The Punisher is here, and bringing plenty of guns, grit, and also some great music. As opposed to the brighter, more light-hearted direction that Marvel has been taking on the big screen, its Netflix series have been getting darker and grittier, leading up to its most somber and brooding show yet: The Punisher. And to set the mood for the dark new series, The Punisher has a lush, morose, deeply affecting score that will captivate all viewers, and that's never more apparent than when the song at the end of Episode 3 of The Punisher begins playing.
The third episode, entitled "Kandahar," ends with an invigorating acoustic guitar composition, which riffs a bit on the show's more somber theme song. The livelier take fits perfectly with how the episode ends, as Punisher and Micro have finally decided to join forces to expose and take down Operation Cerberus, the terrorist military cell that ruined both of their lives. Micro reveals to Frank Castle that Operation Cerberus was never acknowledged by the United States government, as his commender Rawlins had previously claimed when drafting him into the organization. Now armed with the truth that all of the illegal torturing and killing he did in Afghanistan was not government sanctioned, Castle wants vengeance on Rawlins and everyone else involved in Operation Cerberus more than ever. For his part, Micro learning the truth about Operation Cerberus and sharing that information with Homeland Security led to a murder attempt against him, forcing him to play dead and separate himself from his family. He's also trying to take the organization down so that he can stop pretending to be dead and hopefully reunite with his family. When the two men finally realize that they have the same enemy, they agree to team up — cue the thrilling, start-of-an-adventure music.
The song continues The Punisher score's theme of acoustic guitars, which is also an important part of Frank Castle's character. Throughout the new series, we see how important Castle's guitar is to him, primarily in his old life before his time as a Marine sniper. In a number of flashbacks, we see Castle playing his guitar with his two children, and his wife buying him tickets to a Bruce Springfield concert. Since the death of his family in the present-day storyline of the show, Castle seems to play his guitar much less, although he does take the time to help Micro tune the guitar in his hideout. The acoustic guitar is also the main part of the show's theme song, which is a melancholic, country-tinged ballad that plays over images of gun parts coming together to form the Punisher logo of a elongated skull.
The man behind the score is Tyler Bates, a composer who has scored a long line of superhero and big action movies, including Guardians of the Galaxy, Watchmen, and John Wick. The other two projects Bates has scored this year have been the two hardest-hitting action flicks of 2017: John Wick: Chapter 2 and Atomic Blonde.
But the Punisher score is notably different from the more fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping music in those movies. In fact, the recent movie that the music seems most inspired by is another Marvel property, but not one within the official Marvel Cinematic Universe. It seems to me that Marvel may be trying to replicate the success of this year's Logan with The Punisher. The similarities are stark in the subject matter (a lone wolf hero tortured by a traumatic past breaking off from the team for his own more grounded and gritty adventure), but its the music choices that really drive it home. Logan separated itself from the X-Men universe immediately upon the release of its first trailer, when Johnny Cash's "Hurt" played over the action. The Punisher's music is also notably acoustic-laden, folk/country-inspired, and slower than we hear in most of the superhero genre.