Marvel’s Punisher is a complicated character. Not his mission or his code. That is almost overtly black and white. The Punisher is complicated from a viewer’s standpoint because he is portrayed as a “good guy” and a “hero”. But he ultimately is not doing good things to gain this status. He will always choose to kill his target instead of work with the authorities to have them tried and convicted. He does not trust the system that he has devoted his life and career to protect. That is why he is complicated for viewers to root for. In the end, we root for him because he is taking out the bad guys no matter the cost to himself. He is relentless and focused and will win even at the loss of his own life. In many ways, he is the ultimate soldier and that is why people root for him.
The Punisher touches on a couple very subtle points but from different angles. The dialogue that takes place with regards to PTSD and the lack of vision in our country for what to do with our soldiers when they come home is eloquently written and painfully real. The picture that is painted of the lost boy who feels abandoned by the same system he went off to protect seems like it is ripped from the headlines of today’s newspaper.
The storyline that takes us into the group meetings, the nightmares, and the frustration of Lewis Walcott is heart-wrenching. He struggles to find work and a place for himself in a world he does not recognize and that does not want to recognize his pain. The betrayals he encounters in his confidants leave the viewer with a sympathetic sigh of melancholy. The story of re-acclimation is not a new one. But, it is one that needs to be told. This storyline is the most compelling reason to watch The Punisher. Because they took the time to show the audience the deconstruction of someone who was fragile and ready to break from the opening scene and directs us to look inward at our own choices as a nation.
Should these boys be put through the trials they are forced to endure? What price do we pay for them to protect the integrity of our livelihood? Are we truly doing all we can to reintroduce them into society in a meaningful way so they can feel valued and productive?
These are necessary questions that are not addressed with nearly enough sincerity and honesty. This show puts these questions front and center and forces the viewer to ask them whether they know it or not. Even the mind of Frank Castle searches for these answers as he quests for absolution and peace of his own.
For the reason of generating dialogue about PTSD, and veteran’s affairs I want to implore everyone to watch this show. I believe it is important and I feel that the writers did a respectful job of incorporating these ideas into the storyline with weight and subtlety. In the end, you will have to be the judge of whether you can stomach the violence and the intense imagery that accompanies, and in some ways, defines this series and this character. I think there is merit in the messaging, and I hope people will be able to look at that for the real discussions that can and should take place around the watercooler buzz of this release.