Netflix Gives The Punisher A Release Date, Let’s Hope It Sticks
After having to drop back once, Netflix gives The Punisher a hard release date of November 17th.
The Punisher was always a dicey proposition for a Marvel series. The MCU television shows on Netflix so far have been darker and harder than what we find on ABC or the moviehouses, certainly. Daredevil‘s Hell Kitchen was far meaner and Matt Murdock’s vigilante heroism far murkier than some of the Good versus Bad guys of the Avengers. Jessica Jones is a drunken private eye with PTSD. Luke Cage sported so many gunfights, it became a running joke about Cage going home to change his shirt.
But for all that, none of them are as hard or as, well, American, as The Punisher. Frank Castle is a man who spent years as a marine. He worships at the feet of Big Gun. His vigilante heroism goes down a far more questionable path than Murdock’s, and at times made Daredevil’s handiwork look like G-rated Disney fare. It was one thing to have this character as a supporting role to Matt Murdock, allowing Castle’s murky anti-hero behavior to compare and contrast to make our hero look better than he might be. It’s quite another to make him the star of his own production.
It speaks volumes that after the horror of the Las Vegas shooting, Netflix was so jittery that it pulled The Punisher panel from NYCC. At the time, the release date was expected to be announced there, with talk of showing the first episode to the crowd. Pulling it suggested the first episode was so gun-heavy, and perhaps mass shooting filled, that the optics of just talking about it to a room full of fans and maybe showing 45 minutes or so of footage after the events of Las Vegas would be “in bad taste.” That gives us a pretty good idea of where this series is headed.
But here’s the thing: if you’re going to make a show where guns and mass shooting are basically glorified, and then pull out of an opportunity to even talk about it at the sign of first mass shooting in America, your show is never going to come out.
Yesterday, Netflix’s House of Cards production in Baltimore went into lockdown because of a mass shooting right next door. Did you even hear about it? You might have since the lockdown included a famous TV show. Otherwise, it was just another day in our culture’s lack of sensible gun control laws.
Has there been a shooting today? Don’t know, Trump clogged the Twitter feed with pee tape speculation again. But probably. It is, after all, early in the day on the East Coast still. There have already been 15 mass shootings, just this month in our country. There were 27 in September, out of a 30 day month.
With a now-hard release date announced, chances are Netflix will go ahead with releasing the series, betting on the chance that nothing quite so large or TV news dominating will happen by the middle of next month. But it’s a roll of the dice because there’s no telling when the next shooting insanity will happen since they’re happening all the time.
— Kelly Lawler (@klawls) October 19, 2017
Meanwhile, more than one person on Twitter noticed that November 17th, 2017 is technically a release date that’s already “taken” by a major tentpole topline production. It’s the same day Justice League arrives in theaters. Now, one might argue that this is comparing apples and oranges, movie releases and TV releases don’t really step on each other. But watching visual mediums is a zero-sum proposition. That is, time spent watching one thing equals time spent not watching anything else. (Those billion hours YouTube logged last year equaled a billion hours people weren’t watching terrestrial TV, for example.) That also means time spent going out to see if Joss Whedon managed to finally solve the DCEU’s house code problems is time not spent watching The Punisher.
Moreover, time that critics spend that weekend obsessing over Justice’s League‘ is time spent not talking about The Punisher. All those articles blasting Batfleck reviews, box office numbers, and Monday morning quarterbacking both Justice League versus Wonder Woman, as well as how the DCEU’s offering fared in comparison to the MCU’s Thor (which arrives all of two weeks earlier) eats up all the oxygen, leaving no air for anything else. The Punisher‘s release can be conveniently swept under the rug if the reviews are Iron Fist level shabby, and the think pieces about glorifying guns are uncomfortable, especially if the content is deemed questionable at best in this day and age.
I’m not saying that Netflix has come to bury The Punisher, not to praise him. But if I were picking a date to open extremely soft with good excuses already in place, the only better date they could have gone with would be December 15th, when Star Wars: The Last Jedi arrives.