I’m probably not the best person to be writing about Daredevil’s long and complicated history with the Punisher. It’s not that I don’t find it interesting – and I’m actually very enthusiastic about seeing Jon Bernthal tackling the role in the upcoming season of Daredevil – it’s just that there are other fans out there who are more interested in it, and definitely more knowledgeable about Frank Castle as a character. For a great list of some Daredevil/Punisher crossovers, look no further than this June 2015 IGN article on that very subject.
However, with the release of a certain official photo of Matt and Frank on a rooftop, everyone who is even vaguely familiar with a certain story from Punisher #3, vol 4 (2000-2001), by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon, have been pointing out the obvious similarities. When this scene was mentioned in the comments of my last post, I decided to pay it a little visit for myself.
So, the brief backstory to the infamous scene where Matt finds himself with a gun in his hand and an impossible choice to make, is that Nelson & Murdock are defending Dino Gnucci, brother of the matriarch of the Gnucci crime family who stands accused of multiple homicides. While Dino is basically the kind of hardened criminal no one would want on the streets, he was actually framed for the particular crime he is being accused of – this time – by rival crime families and the District Attorney’s office. So, Frank wants him gone, and Matt wants him found innocent of the crime he didn’t commit, whether he’s a scum bag or not. You can see why these guys don’t see eye to eye on this matter – figuratively speaking. That’s when Frank decides to set at trap for Daredevil (click to zoom in):
After Daredevil arrives on the scene, the two fight. At first, things seem to be going well for Matt, but that’s all part of the plan. Frank narrates the action:
“I’m letting him have the first round because he’s in for a bad night. He’s not the enemy. He doesn’t deserve to be destroyed. Giving him the round is easy. I haven’t got a change against him. Never do. He’s not the enemy but I’m sick of his self-righteous garbage and he deserves a wake-up call… I rigged the ultrasonic an hour ago. Works like silent whistles do on dogs. Every pooch in the neighborhood starts howling. Even with the earplugs I feel like puking my guts up. What it does to those senses of his — I can’t being to imagine. So I make it as quick as I can.”
When Matt comes to, he makes a shocking discovery:
Always the lawyer, Matt starts pleading with Frank (see below), and this is where the differences between the two are clear. In a parallel to classical rhetoric, we have Matt’s ethos set against Frank’s pathos. To quote Jon Bernthal from yesterday’s TCA panel: “Punisher’s superpower is his rage. That he’s not going to quit. That he’s going to keep going no matter what.”
Daredevil: You have to be out of your mind! I’m not going to kill you!
Punisher: Then Dino Gnucci’s a dead man.
Daredevil: No! Nobody has to die! You don’t have to do this! Dino Gnucci deserves to be taken off the streets, but legitimately! For something he’s actually done! And it has to be that way or else everything, these laws we have, the society we’ve built is all completely worthless! For crying out loud, man, don’t you see that? Don’t you see?
Punisher: The thought of Dino Gnucci living one more minute is enough to drive me insane. Don’t you see?
Daredevil: Oh my God.
Punisher: That’s the spirit.
So, how does it all end? Well, Daredevil actually pulls the trigger. Of course, even that part of this elaborate set-up is a trap. Frank gets to go on “punishing” with his head intact, probably satisfied in the knowledge that Matt will be tormenting himself for weeks. Since this story takes place in a Punisher book, we never actually find out how Matt deals with the aftermath.
So, how much of this can we expect to see in season two of Daredevil? I personally think that the similarities will be superficial. Frank may very well have Matt witness him commit a crime, but there might not be a choice to be made, as Matt’s options appear even more limited than in the comic.
More importantly, the scene from the comic builds on the fact that Matt and Frank are well-acquainted with each other in every way. In fact, Frank’s annoyance with Matt stems mostly from the fact that he’s so very predictable in these matters. Likewise, Matt’s choice is informed by his knowing exactly what kind of man Frank is. In the Netflix show, Frank will be the newcomer. He may know a thing or two about Daredevil, who has obviously been patrolling the streets for some time, but considering Matt’s relative lack of restraint in season one, it seems unlikely that he’s built a reputation of moral superiority. Then again, this scene may actually be set fairly late in the season where the two have had some time to cultivate their mutual animosity. And maybe that’s the amount of time Matt will need to realize, definitively, that he is not the Punisher. What do you guys think?