There's an argument the genre of superheroes is inherently fascist. It's a line which is frequently trotted out when someone wants to look smarter and put down popular culture. The argument basically depends on the idea that individuals taking the law into their own hands and vigilantism are inherently reactionary Far Right attitudes. This is a very American attitude which ignores the fact uprisings of workers in coal mining towns and with unions are a part of our history.
Also, it weirdly believes authoritative groups like the police and government should be the only ones to wield violence that would get you laughed at in most Third World governments. Which, fine argument, but it's a weird argument from a revolutionary anti-fascist perspective given tyrannies usually move to take control of such. It's also an argument which falls apart immediately when you mention the X-men. However, the Punisher tends to get a bit more argument weight than most since he's based on the character of Mack Bolan and tends to advocate the death of all criminals with unlimited military force.
|The Punisher is never in a good mood.|
Daredevil's season 2 gave a lighter and softer interpretation of the Punisher which showed Frank Castle as manifestly NOT Garth Ennis' serial killer of criminals. He's a man who hates the criminals who murdered his family and kills them but is obviously neither mentally ill or who enjoys killing. Instead, it is a simple revenge tale about a man who was wronged by the system and went on his own way. The Punisher Season One takes the lighter and softer approach of that season and expands on it to make a surprisingly left-leaning anti-Establishment version of Frank Castle who arguably has more in common with the Nomad version of Captain America than he does than his comic book inspiration. This Frank Castle is actually capable of retiring from his war against crime and trying to live a normal life (albeit failing miserably because evil knows where Castle lives).
|I found the idea of crusading Homeland Security agents funny.|
Now if this is not the longest, most drawn out introduction to a review, please note it's a necessary one as I feel like The Punisher feels very much like a show for people who wanted the anti-24 (which admittedly is the Bourne Identity so let's say the OTHER anti-24). It's an anti-establishment thriller where the villains are the Military Industrial complex, Right Wing domestic terrorists, corrupt government officials, PMCs, and CIA black bag men instead of Frank Castle's usual foes. I don't mind this but I do think it's not the most absolutely necessary re-envisioning ever done. I mean, it's not like the Zeta cartel, Russian Mob, or ISIS are suddenly not awful people. But, still, is this a good series?
Absolutely. This is easily the best of the Netflix series. I put it up over Jessica Jones, Daredevil's two seasons, and yes Luke Cage as well as Iron Fist. It's a fantastic character piece with the normally one-note Frank Castle showing a myriad range of emotions as he bonds with multiple characters. He's a man who is emotionally guarded but dead, not by a long shot. I especially liked his interaction with Micro's family.
|Micro is a great foil for Frank.|
Strangely, my favorite storyline isn't any of the conspiracies, government corruption, abuse, and the lone crusading heroine against them (plus, you know, Frank Castle). It was actually the tale of Afghanistan veteran Lewis. Lewis comes back incomplete from the war and does his best to find an outlet for his anger from extremely well-played veteran's support therapist Curtis but gets drawn in by reactionary ideology by a fake veteran named O'Connor. His story spirals from there and it draws a fascinating parallel to Frank who explains, in no uncertain terms, as not only is he different from Lewis but Lewis is a disgrace to every other veteran who has suffered.
|I really like Dinah's character and hope she sticks around.|
In conclusion, I really recommend this season for those who enjoy spy thrillers and Post-War on Terror fiction. Frank Castle doesn't do nearly enough Punishing and doesn't get to face many ordinary criminals to the point this almost feels like a Jack Reacher series over a Frank Castle one but I very much enjoyed it. Certainly, it gives them ample room to navigate the character that isn't always the case in the Punisher.