So, I Watched The Punisher.
I have hated pretty much every Marvel show that Netflix has put out. I watched most of them, though some I got further on than others.
Cliche with unrealistic dialogue, CW-style drama (there for the sake of the drama, not for the plot), plot-holes around every corner and endless monologues (usually about how tortured and amazing the title hero is). The worst part, is most of them have such potential when they start off.
Ok, I’m being a little nasty. No one sets out to make a bad story, and there were a lot of people who really enjoyed these. And each of these shows had their positives.
Quite a few people, apparently, agreed with me when I point out that Frank Castle, in Season Two of Daredevil was one of those positives. Enough people that The Punisher got his own chance in the spotlight. And, WOW, did he handle it well.
The Punisher was beautifully written. It was a highly enjoyable experience with well-developed characters, deep themes, and a lot of blood pumping action. Well, at least a lot of blood.
But as I watched it I had to wonder, what is it about The Punisher that is so lovable. I get that people are into “gritty” stuff at the moment, and most television is actually leaning in a decidedly dark direction.
Meanwhile, Hallmark Christmas movies are just as popular as ever and Romance, with the happy endings and the snuggly feelings, aren’t going anywhere.
This leads me to believe that what is so attractive about shows like The Punisher is something deeper, something hidden under the surface. Not the gun control debate, that is touched on, or the honor that is given to the American soldiers without glorifying war. I’m glad that those subjects were broached, but not really given much time. That’s not what the story is about.
No, I think the core thing that makes The Punisher such a beautiful collection of episodes is something that is core to human joy: Love.
Specifically, sacrificial love. Through the story, two friendships are compared. (spoilers ahead) That of Billy Russo and Frank Castle, who love each other like brothers, but end as enemies. And that of Frank Castle and David Lieberman, who essentially hate each other and end up closer than family.
In the case of Billy and Frank, Billy is welcomed into the Castle family and given all he should want to be happy. He chooses to sacrifice that family to achieve power and wealth.
On the other hand, Frank, who starts out as not only an outsider to the Lieberman's, but also a hated enemy (at least in the opinion of David) chooses, in the end, to sacrifice himself to save the Lieberman family.
While Billy shows an example of self-love, Frank, despite being a violent and terrifying character, shows us what sacrificial love looks like. Love not just for his lost family who he hopes to find revenge for, but for multiple innocents through the show.
I think all of us desire to be loved like that: sacrificially. It is why the hero archetype is so beautiful to us. The Punisher is successful because it allows us to vicariously experience sacrificial love through the eyes of the hero as well as the victim.
What do you think? Do you agree with me, or do you think the gore is the best part of the show? Gotta love those fight scenes!