I provide my full review of the entire first season of Marvel’s The Punisher over on Tor dot com. It’s very well acted and well written and generally a good series. It certainly holds its plot together over a baker’s dozen of episodes better than any of the other thirteen-episode seasons of a Marvel Netflix show. But it falls short of greatness thanks to an inexplicable running away from its presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is both unfair to the viewer (it says “Marvel” right there as part of the title, and that comes with expectations that are not fulfilled) and makes the story significantly less interesting.
Bigger than that, though, is the fact that this show raises all kinds of issues about taking the law into your own hands, and about gun control, and about the struggle between danger and safety. But those arguments—which we see a lot of particularly in “Front Toward Enemy” and “Virtue of the Vicious”—are exactly the same as we’d hear in the world today, and are hearing quite a lot of. In fact, they’re depressingly simplistic ones, particularly Walcott and O’Connor’s fear of having their guns taken because then they won’t be able to overthrow the government if it gets too corrupt. (I wish someone would have pointed out that that particular interpretation of the Second Amendment is one that became useless around World War II. The government has tanks; the government has missiles; the government has drones. There’s really not much you can do against that with a few assault rifles and bullets…)
Here’s the thing: that argument would have to be much different in the MCU. This is a world in which a lot more people take the law into their own hands. It’s a world in which people have, without any legal authority, taken down the likes of Fisk and Willis Stryker and the Hand and Kilgrave and the Vulture—not to mention the Chitauri invasion—and that’s just in New York! Vigilantism is much more of a thing in the MCU, and a story that actually examined how that would affect the gun-control debate would have been much more interesting than the warmed-over treatment it gets here.