While the first five shows of Marvel's Netflix MCU series have arrived with solid release dates, their latest entry, The Punisher, has merely been slapped with "Fall 2017" label. Exactly why the hedging, we can't say. Marvel shows are some of Netflix most popular fare, according to what little they've let us know about their numbers. But perhaps the fact that the show is so different from the others is why. As the latest The Punisher Instagram story indicates, this series might represent a huge shift in how superheroes are presented.
We should note that in general, the story of Frank Castle is not in line with the sort of origin story we've come to except from our Marvel superheroes. He is from the same time period as Iron Fist (1974) and he is a vigilante, much like Daredevil. But his war background, including serious PTSD episodes, as well as his brutality and willingness to kill definitely puts him in a class by himself.
We might look at Castle today and see him as in line with the anti-hero wave of characters we've seen this decade, like Walter White, or Don Draper. But in the Marvel-verse, anti-heroes, especially ones with serious psychological issues are usually reserved for the bad guy side of the line.
The Punisher's Instagram account put out this video a couple of days ago, but it was one of those temporary Snapchat-like things when you blink and miss it. Thankfully a Twitter user was quick with the download and saved the video for posterity.
It's an extraordinarily unsettling video, projecting Castle's memories onto a sheet like backdrop as he walks through darkness. Images of his family, now gone. Images of his time in the military, and the horrors he experienced. All set to a creepy horror movie style soundtrack that suggests the torture of these images, even as Castle grimly plows ahead.
While one might assume that say, Luke Cage or Jessica Jones, might have a few terrible memories of their own, the show never laid into that plot point in quite this manner heading into either's first season. Our first four heroes on Netflix, in the end, were good people, despite their flaws. Yes, Jessica Jones was traumatized by Kilgrave. Yes, Luke Cage's wife died (At the hands of Jessica, no less.) But those were not the source of their superhero behavior. They had those abilities before they were traumatized.
Castle, on the other hand, has become the man he is, doling out his own form of justice directly because of his experiences. These traumas are his foundation myth, his origin story. That's going to be an adjustment for the audience who, up until now, has mostly enjoyed the same colorful Marvel world on Netflix small screen as they have on the cineplex's large one.
The Punisher is not a world of color. The palette here is black, dark gray, and dreary -- not that far off from the DC Extended Universe world. Will this "gritty" tone work for a Marvel character? Is Netflix worried it won't?
Or perhaps their plan is a surprise drop of the series in the next few days.
Captioned "Read between the lines," this video doesn't look like it gives away the date. But one eagle-eyed screenshotter caught that the image at one point reads "701." Fan are asking: is that a release date anagram? Is The Punisher coming this weekend?
Maybe not, but The Punisher *is* coming to New York Comic-con this weekend, on 10/7 in fact. Will we learn the release date then? Or will they do a shock and awe drop of the first episode at the panel, and follow it up with the full series arriving at midnight?
We'll have to wait and see what develops. The Punisher is coming to Netflix... hopefully soon.