Ups and Downs and Loop-De-Loops, or, The Punisher

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Spooky attack!

Do you like roller coasters?

Metaphorical roller coasters?

The Punisher, Netflix’s latest Marvel television series, is something of a ride. You know what it is before you go on it. You can look at it from the outside and get the gist, and you’re opinion of it, I suspect, will largely hinge on your eagerness to get on the ride to begin with.

The roller coaster in question? One of the oldest around: revenge. Straight-up, brutal, Old Testament vengeance.

Like any good revenge narrative, The Punisher isn’t necessarily a fun ride, but it’s one that is easy to insert yourself into because of the primal nature of the story and the out of this world portrayal of the titular vigilante Frank Castle by Jon Bernthal.

In many ways Castle is an agent of fantasy, of wish fulfillment. While the healthy majority of us hopefully aren’t chomping at the bit to have our families murdered, or to beat a guy to death with a sledgehammer, there’s likely a little Punisher in each of us. Whether it’s the feeling we get being cut off in traffic or the simmering resignation forced upon us when we see power abused without consequence there’s a universality to what The Punisher can offer: a world in which justice and one’s own righteousness are intertwined and absolute, in which they are elemental forces of sheer will tapped from a bottomless, primordial well.

Bernthal finds the fine balance between embodying those forces like a bloody monument and portraying the misery of a battered and broken human being. His grunts and silences and screams and scowls breathe life into Frank Castle so that we are able to not only tap into the aforementioned universality of his motivations, but his humanity as well. He is one of easily one of the greatest casting decisions the Marvel Cinematic Universe has ever made. We can move through the story with him, in some respects we can move through the story as him. He is the car on the tracks of this rollercoaster and it is exactly the car you want to be in.

If, that is, you want to be on a rollercoaster.

Like any other revenge yarn, engaging with The Punisher is chasing a dragon of sorts. Fully immersing yourself in Frank Castle’s quest requires a suspension of one’s better angles in the hopes of achieving that sweet nirvana of vicariously reaping brutal revenge. Inconsequential means to an inconsequential end, given that we’re talking about watching a television show, but a bargain that still isn’t for everyone.

The Punisher is also fueled by the sort of superhuman masculinity at the center of many revenge yarns that may turn some viewers off, though it makes efforts to explore and subvert that trope and its potential toxicity

If you like the character of Frank Castle, smart money says you’ll enjoy Netflix’s take on The Punisher, and even if you aren’t a fan of the character there still might be a chance that Bernthal’s stellar performance could win you over. Like any metaphorical roller coaster, you don’t have to get on to get a pretty good idea of what you’re getting in to. It goes up. It goes down. It does loops and spins. If that isn’t for you it isn’t for you, but man if it is for you holy crap the ups and downs and loops and spins on this thing are insane.

 

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Goobers of Today, or, Legends of Tomorrow

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PEW PEW PEW!!!

Legends of Tomorrow is goofy as hell.

CW’s newest foray into televising the DC Comics universe, which follows a potpourri of B-list DC characters on a time-traveling adventure, is a serialized Hanna-Barbera soap opera. The action and the drama are in constant competition with one another to get both feet over the top first and as a spectator that competition is an absolute delight.

I enjoy watching Legends of Tomorrow as a grown ass man, but boy oh boy what I wouldn’t give to watch Legends of Tomorrow as a ten-year-old. I imagine it would occupy the same space that Dragonball Z did in my actual youth: that first exposure to serialized storytelling, where characters are still big and bombastic and cartoonish, but suddenly their actions carry reverberating consequences.

Legends of Tomorrow is this perfect little stepping stone somewhere between Adventure Time and Game of Thrones. Sometimes it puts in a bit too much of one and not enough of the other with silly or melodramatic results, but more often than not, particularly in the back half of its first season, Legends of Tomorrow perfectly blends cartoonish fun with, you know, grown up stuff like talking and kissing.

One particularly well done episode set in 1958 features both werebird monsters from a spooky mental asylum and the directly stated sentiment that the 50’s were only really Happy Days if you were a straight, white man.

If you haven’t seen Legends of Tomorrow its greatest weakness is its premise, because on paper it sounds so, so dumb. But Legends doesn’t try to dodge its own inherent ridiculousness, it leans so far into it that it might as well be laying down on top of it. Legends of Tomorrow is so very genuine. It knows exactly what it is. It never tries to be Adventure Time and it never tries to be Game of Thrones, it just sets out to be the best time-traveling Avengers soap opera it can be. And it can be a pretty damn good one.

The DC TV Guide, or, My Patented 47-Point System Unveiled

Hey! Did you know that there was a Batman show in the 60s? And a Wonder Woman show in the 70s? And even a short-lived Flash show in the early 90s? So yeah, DC Comics is no stranger to television. But this year they’ve taken the relationship to the next level with a veritable promise ring of new TV offerings.

Three new television shows debuted this fall that are based on DC Comics source material: Gotham on FOX, The Flash on CW and Constantine on NBC. At this rate maybe people will figure out that red with a yellow lightening bolt isn’t Sheldon’s costume.

But it can be a lot to take in, three new television shows in one season, whether you’re a DC Comics fan, a vaguely interested newcomer or a crusty old fella who yells at his grandchildren to explain why TV is so much “gayer” now. But why should you have  to sit through three hour-long television pilots to figure out which, if any, of DC’s new offerings are for you? They have blogs for that shit!

Enter my Patented 47-Point System, a set of variables by which I can identify the right show for you. I put this bad boy together decades ago to help me critique the pilot of Friends for a review I absolutely wrote and that absolutely exists on this very website to this very day. And since that very day I haven’t change a single, solitary point in my Patented 47-Point System. It’s helped me pick out a lot of winners (Game of Thrones, YouTube, Sanford and Son) and avoid a lot of losers (The Olympics, The State of the Union, Mad Men) and now I hand it down to you, so that you might figure out which, if any, of DC Comic’s new TV shows are worth your time.

It’s simple. Browse the list on the left to find what you’re looking for in a TV show and make your way to the right to see which shows have what you’re looking for.

You are so welcome.

 

You're welcome.

You’re welcome.