THE PUNISHER, Netflix’s newest, ultra-violent, hard-R Marvel series, pushed back its premiere episode screening at New York Comic Con in October because it was due to take place just days after the Las Vegas mass shooting that saw 58 people killed and over 500 injured.
Now it’s getting ready to premiere on the streaming platform just days after another mass shooting, this time in Northern California, which came on the heels of a mass shooting in Texas.
It’s a hard kind of environment to release such a show into, but showrunner Steve Lightfoot says there is no intention to make any sort of statement on gun violence within the narrative itself, which follows Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal), a merciless vigilante on the hunt for revenge after his family is murdered.
“The truth is, right before I met with [Marvel and Netflix], there had probably just been a shooting then, before I ever started working on the show,,” Lightfoot told Tracking Board ahead of the show’s premiere. “Sadly, tragedy now just seems to be part of life. I didn’t want it to say anything but I hope the show is smart enough and deep enough that it asks a lot of questions, and it’s up to people to answer those themselves. I don’t think entertainment should answer the questions for people, because then it becomes we’re preaching a particular point of view, but I think great drama asks questions and makes people think about issues in ways that maybe they wouldn’t have otherwise. I think the show shows a lot of points of views and people can look at it and decide where they fall rather than me telling them.”
The showrunner also revealed there were never any discussions about changing the level of violence on the show, even post-Vegas.
“No, not at all,” he said. “Marvel and Netflix got together and decided to push [NYCC] after Vegas, which I wholeheartedly agreed with, I thought it was respectful and the correct choice. I think that was just about proximity. If showing any of our show that close to what happened had made one person feel worse, it wasn’t worth doing. But in terms of changing the show, there were never any discussions about it.”
The key to not glorifying the violence portrayed on the show, according to the showrunner, is about staying true to the Punisher character. And luckily, in Bernthal, he found an exceedingly sympathetic leading man who exudes a vulnerability even when committing horrific violence against his enemies.
“My concern with a character like this was how to make him human and empathetic and deep and be someone the audience could care about,” he said. “And having seen what Jon had done [on Daredevil Season 2, where the Punisher character was first introduced], I had absolute confidence we could do that. At that point, I became very excited because I realized, here was a guy you could have do terrible things and still have the audience – not always agree with him, and they shouldn’t always agree with him – but empathize and understand him, because I thought Jon just made him so human.”
The Punisher premieres with 13 episodes on Friday, November 17 on Netflix.