The Punisher and Bushmaster: From Villains to Anti-Heroes

If you’ve read any of my previous articles, it is probably a known fact that I am a Frank Castle fan. Originally making his appearance on Daredevil season 2, Jon Bernthal blew everyone away with his performance to the point that the Jeph Loeb ordered a spin-off series soon after the premiere of Daredevil’s second season. When we first meet the Punisher, he was a terrifying contrast to Daredevil and someone who could easily take down the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen. Throughout the season, we began sympathizing more for Castle, realizing his killing spree wasn’t random, and that he did have a moral code that it seemed eventually Karen Page and even Matt Murdock could get behind.

When Luke Cage season 2 premiered on June 22nd of this year, I started to notice a lot of similarities between my favorite anti-hero and a new character introduced in Luke Cage’s second season. Bushmaster, played by Mustafa Shakir; was portrayed in the promotional trailers as someone who could finally best Luke. Seemingly bulletproof himself, he knocked our hero around with ease, something that even Jessica Jones and the Iron Fist couldn’t do. Just like with the Punisher, we are given more of John McIver’s story and why he ended up on his bloody warpath in Harlem. As each episode went on, I saw more of Frank Castle in Bushmaster and really wanted to assess why the two aren’t so different.

Big Shows

I may be embellishing a little flare of dramatics when saying that both Frank and John enjoy a good show. Within the first episode, Frank has shot up an entire bar full of Irish mobsters and hung Cartel members from meathooks. Who can forget him storming into a hospital and shooting up the place just to draw Grotto out? This is similar to the way Bushmaster started decapitating all those who were involved in Mariah Dillard’s (STOKES) criminal enterprise, then placing all the heads on stakes so that when Mariah led reporters into her community center, it was all on live TV. Both men love making a big scene, because they know it’ll get the attention they want and draw out the bad guys they’re after.

Tragic Backgrounds

In Daredevil season 2 and The Punisher season 1, Frank’s motives are revealed to be entirely centered around the tragic deaths of his wife and two children. This event is what fueled the Marine to originally start his mission to kill every person involved, which consequently, is a lot. Just like Frank is looking to right the wrongs bestowed upon him, John’s entire mission is based around taking Mariah down as the last living Stokes. We found out as the series goes on and with flashbacks that Mama Mabel is responsible for the vicious murder of McIver’s mother. In fact, almost everything that made Mama Mabel successful was taken from the Bushmaster family. After what Mariah does to John’s uncle and his restaurant patrons, we want nothing more than for Mariah to meet her fate. Though we may not always agree with the methods, we can all see what fueld both of these men to seek revenge in such a bloody manner.

A Woman on the Inside

When Karen Page meets Frank, she is working for Nelson & Murdock. Although she feared for her life when Frank shot up the hospital, it’s Karen who first starts exploring Castle’s background to understand what about him is being hidden by the DA. Karen and Frank form a bond that beckons everyone, myself included; to wonder when the two are going to be an item. Karen begins understanding Castle’s plight and at some point, even begins begrudgingly accepting Frank’s actions. Frank saves Karen multiple times and it’s clear he has more of her best interests in mind than Matt (shots fired, I know).

Similar, we have Tilda Johnson, Mariah’s estranged daughter. John and her first meet when he enters her holistic medicine shop in search for some supplies. It’s clear that Tilda can sense a powerful aura from him and even within their first scene, she’s a little spooked. Although at some point Bushmaster takes Tilda hostage, he eventually lets her go and from then, we have this relationship established where Tilda is the only person John can turn to for his medicine. John trusts Tilda and as Tilda learns more about her mother, she is clearly not on Mariah’s side. The two have so much chemistry that I wonder if it’ll be explored further eventually, even though it seems the show is gearing to make Tilda the villain Nightshade.

We Route For Them More Than the Title Character

There is some point during both second seasons of Luke Cage and Daredevil where your interest in the main characters starts shifting towards the “villains”. Yes, both Frank Castle and John McIver have killed a lot of people and most likely are not going to stop, but they know who they are. They have a code, a moral consciousness, and don’t question themselves. They stick to a pattern. Matt and Luke start questioning themselves. Their foundations of who they are begin to rock and their actions start becoming questionable. In the end, you begin not liking who they’ve become. Luke has now started negotiating with the crime lords of the city and Matt pushed away all of his friends. Neither Frank nor John want to be the bad guys, they just know they have the stones that it takes to do the right thing.

Bonus

The fact that these two scenes below were essentially shot for shot the same.

http://ltfrankcastle.tumblr.com/post/175454528912/suggested-by-softly-kastle