Marvel’s The Punisher is not an easy story to tell, especially in the current political climate. A mass murderer with a skull painted on his chest is bound to create controversy. The series could have easily turned into an indulgence for senseless acts of violence, but it doesn’t. Instead of shying away or ignoring the harsh realities of the real world, The Punisher dives face-first into the debate.
Punisher doesn’t target street gangs or low-level criminals or foreign hostiles. Instead, he pursues villains who abuse their power as members of powerful institutions—the N.Y.P.D., the C.I.A., the Marines—without going after the institutions themselves. He targets the men who take advantage of a broken system rather than the people who allowed the system to break in the first place. What’s more, Bernthal’s Punisher also tends to target victims who are only tangentially related to his past as a tortured veteran, such as Homeland Security chief Carson Wolf (C. Thomas Howell), or a group of construction workers who threaten to kill his friend Donny Chavez (Lucca de Oliveira).
Sympathetic secondary characters, like Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah), ex-N.S.A. analyst David Lieberman (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), and support-group leader Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore), all try, in their own ways, to get Castle to steer clear of innocent victims. But that prompts a question that goes largely unanswered by the series: who deserves to be punished? In Episode1, which trailer had enormous success on social media, do the aforementioned construction workers, guys who try to rob a mob-run poker game, really need to be gorily dismantled by a sledgehammer while Tom Waits’s “Hell Broke Luce” plays? Or in Episode 2, is Castle right to kill Wolf, a man who covered up for Operation Cerebrus but did not have an immediate hand in carrying it out—and does he needs to do it, in Wolf’s own home, after tying him up, then torturing him by shooting one of his knees? Shouldn’t he have bigger fish to fry?
The show sometimes tries to directly address a pressing social issue, but even then, it rarely says anything meaningful. “The Judas Goat,” the show’s sixth episode, comes awfully close with a scene in which young, troubled vet Lewis Walcott (Daniel Webber) is arrested by a cop after he politely but firmly asserts that he has a legal right to peaceably protest on a Manhattan courthouse’s front steps.
The cop that arrests Lewis is not a supervillain. He has no backstory. He’s just an ordinary man who can abuse his power, and therefore does. But we never see him again.
Many viewers will relate to Frank Castle’s dark urge to hurt people out of fear of an unfair environment that might have already hurt them. But they won’t get much insight from the Punisher’s myopic new war on crime.
Courtesy: Netflix and Marvel