Netflix and Marvel’s The Punisher has returned for a second season despite a massive purge of Marvel shows in the previous year. The demand for ultra-violence and pseudo-politics were apparently enough to prevent its cancellation, so far. Rest assured, all of that returns for another thirteen episodes.
Season two of The Punisher takes place a good year after the first season and follows Frank Castle aka "The Punisher" (Jon Bernthal) attempting to move on with his life after getting revenge on his family’s killer. However, he gets called back into action after rescuing a teenage girl named Amy (Giorgia Whigham) from being murdered. Working with her, he gets sucked into a bigger conspiracy with more obstacles than ever before.
One of those obstacles includes the new character John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart), a Christian hitman. He is basically the stereotype of all religious killers on television, namely that he kills people while quoting pseudo-Scripture. Even worse, he commits all his crimes dressed as a preacher lest the audience forget that he’s religious. Just look at what he does to someone on his side.
Marlena: You can kill every one of them, I don’t care. Just let me be the one to put a bullet in Castiglione. Give me a team to hit from this side, while another team works the back. There’s only four of them left, plus the kid. I’ll finish the job, be out of the country by dawn. I got passports, plenty of places to go.
Pilgrim: Show me again.
Marlena: Back door, this corridor leads to the bull-
Pilgrim: "Our God is a consuming fire. For the children of this life shall be cast into darkness. Dust thou art, and unto dust thou shalt return. For this world is not your home."
Pilgrim’s character has been described as “alt-right” by some of the crew and a "Christian fundamentalist" by the actor. Case in point, he’s white, has a Neo-Nazi tattoo, wears a Richard Spencer haircut, and kills mercilessly. Considering that John Pilgrim is not a character from the comics, all of these features are pretty much inventions from the writers. I suppose they think these are topical parallels, but I’ve yet to read about the murderous Christian believers.
Of course, Pilgrim is only a piece of the puzzle. Over the course of the season, we learn that Pilgrim was a hired hand by the parents of a sitting U.S. Senator, the Schultzes. Amy and her fellow grifter friends procured an image of the senator in a gay relationship, leading his parents to take deadly action against them. In addition to being open to murdering children, Mr. and Mrs. Schultz take part in a number of sketchy deals including being connected to Russian mobsters and killers.
According to Amy, “They’re buying Congress, basically, just one piece at a time. They run these alt-right websites, and they use them to make up scandals and rat-punk their opponents. And none of it’s even illegal.”
The Punisher has always been controversial since its comic debut, but at this point, subtlety is deader than one of Frank Castle’s victims. The bad guys are literally members of the alt-right who use fake news, Russian connections, and violence to achieve their goals. Has it ever occurred to Marvel or Netflix that perhaps there are other problems in the world besides fringe Christians, right-leaning entrepreneurs, and Russian boogeymen?
It’s not clear that the series doesn’t realize that the alt-right isn’t the all-consuming, murder-happy, shadow group of puppet masters controlling the right it portrays them to be. The fact that The Punisher goes out of its way to prop them up as an intimidating physical and political threat only proves how out of touch they are with both reality and politics. Sadly, that’s all the rage with comic-book shows nowadays.
Even without that, The Punisher season two still has all the overtly violent scenes that are expected from the character. There are several shootout with lots of blood and way too many gross depictions of pulling bullets from flesh. It’s on par with everything expected of the series, but a terrible sign when that’s supposed to be the high point.
It’s sad that the gritty, ultra-realistic show is reduced to politics that aren’t real to make a story. With its violence, The Punisher was never for everybody, but with its political leanings, its audience just got a lot smaller.