature films, The Punisher finds a way to make Frank a sympathetic character.

Whether this admittedly mixed reaction to The Punisher has much of a bearing on Frank Castle’s future remains to be seen, but with new instalments of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage primed for 2018, Marvel fans needn’t worry about a lack of content – even if Netflix is facing the very real possibility of losing its street-level heroes.

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Michael Briers