The Devil Punisher season 1, episode 1 recap – a promising start

November 1, 2020
Jonathon Wilson 0
Netflix, TV Recaps
2.5

Summary

The Devil Punisher has its share of wonky effects and cheesy dialogue, but it establishes a reasonably promising fantastical world all the same.

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2.5

Summary

The Devil Punisher has its share of wonky effects and cheesy dialogue, but it establishes a reasonably promising fantastical world all the same.

This recap of The Devil Punisher season 1, episode 1 contains spoilers.


Netflix’s new Taiwanese-Chinese fantasy romance The Devil Punisher gets off to quite a start here in “Chapter One”, boasting a lot of the weird eccentricities you might expect but also a pretty solid narrative foundation for a laidback, genre-splicing adventure across the next few weeks.

Living up to its title immediately, we’re introduced to Zhong Kui, a kind of trans-dimensional exorcist with two devoted assistants – one of whom transforms into his sword – in pursuit of a possessed man. There are a lot of oddities in this fantastical universe, including the blue-haired sword-spirit lady and the fact that the demon is eventually trapped inside a smartphone, and that’s to say nothing of the actual underworld we visit shortly after, where an ageless functionary named Meng Po mans a desk in a white room full of doorways and has had her retirement application rejected despite thousands of years of dutiful service.

Once Meng Po is whisked off to the human realm with the captured demon, Ching-Yuan, you start to get a sense of where this show is going. When we catch up with her there, three months have passed and Meng Po is an amnesiac, unable to remember her former career in the Underworld but still capable of seeing and communicating with spirits.

Zhong, then, determined to find her, eventually tracks down the spirit who took her which leads to him plummeting right through Meng Po’s roof, which is convenient, but let’s not worry too much about it for now, since it’s clearly in service of a romance in the vein of something like The Vow, in which one half of the partnership can’t remember the other. Just with, you know, demons and stuff.

This is one component of the plot, anyway. The other finds Zhong and his team given a coveted Human Realm Pass by the so-called Underworld Queen so that they can track down the mastermind pulling Ching-Yuan’s strings since it’s pretty inconceivable that such a lowly spirit would be causing so much carnage alone. Zhong and co. need to capture 53 ghosts before the planets align, which gives us a nice ticking-clock device as well as a larger overarching narrative to concern ourselves with.

And then there’s En-Hsi, Meng Po’s sister, who has her own burgeoning subplot involving her journalistic education, financial mismanagement, her professor, Lu, and some ghostly misbehavior that endangers one of her classmates.

I’m sure all this will come together in due course. As openings go, The Devil Punisher doesn’t exactly skimp on questionable visual effects and a fair helping of cheesy dialogue, but the fantastical worldbuilding has a degree of promise, and it’s a good-natured, good-humored affair thus far, juggling its competing elements well and introducing some likable characters and a compelling large-scale plot. We’ll see how it gets on.


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