Marvel's The Punisher originally appeared as a supporting character from Netflix’s Daredevil where he stood out as a character with a particularly violent way of dealing with criminals. His solo season in Netflix’s The Punisher, which premiered on November 17 after being delayed following the Vegas shooting, is no different as it glorifies in blood, beatings, and even a couple of beheadings. To add insult to very violent injury, the series also manages to squeeze in a less than admirable depiction of veterans as nothing more than killer time bombs.
Throughout the season, we focus on former Marine Frank Castle/The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) looking to exact revenge on the people behind the deaths of his wife and kids. Right off the bat, that’s not a great image for veterans coming back dealing with trauma, but it gets progressively worse.
Over the course of the series, we also check in on a local veteran counseling program run by Frank’s old friend Curtis (Jason R. Moore), one of the few veterans in the show without a kill mission. At his program, a young veteran named Lewis (Daniel Webber) struggles with returning back to civilian life and falls in with a boisterous NRA member who laments that Christians and gun owners are the most persecuted minority in the nation.
Angry at a country that has seemingly turned its back on him and the Second Amendment, an unstable Lewis sets off a bomb at the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms field office at Wall Street to send this message to the public, which he also provides in a letter to New York Bulletin reporter Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll).
Obviously the writers were inspired by the likes of domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh, down to the background, methods, general distaste for a tyrannical government, and a fondness for the phrase sic semper tyrannis. In that case, the show not only promotes a negative view of veterans with PTSD as dangerous and unhinged, but can't even do it originally. Plus, as far as my viewing of the news goes, guns rights advocates aren't usually the ones behind acts of violence and have even been seen to stop them.
To be fair, in the midst of all of this, the show manages to give a more nuanced view on the right to own guns. After the bombing, Karen goes on a radio show with a very pro-gun-control liberal senator. While the senator’s answers are the same as any Democrat senator’s solution to violence (restricting gun access), both the radio host and Karen, who happens to also be a concealed carry holder, have valid criticisms for the politician. Then a clearly disturbed Lewis calls in and Karen attempts to draw out the bomber by calling out the cowardice of his actions.
I suppose a show where the hero is a gun-toting vigilante couldn’t pretend gun control legislation is the end-all, be all solution to violence. CW’s Arrow tried that earlier this year, and we know how well that ended. I have been waiting a long time for a show to treat a liberal politician as out of touch with the reality of needing something to defend yourself. I never dreamed it would be this one.
But I’m also disappointed that it had to come from a series like this. Are we supposed to understand that the only world where the right to defend oneself is promoted is one packed with bloody murders, where gruesome beatings are common? I’m not onboard with that trade, and I’m certainly not onboard with dragging down veterans in the process. The nation does need to show more respect and consideration for those who defend it, but this is definitely not the right way to show it.