Josh Stewart’s John Pilgrim was a villain worthy of recognition in The Punisher. As the soft-spoken religious hit-man, Pilgrim’s story wove itself throughout the 13 episodes of season two and his character made for a frightening presence in every scene he was in. Each episode added another layer and the end of his journey was unforeseen, but regardless added another layer onto this already developed character. What some may not know is that John Pilgrim was an original part created for the Netflix series, joining Dinah Madani as an original character.
Showrunner Steve Lightfoot though, based Pilgrim on a lesser-known comic book character; The Mennonite from The Punisher MAX in 2010:
“I always really enjoyed that guy who was in the book, a guy who had been involved with the mob, and has sort of found this new life that had made a better man of him,” Lightfoot says. “Then his old contacts came calling and tried to send him to New York to kill Frank Castle. It was very much about a man and the last place he wanted to be was back in New York, but duty called. So, that comic book character was the inspiration from the character, and then I was always a huge fan of, still am a huge fan of, Night of the Hunter, I always loved that Robert Mitchum character in that movie, and I was excited about playing with someone like that as well.”
Lightfoot also continued as he commented on the Christian fundamentalism that was used to describe the character in promotions:
“He was meant to be something more mythic than that for me, and I could see why he has been, you know, people use that label, but what he represented to me, and it’s something you said actually, he was meant to be a mirror of Frank,” says Lightfoot. “I think what both of them are warnings about is, if you believe in anything to the level of fanaticism where anyone who doesn’t agree with you is somehow unworthy, or can be killed, or is somehow less than human, that’s a bad thing, and that doesn’t matter whether you’re Frank, who has a dubious morality, or whether you’re Pilgrim who, because someone has told him, ‘This is what your faith decrees,’ he will go and do that.”
“I think we’re living in a time when it doesn’t matter which side of anything you’re on, we’re certainly in an era where people are very fanatical about it and sort of don’t want to hear the other side, and I think whenever that happens, nothing good can come of it,” the writer continues. “That was the thematic territory we were trying to play in there, and I think, like Frank, the tragedy for Pilgrim is that he finds out that also his faith has been manipulated. In a way, he’s an honorable guy at least, but he has been manipulated and lied to, and he’sarc in many ways mirrors Franks in season one. I feel like the thing with Pilgrim was, there was always this idea we had that they sent Frank after Frank.”
What did you think of Pilgrim and how Stewart portrayed him? Have you finished The Punisher season 2 yet?
A girl with too many fandoms to count.