The Punisher is now streaming and fans have noted the show’s violent portrayals of crimefighting, with some maybe thinking it is a bit too much.
Steve Lightfoot sat down with Vulture to discuss some elements of the show, mainly focusing on the violence. The Netflix-Marvel programs have generated a bit of controversy for being a bit over the top with how they portray some of the more violent elements, but in this case, Lightfoot notes that it is all in service of the character:
“It wasn’t necessarily a case of needing to consult. We work in close collaboration with Marvel and Netflix in every aspect of the show. The first touchstone for me was what they had done with Daredevil season two. I took that as my barometer in terms of the level they pitch the action at. We took that as our line and I think held it relatively steadily through the show. As you say, I think what was key to me was that you can’t do the Punisher and have it not be a violent show. But I think it was always showing the cost of that violence. Making it real enough that it hurt and it wasn’t flippant. I think secondly, also seeing that there was a cost to Frank. He didn’t do this stuff and then just blithely walk away. Every situation we put him into had to have a cost, both physical and emotional.”
He then discussed the element of Frank’s wife being brutally murdered. This element is shown over and over again, and Lightfoot says it is to further understand the character of Frank:
“I mean, the first scene, what becomes clear is it’s not the actual way she died. It’s a dream. Each incarnation is different. The idea there is that we start with an image where someone else killed his wife and what is meant to be clear as those dreams progress — and this is a little spoiler-y — is that, in essence, Frank blames himself. The ultimate image is he sees himself shooting his wife. A lot of what is driving his rage and his grief is, deep down, he knows it was because of his own actions. It wasn’t to gratuitously just keep seeing his wife die, but it was actually to build and let the audience in on the fact that he was a man who blamed himself more than anyone else for what had occurred. That self-loathing is what’s driving him.”
Lightfoot went on to talk a little bit about doing right by fans of the character with military or law enforcement backgrounds:
“Obviously, that was a variable in deciding to work on the show. For me, it was foremost about serving the character of Frank. It was about staying true to what he is in the book, which is a difficult, complex character in terms of his actions and his motivations. It was about staying true to that and not being scared to lose an audience, while also hopefully winning them back to empathizing with Frank. That was my primary concern. Certainly to the military and those guys who serve to protect us all, I think you have to be respectful. But at the same time, just by the nature of the character, a lot of his actions are criminal. It’s an interesting thing to be respectful of the police and at the same time, the character is beyond the law.”
Finally, the showrunner noted the inclusion of a veteran who has a gun hobby was further representative of the character and in service to the overall nature of the show:
“In terms of talking about the military and the politics of vigilantes and what is justice and all of those things, it was just … I don’t think it’s my place to preach, but it was about creating a body of characters where you feel like all sides and issues were given a voice so the audience can decide. The debate is there and they can decide on which side they fall. I felt, on the one hand, in those circles you have someone like [gentle group-therapy leader] Curtis, who runs the group, and then you have someone who is at the far end, the other end of such views. Those guys are out there, and they’re out there in great numbers. Given the nature of the show, we needed that to be part of the discussion.”
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The Punisher stars Jon Bernthal, Ben Barnes, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Amber Rose Revah, Deborah Ann Woll, Daniel Webber, Jason R. Moore, Paul Schulze, Jaime Ray Newman, and Michael Nathanson.
Marvel’s The Punisher will debut on Netflix on November 17, 2017.