Marvel's The Punisher First Reviews: How Fresh Is This New Antihero?

Daredevil spin-off holds its own among Netflix's Marvel adaptations.

by | November 13, 2017 | Comments

Marvel's The Punisher - Jon Bernthal (Jessica Miglio/Netflix)
(Photo by Jessica Miglio/Netflix)

The review embargo on Marvel’s The Punisher lifted on Monday. Early word: This latest Netflix comic book–based offering is Fresh at 72% on the Tomatometer with 29 reviews (updated November 15).

Marvel’s The Punisher  stars Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead) reprising his role as heavily armed vigilante Frank Castle from the second season of Marvel’s Daredevil. The series also stars Ebon Moss-Bachrach as David Lieberman/Micro, Ben Barnes as Billy Russo, Deborah Ann Woll as Daredevil character Karen Page, and Amber Rose Revah as Dinah Madani.

Here’s what some of the critics had to say:

The Good?

Marvel's The Punisher - Jon Bernthal (Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)
(Photo by Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)

Bernthal’s performance shines.

“Bernthal brings the kind of anger and rage you would expect, but there is an elegant subtleness to his delivery that hints at a man who can also be vulnerable.” – David Griffin, IGN Movies

“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.” – Sonia Saraiya, Variety

“The direction is consistently excellent, the fight sequences are brutal and gripping, and Bernthal not only delivers the definitive Punisher but one of the best performances we’ve seen on TV all year.” – Jonathan Hatfull, SciFiNow

“Jon Bernthal is giving the performance of his life, so any time spent away from him feels wasted.” – Sam Ashurst, Digital Spy

The Badass?

Marvel's The Punisher - Jon Bernthal (Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)
(Photo by Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)

A fan-favorite character gets due respect.

“Finally, the Punisher gets a little live-action justice.” – David Betancourt, Washington Post

“Despite its name and Bernthal’s intense performance, The Punisher is about more than just its ruthless antihero, and proves much more incisive than it may initially seem to be.” – Alex Abad-Santos, Vox

“Like all good noir stories, The Punisher can be very dense at times, but in a surprising twist for a Marvel show it does all come together in a way that makes sense.” – Phil Owen, TheWrap

“Without the super-strength of Luke Cage or Jessica Jones, or the high-tech otherworldliness of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., The Punisher is able to put its humanity front and center, which is one of its strongest elements.” – Nick Venable,

“Like its fellow Netflix/Marvel heroes, the Punisher is a beacon of hope in hopeless times. He’s the middle finger in a scabbed, clenched fist, aching to lay some hurt on the corrupt and the powerful.” – Rohan Naahar, Hindustan Times

“It fleshes out Frank Castle, highlighting his humanity instead of just his rage. As long as the second half of the season is able to balance Frank with the Punisher, there’s little to be upset about.” – Kaitlin Thomas, TV Guide

“The series is nothing if not timely, and when the focus is on these matters, The Punisher is more challenging and captivating than anything the MCU or Marvel TV programs have produced thus far.” – Chris Cabin, Collider

“At the end of the day, for hardcore fans of the character, The Punisher is bound to offer a better experience than the three failed big screen adaptations.” – Robert Yaniz, Jr., We Got This Covered

The Ugly?

Marvel's The Punisher - Jon Bernthal (Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)
(Photo by Nicole Rivelli /Netflix)

The story plods along.

“Reading The Punisher didn’t make me violent, but watching The Punisher sure made me bored.” – Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly

“There may hopefully be a time when Frank’s actions don’t instantly recall horrors from our world, but that version of his story will still need to be told much more compellingly than this.” – Alan Sepinwall, Uproxx

The Punisher has moments of excitement, moments of bracing violence and a well-cast star at the center. It’s also tedious for long stretches, and when it comes to plot details, astoundingly forgettable. The gun stuff is just an unpleasant capper.” – Dan Fienberg, Hollywood Reporter

“As a narrative about veterans trying to find their place in the world, The Punisher has something to say. But it could have been so much shorter, and its placement in the Marvel universe feels tangential at best.” – Liz Shannon Miller, indieWire

Marvel’s The Punisher is definitely a show to watch with caution, and I will say that this show is not for everybody.” – Jamie Broadnax, Black Girl Nerds

“It’s impossible to overstate how leaden and badly structured The Punisher is.” – Travis Johnson, FILMINK (Australia)

The Punisher is a drag, and while it’s not the major disappointment Iron Fist was, it’s a misfire for Marvel.” – Chris Evangelista, Slashfilm

“Its grueling first few episodes might end up putting viewers off, even if they have managed to work their way past the uncomfortable gun violence connotations.” – Huw Fullerton, Radio Times

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