“You know you’re one bad day away from being me.”
– The Punisher
Perhaps the only thing more exciting than finding out that Daredevil was getting a second season was the news that Punisher would be joining the show. With the announcement of a second season, the addition of new characters from the Daredevil mythos was almost certain with both Elektra and Bullseye being touted as the most likely candidates to appear in Hell’s Kitchen. And while Elektra capitalized on her brief reference in the first season and made it into the line-up (played by Elodie Yung), no one could have predicted that Marvel would introduce the Punisher, a vigilante with no qualms about killing criminals, into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. When it was revealed that Jon Bernthal had been cast in the role of the Punisher, the announcement was met with almost universal acclaim.
So here’s why everyone should be excited for the arrival of the Punisher in Daredevil Season Two.
It’s the Best Way to Reintroduce the Character
The Punisher is no stranger to live-action. To date, three films have been released: 1989’s The Punisher starring Dolph Lundgren, 2004’s The Punisher with Thomas Jane in the lead role, and Punisher: War Zone starring Ray Stevenson was released in 2008. While they have their supporters (I personally enjoy the Lundgren version myself), all three were critical and commercial failures at the box office. It’s therefore understandable that Marvel didn’t want to risk the Punisher on the big screen again and placing him among the ranks of characters being introduced in the Netflix-produced series was the most logical choice. Netflix’s corner of the MCU allows Marvel to explore darker and grittier storylines far more so that the mainstream MCU films and the lighter TV shows such as Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Agent Carter. And Daredevil Season Two promises to continue the trend. Both Daredevil and Jessica Jones dealt with the mature subject matter that the Punisher has handled so effectively across the range of comic titles he’s starred in, making the street level environment of Hell’s Kitchen the perfect fit for him.
He’s An Iconic Character
Regardless of whether or not the Punisher is a hero, anti-hero, or straight out psychopath (he’s all three and more), there’s no denying he’s one of Marvel’s most easily recognizable and iconic characters. Dressed head to toe in black with some variation of a skull emblazoned across his chest, the Punisher is instantly recognizable. The monochromatic color scheme is diametrically opposite to the brightly colored superheroes such as Captain America and Spider-Man, and serves as a visual cue as to the Punisher’s mindset and personality. While the live action films dabbled with the Punisher’s wardrobe, it was most likely War Zone that came closest to recreating the iconic costume (Lundgren never even had the skull!) – until now. Promo and set photos show the Punisher decked out in what may be the most truthful representation of his iconic costume to date. Just without the headband which is a minor crime in itself unless it appears later in the season.
A Counterpoint to Daredevil
Arguably, the Punisher and Daredevil are beings of a similar nature, both driven to act as vigilantes. The main difference, of course, is that Punisher has no qualms killing, while Daredevil refuses to take a life. In Season One, on his road to becoming Daredevil, Matt Murdock wrestled with his own Catholic upbringing and the belief that killing would stain one’s immortal soul, wondering if killing one man for the greater good would be worth it. Ultimately, he decides that he doesn’t have to kill to complete the mission he’s taken upon himself. The Punisher, on the other hand, is spurred by the murder of his family at the hands of criminals that leads him to kill the guilty to protect the innocent. In essence, both characters have the same goal – to eliminate the criminal element of Hell’s Kitchen. Whereas Daredevil chooses to act in concert with the law befitting his daytime role as a lawyer, the Punisher purposefully goes outside the law with the intention of being the last man standing. In this manner, while both operate in the shadows, Daredevil seeks to bring criminals into the light while the Punisher wants to put them in the ground.
A Source of Great Conflict
The most challenging aspect of introducing the Punisher to the MCU will be how to retain the essence of the character while still making him relatable to the audience and doing justice to the character. It can be argued that the Punisher is very much a creation of his time, and whether he still has any relevance within modern comics is a source of debate. At the end of the day, the Punisher is an anti-hero but he’s generally still on the side of good. While Season Two promos hint at a conflict between Daredevil and Punisher, Marvel using the Punisher as an enemy for the entire season would seem to be against the core of the character and would most likely upset the character’s loyal fanbase. It’s more likely that the two will come into conflict early in the season, then be forced to reluctantly team up to fight a greater threat. In that way, the Punisher can be used as a mirror to Daredevil, showing him and us that the two are basically the same aside from morality – a morality that Daredevil has openly skirted in Season One. In most comic media, the Punisher believes that Daredevil is simply a bad day away from being him and actively seeks to help him from stepping over the line into becoming him. Hopefully, that relationship between the characters will translate onto the screen.