Samuel Brace with four future options for The Punisher on Netflix…
A week removed from the thoroughly excellent and thoroughly enjoyable Daredevil season two — otherwise known as Punisher season 0.5 — this is a good a time as any to ponder what delights might be on our horizon when it comes to everyone’s favourite psychopath, Frank Castle. Parts of Daredevil season two didn’t quite work, just like season one, however, there is no doubt Jon Bernthal’s Punisher came out as a winner. But where will this all lead? Where will we see him next and in what format? There are four real options that make sense.
13 Episode Punisher Season
This is the most obvious option, and I suppose the joint most likely scenario — not the best choice (we will get to that) — but given the way things have gone so far for Marvel on Netflix, a full thirteen episode season of Punisher’s own seems like a sure thing. Daredevil season two was a perfect teaser/introduction to Frank, and a whole season of fully fledged adventures would surely be wondrous to behold. Getting to know Frank over such a prolonged period would certainly be interesting, giving Bernthal plenty of material to play with. This option would allow them to take their time, patiently building up a story, while pulling in other Marvel characters for Castle to play with — Daredevil himself would be as likely as any to turn up. They could even have Fisk involved as the season’s big bad. Who would be mad at that?
The only negative, as far as I can see it, is the problem with the thirteen episode seasons we’ve had so far, the fact that thirteen episodes — in Daredevil and Jessica Jones — have always felt a few episodes too many. The stories crafted to this point have been spread a little finely, therefore requiring a spot of filler, quashing that precious momentum at the worst possible time. This isn’t unavoidable, if the writers can craft a meaty story that takes thirteen full episodes to tell, then there’s no problem. Punisher deserves the best, and while this is a great option, thirteen episodes scares me a little, it might be a little too much, relying too heavily on visiting friends to fill that running time. But let’s not get it twisted, like every option on this list, the excitement would be palpable.
This is my favourite option and the one I believe to be the best. A Punisher solo miniseries would dispel with any problems mentioned previously with the thirteen episode season. Imagine Jon Bernthal’s Punisher brought to us in a five, six episode miniseries, so tight and controlled that every second of every episode feels like absolute fire. There would be zero time to waste but time still, given the fifty minute to one hour episodes, to execute on character, story and mood. Go through your favourite Punisher stories from the comics or come up with some new grim vigilante scenario for our boy Frank to deal with, and imagine how that might look over the course of a Netflix drop of six instalments. First of all, it would take half the time to make, half the money to make (not that you care about that) but it would also deliver to us the tightest Frank Castle story that we could ask for.
You would have plenty of great moments to savour but instead of filler that you know you could do without, you would be relentlessly engaged to every damn second, desperate to find out how Frank deals with… (fill in the blank). This scenario would be perfect, it really would. Close your eyes and picture the opening episode detailing Frank’s experiences in the marines, giving clarity to a certain incident brought up in Daredevil, depicted to us along with flashes of the incident that ruined his life and created the man he would become. Imagine then the story that evolves over the course of the next five episodes, as Frank, back in NY, stumbles upon a certain sex slave ring, disgusted and deplored by what these animals are doing to imprisoned children. Man, I want to watch that. Yes, this could also work over thirteen episodes but it would be told at its best within these parameters, no room for fluff, only room for Frank and his unique brand of unstoppable justice. Make it happen!
This option, I imagine, would be the least likely and the least requested by fans of Bernthal’s towering menace (myself included). It’s not entirely uninteresting, however. Netflix has their hands full right now with their many Marvel series. Daredevil likely to get a season 3, Jessica Jones season 2, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, The Defenders — that’s a lot to have on your plate. So perhaps a one-off Punisher solo film, shot and produced when time allows it, released as a summer Netflix exclusive, could be just what the doctor ordered. Not unlike my pitch for a miniseries, this idea allows for a tight, well paced, thrill ride that keeps its viewers engaged from start to finish. With enough time to throw back to the death of Frank’s family, the powers at be could give us a story every bit as epic as a full season of TV, without having to worry about where it might lead.
One off Punisher stories might be the way to go (an option that still works with the miniseries). You could even, if say the first film proved the desire for more Punisher tales, have a full film of Frank’s missions during the war, the horrors that he experienced there fleshed out to the full. I love a good war movie and would likely love one even more if it starred Bernthal’s Frank Castle. This option is unlikely however. For one, more is expected of a film over a show in terms of visual fidelity, Netflix and Marvel might not want to sink cash into a single dose of content. Also Punisher movies haven’t exactly worked in the past. The reason why he and others are now on Netflix is because they have rightly surmised the episodic medium is the smartest and safest place to tell their stories. There is no question however that this new Punisher could carry a film of his own and I can’t imagine the demand wouldn’t be there should it be presented as an option.
Daredevil Season 3
Along with the thirteen episodes solo Punisher season, having Frank simply just turn up again in Daredevil next season is probably the most likely scenario. They have already proved that this works, people reacted strongly to the two of them together and the depiction of Frank within the confines of Daredevil’s world. There are some very appealing options for Punisher within the realms of a Daredevil story, either as a partner, sometime helper or just as another cast regular like Foggy or Karen. Frank could have his own separate missions which sometimes interweaves with Matt’s. They could come together when necessary, teaming up at the right moment to take down the big bad, or to gather information that only the two of them can garner. If this was announced as Frank’s future, I would be a little bummed but not devastated. More Frank is more Frank. Daredevil’s two seasons so far have proved that their core story doesn’t quite have the legs to cover thirteen episodes, needing some guests and recurring characters to come by and add a little extra to the mix, so Frank fulfilling this need isn’t wholly unappealing.
The only problem as I see it is that Punisher detracts from Daredevil himself. Daredevil season two at times didn’t feel like what it was; it often felt like a Punisher origin story, which is fine if you love Frank but it was a bit unfair on Matt. Bernthal’s anti-hero couldn’t help but steal the spotlight whenever he was around and when he was off-screen you wanted to go back to him. Daredevil is a brutal individual but when depicted next to a man who kills without mercy; he can come off as a bit of wimp. Daredevil is a great character and Charlie Cox has done an astounding job portraying both sides of the role, the limelight needs to be well and truly on him. Having Punisher show up detracts from that. So apart from wanting more time for Frank to shine on his own, this option damages Netflix’s star man, leaving this choice as the least desirable. However, it is the safest bet and the least expensive — an important factor to consider. If there is no way to get more Punisher for a few years because of scheduling and resources, then we can’t really complain if this is the fastest way to more Frank. Other options may be more desirable and exciting but let’s not kid ourselves, this would be very watchable.
Whatever Netflix/Marvel decide the best route for Frank and Bernthal to be, fans are going to get what they want and that is surely more Punisher. Each will have his or her preferences, but as long as we get more, we can’t really complain. It’s their move, we just have to wait patiently, revisiting past episodes, re-watching clips and dreaming of the grim justice that Frank might bring to our lives in the hopefully near future. Daredevil maybe the star of the Marvel Netflix experience for now, but there is a new dude in town and exciting times are surely ahead.
“One batch, Two batch. Penny and Dime”.