The Punisher (TV series)

This page was last edited on 18 December 2017, at 00:14.

Marvel's The Punisher, or simply The Punisher, is an American web television series created for Netflix by Steve Lightfoot, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films and other television series of the franchise, and is a spin-off of Marvel's Daredevil. The series is produced by Marvel Television in association with ABC Studios and Bohemian Risk Productions, with Lightfoot serving as showrunner.

The series revolves around Frank Castle, who uses lethal methods to fight crime as the vigilante "the Punisher", with Jon Bernthal reprising the role from Daredevil. Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ben Barnes, Amber Rose Revah, Daniel Webber, Paul Schulze, Jason R. Moore, Michael Nathanson, Jaime Ray Newman, and Deborah Ann Woll also star. A television series centered on the Punisher received a put pilot commitment at Fox in 2011, but that project fell through. In June 2015, Bernthal was cast as the character to appear in the second season of Daredevil. Development on a spin-off titled The Punisher began by January 2016, before the second season of Daredevil was released. In April 2016, Marvel and Netflix ordered the series, confirmed Bernthal's involvement, and announced Lightfoot as executive producer and showrunner. Filming began in New York City in October 2016, and concluded in April 2017.

The Punisher premiered in New York City on November 6, 2017, with the full season of thirteen episodes released on November 17 on Netflix. In December 2017, the series was renewed for a second season.

The Punisher
Punisher Netflix.jpg
Genre
Created by Steve Lightfoot
Based on
Starring
Composer(s) Tyler Bates
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 13 (list of episodes)
Production
Executive producer(s)
Producer(s) Gail Barringer
Location(s) New York City
Cinematography
  • Bill Coleman
  • Manuel Billeter
  • Petr Hlinomaz
Editor(s)
  • William Yeh
  • Russell Denove
  • Tirsa Hackshaw
Running time 49–58 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor Netflix
Release
Original network Netflix
Original release November 17, 2017 – present
Chronology
Related shows

Premise

Frank Castle, known throughout New York City as "the Punisher" after exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his family, uncovers a larger conspiracy beyond what was done to him and his family.[1]

Cast and characters

Main

  • Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle / Punisher:
    A vigilante who aims to fight the criminal underworld by any means necessary, no matter how lethal the results.[2][3] Daredevil season one showrunner Steven S. DeKnight said this version of Punisher would be "completely the Marvel version," as previous portrayals did not appear under the Marvel Studios / Marvel Television banner.[4] However, Bernthal did study all the previous portrayals, saying, "once you devour and eat up as much as you can, my way is to make it as personal as possible". On how Castle resonates with him, Bernthal said, "He ain’t got a fucking cape. He ain’t got any superpowers. He’s a fucking tortured, angry father and husband who’s living in this unbelievable world of darkness and loss and torment."[5] Bernthal added that there would be "a military component" in the series since Castle is "a soldier... [The series] will be somewhat centered on that".[6] He also stated that "the character that was portrayed on Daredevil season two was sort of the origin tale of how this guy became the Punisher, why he put on the vest."[7] Bernthal noted he "always want[ed] to preserve the essence of" Castle, who Bernthal described as "brutal", "damaged" and "tortured", by exploring "the pain and what's behind the violence and the reason why he's committing the violence" that is "utterly satisfying and addictive for him".[8]
  • Ebon Moss-Bachrach as David Lieberman / Micro:
    A former NSA analyst who assists Castle after faking his death.[9][10] Regarding Micro's relationship with Castle, Moss-Bachrach said, "We have found ourselves with common enemies and it's a marriage of convenience." Moss-Bachrach also felt the comics version of the character was "a one-trick pony", supplying equipment to Castle, but that the character gets "interesting when their relationship gets bad" and hoped to explore that in the series.[7]
  • Ben Barnes as Billy Russo: Castle’s former best friend from when he served in USMC Force Recon. Russo runs Anvil, a private military corporation.[11][9]
  • Amber Rose Revah as Dinah Madani:
    An Iranian-American Department of Homeland Security agent stationed in Afghanistan, who returns to New York City for an investigation that leads her to cross paths with Castle.[9][12] Revah noted that Madani "sees herself as American – that’s what her being is, that’s what she wants to protect, that’s why she does what she does." As Madani is not based on a character from the comics, Revah's "research was based more on Homeland and what it’s like for those people, and the logical processes the character would be going through. I think, for a lot of actors, if you’re playing someone from comics, you probably feel you have some sort of responsibility to represent this character in a light that reflects how they were represented in the comic books. Because I didn’t have that, it probably let me be more open in my representation." Revah spoke with actual Homeland officers as well as Iranian people "to make that [part of the character] authentic." A special shotgun was made for Revah to use, designed for her height and stature.[12]
  • Daniel Webber as Lewis Wilson: A young veteran struggling with his new life as a civilian. He attends group therapy sessions with other servicemen under Curtis Hoyle.[13]
  • Paul Schulze as William Rawlins: The director of covert operations at the CIA, who crosses paths with Castle due to their time in Afghanistan.[13]
  • Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle: A friend of Castle, one of the few people who knows he is alive and former US Navy Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman, who became the leader of a therapy group after losing the lower part of his left leg in combat.[13]
  • Michael Nathanson as Sam Stein: A Department of Homeland Security agent and Madani's partner.[13]
  • Jaime Ray Newman as Sarah Lieberman: David's wife.[13]
  • Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page:
    A reporter at the New York Bulletin and Matt Murdock's former assistant, who befriended Castle after working on his case. Woll reprises her role from a previous Marvel Netflix series.[14][15] Regarding Page's continuing relationship with Castle, Woll said, "Frank has a soft spot in Karen’s heart, and certainly with the dark history that Karen has, there are very few people she can share her authentic self with. Frank is someone who she could potentially fully open up to."[6] She added, "there's something about Frank where [Karen] doesn't have to be ashamed of her darkest, deepest side of herself. She gets to be more honest with him".[7]

Recurring

  • Shohreh Aghdashloo as Farah Madani: Dinah's mother who runs a successful psychiatric practice.[16][17]
  • Jordan Mahome as Isaac Lange: A military veteran who attends Hoyle's support groups.
  • Kelli Barrett as Maria Castle: Castle's deceased wife.
  • Aidan Pierce Brennan as Frank Castle Jr.: Castle's deceased son.
  • Nicolette Pierini as Lisa Castle: Castle's deceased daughter.
  • Ripley Sobo as Leo Lieberman: David and Sarah's daughter.
  • Kobi Frumer as Zach Lieberman: David and Sarah's son.
  • Tony Plana as Rafael Hernandez: The director of operations for Homeland Security and Madani's mentor.

Guest

  • C. Thomas Howell as Carson Wolf: A corrupt senior DHS agent, supervisor of "Operation Cerberus," and Madani's supervisor who crosses paths with Micro and then later Castle.
  • Delaney Williams as O'Connor: A phony Vietnam veteran and NRA member who attends Hoyle's support groups.
  • Geoffrey Cantor as Mitchell Ellison: The editor-in-chief of the New York Bulletin and Page's boss. Cantor reprises his role from Daredevil.
  • Shez Sardar as Ahmad Zubair: An Afghan policeman who worked with Madani.
  • Jeb Kreager as Gunner Henderson: A Marine Corps veteran and member of the Cerberus Squad that worked alongside Castle and later went reclusive upon returning home.
  • Clancy Brown as Ray Schoonover: Castle's commanding officer in Afghanistan. Brown reprises his role from Daredevil.
  • Tim Guinee as Clay Wilson: Lewis Wilson's father.
  • Rob Morgan as Turk Barrett: A low-level criminal who operates in Hell's Kitchen and Harlem. Morgan reprises his role from previous Marvel Netflix shows.[18]
  • Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Marion James: A Deputy Director of the CIA.
  • Andrew Polk as Morty Bennett
  • Rick Holmes as Stan Ori: A U.S. Senator who is interviewed by Karen Page on his gun control views.
  • Royce Johnson as Brett Mahoney: A Sergeant at the NYPD's 15th Precinct. Johnson reprises his role from previous Marvel Netflix series.
  • Houshang Touzie as Hamid Madani: Dinah's father.

NY1 anchors Pat Kiernan, Roma Torre, and Stacy-Ann Gooden cameo as themselves.

Episodes

No. Title Directed by Written by Original release date
1 "3 AM" Tom Shankland Steve Lightfoot November 17, 2017
After tracking down and executing the surviving gangsters involved in the deaths of his wife and children, Frank Castle keeps a low profile by working at a New York City construction site under the alias "Pete Castiglione". The only person who knows his true identity is Curtis Hoyle, a former Navy SARC who runs a PTSD support group for veterans. One night, Castle's co-workers pressure new employee Donny Chavez into helping them rob a loan shark related to the Gnucci crime family. The robbery goes wrong, however, when Donny drops his wallet and exposes his driver's license. Castle saves Donny from being drowned in cement, killing the other construction workers in the process, before assassinating the loan shark and his associates, unaware that a mysterious figure is spying on him through the surveillance cameras. Meanwhile, Department of Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani tries to use her position at the New York field office to find the people responsible for killing her former partner Ahmed Zubair, who was investigating American soldiers smuggling heroin before his death.
2 "Two Dead Men" Tom Shankland Steve Lightfoot November 17, 2017
While at a diner in Queens, Castle receives a phone call from Micro, who asks for his help. Unnerved, Castle seeks out Karen Page, the former legal secretary to Nelson & Murdock who was part of Castle's defense team, and, with her help, discovers that Micro is David Lieberman, a former NSA analyst who was killed while resisting arrest. The story about his death, however, was never released because Madani's boss Carson Wolf personally shut it down. After visiting Lieberman's wife Sarah and bonding over the grief they feel for their lost loved ones, Castle tracks down Wolf and breaks into his home, where he elicits a confession about his involvement in Lieberman's "death" before snapping his neck. Meanwhile, Madani meets with Billy Russo, a former squadmate of Castle's who now runs a private military contractor firm called Anvil, in an attempt to determine if he was somehow involved in the heroin smuggling. Her attempt is interrupted by a text message about Wolf's murder. After leading Lieberman on a wild-goose chase across New York City, Castle confronts him at his hideout and prepares to interrogate him.
3 "Kandahar" Andy Goddard Steve Lightfoot November 17, 2017
While interrogating Lieberman, Castle learns that he has rigged the hideout to explode if he is not at his console. Castle, however, reveals that he did not see any bombs when he secured the perimeter. Lieberman reveals he filmed Castle and, after disarming the security, knocks him out with a tranquilizer. Shortly after Castle regains consciousness, Lieberman reveals he wants to help him take down the people who destroyed their lives. Meanwhile, Madani juggles engaging in a jurisdictional dispute with the NYPD and the FBI and dealing with guilt over Wolf's death. When Madani's partner Sam Stein tells her that Wolf had $30 million hidden in offshore accounts, she decides to trust him. In a flashback in Afghanistan, Castle and Russo serve as members of a covert assassination squad that is recruited by an "Agent Orange" to execute Zubair before he can reveal their existence. The squad later raids a compound on Orange's intel only to lose several members, prompting Castle to attack Orange and blind him in his left eye. Lieberman, after finding footage of Zubair's death, encrypts and sends it to Madani only for a team of DHS agents led by Wolf to track him down and shoot him. Lieberman survives the attempt while Wolf frames him as a traitor.
4 "Resupply" Kari Skogland Dario Scardapane November 17, 2017
Castle attempts to hijack a weapons shipment belonging to Turk Barrett only to discover a Greek gang has already taken them. As he juggles searching for the shipment and growing closer to Lieberman's family, Madani is approached by her mentor Rafael Hernandez, who warns her about investigating Wolf's corruption. Madani is then tasked with leading an operation to recover the shipment, which Lieberman learns about from hacking the Department's files. Although reluctant to get involved, Lieberman helps Castle take the shipment from DHS. Madani and Castle engage in a high-speed chase that ends when Lieberman rams Madani's car with their truck. Castle proceeds to save Madani, who recognizes him, and confirms her suspicions that he killed Wolf before telling her not to get in his way. Meanwhile, Lewis Wilson, a member of Hoyle's PTSD support group, attempts to find a job at Anvil only to be rejected when Hoyle informs Russo about Wilson's deteriorating mental health.
5 "Gunner" Dearbhla Walsh Michael Jones-Morales November 17, 2017
As Castle and Lieberman search for Gunner Henderson, another of Castle's former squad-mates who filmed the video of Zubair's execution, Madani tells Stein that Castle is still alive and asks him to keep her secret until she can know more. Castle finds Henderson in rural Kentucky and learns that Agent Orange, who is CIA Director of Covert Operations William Rawlins, was working with Ray Schoonover to smuggle heroin into the United States in the corpses of KIAs. The two men are then ambushed by a team of mercenaries working for Rawlins, who wants to kill Henderson before DHS can locate him. With Lieberman providing overhead monitoring from a drone, Castle and Henderson kill Rawlins' men, but Henderson is mortally wounded. Lieberman rescues Castle and takes him back to New York, unaware that Rawlins now knows about Castle's continued existence.
6 "The Judas Goat" Jeremy Webb Christine Boylan November 17, 2017
As Lieberman turns to Hoyle to help treat Castle's infected wounds, with Hoyle blaming him for Castle's current condition, Russo learns that Madani is investigating his former squad-mate and confronts her. He proceeds to broadcast a radio call to Castle while Madani confirms Castle's involvement in Henderson's death. After learning that Castle is still alive, Russo approaches Castle and offers to give him a new identity. Castle refuses following a visit with Lieberman's family, unaware that Russo is secretly working with Rawlins. Meanwhile, Wilson is arrested for confronting an NYPD officer while helping Vietnam veteran and fellow support group member O'Connor hand out pro-Second Amendment leaflets outside a courthouse. After being bailed out by Hoyle and learning that O'Connor lied about serving in Vietnam, Wilson confronts O'Connor and stabs him to death.
7 "Crosshairs" Andy Goddard Bruce Marshall Romans November 17, 2017
As Castle sets out to target Morty Bennett, one of the founders of "Operation Cerberus" and one of Rawlins' allies in the heroin smuggling plot, Rawlins stages a trap for his former subordinate. Lieberman, however, has Castle keep Bennett long enough for the recon drone to clone his phone and track down Rawlins. Castle arrives at Rawlins' safehouse and tries to kill him, only for the bullet to be stopped by bulletproof glass, and is forced to retreat. Meanwhile, Russo kills Bennett in an attempt to clean up any loose ends and Madani, suspecting that her office has been bugged, has Stein stage a "plan" to find whoever is listening.
8 "Cold Steel" Antonio Campos Felicia D. Henderson November 17, 2017
As Castle and Lieberman come to terms with learning Rawlins' identity, Castle learns that Lieberman's son Zach brought a knife to school and decides to scare him straight. Castle confronts him and learns that he has grown afraid since his father's "death". After convincing Lieberman that seeing his son would be too dangerous, the two agree that the next course of action is to work with Madani. Meanwhile, Rawlins and Russo decide to go after Castle, unaware that Madani, Stein and their DHS team are going after them. A shootout unfolds, in which several SWAT officers and several of Russo's men are killed. Stein chases and corners Russo outside, only for Russo to pull a concealed knife and stab him to death. Russo later "consoles" Madani and helps wash the blood off her body.
9 "Front Toward Enemy" Marc Jobst Angela LaManna November 17, 2017
As Madani continues to blame herself for Stein's death, Wilson executes a series of bombings throughout New York City and sends Page a letter, believing she will side with his cause as she had with Castle. When she does not, he calls Page while she is participating in an on-air debate between her and pro-gun control Senator Stan Ori. Castle and Hoyle recognize Wilson from reciting the Latin phrase sic semper tyrannis, with Hoyle going to look for him at O'Connor's house. He finds Wilson's bomb-making supplies and O'Connor's decaying corpse only for Wilson to overpower him and tie him to a chair with the bomb. Castle manages to find Hoyle and save his life after convincing Wilson to disarm the bomb. Castle proceeds to escape after Wilson calls the police, but not before a police car dashcam captures his image and makes the public aware of his continued existence. Meanwhile, Lieberman meets with Madani and not only reveals Rawlins' name to her but also his work with Castle.
10 "Virtue of the Vicious" Jim O'Hanlon Ken Kristensen November 17, 2017
As Brett Mahoney interviews Page, Madani, Russo, and Senator Ori to determine the proper sequence of events surrounding an assassination attempt on the Senator, each interviewee recounts the attack from radically different perspectives. Six hours earlier, after learning that the mercenaries who killed Stein are connected to Anvil, Madani confronts Russo at the hotel where his men are providing security for Senator Ori as he sits down for an interview with Page. During the interview, Wilson, who previously infiltrated the hotel after killing one of Russo's men and stealing his uniform, barges into Ori's suite with a gun. Castle arrives and shields the two from the gunfire only for Wilson, who is wearing a suicide vest, to take Page hostage. Castle then flees when the Anvil agents open fire on him. Fighting off Russo, the Anvil agents, and several NYPD officers, Castle confronts Wilson in the hotel kitchen before helping Karen disarm the bomb. After finding and cutting the right wire, Page shoots Wilson in the foot with a gun she took from an Anvil agent. Wilson then locks himself in the freezer, rewires the bomb and detonates it, killing himself.
11 "Danger Close" Kevin Hooks Felicia D. Henderson November 17, 2017
Sarah and Zach are kidnapped by Russo's men while Castle makes preparations to go after Rawlins. With Leo Lieberman having eluded capture, Lieberman reunites with her at an old family hangout and enlists Madani's aid. Rawlins attempts to gain sympathy from CIA Deputy Director Marion James who upon learning of Rawlins' duplicitous nature asks that he fix his problem and leave the CIA altogether so that his actions won't affect them. Rawlins and Russo both plan on betraying one another behind their backs. Having anticipated that Anvil would trace Sarah's call history, Castle ambushes and kills the assault team in the power station. With his assault team dead, Russo arranges a location for a hostage exchange site, demanding that Castle and Lieberman exchange themselves for Sarah and Zach.
12 "Home" Jet Wilkinson Dario Scardapane November 17, 2017
Madani records Castle and Lieberman as they testify against Rawlins, which she plans to present to James. The two allies then make their way to the agreed exchange spot, finding Sarah and Zach alive but laden with gasoline canisters. Anticipating Russo's double cross, Castle and Lieberman stage the latter's fake death, with Madani's DHS team shooting him in order to make the ruse convincing. While Lieberman reunites with his family, Russo and Rawlins take Castle to the power station for interrogation. Castle, despite being tortured to the brink of death, breaks free and stabs Rawlins to death. DHS then storms the station and wounds an escaping Russo before evacuating Castle for medical attention.
13 "Memento Mori" Stephen Surjik Steve Lightfoot November 17, 2017
As DHS executes a failed attempt to apprehend Russo, Castle receives medical attention from Madani's father while Madani presents the video evidence to James. Russo sneaks into Hoyle's apartment and, after confirming suspicions of the latter's knowledge about Castle, prepares to execute him only to be interrupted by Castle in a sniper position. Castle gives Russo the chance to pick an agreed place for a one-on-one confrontation, with Russo picking the carousel where Castle's family died. Russo takes hostages and wounds them in order to gain a tactical advantage, which he uses during his confrontation with Castle. Madani, having previously deduced Russo's location, intervenes only to receive a headshot wound. Castle then overpowers Russo and repeatedly slams his face against the carousel's mirrored walls, disfiguring him. Three days later, Castle learns from James and Hernandez that DHS and the CIA have erased his criminal record, allowing him to live out his life in anonymity. He also learns that Madani has survived her headshot wound and Russo has been hospitalized with severe head trauma that may seriously affect his memory. Upon his release from hospital, Castle attends Hoyle’s support group and opens up for the first time.

Production

Development

In October 2011, ABC Studios sold a script based on the Punisher to Fox, who gave the project a put pilot commitment. The series would be an hour-long procedural following NYPD detective Frank Castle, "whose alter ego is that of a vigilante seeking justice for those failed by the court system." Ed Bernero was attached as executive producer,[19] but by May 2012, the project had not moved forward.[20] A year later, the character's film rights reverted to Marvel from Lionsgate.[21] In June 2015, Jon Bernthal was announced as cast as Frank Castle in the second season of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix.[2] The series was the first of several live action series provided to Netflix by Marvel Television and ABC Studios, with subsequent series featuring Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist all leading up to a miniseries based on the Defenders.[22]

By January 2016, ahead of the Daredevil season two release, Netflix was in "very early development" on a spin-off series titled The Punisher, and was looking for a showrunner. The series would be centered on Bernthal as Castle, and was described as a stand-alone series, outside of the series leading up to Marvel's The Defenders.[23][24][25] Head of Marvel Television and executive producer Jeph Loeb implied that Marvel Television had not instigated the development of the spin-off and were focusing on making "the best 13 episodes of Daredevil season two" at the time, but did say, "I’m never going to discourage a network from looking at one of our characters and encouraging us to do more ... If we are lucky enough that through the writing, through the direction, through the actor that people want to see more of that person, terrific."[26] Loeb stated a month later that the reports about the potential spin-off were "something that people are speculating on, as opposed to something that's actually happening."[27]

In April 2016, Netflix officially ordered a full 13 episode season of The Punisher, confirmed Bernthal's involvement, and named Steve Lightfoot as executive producer and showrunner.[3][28] Loeb, Cindy Holland, and Jim Chory also serve as executive producers.[28][9] A second season was ordered in December 2017.[29]

Writing

Lightfoot noted that "anti-heroes with dark pasts, that are morally grey, are always interesting to write." On deciding to work on The Punisher, Lightfoot stated, "I was drawn to a guy who is dealing with grief - how does he do that?... We talked a lot as we developed the show that once you take hold of the hand of violence it's impossible to let it go. That relationship to violence really interested me, not just the fact he has the ability to use it but also the cost of it." Bernthal stated the series would be "loose with chronology" for the character, depicting events before and after the events of Daredevil season two.[7]

Casting

Jon Bernthal (36017548472).jpg
Bernthal promoting The Punisher at the 2017 San Diego Comic-Con

Bernthal had been cast as Castle in June 2015 to appear in the second season of Daredevil,[2] and was confirmed to be reprising the role for the spin-off in April 2016.[3] That September, Ben Barnes was cast in the series in an unspecified series regular role.[11] The next month, set photos revealed that Deborah Ann Woll would reprise her Daredevil role as Karen Page,[14] Barnes was announced as playing Billy Russo, while Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Amber Rose Revah also joined the series, as David Lieberman / Micro and Dinah Madani, respectively.[9][10] At New York Comic Con, Bernthal confirmed Woll as a co-star.[15] At the end of October, Marvel announced the additional casting of Daniel Webber as Lewis Wilson, Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle, Paul Schulze as William Rawlins, Jaime Ray Newman as Sarah Lieberman, and Michael Nathanson as Sam Stein.[13]

In August 2017, Shohreh Aghdashloo was revealed to be portraying Farah Madani, Dinah's mother, in a recurring role for the series.[16] Rob Morgan reprises his role from previous Marvel Netflix series as Turk Barrett.[18]

Filming

Filming began on October 3, 2016 in Brooklyn, New York,[30][15] under the working title Crime.[31] Additional filming took place in Astoria, Queens in December 2016.[32] Filming wrapped on April 9, 2017.[33]

Music

In April 2017, Tyler Bates was announced as the composer for The Punisher, after previously composing for Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.[34] In order to "get into the dark corners of the Punisher’s mind," Bates played "more of a broken blues" guitar, which was augmented with talkbox effects and other "guitar noises", along with guitar-vol and melodica. On this style, Bates said, "The rough edges and broken nature of [music like this] leaves a great deal of space for emotion and interesting color – and a bit of an attitude. Otherwise it’s not going to be an authentic expression of the idea. There’s a darkness in there that I’m happy to tap into."[35]

Release

The Punisher was released on November 17, 2017 on the streaming service Netflix, worldwide.[9][36] The 13 hour-long episodes were released simultaneously, as opposed to a serialized format, to encourage binge-watching, a format which has been successful for other Netflix series.[37][28] In July 2016, Netflix COO Ted Sarandos stated that The Punisher would not debut until 2018 at the earliest, after The Defenders released on August 18, 2017,[38][39] but that October, Marvel confirmed a 2017 release instead.[9]

In early September 2017, Dominic Patten and Denise Petski of Deadline.com commented on the lack of specific release date for the series at the time, calling it "an unusual", "rare move for Marvel and Netflix, who usually give a lot of lead-up to the launch of the high profile and much anticipated series." The pair felt with the increased marketing of the series, it would release "sooner rather than later".[1] Allison Keene of Collider felt Marvel and Netflix holding back the release date was "really weird and unnecessary... If you're excited for this show, you'll watch it whenever it appears. For TV editors who have to plan reviews and other content, it's just irritating."[40] Polygon's Susana Polo felt Marvel and Netflix were waiting for their scheduled panel at New York Comic Con 2017 during the first weekend of October to reveal the series' release date, as the convention had been used in previous years to reveal "breaking fall Marvel/Netflix news".[41] It was reported that Netflix had been planning a surprise "drop" release of the series in mid-October 2017,[42][43] mimicking a strategy from the music industry where an artist's album is released "with little or no fanfare", after their panel at New York Comic Con 2017, but decided to delay the release to later in 2017 after the Las Vegas shooting and subsequently cancelling the panel.[43] Two weeks later, the November 17 release was announced.[36]

Regarding the decisions made concerning the New York Comic Con panel and the series' release, Loeb said that they were made "specifically because it was a week after a horrible, horrible incident. It hasn’t changed the television series, the show is not predominantly about gun violence, and in fact it shows you the problems that occur in that world."[44] Bernthal felt delaying the release of the series "was the right decision" out of respect for the victims. Between the delaying of the series due to the Vegas shooting until the November 17 release, the U.S. experienced another mass shooting with the Sutherland Springs church shooting. Bernthal hoped that after these two shootings and the release of the series, it would help further the discussion on gun violence, with "all sides of this debate" represented in The Punisher.[45]

Marketing

Bernthal and Woll appeared at New York Comic Con in October 2016 to officially announce the start of production on the series and the latter's involvement.[15] At San Diego Comic-Con International 2017, Bernthal presented exclusive footage.[46] A teaser was revealed on Netflix in August 2017, appearing after the credits of the final episode of The Defenders.[47] Also in the month, the series' Twitter account revealed the episode titles as Morse code messages.[48] In September 2017, the series' Instagram account released viral videos made to look like security footage,[49] while episodic photos and a poster for the series with a redacted release date were also released.[1] On September 20, the official trailer for the series was released. Andrew Liptak of The Verge noted the trailer "sets up The Punisher with its own distinct tone that’s different from the other Marvel Netflix shows. It wades into government conspiracies and hacking, which is reminiscent of shows like CBS's Person of Interest or USA's Mr. Robot, but with more gunfire."[50] Nerdist's Kendall Ashley called the trailer "intense, super bloody, and has [me] INCREDIBLY pumped for the show’s premiere." She added, "The hype is huge for this show. If this trailer is any indication, The Punisher is definitely going to live up to fan expectations, and is going to be an intense and awesome addition to the Marvel Netflix universe." Ashley felt the inclusion of "One" by Metallica in the trailer "helps paint Frank as a badass unlike any we’ve seen on the Marvel Netflix shows so far."[51] Cooper Hood, writing for Screen Rant felt that, even though the series was still without a release date, the trailer would "undoubtedly only increase the fever for The Punisher." He continued that "unlike some of the more cryptic and quiet [marketing] videos that have come before," the trailer "especially fits the mold of Punisher. While it looked like at the beginning of the trailer that this one would again be a quieter piece of marketing, it turned out to be anything but. The trailer is stylish and well-cut to the beat of the song, with the choice of "One" only further amplifying the intensity."[52]

By the end of September, Netflix had updated their viral website for the New York Bulletin to include a profile page for Karen Page. After revealing her login credentials in a post on Daredevil's Facebook page, readers who visited Page's profile found images within folders titled "Research", "Trial" and "Evidence". The images referenced events and Page's research into Castle from the second season of Daredevil.[53] Bernthal and other members of the cast were scheduled to appear at New York Comic Con 2017 to promote the series,[54] but the panel was cancelled after the 2017 Las Vegas Strip shooting.[42] Two weeks later, a second trailer was released, that revealed the series' release date of November 17, 2017. Tom Philip writing for GQ was not very enthused with the trailer, saying it was, "hard to get super jazzed about another gritty, ultra-violent, gun-loving, non-superhero show right now." He was critical of the "utilitarian-sounding writing" in the trailer, but felt the chemistry between Bernthal and Woll would be a reason to watch The Punisher. Philip also felt the addition of Moss-Bachrach was "curious, but at least it's a swing for the fences from a TV studio that tends to play it astoundingly safe."[55] Scott Mendelson of Forbes noted that the gun violence sequences featured were mainly "flashbacks with military men doing military things in full fatigues or scenes of bad guys shooting at not-so-bad guys with heavy gunfire", which was a strong contrast to the first trailer. Mendelson felt this shift in the marketing strategy could have been in response to the Las Vegas shootings.[56] TechCrunch's Darrell Etherington agreed with Mendelson, noting how the trailer "plays up Castle’s motivations and the more human side of the story", while still looking "gritty and dark, [and] Bernthal’s portrayal looking as strong as ever." Etherington did also criticize the soundtrack of the trailer.[57] The Punisher had its red carpet premiere on November 6, 2017, in New York City at the 34th Street AMC Loews theatre.[58]

Critical response

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 61% approval rating with an average rating of 6.82/10 based on 54 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "A rocky start can't keep The Punisher from pushing the boundaries of Marvel's TV universe with a fresh take on the comics-derived action thriller."[59] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 54 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[60] Summarizing the critical response to the entirety of the first season, GameSpot said reviews were "mixed." It received mixed to negative reviews from the LA Times, Salon and AV Club.[61]

The Washington Post said that Netflix had finally gotten the franchise "right" in a live-action in a way the prior three movies had failed to please fans. It gave the credit to the "soul" of the show and Bernthal as "one of Marvel’s great casting gets" and made the show "a definitive adaptation that doubles as Netflix’s best Marvel show to date."[62] The Hollywood Reporter thought the first 13 episode season felt "at least twice the length it should be."[61] The New York Times said "the action picks up as the season progresses, but The Punisher never quite gets in touch with the visceral roots of its material."[61]

Esquire called the first season "a compelling and complex horror story about the military."[63] The New York Times said that although the action picks up later in the first season, the slow pace made it less pulpy and more of a procedural thriller with a moody and psychological approach, particularly for its focus on PTSD.[64] Variety also wrote positively of both the show and Bernthal's "seamless" performance, saying that "It’s difficult to imagine better casting than Bernthal, who communicates so fluently with impassive silences, and is convincing both when he is being terribly violent and especially gentle." However, the review said the show took some time to show that it "transcends what it appears to be" at first, through Steve Lightfoot's "sharp, conscious storytelling." It also praised what it called anti-violence themes throughout the series.[65] Vanity Fair wrote a less positive review, saying the show was as "psychologically confused as its antihero," as the writers had Castle target people for questionable reasons but portrayed him as justified. Vanity Fair wrote that "What the series neglects to examine, of course, is the fact that the Punisher is just as wicked as the villains he targets."[66] Vulture described the show's attempts to "humanize and deepen" Castle beyond the violent "monster" he was in the original comics as "unpersuasive," and described a conflict between the showing wanting to be both The Best Years of Our Lives and Death Wish IV: The Crackdown at the same time.[67]

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