‘Jus in Bello’: The Punishment of ‘The Punisher’

In Carly Twehous, Featured, Reviews, TV Reviews by

– By Carly Twehous –

Jus in Bello = Right Conduct in War

After completely stealing the show in the otherwise jumbled mess of a plot that was Season 2 of Daredevil, it was practically inevitable that Frank Castle would be deemed worthy of his own Netflix show. He’s an inherently fascinating character, especially when pitted against one Matt Murdock. Together, Matt Murdock and Frank Castle are two, struggling Catholics, each with a tragic past, an undeniably handy skill-set, and, in their minds, a sacred mission.

In what we’ve already seen, both the personas of the Punisher and Daredevil were questions of hero versus the vigilante, of justice versus vengeance. Frank Castle is Batman, if Batman had less of a conscious and used guns. Or, for all you comic book fans out there, Frank Castle is Batman post-Killing Joke. The gloves are off and revenge is no longer a question of will-he-won’t-he.

For the Punisher, vengeance is modus operandi. It ain’t pretty, but you kinda have to know that going in.

The thing that’s so compelling about Frank Castle—at least in the source material—is the audience’s capacity for sympathizing with his methods. The mob bosses he’s pitted against are truly the wretched of the Earth and the comic books do not shy away from the gravity of their crimes. Nor do they sugarcoat Frank Castle’s deliberation or moral arc of coming to the decision that his definition of justice will not be met unless he puts these criminals in the grave.

It’s haunting and uncomfortable and, man, it will keep you up at night, but many people can easily sympathize with the likes of Frank Castle. Agree with him… Not so much. Morally speaking, agreement with this degree of punishment would fall under the jurisdiction of the Just War Theory. Just cause, right intention, and probability of success? Sure. Frank Castle has those in spades. It’s the proper authority and last resort criteria that remain shaky.

Fact is, even within the very broken streets of Hell’s Kitchen, there’s a system of justice in place. Matt Murdock saw to that and Daredevil takes care of the rest. What Frank Castle’s doing—that is, taking crime and punishment into his own hands—is pure and unadulterated anarchy.

Maybe the scariest thing about this character is the degree to which we sympathize and hope in him, that he completes his mission and takes the life of those too dangerous to be on the streets. We’re supposed to feel that, to squirm in our seats and reluctantly root for him, even if, deep down, we know we can never actually agree with the Punisher’s methods. To steal a line from an amazing TV show that, honestly, is a better use of your time than watching this mess, “Demons run, when a good man goes to war.”

(Seriously. Go catch up on Doctor Who and we’ll talk about it in a few weeks.)

Frank Castle, at his best persona, as written on the colorful pages of Marvel comics, exists to make people uncomfortable, to spark conversations about politics and war and philosophy and morality without the natural hindrances of political correctness and overcomplicated emotions.

This Frank Castle honestly put me to sleep. There was no moral deliberation, no question of right or wrong, no justification for the mass murders he commits.

This show took a brilliantly complicated and tormented man and made him into a mass-marketed icon that bikers tattoo on their arms without full knowledge of the true depth of his character.

Ironically, Frank Castle had more dimension on the colorful pages of the comic books from whence he came.

About the Author

Carly Twehous is a screenwriting alumna from JPCatholic (’17) who possesses a slightly inordinate love of both chocolate and comic books. In what little free time she has, she makes use of it by time traveling, ghost busting, and furiously scouring the globe for potential alien activity.

For more TV Reviews by Carly, click here.