Frank Castle, The Punisher, has always been a controversial character for Marvel Comics. He was created by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru and first appeared in “The Amazing Spider-Man” issue 129 from February 1974. The character is now one of the company’s flagship properties, but his brutal nature is still hard for some comic fans to stomach.
Castle’s origin in the Marvel TV universe differs from his comic book origin. In the books, Castle’s family is brutally murdered by the mob in Central Park. As a Marine Corps Scout Sniper, his hand-to-hand combat skills, use of guerrilla warfare and no remorse when it comes to murdering helped The Punisher wage a one-man war on crime. He murders, kidnaps, tortures, extorts and punishes any criminal that crosses his path, and he believes that is the only way to rid this world of them and his pain.
Jon Bernthal (“Wind River”) showed fans he had what it takes to be The Punisher during the second season of “Daredevil,” where Castle crossed paths with Matt Murdock’s Daredevil (Charlie Cox, “The Defenders”) and forces Murdock to take a look at his values and what they really mean. Bernthal was the best part of “Daredevil” season two. The courtroom scene where Castle finally stands trial is the single greatest moment of both seasons of the show. Viewers do not get to see Castle take down a bunch of bad guys or torture anybody, but they get to see him truly emerge. “Any scumbag, any lowlife, any maggot piece of s*** I put down, I did it because I liked it. Hell, I loved it!”
Finally, Bernthal is at the head of his own series. He is an actor that deserves to be in anything he wants and he is truly great. He captured audience’s attention with his short-lived role as Shane on “The Walking Dead” and has not slowed down.
The TV series changes Castle’s origin slightly. Instead of his family dying at the hands of the mob, this time, it was his own government and those close to him committing the betrayal. Everything else about The Punisher stays true. For a heartless murderer, Bernthal brings depth and sensitivity to the character.
“The Punisher” connects with the aforementioned “Daredevil,” “Jessica Jones,” “Iron Fist,” “Luke Cage” and the buildup of them all, “The Defenders.” Most of these series were lacking in a lot of areas and felt very drawn out due to Netflix’s 13-episode seasons. Developing the show around the actual values and mentality of Castle instead of focusing on creating just another superhero story helped “The Punisher” succeed where the others could not. They started at the foundation and worked their way up, which is what they should have been doing all along.
Showrunner Steve Lightfoot (“Hannibal”) revolved a majority of this story around the fact that Castle was ex-military and the complications our veterans face when re-entering the real world. Castle was overseas, involved in top-secret assassination missions. He helped Daredevil face The Hand when he returned and then took on his personal battle of avenging his family. Castle always had a war to fight. He never had to focus on his own issues before now. The season ends on a beautiful note of Castle opening up to a support group.
“The Punisher” does not feel like a superhero show whatsoever. It feels more like a crime and political action thriller than anything else. It is brutal, bloody, almost unbelievably cringe worthy at points, but still has the most heart and personality out of any of the other Marvel-Netflix shows available.
Photo: from Netflix via YouTube.com