Why the next season of ‘The Punisher’ will be bittersweet
If there is one comic book character who embodies the military veteran spirit, it has got to be Marvel's Frank Castle, also known as The Punisher. While there have been several movie and television adaptations, the one that most faithfully portrays the Frank Castle we know from the comic books is Netflix's The Punisher, starring Jon Bernthal.
Bernthal's Castle first made an appearance in the second season of Daredevil, and his graveyard monologue solidified his role in the hearts of fans. The first season of his solo series was everything fans of the comics could have hoped for. The next season, which is to be released on January 18, is also highly anticipated, but a dark cloud looms: This may be the finale.
Don't despair; the pieces are lining up to make this the greatest thing in the Marvel Cinematic Universe yet.
Deadpool can jokingly play with the PG-13 rating by breaking the fourth wall. The Punisher on the other hand...
(20th Century Fox)
In October, Netflix cancelled Iron Fist. Not even a week later, Luke Cage was also cancelled. A month after Daredevil's season three premiered, it, too, was given the short end of the stick. Put two and two together and you can reasonably expect The Punisher and Jessica Jones to eventually get the ax as well, but not before their upcoming seasons are released in 2019.
Both Iron Fist and Luke Cage ended on bizarre cliffhangers. You can tell the cancellations probably came as a shock to the show-runners. Daredevil, on the other hand, had enough of a heads up to carefully and properly wrap up the story threads of each character. The Punisher — which wrapped filming in mid-August — hopefully had the same kind of foresight.
The current rumor is that each character will appear in later Marvel properties after the contractual two-year "cooling-off" period is over. If they do come over, they'll be utilized in the already-established, PG-13 Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that's great; it'd be amazing to see Vincent D'Onofrio's Kingpin face off against Tom Holland's Spider-Man. We could even see Mike Colter's Luke Cage join the New Avengers alongside Wolverine and Dr. Strange.
But those future appearances will adhere to PG-13 restrictions. If you saw Once Upon a Deadpool, the edited-down, more family-friendly version of Deadpool 2 made entirely to keep the Regenerating Degenerate just the way he is in his R-rated films while remaining compliant with Disney, then you know there are creative ways to make this work.
But trying to fit The Punisher, a man known more for his penchant for violence than a tendency to break the fourth wall, into a PG-13 rating may not work quite as well.
There is a silver lining here. The series is afforded something rarely seen in television series: closure. Season 2 can go all out because there's no season 3 for which to save some energy. They're not going to get renewed. They can wrap up characters or kill off important ones to better fit the narrative.
We may even get the story that's always been teased in the comics: his ending. Punisher fans know Castle won't settle down in some suburban home, but can he keep living the life of a vigilante? He never really managed to keep an ever-growing rogue's gallery of villains because he kills them all — just to have another secure a place on his sh*tlist. What happens when this well dries up? What is a Punisher without anyone left to punish?
Details about the next season are sparse. Ben Barnes is reprising his role as Billy Russo, who completed his transformation into the villain Jigsaw in Season 1, and Josh Stewart is playing John Pilgrim, who may end up being the villain from the PunisherMAX comic series, Mennonite.
Since the burden of a serialized third season is lifted, the show-runner, Steve Lightfoot, said in an interview that his focus was to make the best season possible and to keep characters true to their comic-book counterparts. And as a huge comic book fan and a veteran, that's all I'm asking for.
Check out the season two trailer below.