2019 started off splendidly enough for The Punisher, which dropped its action-packed Season 2 on Netflix for users to stream the bullet-whizzing chaos in its entirety. While not overwhelmingly beloved by critics, the season still gave fans a jolt in the end by appearing to set up a future where Frank Castle embraced his anti-hero persona in full. But then the cancellation was announced, and everyone was bummed out...except for star Ben Barnes, apparently.
Within The Punisher, the Chronicles of Narnia vet Ben Barnes starred as Frank Castle's friend-turned-enemy Billy Russo, who took things to purely psychotic levels with his scar-covered Jigsaw alter ego. When the smoke cleared at the end of the season, Billy's ticket had seemingly been punched for good, and for Barnes, that close-out justifies his contentedness with the fact that The Punisher ended. Here's how he explained it:
I was not privy to the information that we wouldn’t be having a third season at that point. But now that I know that we weren’t going to, I’m actually really honored and pleased about that, because it makes my story complete. And I really like telling full stories. The TV shows that just drag on and on for 27 seasons, and you just solve a new thing every week – it’s not my cup of tea.
Can you guys imagine if The Punisher had lasted for 27 seasons on Netflix? I can't imagine that there would be anyone left alive for Frank to destroy. By that point, he'd probably be fighting robot clones and aliens. (Which brings up this Rick and Morty + Punisher fan fiction that I've been working on.)
Had Netflix halted its Marvel TV exodus by renewing The Punisher for Season 3, it's highly likely that the series would have ventured off into a new storyline direction that allowed Billy Russo to stay dead (although I wouldn't put it past anyone to have found a way to explain why he survived Frank's point-blank shooting). And while additional episodes likely wouldn't have taken anything away from fans' enjoyment of Ben Barnes performance as the militant egotist, there's is something enjoyable about The Punisher ending without a plethora of loose ends hanging, which is closer to how Daredevil bowed out with Season 3.
Of course, the show wasn't called Jigsaw or The Billy Russo Variety Hour, so the villain's presence took a back seat to Jon Bernthal's Frank Castle at all times, and Bernthal deserves the right to play the character for the rest of his career. Whether he'd be fighting comic book villains on a streaming service, or trying to present a flawless meal on Top Chef, or making audiences laugh as the host of his own late night talk show, Bernthal's Frank can always make TV better if he's got the chance to do it. And if Giorgia Whigham's Amy was also around, that'd be cool, too.
The Punisher's fully expected cancellation news in February was combined with the reveal that Krysten Ritter's Jessica Jones would also be ending, though that drama's critically meh third season didn't even get released until June. Ritter's post-release interviews made it seem like she was happy to hang up JJ's denim and bourbon glass in order to move on to new roles, though Jon Bernthal has made it clear that he would probably jump right back into Frank Castle's boots if the call came in. But judging from what he told Digital Spy, maybe don't expect Ben Barnes to get involved for another 25 seasons.
With possible appearances on the way in Westworld Season 3, Ben Barnes is currently hard at work on Netflix's upcoming fantasy series Shadow and Bone, based on author Leigh Bardugo's Grisha Trilogy and the Six of Crows Duology. While staying tuned for that, remember that you can still stream both seasons of The Punisher on Netflix right now.