Late in 2017, Marvel and Netflix added a new hero to its streaming universe, the Punisher. While Frank and his allies hunt for justice is fantastic and action packed, it is the fate of Lewis Wilson that presents the most engaging part of the story. Lewis is a soldier who has recently returned from Afghanistan and is participating in group therapy led by Curtis Hoyle, an old friend of Frank’s, for P.T.S.D. His story starts off as a very real world look into what soldiers experience when coming home and trying to go back to their lives. This social commentary points the finger at our own government for failing to help the people who risk their lives defending our freedom. The story evolves to show us a man who is willing to go to extreme measures to show the government that they are the enemy. Wilson’s story becomes a very dark reflection of the road that Frank Castle walks. He too goes to extreme measures to achieve his goal. Lewis suffers because of the things he had to do and the poor reception he received upon coming home. During group therapy he says,
“I just know that I fought for this country and that it’s got no place for me. I don’t know what the rules are anymore. All I know is that we risked our lives and did terrible things and it meant nothing when we got home.”
The stress of trying to go back to his normal life ultimately leads to a very emotional moment in which Lewis almost guns his father down after having a nightmare. The stress leads Lewis down a very self-destructive path. He deduces that his only option is to find a way to return to a battlefield which is where he last felt home. This calls into question another tragedy that returning soldiers have to face. The skills taught to them by the government have very little to offer outside of war zones. Wilson’s attempt to find his battlefield in Anvil, a private military firm whose purpose is providing military and security services, is quickly halted when Curtis convinces the head of Anvil, Billy Russo, that returning to the battlefield is the worst thing for Lewis. Curtis is simply looking out for this young man that he is worried about. However, Lewis sees this as a betrayal. He genuinely tries to make his normal life work again but a series of setbacks and tragedies push him down a dark path. When confronted violently he reacts the only way he knows, by killing a man who encourages his hatred of the system. This terrible act forces Lewis to attempt to take his own life. In that moment Lewis has a profound realization that he needs to use the skills the system taught him to take it down. He uses his skills to arrange a series of bombings on government buildings. It is easy to see why Lewis felt he had no other options left. He makes a statement reading,
“The United States government has become a tyrannical force, using its power to persecute teachers and citizens, trying them in a court like criminals for seeking to defend themselves as the Constitution allows. They want to take away our guns, our freedom, and then we will be unable to defend ourselves. I have acted in defense of our liberty and identity. I have acted for all of us, to do what is right.”
Punisher as a show holds a mirror up to society and asks a very important question. Why have we failed these brave men and women? The show makes a very bold statement about our country. The questions that it poses are worth answering. These people defend the freedom that we all take for granted. We owe them more than we have given them.
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