On November 17, Marvel and Netflix’s fifth standalone superhero series The Punisher will premiere, with all 13 episodes of the first season immediately dropping on the streaming platform. However, despite Jon Bernthal’s show-stealing performance in Season 2 of Daredevil, the hype behind Frank Castle’s solo outing seems to be a mere fraction of what fans felt for the previous shows.
At this stage of the game, many of us have already invested over 70 hours into the Netflix corner of the MCU, so the likelihood that even apathetic fans will tune in for The Punisher is still high. Nevertheless, here are 5 reasons The Punisher is Marvel’s least-anticipated Netflix series:
The Annoying Marketing Campaign
Are there really people out there who found The Punisher’s marketing campaign annoying? The short answer: Yes.
Beginning with the reveal of the episode titles, which were all in the form of Morse code messages, we began to experience a steady stream of unnecessarily cryptic images and videos, causing fans to wrack their brains trying to decipher oftentimes nonexistent codes. On top of that, all of the marketing materials conveniently redacted the series’ release date.
For casual fans, not knowing when The Punisher would suddenly appear on their Netflix homepage was probably exciting, but there are certainly hardcore fans out there who prefer to plan for the release of Marvel’s Netflix series well in advance (I’ll admit to taking a Friday off of work to get a head-start on my weekend binging). Plus, in the words of Allison Keene from Collider, 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.”
Given the fact that we here at Epicstream fall into the latter category, we’re probably a bit biased. Still, assuming people will be prepared to immediately put everything else on hold and binge The Punisher with zero notice is awfully pretentious.
It Drops The Same Day As ‘Justice League’
Withholding The Punisher’s release date was one thing, but dropping it on the same day that Warner Bros.’ most ambitious superhero film to date, Justice League, hits theaters? That’s one surefire way to douse the flames for countless fans.
Regardless of the mixed early reviews, it’s foolish to think that people won’t head to the theaters in droves on opening night to see DC’s most iconic superheroes together on the big screen for the very first time. And while that doesn’t mean fans won’t watch The Punisher as well, many of us lead busy lives, which makes finding the time to watch 13 hours of television in addition to a two-hour movie a daunting task. With that being said, it’s no surprise that instead of excitement, plenty of fans now feel stressed that they won’t be able to stay ahead of the social media spoiler curve.
We’re No Longer Building Towards Something
Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist are all standalone series, but in addition to telling the stories of the individual heroes, they all used their first seasons (and second, in the case of Daredevil) to build towards The Defenders. With The Punisher, we’ll still get a standalone series, but the likelihood of any sort of larger payoff in terms of this corner of the MCU remains up in the air.
This certainly doesn’t mean that fans won’t be able to appreciate The Punisher for what it is, but the satisfaction of seeing teams like the Avengers or the Defenders come together usually stems from the fact that we’ve been along for the ride since the beginning, watching all of the pieces being moved into place. The Punisher is more like a morning jog – you feel good when you’re done, but it’s hardly as rewarding as winning a big race.
The Recent String Of Gun Violence
It’s no secret that the United States has been home to some horrific acts of gun violence over the past few months. On October 1, a gunman opened fire on a crowd of 22,000 concertgoers in Las Vegas, killing 58 and injuring 546. This prompted Marvel to not only cancel its Punisher panel at New York Comic Con but to also delay the release of the series, which they were reportedly going to drop that weekend. Then, on November 5, another mass shooting occurred, this one taking place at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX, leaving 26 dead and 20 injured.
Jon Bernthal has since gone on the record to say “the best quality that art can have is to hold a mirror to society, to make society question itself,” adding that if The Punisher “will spark debate, will highlight an unbelievable problem, make people think and talk about it, awesome. I think that’s great. We absolutely need to do that.” Executive Producer Jeph Loeb also chimed in on the matter, stating that “the show is not predominantly about gun violence, and in fact it shows you the problems that occur in that world.” However, as Tom Philip of GQ puts it, “It’s hard to get super jazzed about another gritty, ultra-violent, gun-loving, non-superhero show right now.”
A 13-Episode Season Doesn’t Suit The Character
The Punisher is a character that’s best enjoyed in small doses. He’s perfect when he pops up as needed to serve as either a friend or a foe, much like he did in Daredevil, due to the extremely violent nature of his stories. That being said, 13 hours of The Punisher feels like overkill (no pun intended).
Even if you cast aside his predilection for bloodshed, Frank Castle is so psychologically damaged that building a supporting cast around him is actually quite difficult. Sure, Karen Page and Microchip will be there, but it’s likely that we’re going to see Frank on his own most of the time, dropping bodies left and right.
Would this work in a Punisher movie, or even a four to six-episode season? Sure. However, as incredible as the prison scene from Daredevil Season 2 is, can you imagine watching that (or something like it) over and over for 13 hours straight? Obviously, the trailer indicates that there’s an actual story buried beneath the bullets and bloodshot, but considering all of the Marvel/Netflix shows feel like they could have been tightened up a bit, you’d be forgiven if the prospect of a 13-episode season of The Punisher doesn’t get you as excited as the previous shows.