A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
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.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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."
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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."
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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).
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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.
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?
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.