Netflix show doomed for cancellation
NETFLIX has a Marvel problem.
The streaming giant has been ruthlessly cancelling its Marvel shows as Disney, Marvel's parent company, ramps up plans for a rival service.
Daredevil - gone. Luke Cage - cancelled. Iron Fist - axed. The Defenders - done defending.
So that leaves Jessica Jones and The Punisher - both of which had seasons in production when the great reaping started.
Jessica Jones will drop its third and likely final season later this year - its showrunner and creator Melissa Rosenberg has confirmed she is leaving after season three, decamping to Warner Bros, so there is little reason to keep the show around.
The Punisher, itself a spin-off from Daredevil and not part of the original Netflix/Marvel deal, will shotgun blast his way onto our screens for what may be the last time tonight.
And it's probably a good thing too.
Even though he was a compelling scene-stealer when he showed up in season two of Daredevil, Frank Castle/The Punisher has never felt quite right in his own show.
Season two will do little to change that impression.
After the fallout from season one, which revealed Frank's (Jon Bernthal) best friend and former army buddy Billy Russo (Ben Barnes) was the one who killed his family as part of a greater conspiracy, Frank has left New York under the guise of "Pete Castiglione".
But his propensity to attract violence and chaos is uncanny. At a dive bar in the sticks he finds himself accidentally caught in the middle of a bizarre gunfight.
When he sees a teenage grifter is the target of a dozen highly-trained operatives (itself a plot hole), Frank jumps in, fists swinging and guns ablazing.
There's nothing more dangerous than someone with impulse control issues, a thirst for bloody vengeance and a protective streak (because, you know, of his dead family).
The result is carnage and you really have wonder if all that collateral damage is worth the life of one smart-mouthed teen, Amy (Giorgia Whigham), especially when The Punisher makes no attempt to make her sympathetic until about five episodes in.
Amy has something Anderson (Corbin Bernsen) and Eliza Schultz (Annette O'Toole), a powerful and rich alt-right couple, want and they've sent the bad guys after her.
Chief villain John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart) is a bible-quoting fanatic with good posture and faded tattoos that hint at an even more disturbing past than his current vocation as an assassin. He describes Frank as "someone's dog left off the leash".
But there's nothing that "off the leash" about The Punisher.
It's odd because the first season was criticised for its gratuitous violence but when the show decides to dial it back, at times feeling like it was kneecapped, it doesn't really work either - it ends up being tame and boring.
Elsewhere, Billy Russo survived his face getting mashed into glass in the previous season, thus completing his transition to Jigsaw, and is making an unexpected recovery, leading to what is sure to be a murderous confrontation with Frank.
The two storylines will obviously merge at some point, though they haven't by the end of episode seven, which is how many I got through.
Like most of the Marvel-Netflix shows, this has serious pacing issues, constantly treading water to fill out the mandated 13-episode run. If The Punisher had been cut back to eight or six episodes, it might've had something resembling momentum.
Sending Frank off on a new adventure disconnected from his New York antics was a smart move, but one the show didn't pull off because its new characters are not that interesting, just tropes we've seen before.
At this point, an alt-right villain backed by pernicious corporate interests a la the Koch brothers don't feel "of the moment" so much as rote.
So you end up yearning for him to go back to New York, Billy and FBI agent Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah). But when he goes back, it also feels tired and repetitive - yeah, we've done this already.
So where does this leave The Punisher? Just another angry guy in a show with no purpose.
That makes its inevitable cancellation much easier to bear.
The Punisher season two drops on Netflix tonight at 7pm AEDT.
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