The Punisher

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Punisher TV Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Intense, brutal violence and language in dark drama.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 17 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 25 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Positive messages are few and far between here. Both heroes and villains use force and murder to obtain their ends, and the drama implies that some characters deserve torture and/or death. A person viewed as intellectually disabled is called "the gimp," "dumbass," and "retard" by co-workers. A man mourning his murdered family commits revenge killings. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character Frank Castle is a brutal and sometimes heartless man who uses violence and murder to punish (thus the title) wrongdoers. Dinah Madani is one of the law enforcement officers on his trail -- she is reckless yet tough and determined to uncover criminal misdeeds. 


Brutal and continual violence. Before credits on the first episode, there have been four murders: shootings, a strangulation, and one man who is run over by Frank in a van with a sickening crunch. Characters suddenly shot or bludgeoned to death on-screen with spurting blood and gore, guns pulled at minor provocations and used to kill, bones broken with crunching sounds during a fistfight, one man killed while having oral sex, another dispatched on a toilet during what others in the bathroom think is a sexual encounter. A man's wife is shot point-blank in front of him; men are murdered and thrown into a pool of concrete while another man "swims" in the liquid concrete, begging piteously for his life. A man threatens to put a hammer in another man's rectum, a sexually tinged violent threat that is referenced during a later, mortal battle. 



Violence, not sex, is the main focus in this drama, but viewers can expect some references to sex related to violence: one character is killed while in the midst of sex, and a bathroom-stall strangulation is mistaken for a sexual encounter by others in the bathroom ("Get a room, you dirty bastards!" they call). There's an occasional rude remark, too, like when a man talks about giving a "blow-by-blow" account of a night in a "titty bar." 


Cursing and language include "ass," "bulls--t," "s--t," "a--hole," "goddamn" "bastards," "dumbass," "wise ass," "screw you," "retard," "titty," "cracker," "balls," "p---ying out" (meaning being cowardly), "turd."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief mentions of drug addiction during a therapy session and in a criminal justice case. Adults drink heavily in a bar after work and act sloppy and are quick to violence. Women drink oversized glasses of wine together; a mother asks a daughter how much she's drinking lately (implying it's too much). 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Marvel's The Punisher is based on a comic book character who uses very violent methods to fight crime. The near-constant and brutal violence will be parents' chief concern, particularly since both "heroes" and villains kill and torture others. Characters are abruptly killed (bludgeoned, shot, strangled, drowned in liquid concrete), with spurting blood, the crunching sounds of bones being broken/bodies being run over, gory wounds, and spattered brain matter. Some of the violence has a sexual tinge, like when men mistake a toilet-stall strangulation for a sexual encounter. And one character is shot while receiving oral sex. Language is frequent: "ass," "bulls--t," "s--t," "a--hole," "goddamn," "bastards," etc. A man who's viewed as intellectually disabled is called "dumbass" and "retard" by co-workers. A group of co-workers drink until they're drunk in a bar; it's implied that a main character has a drinking problem.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byGraduateReviews May 17, 2018

Masterful filmmaking as it is-- The Punisher brings the pain

I'll say it like it is. With a title like "The Punisher," what did you come to expect? This is one of (if not the most) violent shows ever create... Continue reading
Parent of a 13-year-old Written byMark V. November 18, 2017

Very violent

Commensensemedia has over rated the sex. It has no sexual encounter just some innapropiate language. If you don’t like your kids listening to profanity this is... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byXxGeekGirlxX April 4, 2018

Mature Teens & Up

To Parents:
This tv show is for mature teens and above, teens that can deal with violence and sex without being immature. If you know that your teen can handle... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written by0.amadeus.0 December 25, 2017

Depends On How Mature Your Child Is

The Show Does Feature A lot Of Violence And Constant Use Of The 'S' word. Parents Must Be Aware That This Show Also Includes Several Sexual Reference... Continue reading

What's the story?

Once, Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) was a soldier and a family man. But that's before he got involved in some murky business while deployed -- and before he returned home to see his wife and children murdered. Now, having exacted mortal revenge on those responsible for his tragedy, the man formerly known as THE PUNISHER is in hiding, using a new name and working a dead-end construction job where he talks to no one. But when Frank uncovers a conspiracy that runs even deeper than New York's mob-controlled underworld, he realizes there are more injustices he must correct. Evildoers, beware! The Punisher is stalking the streets of NYC, and you may be next to fall. 

Is it any good?

The presence of the magnetic Jon Bernthal elevates this Marvel series, but it has so many familiar beats that the whole proceeding feels stale. Frank is a man with nothing to lose, galvanized into great (and often brutal) efforts to root out crime by his lost and broken heart. Comic book fans even have a word to describe female characters who are dispatched in gruesome ways to give a male character motivation: "fridged." It refers to the tendency of comic book girlfriends and wives to end up murdered and stuffed into a refrigerator for their superhero men to find, all the better to make him come after the perpetrator with a mortal vengeance. It's both regressive and disappointing that The Punisher chose to fridge Frank's family -- and though a revenge fantasy may have flown just fine for another generation of fans, to modern viewers it's not quite the thing. 

Viewers who can get past that bit of murky morality will enjoy Bernthal as Punisher: growling at baddies in his hoodie in a convincingly feral way, and showing up at VFW counseling sessions to absorb some positivity from an old army buddy (Jason R. Moore). Other side characters also have a little crackle: Ebon Moss-Bachrach as a wormy junior detective, picking away at the same conspiracy as Frank with conflicted agent Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah). You've seen this sort of "big bads with big bad plans" setup before, but the actors make it compelling enough, if the violence and mixed messages don't turn you off. If parents allow teens to watch, they may want to ask a few pointed questions about the show's violence and what it means: Is the Punisher a hero? If this is a hero, what does a villain look like? 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about The Punisher's violence. How does the violence compare to that of other superhero movies or shows? Do the supernatural or superpower-based characters make the violence seem less realistic? What impact does media violence have on kids?

  • Is Punisher or any of his cohorts role models? Why or why not?

  • What does the word "antihero" mean? Why are antiheroes appealing? What sets them apart from "regular" heroes?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dark superhero stories

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