Just finished Netflix's "The Punisher" series a few days ago, and I must say that I was very impressed. In the run up to its release, I saw many posts and articles raising concerns that Frank Castle couldn't be a good protagonist because he was just too far over the line, that he wasn't nuanced enough, and that the whole thing would just be a 13 episode bloodbath. I am pleased to say that the writers sidestepped all of those concerns and made what I thought was one of the best seasons of their Marvel shows so far.
Can Frank be a good protagonist?
Yes! Frank Castle remained exactly as rigid and extreme as he was in Daredevil, but his enemies were even more far gone. If he'd just gone around shooting criminal lowlifes some more it might have raised my eyebrows, but he was faced with appropriately Punisher level problems. The question wasn't whether it was okay for him to play judge/jury/executioner when turning people over to law enforcement was an option, it was whether he could do that when the judge, jury, and executioners were the problem.
Can Frank be nuanced?
Yes! He was squarely portrayed as someone who was at war with himself. He was betrayed by "the system" and so he had to live outside of it. One of the best things they did in this show I think was externalize his struggle with PTSD by surrounding him with other characters each handling it in their own way. I'll compare it to Jessica Jones for a moment because I think JJ suffered as a show from having the main character wallow in depression herself a bit too much. By having secondary characters wallow in depression and showing that Frank was going through something similar, it allowed the story to progress more smoothly while still building those characterizations.
Was it a bloodbath?
Yes! But not constantly. The story is a political thriller, so the guns don't come out in every episode. By choosing this genre for their story, they allowed the focus to shift to finding the bad guys, not just killing them. We get to see that while the Punisher is certainly a killing machine, he's not stupid. He's not smart enough to do it on his own, but he's clever. They shift him out of his element which allows us to see a side that wasn't 100% expected.
I thought the Punisher was a very well written show. It had relatable characters, horrifying villains, and a story that could have been ripped from the headlines.