Though it's still a little ways off, work is underway on bringing Marvel's The Punisher together for season 1 of the solo Netflix series. We know that Jon Bernthal will return as Frank Castle but little else has been confirmed about the show thus far - except that Frank's not alone in his corner of the Marvel universe: Ben Barnes was recently reported to be joining the cast as a series regular for the show. While best known as the heroic Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia films, Barnes will play a yet-to-be officially confirmed villain to Bernthal's Punisher.
What's really interesting is who Barnes is rumored to play in the series. Despite there being a number of more well-known characters that fans are hoping to see, Barnes is supposedly portraying Bobby Saint. If you're not familiar with the character, there's a good reason: he only appeared in the Thomas Jane Punisher film (played by James Carpinello), and his death near the beginning of the movie is what set the events of that film in motion. So what does it mean that Barnes might bring Saint to life on the small screen?
Who Is Bobby Saint?
In The Punisher, Bobby Saint was a fairly low-key member of the Saint crime family who was always accompanied by a bodyguard. He bought marijuana from a dealer named Mickey Duka, and eventually learned that Mickey was also dealing weapons. Bobby convinced Mickey to let him tag along on a buy, thinking that becoming involved in the weapons trade would impress his father (John Travolta's Howard Saint).
The buy was a setup, of course, and the arms dealer that Mickey and Bobby went to meet was actually undercover FBI agent Frank Castle. Things went south, and the buy ended up turning into a gunfight with the authorities. Bobby had ordered his bodyguard to stay at home, and as a result had no one to protect him in the fight. He was killed as a result, which led Howard Saint to order a hit on Frank Castle and his family.
A Mostly Original Character
The aforementioned events are the extent of Bobby Saint's role in the film and character development. The elder Saint was created specifically for the film, which means that Bobby was an original creation as well. Bobby's death occurred only five minutes into the movie, and his limited screen time made him easy to forget (especially compared to the bigger battles that would follow). We get a little glimpse of Bobby's personality, and that he wants desperately to impress his father, but he's largely a blank slate as far as characterization goes.
This could be a good thing for Marvel's new Punisher series, since it gives them room to make adjustments to the character without having to worry about making changes that drastically alter an established piece of the canon. The Punisher could reinvent Bobby Saint as a cold-blooded killer or a suave criminal mastermind and the series would simply be seen as fleshing out of what was honestly a minor bit part in a film that most of the show's audience will have never seen (or might wish they could forget). Using Saint gives the producers a (briefly) established character to work with that doesn't come with any of the baggage typically associated with established characters - especially villains.
Is It Really Bobby Saint?
Rumors being what they are, it's possible that Barnes is actually playing some other character and not Bobby Saint. Let's assume for the moment that Barnes really is playing Bobby, though. What does that mean for the show? Will Marvel just use Bobby as a way to make an original character with at least a little built-in name recognition? Not likely. Looking at Marvel's film and TV offerings, the company isn't afraid to combine characters or introduce existing Marvel Comics characters under new names.
Even if you only look at the Netflix shows, the company has combined the characters of Claire Temple and the Night Nurse, introduced Nuke under the guise of police officer Will Simpson and pulled a slight sidestep by introducing the woman who will (hopefully) become Hellcat as Trish Walker instead of Patsy Walker. Marvel could easily do the same with Bobby Saint, using the semi-unknown name as both an easter egg and means to introduce a more memorable character with a reveal later in the season. Just as Frank Castle will likely continue evolving during the season, we may see Bobby wind up much different than who he was when the season started.
Who Could Bobby Saint Become?
If Marvel does opt to transform Bobby Saint into an established character, there are a few options that they could go with. The most obvious option would be Jigsaw, who is considered by many to be the "classic" Punisher villain and who received a somewhat divisive adaptation in Punisher: War Zone. A run-in with Frank early in the season could leave Bobby scarred and seeking revenge, which might launch a brutal retaliation against the Punisher in the second half of the season. If the show's producers play it true to the comics, we might even see Jigsaw survive the end of the season (as he's proven very hard for Frank Castle to actually kill).
However, there are other options as well. Bobby Saint could be affiliated with the Gnucci crime family, which would make sense given the character's origin, and might set up a larger conflict against Ma Gnucci and her family in season 2. Saint could also see a transformation into Hammerhead (an ultra-strong and durable crime family heavy) during the season, which could work since Hammerhead's origins are largely unexplored in the comics. That said, if the producers really want to stretch they could even adapt Bobby Saint into Tombstone (a pale-skinned hitman with razor sharp teeth).
Playing It Straight
There's no official evidence, at this point, to suggest Barnes' Bobby Saint will transform into another character during the season. It's entirely possible that Bobby Saint will be every bit the man the charactered hoped to be in the Thomas Jane film - succeeding in the drug and weapons trade, making life difficult for the Punisher, and maybe even earning the admiration of his father. Some of his family might make an appearance as well, either in person or by mention, offering a fun film homage for longtime Punisher faithfuls who would get to see aspects of Jane's film refreshed and introduce into the MCU. At this point in development there's no telling just who the Punisher will meet, and we may not have any official announcements on the matter anytime soon.
If Marvel does use Bobby Saint and doesn't transform him into another character, it will be interesting to see what his role will be in the series. It's certain to be larger than his part in the movie, but just because he's a villain doesn't mean that he's going to be the Big Bad of the show. He could always be revealed as a subordinate for a more powerful criminal (possibly one with some name recognition). If there is some other power behind Bobby, though, we probably won't get a glimpse of it until closer to when the show actually releases.
Daredevil season 1 & 2 and Jessica Jones season 1 are now available on Netflix. Luke Cage season 1 will arrive on September 30th, 2016. The Defenders and Iron Fist arrive in 2017. Release dates for Jessica Jones season 2, The Punisher and Daredevil season 3 have not yet been announced.