How I Would Do Seasons 2 and 3 of The Punisher
Earlier this week, I posted my review of The Punisher TV show on Netflix and ended with the suggestion that they should just film Garth Ennis’ Punisher MAX. I know I’m not alone in declaring that this is the best Punisher story of all time. I also think it’s hugely filmable. And movie and TV adaptions clearly hint at this greatness, but none have yet just grabbed this amazing, massive story and turned it into cinematic gold.
They should. And I’ll take a moment to tell them how it should be done.
I liked The Punisher on Netflix well enough, but it could have been better. It could have been so much better. Granted, I’m not in charge of the show and I don’t have any say in any of these matters. But I’ve got a blog and an opinion, and that’s all I really need!
Join me after the jump for how I would make seasons 2 and 3 of The Punisher. If we accept season 1 as canon now, I think we can still transition into the Punisher MAX material.
It’ll help if you already know the material I’m talking about. Definite SPOILERS for both the comic and the show. Let me know what you think about my ideas in the comments!
Of note, I’m going to stick with Marvel’s plan of doing 13 episodes per season. That works for what I want to do. Also, between seasons 1 and 2, Frank Castle has started killing criminals as the Punisher. He’s operating solo. I don’t really have any ideas for Karen Page, Agent Medani or Curtis, but I suppose they can all be woven into the storylines somewhere.
Definitely no reappearance from Billy Russo’s Jigsaw. Sorry world. Although I suppose, if necessary, we can replace Nicky Cavella with Jigsaw. That might still work. But that’s not my decision.
Also, a key aspect of Ennis’ Punisher MAX material was that he was writing a much older Frank Castle, and the Vietnam war was a major part of his backstory. Obviously now we’re working with a young Frank Castle and the Global War on Terror, but I think a lot of the stories can still work. Frank is pretty troubled from his time in Afghanistan, so that will work as a stand-in for Vietnam. I would also continue the theme of veterans struggling to reintegrate into society and how war really changed Frank Castle.
Let’s get to it…
Episodes 1-5: In the Beginning.
We start off with a pretty straight forward adaptation of In the Beginning, the first story arc of Punisher MAX. We begin where the comic begins: with Frank murdering the Don of the Italian Mafia right in the middle of his 100th birthday celebration. This causes all of his mobster followers to rush outside, and Frank mows them down with that mini-gun he never got to use from the end of Daredevil season 2. This will be a big action scene to kick everything off and establish the Punisher’s war on crime. He’s definitely wearing the skull.
This is the biggest hit the Punisher has pulled off yet, and it draws the attention of CIA agent Robert Bethell. He’s a little annoyed that his agency is partially responsible for the Punisher, and equally annoyed that his agency let Frank off the hook at the end of season 1. So Bethell recruits Micro out of retirement and brings in Kathryn O’Brien to form the same little team he did in the comics. Micro will play both himself and William Roth. Their goal is to recruit Frank to recreate Cerberus as his own unit, punishing America’s enemies overseas — but just like in the comics, Frank turns them down.
Simultaneously, gangster Nicky Cavella will come to town to try and take control of the shattered Mafia. He’ll have his goons with him, Pittsy and Ink, and this trio will make for some great big bads.
The story progresses from there: Cavella and his goons go after the Punisher, which puts them up against the CIA operation and eventually its up to Frank and Micro to deal with everybody (Micro will not get his testicles cut off). The storyline ends with the big shootout downtown, with Bethell, Pittsy and Ink all dead, Cavella in the wind and O’Brien in custody. Also, Micro will survive, unlike in the comic, but I think he will bow out of the rest of the show to return to his family.
Episodes 6 & 7: The Slavers.
Just do The Slavers straight up. I’m still surprised nobody has simply just filmed The Slavers when doing a Punisher adaptation. It’s the best, purest Punisher story ever told. Basically, by pure happenstance, Frank stumbles upon a sex slavery ring run by some pretty nasty Eastern Europeans. The Punisher has to get extreme to break through these men and women, while also trying to juggle a safe, acceptable way to deal with the innocent women involved. It puts Frank up against some truly heinous villains, and the punishment they receive is as cathartic as any Punisher killings can get.
We can probably cut out the side plot about the buddy cops, but everything else stays. The corrupt cop. Jen Cooke. The old man. Cristu and Vera. Viorica. The thing her father said. Her baby…
The Slavers two-parter won’t tie into the ongoing season-long narrative, nor does it need to. No appearances from Micro or really anybody else. Just a pure, awesome Punisher storytelling.
Episodes 8-13: Up is Down and Black is White.
This will also be a pretty straight forward adaptation. Micro won’t be back, because Roth doesn’t play a big enough part. And we’ll obviously need to cut out the comic book William Rawlins, because that name was taken for a different villain in season 1, and we’ll be saving that character for season 3.
So Nicky Cavella returns to get his revenge against the Punisher. He does this by digging up the remains of Punisher’s wife and kids and pissing on them, then sending the tape to the media. Punisher sees the tape and goes on a murder rampage the likes of which no one was ever seen before. It’s brutal, it’s horrible, and we can get some people in the city reacting to it, like the mayor.
Meanwhile, Cavella tries once again to take over the Mafia, but they’re still totally screwed over from Frank’s massacre at the start of the season. Cavella also has a new goon, Teresa, Pittsy’s sister. This storyline plays out like it did in the comics, except without Rawlins’ involvement. O’Brien busts out of prison to help Frank finish off Nicky Cavella to get her own revenge, and Frank and O’Brien spend some quality time together as they finish off Nicky Cavella and Teresa.
The season ends with Frank leaving Cavella to die out in the Pine Barrens.
Episodes 1-4: Mother Russia.
We pick up a couple months later. Punisher is still out killing criminals and we start with the same action scene from the comics, where he hunts down a recently paroled criminal bastard and takes out the guy’s crew and his evil mom. Turns out this was all a set-up from Nick Fury to recruit Frank for a top secret mission. And since this is my blog and I can say whatever I want, you’re damn right we’re getting a Samuel L. Jackson cameo.
So Nick Fury recruits Frank for a job in Russia: saving a little girl from a nuclear missile silo. The girl has been injected with a devious new virus call Barbarossa, but she’s also been injected with the antidote, which will kill the virus in a matter of days if somebody doesn’t get the sample out of her. A group of U.S. generals (henceforth known as the Evil Generals) want to get in there covertly and get the girl out so U.S. scientists can weaponize this virus, and Fury sticks his nose into the mess and recruits Frank Castle for the job, much to the generals’ anger. They insist on adding their own special forces operative, Vanheim, to the mission.
This storyline will play out almost exactly like the comics. Frank and Vanheim go to Russia and break into the silo, then have to hold off Russian forces while managing an escape. Frank befriends the little girl and we get all those wonderful fatherly moments from the comics.
Meanwhile, we’ll also introduce the William Rawlins comic character, who will need a new name. Just like in the comics, the Evil Generals will have hired Rawlins sometime in the past to create his own terrorist cell, out of Middle Easterners who don’t realize they’re secretly controlled by the U.S. government. The generals will have Rawlins send his cell to hijack a plane and fly it into Russia in an attempt to distract from Frank’s mission, then it all goes to hell and just causes more trouble — but the subplot sets up both the Evil Generals and comic book Rawlins.
Meanwhile, Frank’s true antagonist in the main plot is General Nikolai Alexandrovich Zakharov, the Man of Stone.
Everything involving Zakharov will play out exactly like the comics. He spends his time in the command office, confident that his enemies are Americans, while his subordinates think its a terrorist cell (because of the hijacked plane). And in the end, Frank and the girl will get away by pretending to launch a nuclear missile, Vanheim will have to sacrifice himself, and the Punisher will screw over the Evil Generals by not allowing anybody to harm the girl to withdraw the virus from her system. The antidote will kill the virus and she’ll be fine, and Samuel L. Jackson will show back up for that great scene on the tarmac.
It’s about time we had some proper crossovers.
Episode 5: Barracuda.
Barracuda is a solid villain for the Punisher to face, so we can do a one-off episode introducing Barracuda. It can resemble the comic storyline, which wasn’t one of the better stories in MAX, but it’s serviceable. Basically, Punisher has to kill some bad guys and has to fight off and try to kill the big, evil Barracuda while he’s at it. This can lead to some pretty great fights. And the episode will end with Barracuda still alive.
He’ll be back, obviously. He’s a great villain, but not for the whole season. Barracuda is a big, foul-mouthed former soldier himself, selling himself out to the highest bidder. He’s also damn-near Terminator-like in his toughness.
Episodes 6-9: Man of Stone.
And so Frank must return to Afghanistan. He finds out that Zakharov, the Man of Stone, is looking for him, and that Kathryn O’Brien (from season 2) has been causing trouble getting revenge against her rapists. So Frank catches a plane and returns to the horrors of war that he only recently left behind. But trouble is waiting for him, because Comic Rawlins is now working with Zakharov and they both want revenge! Fortunately, Frank can rely on O’Brien for help, along with an old British war buddy, Yorkie.
This storyline will play out largely the same. Frank and O’Brien head out into the wilderness of Afghanistan and have to deal with Zakharov and Rawlins. Frank can explore some of the horrors that he faced in war and put them to bed, and Yorkie can help illuminate the insanity of why we’re still at war in Afghanistan in the first place. Exactly how long is this war going to go on? How many soldiers are going to get ground up in the war like he and Frank were?
Also, since Comic Rawlins wasn’t in season 2, we’re going to need a scene where Frank and O’Brien capture him and get him on tape admitting to the terrorist cell/plane hijacking from the Mother Russia storyline. The tape will implicate the Evil Generals, turning them against Frank.
In the end, O’Brien, Rawlins and Zakharov will all be dead and Frank will head home with the tape.
Episodes 10 & 11: Long Cold Dark.
Barracuda returns and goes after Punisher with everything he’s got! It’s a brutal cross-country fight where we find out that O’Brien had a baby after hooking up with Frank last season, and Barracuda has the baby. It’s a big, brutal battle that pushes Frank to the very edge, but in the end, he kills Barracuda and saves the baby. Maybe he gives the child to Micro, or more likely, he gives the child to O’Brien’s sister to raise, like in the comics. Though a Micro reappearance would be pretty neat.
We also find out that the Evil Generals hired Barracuda to go after Castle. They had the info on O’Brien’s baby and gave it to Barracuda.
Episodes 12 & 13: Valley Forge, Valley Forge.
Obviously we lose all of the great Vietnam stuff from the comics, but this story can still play out largely like it did. The Evil Generals want the Rawlins tape and to kill the Punisher, so they decide to put together a military Special Forces team to make it happen. Punisher isn’t about to kill soldiers who aren’t evil, and as far as these guys know, they’re not evil. They’re just following orders to take down a dangerous vigilante.
So we get some great scenes of a Special Forces team storming the Punisher’s New York hideouts, with Frank using less-than-lethal force against them. Eventually, though, they do take him in.
But the leader of the Special Forces unit has a secret: Frank Castle saved his life during one of his earlier tours in Afghanistan, either before or during Cerberus. This leader has noble intentions of having Frank arrested instead of killed. But when he finds out just how evil the Evil Generals are, and when he watches the tape, the leader turns on the generals. He lets Frank go and Frank punishes the Evil Generals.
It’s a battle between the kind of bastards that would profit off of war, and the kind of bastard who has forever been scarred by war.
And that is how I would write/film the second and third seasons of The Punisher on Netflix. Thank you.