With news breaking that the Punisher will get his own Netflix series set within the grim and gritty back alleys of the streaming services' corner of the Marvel Universe, it is clear the powers that be at both Marvel and Netflix have been left sufficiently impressed with actor Jon Bernthal's rendition of the gun-toting vigilante. While the folks who make the decisions on which character gets his or her own show have been suitably spellbound, Bernthal's next and possibly more difficult challenge will be to convince viewers the solo antics of Frank Castle are in fact binge-worthy with his role in Daredevil season 2.
By all accounts, the Punisher's contribution to season 2 of the Man Without Fear's television series will be a substantial one, with the season's narrative having been described as "Daredevil vs. The Punisher" when the character's inclusion was first announced. Other hints, like the poster that was released a few weeks ago – which immediately brought to mind the outrageously divisive opening credits sequence to The Leftovers season 1 – with the Punisher's trademark skull like a storm cloud looming over the crowded tapestry of Matt Murdock's Hell's Kitchen were about as subtle as the character's preferred method of handling lawbreakers. Meanwhile, official and unofficial photos alike focused as much on Bernthal as they did the eponymous hero.
While Bernthal's ability to bring a definitive version of the character to life is certainly a primary concern, the overall quality of Daredevil season 2 is also a priority – especially given the positive response the show enjoyed from fans in season 1. Topping what came before is usually the goal of any sophomore season, meaning, in a way, every well-received show is competing first and foremost with itself. Daredevil season 1 set a high standard for Netflix's Marvel TV shows, one that puts added pressure on the series to deliver again, especially in the wake of the positive reception Jessica Jones was handed upon its arrival.
Now, according to a new interview Bernthal gave to EW, in which he lays out his reasons for taking the role and his awareness of just how high expectations are, the former Walking Dead actor describes Daredevil season 2 as "going to a whole new place."
But before he digs into discussing season's tone, Bernthal touches on how he sees Frank Castle and how that informed his approach to the character:
"… He’s a guy who brought the war home with him [in] the worst possible way. There are a lot of iterations of this character and in all of them it’s a man who’s gone through this unbelievable trauma and what’s interesting about our take on him is how this trauma reshapes his own philosophy. I can’t give too much away, but what’s interesting is the way [showrunners Doug Petrie and Marco Ramirez] have made his story a slow burn. It’s interesting to find this guy at the point we find him. You want an evolution and a process. He starts in one place and will end up in another."
As Bernthal describes it, that place is a very dark one – one that he deliberately put himself into.
"… with Frank, what was important was the emptiness inside him. He’s dealing with this unbelievable loss. There’s unbelievable anger and hatred and shame. There’s a sense of responsibility and as a father and husband, if I were to lose my family on my watch … I had to put myself in as dark of place as possible the last six months."
Reading Bernthal's explanation of the character and his take on him, it sounds as though Frank Castle is going to be not only one tough customer, but also a very intense one. That might cause the audience to think twice about Frank's black-and-white view of the world and his role in it as judge, jury, and executioner. As Bernthal puts it, he would like the audience to have conflicted feelings toward the Punisher, and especially his actions:
"One of the things I’m most excited for is I’m hoping the audience will go back and forth. There are things you can identify with and get behind, and there are things when the character pushes it and you can’t get behind him anymore. And that’s what I want. I think that’s the nature of the character. This is a guy who pushes the envelope. He’s brutal, but he’s coming from a place of unbelievable hurt. And the best thing about the character is he just doesn’t care. It’s a highly personal mission he’s on and if he offends you, it’s completely unimportant to him."
Mostly, though, Bernthal is excited for audiences to see how the character evolves over the course of the season's 13 episodes. The season is largely being billed as a conflict between two men on a similar mission, and who approach that undertaking with varying extremes. But as Bernthal notes, the clash between Daredevil and the Punisher will have a greater impact than simply "two men enter one man leaves." The interactions Frank has with Matt Murdock (and others) will lead the character and inform on his "evolution" throughout the season.
"… I can tell you that this guy, horrible tragic things happen, and we will see how he goes through that. The effect the other characters have on him will push him certain directions. I think once you see these characters collide, it’s tremendously interesting and emotionally gripping as well. It’s going to be a special season. If you thought last season of Daredevil was dark, we’re going to a whole new place."
While Daredevil season 2 will apparently take the characters to a new, darker place, it is clear that Bernthal's journey as the Punisher is far from over. As such, the announcement of his joining the Netflix stable of Marvel characters presents some interesting questions about where the character will find himself following his clash with the Man Without Fear. Whatever that endpoint is, it will obviously be the beginning of something new.
Daredevil season 1 and Jessica Jones season 1 are now available on Netflix. Daredevil season 2 will debut on Netflix on March 18th, 2016, followed by Luke Cage season 1 later in 2016. Release dates for Iron Fist and The Defenders on Netflix have not yet been announced. Screen Rant will keep you updated on the Punisher spinoff as development continues.