The first season of The Punisher saw the Marvel vigilante going up against a corrupt CIA operative and a former ally who conspired to kill his family. But the latest villain in the Netflix series will be slightly more topical.
In a new report from Collider, we finally learned more about Frank Castle's latest foe for The Punisher Season 2, a character named John Pilgrim played by actor Josh Stewart. The villain has been described as Alt-Right, a term that's associated with white nationalism and extreme conservatives.
"On the exterior, [John Pilgrim] is a man who is a Christian Fundamentalist who had a rage, a violent side of him," Stewart said. "It’s buried deep. I think where this is all headed, that sort of side of him is going to resurface a bit."
Pilgrim is said to contrast Billy Russo, who will also return for Season 2, as a creepier and more uptight foe for Frank Castle.
"He’s trying to piece together what happened to him and who he is. There is the metaphor at one point that his brain is the jigsaw that he’s trying put the pieces back together of," actor Ben Barnes said to Collider.
As for the man himself, Frank Castle won't be doing some Punishing from the get go. It will take the actions of John Pilgrim and his allies to draw the violent side of Frank Castle out into the open. But when Castle does put on that skull-adorned vest, it will be an epic moment.
"This year, when he puts it on, we figured out a very intelligent, very tactical reason, a very psychologically tactical reason to wear it. It makes a lot of sense," said Frank Castle actor Jon Bernthal.
They're working hard to top the events of Season 1, which almost had an anti-climactic scene of The Punisher finally adopting the skull on his chest.
"There was going to be a whole scene with Micro where they’re at the computer figuring [the suit] out," Bernthal said. "That was going to be the first time with him in the vest. [Micro] was just gonna’ sort of be drinking tea and I’m like, 'You can’t do that. It’s gonna’ look so friggin’ stupid.'"
The Punisher is coming in hot, releasing an intriguing new teaser video that not only reveals the air date for Season 2 (18 January), but giving us a first look at notorious supervillain Jigsaw, played by Ben Barnes.
Barnes follows Dominic West, who took on the role for Punisher: War Zone in 2008, but it looks like Marvel is going for a toned down version of the character in this version of the story. We can still recognise Barnes for one thing, but we don’t know how we feel about it.
Because of Frank Castle’s military background with the Marines and his penchant for enforcing justice using guns, iconography related to the Punisher has become particularly popular amongst certain groups of active law enforcement and those in the armed services. The character’s creator Gerry Conway thinks that’s ill-advised and offensive.
In a recent interview with Syfy Wire, Conway—who created the Punisher with artists John Romita Sr. and Ross Andru in the early ‘70s—reflected on how many police offers and members of the military have co-opted the character’s skull logo as a symbol. Conway told them he never meant for the character to be seen as someone to emulate or look up to. Frank Castle, he explained, represents everything broken and wrong with our justice system, and it’s “disturbing” to see authority figures embracing the symbol:
[The Punisher is] supposed to indict the collapse of social moral authority and the reality some people can’t depend on institutions like the police or the military to act in a just and capable way.
The vigilante anti-hero is fundamentally a critique of the justice sysytem, an eample of social failure, so when cops put Punisher skulls on their cars or members of the military wear Punisher skull patches, they’re basically sides with an enemy of the system. They are embracing an outlaw mentality. Whether you think the Punisher is justified or not, whether you admire his code of ethics, he is an outlaw. He is a criminal. Police should not be embracing a criminal as their symbol.
It goes without saying. In a way, it’s as offensive as putting a Confederate flag on a government building.
It’s easy to understand why some people gravitate towards the Punisher, especially those whose lives have been shaped by their service in similar ways to Frank’s. But the fact of the matter is that Frank Castle is a vigilante who runs around killing people he deems to be worthy of death and he operates entirely outside of the law. Conway said anyone putting a criminal’s symbol on a police car is “making a very ill-advised statement about their understanding of the law.”
Within the world of comics, you can twist yourself into knots justifying his actions and claiming that the character never kills innocent people. But the same cannot be said of police officers and military people, who are entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the public and (sometimes, but nowhere near often enough) held accountable for gross overuses of power here in the real world.
Mostly, though, season 2 is about the return of Billy Russo, who has recovered from the traumatic brain injury Castle inflicted on him, although his face has been left badly scarred. In an earlier teaser clip, a hospital therapist suggests he might want to decorate the plain white mask covering his face to represent what he wants to portray to the outside world. "What face do you want the world to see?" she asks.
The answer: the face of Jigsaw, one of Castle's arch-nemeses in the comics, so named because his facial scars resemble a jigsaw puzzle. Here, the scars are as much psychological as physical, not only from PTSD but from his brain damage and memory issues as well. As Barnes told io9 recently, "He's trying to piece together what happened and who he is, and at one point the metaphor used is that his brain is the jigsaw they're trying to put back together."
Russo has been having bad dreams, too, but it's the Punisher's symbol that he sees—and once his memory returns, he wants revenge. Jigsaw finds a worthy accomplice in John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart), possibly another bad guy in the comics known as The Mennonite because of his penchant for priestly garb. Amber Rose Revah will reprise her role as DHS agent Dinah Madani for this new season, and Daredevil's Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) will also make an appearance.
Season 2 of The Punisher starts streaming on Netflix January 18. We look forward to the show being abruptly cancelled two weeks later, just like Iron Fist,Luke Cage, and Daredevil.