Marvel's The Punisher
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Boxset Monday: Marvel’s The Punisher (season 1) (Netflix)

The Punisher in all his incarnations has always been something of an accidental success. A former marine, Frank Castle turns lethal vigilante following the murder of his family by criminals, becoming judge, jury and executioner to those who would break the law. He had no powers, just his military training, a heap of weapons and a skull on his chest, and he was originally a bad guy – one of Spider-Man’s many badly becostumed adversaries in the early 70s.

Spider-Man and the Punisher

But it was that almost unique willingness to kill in comics that made him such a success that he eventually got his own comic and no fewer than three (pretty bad) film appearances, where he was played first by Dolph Lundgren, then Thomas Jane and finally Ray Stevenson.

However, his success ended for a while when a 2011 attempt by Fox to produce a TV series starring the character fell through.

But let’s now flash-forward to the era of Netflix and its Marvel superhero shows. The plan from the outset was very clear: there would be four one-season superhero shows – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist – which would then lead into a team-up show The Defenders.

The first sign everything was going off-plan was when Daredevil got a second season. It’s hard to tell whether that had been planned from the outset; however, it seems likely given

  1. Netflix awarded Daredevil another season only a week after its first season aired
  2. The whole plot of that second season is vital to the plot of The Defenders

Nevertheless, what definitely wasn’t part of the plan was the success of guest anti-hero/baddie The Punisher in that second season. That can be put down to the ‘lightning in a bottle’ casting of Jon Bernthal. Bernthal’s always been part of the supporting cast, never the lead.

He’s Andrew Lincoln’s best bud in The Walking Dead, not Andrew Lincoln.

He’s Ben Affleck’s brother in The Accountant, not Ben Affleck.

He’s the guy Andrea Anders rejects in The Class to go back to her husband (although he ends up with Lizzy Caplan so it’s not all bad).

But as Castle, Bernthal was the undoubted star of the second season of Daredevil, a brutal match for Charlie Cox’s gymnastic lead – a blue-collar grunt to Matt Murdock’s white-collar, morally-torn lawyer.

Bernthal so occupied the role that it’s hard to think of anyone else being able to play the character and it wasn’t long before Netflix and Marvel realised what they’d got and decided to break with the plan and commission Marvel’s The Punisher, with Bernthal as its lead.


The question was what form the show would take. Would it follow on, for example, from the comics’, the movies’ and season 2’s general theme of a man giving ‘the punishment they deserve’ to mobsters, rapists, paedophiles et al who seem to be above the law and escaping justice? Yet, how would a white man with a lethal arsenal shooting up cities go down in an age of the alt-right, MRAs and mass-shootings by white men who feel aggrieved by society? And how would it go down against the liberal backdrop of Netflix’s other shows: Daredevil stuck up for the poor and oppressed; Jessica Jones deconstructed superheroes, male power and sexual violence; Luke Cage asked what a black man can do for his community and others against both oppression and police shootings; and Iron Fist looked at the responsibilities of the rich towards the poor and the rest of the world.

The various trailers Netflix produced in the lead up to the show’s released seemed to suggest business as usual for Frank Castle – lots of gunfire against a rock soundtrack. And yet, oddly, that’s not what Marvel’s The Punisher is. For the most part, the show is instead the white, working class male’s equivalent of Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. It’s a look at family, responsibility, friendship, parenting, class, class loyalty, what it is to be in the military and to have brothers-in-arms, the consequences of violence, and the role of government in helping the working class. And oddly, there’s very little punishment meted out.

Here are those moderately misleading and spoilerish trailers. Slightly less spoilerish review of all 13 episodes after the jump.

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Gabrielle Union in Bad Boys II

Netflix acquires The Sinner, Valor; Bad Boys spin-off show; King Pin returns; + more

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Fresh Off The Boat

When’s that show you mentioned starting, TMINE? Including Ghosted, Marvel’s The Punisher, Jean-Claude Van Johnson, Fresh Off The Boat and La Mante (The Mantis)

Every Friday, TMINE lets you know the latest announcements about when new imported TV shows will finally be arriving on UK screens – assuming anyone’s bought anything, of course

Quite a few acquisitions this week, but only one for which we don’t have an exact airdate: Kanal 5 (Denmark)’s Gidseltagningen (Below The Surface), which will air some time next year on BBC4.

Oddly, we already had a premiere date for Netflix’s Godless (November 22), but we didn’t have a trailer until now, so let’s fill in that gap right now:

Continue reading “When’s that show you mentioned starting, TMINE? Including Ghosted, Marvel’s The Punisher, Jean-Claude Van Johnson, Fresh Off The Boat and La Mante (The Mantis)”

Ghost Wars

Review: Ghost Wars 1×1 (US: Syfy; UK: Netflix)

In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, Syfy
In the UK: Acquired by Netflix to air 2017

Sometimes, you can just spot when a show has been created simply because someone thought up a cool title. Take Ghost Wars. That’s a cool title, isn’t it? And there’s no way anyone would have come up with this heap of fetid inanity if they hadn’t had that title as a starting point. No one sat down and said to themselves, “Gosh, let’s create a show in which a small Alaskan town is under attack from ghosts and everyone keeps hallucinating things that makes them stab themselves in the head. Hmm, but what shall we call it? I know – Ghost Wars! There, wasn’t that lucky?”

Title first, story second. This is not the correct order, as unless you’re Emily Kapnek, whatever you produce is inevitably going to be rubbish. Even if you’re Simon Barry, have a previously good track record from creating Continuum, and you manage to hire both Meatloaf and Vincent D’Onofrio (Marvel’s Daredevil, Emerald City) to star in it, chances are it’s still going to be rubbish.

The actual star of the show is Avan Jogia (Twisted), a disturbed young man, always talking to himself, so the town’s population think he’s crazy, going to kill them all or both. Indeed, the only people who treat him nicely are the local preacher (D’Onofrio) and his best friend (Elise Gatien). Trouble is, Gatien’s dead and Jogia hasn’t actually been talking to himself but to her and a bunch of other ghosts – something he’s been able to do since he was a kid, having inherited the ability from his psychic mum.

No one believes him about that, mind, so he plans to get out of town as soon as possible, now his mum’s gone. Trouble is, there are a whole bunch of new ghosts who are a lot nastier than the regular bunch who had been hanging around, and these ones don’t want anyone to leave. They’re also recruiting and since they can make people see things, they go around causing as many accidents and hauntings as possible to kill everyone they can.

Thankfully, as well as being able to see them and see through their projections, Jogia has the nascent ability to send them packing. All he has to do is get his powers up to speed before everyone in town manages to kill themselves thinking they’re being stung by bees. Or something.

It could have been good

Now, in fairness to Barry, if you stripped everything away from the show and took it back down to the script, Ghost Wars could potentially have been all right. Not brilliant – the dialogue is sometimes laughable and it’s a bit bog standard horror movie at its heart – but if he’d had a good lead and M Night Shyamalan back in his Sixth Sense days directing, you could have had a decent horror series. Hell, if they’d got whoever edited this trailer to direct it, it could have been leagues ahead of what we’ve actually ended up with.

Instead, we have a staggering tower of ineptitude from top to bottom, from director David Von Ancken (the man behind Tut) through the production values through the set designers and costume department through the supporting cast all the way down to its deflated soufflé of a star. It’s like a first year film studies student movie, in which they get a bunch of their mates to wear oversized Halloween costumes and act out a script knocked out in a coffee shop one lunch break, and then they try to use a pirated Korean version of After Effects to recreate the highlights of Rentaghost.

D’Onofrio is doing full mumblecore while sporting a look that speaks of a thwarted ambition to be the understudy to wrestling star The Undertaker. Everyone else, including Meatloaf, has two modes: “We hate you Jogia you freak” and “We were sorry we hated you Jogia. You were right. Argh! Now I’m going to die. Am I dead yet? Argh again. Argh.” Jorgia just sits around like a 13-year-old whining inaudibly about how everything’s so unfair.

Ghost Wars is so bad it would almost be funny were it simultaneously not so boring. There’s no tension. The editing ensures there are no surprises. Ghosts show up and you want to titter with laughter. It’s just wretched. You’d be more frightened by a Ghostbusters bloopers reel. Avoid like the plague.

Marvel's The Defenders
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Review: Marvel’s The Defenders (season 1) (Netflix)

Marvel’s The Avengers was one of the highest grossing movies of all times. Small surprise therefore that Marvel should attempt to reproduce its unique superhero formula on the small (laptop) screen with its Netflix series, giving us four individual superheroes in their own shows before finally bringing them together in a fifth show – The Defenders.

And here we are at last. Two seasons of Daredevil (one excellent, one poor), one season of Jessica Jones (excellent), one season of Luke Cage (weak) and a season of Iron Fist (I’ve watched it three times now, so screw you, haters) has allowed some of the supporting cast to move around a bit, but here we finally are, getting all four superheroes interacting with each other, teaming up and even sometimes twatting each other with sticks.

The show picks up a few months after the other shows. Daredevil (Charlie Cox) is ostracised from his former legal partner Foggy (Elden Henson) and would-be girlfriend Karen (Deborah Ann Woll), and a bit mopey after his ex-lover Elektra (Elodie Yung) was killed by some immortal ninja called The Hand. He’s hung up his costume and is now trying to lead a normal life as a lawyer, mostly doing legal work pro bono for the downtrodden. But Foggy is looking out for his former friend and his new boss Hogarth (Carrie-Anne Moss) might have some legal work for him, too – looking after a certain private investigator friend of hers called Jessica Jones (Krysten Ritter), who’s bound to get into trouble sometime soon…

Not yet, though, since she’s still buried in a bottle, following her murder of mind-controlling rapist David Tennant. Thankfully, she’s managed to brush off both the legal charges and infamy that came with that, but she’s not ready to take on any new clients yet. That is, until a woman comes to her door asking her to track down her missing architect husband and she starts to get threatening phone calls.

Meanwhile, Jones’ former boyfriend Luke Cage (Mike Colter) is just getting out of prison, thanks to some nimble legal work by Foggy, and has to work out what he can do to look after the people of Harlem, particularly the young black men who are succumbing to the allure of crime in his neighbourhood – particularly that instituted by a white clad man known only as ‘the African’ (Babs Olusanmokun).

Could it all have something to do with the errant billionaire Danny Rand (Finn Jones), currently off hunting down the Hand in the Far East with girlfriend and former Hand-member Colleen Wing (Jessica Henwick), following the Hand’s apparent destruction of the seventh city of Heaven, K’un-Lun, which Rand was charged to protect, being the immortal weapon known as The Iron Fist?

You betcha. And you can bet that somehow it’s all going to involve their various storylines intersecting at some point to fight a common enemy – Sigourney Weaver, as well as some ‘Big Bads’ from previous seasons.

Of course, the Marvel Cinematic Universe isn’t the only time that a whole bunch of superheroes with independent lives ended up uniting to defeat a baddie: the once much-adored Heroes did the same thing on the small screen. I say once because as soon as everyone got together, the whole show went to pants.

So the question is: is Marvel’s The Defenders more Avengers or more Heroes? Answer coming up after the jump. Spoilers ahoy and liable to smack you in the face.

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