Heading into the new season of The Punisher, Ben Barnes, who plays Billy Russo in the series, revealed he's not actually the season's main antagonist. For fans of the show, who expected a "Punisher vs. Jigsaw" storyline this season after the way the first season ended, this was a bit of a surprise. Obviously, Russo is in the new season, and he and Castle will eventually have it out. But the central figure the Punisher battles this season is one pulled from the Punisher MAX comics series. Who is John Pilgrim on The Punisher? Warning: Spoilers for The Punisher Season 2 follow.
The character of "John Pilgrim" sounds like a name pulled from a Christian allegory written back in the time of Chaucer, or maybe a character created by John Bunyan. Googling "John Pilgrim Marvel" won't get you anywhere, because this is not a name of a character in the comics. Instead, it's a new character based very loosely on The Mennonite, a Punisher foe from the more recent comics of this decade.
The Mennonite is Amish, a deeply religious man with an ailing wife and a desperate need to make money for her cure. In Punisher MAX #3, he is hired by a gangster, Rigoletto, to take down the Punisher. The Mennonite attempts to do so using only the tools allowed to him within his faith, but in frustration reaches for a gun when he fails. Unfortunately, the weapon is electrified, and the shock kills him.
Pilgrim, as he's referred to by the show's subtitles, isn't someone from the Amish religion. He is a born-again evangelical Christian, living in a small town with his family in the midwest after leaving New York City and his life of gangs and crime behind. Like The Mennonite, his wife, Rebecca, is gravely ill. But Pilgrim has found a treatment, paid for by the seemingly generous Schultzes, who run the town.
In exchange, they ask him to do a bit of work of the sort he was once familiar: extortion, assassination, and torture. When viewers meet Pilgrim, his assignment is to take out a group of kids who were working for Russian gangsters. When one kid, Amy, escapes, his job is to take her down and the Russian mobsters who hired her.
But Frank Castle gets involved, quite by accident, when he sees a group of thugs going after a teenage kid. Castle is so determined to keep Amy safe that he takes her with him back to NYC. Pilgrim's focus then changes once again. Now, his job is to go to New York City and take down Castle and Amy.
But Pilgrim's arrival in New York is anything but easy. Like The Mennonite, he is tempted at every turn. He heads back to his old haunts and connections to get ahold of Castle, leading him to places of drink and debauchery.
Can Pilgrim manage to keep true to himself and his new life? Or, like The Mennonite, will he reach for the temptation to go outside the path God planned for him, only to get burned and die for his sins?