Right now I can hear my housemate singing. It’s bad. Brutally bad, some might say. There’s no joy in sight, no light at the end of the tunnel. His voice is like the mythological King Midas of Greece, except everything it touches curls up and dies.
Anyway, I might have been laying it on slightly thick with the analogies for The Punisher there, but “laying it on slightly thick” would be a perfectly valid criticism of the latest iteration of The Punisher, played by Jon Bernthal.
Bernthal actually plays the part perfectly. So perfectly in fact, that when I heard reports of him walking across New York in character to prepare for the role, a part of me wondered whether he dropped anyone in the process.
He’s everything you could ever want from a live-action adaptation of The Punisher. Not that I imagine many people sit around wishing for him to be anything outside of the ‘depressingly bleak, sadistically violent’ character we’ve seen depicted in the comics.
But there comes a point at which an element of character has to shine through the deranged psychopath. One of my chief complaints about Season 2 of Daredevil was that, for as excellent as The Punisher was, his smart, dissenting opinion on the use of violence was absolutely lost in the latter part of the season.
The Punisher represented a more hard-line attitude towards criminals, and believed that sparing their lives and granting them prison sentences was an inherently flawed tactic, given the fact that so many of them merely end up back on the streets, and up to the same antics that got them arrested in the first place.
The show never dedicated enough time to establishing where The Punisher drew the line on who should be executed for what crime, however, but it was undeniably a smart move on the part of the Daredevil show runners to bring a dissenting voice to the party.
Unfortunately, this unique and interesting moral stance on the use of violence was lost through, well, the use of violence.
Almost every time The Punisher murdered a bunch of guys with his bare hands (and believe me, there were a fair few instances of this), it detracted from the smart message that his character initially sent about the use of violence.
Take the prison corridor scene, for example. The Punisher is betrayed by Wilson Fisk while in prison, and is left to fight his way through an entire corridor of inmates with nothing but his bare hands.
There’s throat slitting, skull crushing and eye gouging taking place left, right and centre, to the point at which this author unashamedly turned away from a screen to recuperate the mental strength necessary to go on.
I’m not saying that the actual fight sequence is a bad thing by any means. What I am saying, is that every time there’s one of these ultra-violent scenes featuring The Punisher, it detracts from his intelligent, thought-provoking stance on the use of violence.
Speaking for myself here, I’m much more likely to empathise with someone who isn’t mentally insane, rather than someone who takes the face off another man with a shotgun.
The Punisher’s solo Netflix series has the unenviable task of balancing out the character’s stance on violence with his actual use of violence. The show needs to find a middle ground for the two to coexist, and this is the best chance Marvel has of making it’s audience empathise with The Punisher’s stance on violence.