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Major spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet watched the entirety of The Punisher Season 2. The ending and future will be discussed, so be sure to catch up before reading on.
Unlike most superhero shows these days (or any shows, really), The Punisher Season 2 admirably enforced an all-tied-up ending without loose ends or head-scratching cliffhangers. That was possibly fortuitous, considering the fate of Daredevil and other Marvel shows. Unsurprisingly, no one involved wants The Punisher to get the axe after just two seasons, and CinemaBlend spoke with star Jon Bernthal, showrunner Steve Lightfoot and executive producer (and Marvel TV boss) Jeph Loeb about where things left off, and what they're hoping for next.
Fans got to reconnect with a more emotionally buoyant Frank Castle in The Punisher Season 2, with the character creating at least one important new connection while putting an irreversible end to a years-old connection. There was peace and acceptance to be found within Frank by the end, which was hopeful for his own sanity, if not the lives of New York City criminals. Whether or not that's the last of this Punisher series on Netflix, Jon Bernthal seems content.
Yeah, I mean my peace with [the conclusion of Frank's story] really has nothing to do with where Season 2 ended. That's just how I feel about it. You know, I only like to worry about things that I have control over, and really put time and energy into that. [laughs] And I have no control over what happens with this iteration of the character. There will be more Frank Castle. I don't know if it will be for me, or if it will be from someone else, but there will be more. He's a character that's existed for decades, and people love him. You know, I'm honored that I got to carry and walk around in that vest for the time that I did.
To be expected from an actor able to bring The Punisher to grunt-filled glory so well, Jon Bernthal is not necessarily someone who looks at plot intricacies as the end-all and be-all of a project's importance. Spending time inside a character's head and making him feel more believable and authentic is key for Bernthal. He was quite invested in showrunner Steven Lightfoot's use of Sebastian Junger's book Tribe to inform the difficulties that Frank and the show's other military vets continually have with adjusting to civilian life.
Through all the blood, sweat, tears and more blood, Frank emerged far more accepting of the realization that being The Punisher is his calling. It's a solid natural conclusion for the character, if it comes to that, even though it shouldn't come to that, for all kinds of reasons. Unfortunately, Jon Bernthal never got to add any of those signature skull jackets to his personal collection.when production wrapped.
No, no, I don't get to keep anything. [laughs] No, nothing.
If nothing else, Netflix needs to renew The Punisher for Season 3 so that the costume department can create a greater number of skull jackets that would allow for spares that Jon Bernthal could take home.
Steve Lightfoot and Jeph Loeb
On the flip side, showrunner Steve Lightfoot and Marvel TV's Jeph Loeb were far less guarded about voicing their desire for The Punisher to keep moving forward. While some fans may have wondered if Lightfoot and others got tipped off about Netflix's plans for Iron Fist, Luke Cage and Daredevil, that wasn't the case here.
Loeb: No, we didn’t know. Those things hadn’t happened when we were done.
Lightfoot: Yeah, we finished shooting the show in August, so just for me personally, talking about making the show, that stuff never even came across my horizon. We made the show where the takeaway was meant to be, ‘I can’t wait for Season 3.’
In the season's final minutes, after Frank and Amy have parted ways, he cased a building where a random bunch of sketchy dudes had gathered under false pretenses. Though Madani offered him a presumably hush-hush job with the CIA, her new employer, Frank was content to stick with what he knows: killing bad guys. After all, government workers were responsible for most of the bad things that happened to him, in one way or another.
Season 2's final shot is one of the most exhilarating moments of the entire series, with Frank lighting up those clueless criminals with a most savage howl. For showrunner Steve Lightfoot, that shot is indicative about what everyone's intentions were as far as The Punisher's next step is concerned, and Jeph Loeb went on to say they'd be more than willing to put out another decade's worth of Frank Castle missions.
Lightfoot: Well look, it leaves him ready to go again. I mean, you know, I sorta love that for the last image. It left us with him [having] no doubt that we will come back for another kind of action-filled Season 3.
Loeb: And on the other side, we do what we do at Marvel Television, which is to make the best show that we possibly can. Then it's ultimately up to the network, every network – but in this particular case, Netflix – whether or not we're going to be able to go on. So there's no atmosphere. There's nothing you can do. It's a decision that gets made when it gets made. And, you know, from our point of view, we're ready and would love to go again, and make ten seasons of The Punisher.
As Jon Bernthal put it, fans likely won't be facing any extended gaps before getting to watch The Punisher in live-action again, even though it may be a new iteration that ignores the Netflix series' dense character development. I, for one, would be highly disappointed to see things play out like that, since these two seasons have done an exquisite job of blending Frank's humanity with a hyper-violent vigilantism that could only come from a comic book, and it won't be easily replicated.
For Marvel's Jeph Loeb, Steve Lightfoot and Jon Bernthal are currently the ideal Punisher team-up, so he's definitely hopeful for Netflix's renewal decision to be in favor of Frank Castle and Dinah Madani and Curtis Hoyle and Amy Bendix and Turk and everyone else. In his words:
What we really care about at Marvel is what Steve and the team have done [with the character]. We know that there are fans out there of the film, and we're good for them, but we really felt like Steve elevated the material, and Jon Bernthal's performance has him as the definitive Frank Castle. We're very proud of that, and would love to have an opportunity to continue telling stories with all of those people.
To say nothing of Thomas Jane and Ray Stevenson's performances in the Punisher's feature films, Jon Bernthal nails every single element that makes Frank special and scary and sympathetic. And Steve Lightfoot knows just how to tell the stories that use Bernthal the best, so he deserves to keep telling them. (And maybe Micro can come back next time.)
Both seasons of The Punisher are currently available on Netflix, so keep watching and keep proving to the company that these Marvel shows are important to us. While waiting to hear more about what'll happen next with Frank Castle, check out everything coming to Netflix's 2019 schedule and the midseason TV schedule.