Daredevil introduced a character who was more nuanced than previous versions, but his spin-off series will stand or fall on scoundrels who are worthy of him
Given the fan reaction to his work on Daredevil, it wasnt surprising that Jon Bernthals portrayal of the Punisher has earned the character his own Netflix series. But the TV scenery could be trickier for Marvels signature hard man than even the ninja-filled streets of Hells Kitchen.
Bernthal should get a great deal of credit for bringing Frank Castle, the Punisher, to new life. He seized the chance to play a Punisher with more emotional range on the small screen than Dolph Lundgren, Thomas Jane or Ray Stevenson had in their respective movies, and the Walking Dead veteran more than rises to the occasion.
Bernthals take on Castle also had a more solid array of characters against which to react than the eminently disposable thugs prevalent in the characters prior incarnations. From the outset, the MCU Punisher is immediately placed as an equal to Daredevil( played by Charlie Cox) both physically and philosophically. His rooftop debate with Daredevil, while lifted from the Garth Ennis/ Steve Dillon run that revitalized the character in the comics, is notable because Castle get more of the benefit of the doubt in the televised presentation than he usually does in print.
Bernthals Punisher also got not only a mental health-related hypothesis for his motives, but the chance to flash some humor and even relationship advice in his interactions with Foggy Nelson( Elden Henson) and Karen Page( Deborah Ann Woll ).
But without being able to bounce off of superhumen such as Daredevil or a super human such as Vincent DOnofrios Kingpin and the failings of cinemas featuring the character underscore this Castle becomes another urban vigilante in a genre that has prospered on TV without him; weve run from Equalizer Edward Woodward coolly dispatching the riff-raff to Jeffrey Donovan agonizing on traversing the line on Burn Notice .( You might compare Frank to Dexter Morgan ,~ ATAGEND but Frank would tell you, I aint crazy . And perhaps shoot you for suggesting otherwise .)
Remember: Castles first comics appearance came in February 1974 ,~ ATAGEND just five months before Charles Bronson shot his style through a hellish New York City in Death Wish . Theres no direct link between Castle and Bronsons Paul Kersey, but they do represent a similar reaction to a specific anxiety about the city, as critic Devin Faraci recalled :
The 1970 s were the worst decade imaginable for the greatest city; its all summed up in a famous Daily News headline Ford To City: Drop Dead. That was 1975, and New York City was on the brink of insolvency. The federal government declined to bail it out. A shifting in industrialization in America had hit the citys wallet hard, and had sent in waves of Southern immigrants, largely black. On top of that, members of the general national economy was in the shitter. Crime rose as the city decayed, unable to meet the basic needs of its millions of citizens.
Of the previous Punishers, Jane came the closest to occupying this kind of world but only in an unofficial project, the 2012 short film Dirty Laundry .And that one ran in big proportion because it was short .
That induces it easier to understand why Bernthals Punisher has multiple subplots to maintain him( and the spectators) busy in his Daredevil appearances; having him spend the whole season taking on those hapless Irish gangsters would only have dragged him down. Dedicating a solo series to him running down equally incompetent Foreign Mafiosos instead of the Kingpin also could feel unfulfilling sooner than later.
One way to fight this could be for Marvels showrunners to return to the Ennis/ Dillon story for inspiration and have him confront not just garden-variety street toughs, but variations on his own quest. In a day when, as the Guardian has shown us ,~ ATAGEND more of the good guys are getting caught doing bad things, what would this new version of Frank do when faced to fight a distorted version of justice itself? Bernthal already has shown his Punisher is capable of more than shooting his way through a story. Heres to hoping his new series allowed him to do so.
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