At midnight tonight Netflix will released all 13-episodes of the new series Marvel's The Punisher… but unless you are following The Punisher specific account on Twitter, you may have forgotten. The series spins off from the characters debut from the second season of Marvel's Daredevil and stars Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle, Ebon Moss-Bachrach as David 'Micro' Lieberman, Ben Barnes as Billy Russo, and Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page. The series picks up with Frank getting caught up in a military conspiracy that ties to the people that cause his family's murder.
The original plan was to have the series debut the weekend of the New York Comic Con after a big panel at the show. But the convention was just after the horrific shooting in Las Vegas on October 1st. Marvel and Netflix scrambled, pulled the panel and the debut, moving back to November. Since then we've had the church shooting in Texas and the school shooting just yesterday in northern California. The talk of gun violence and the need for stricter gun laws versus second amendment rights has been all over the news and social media.
What hasn't been all over the place is advertisements for the show. You haven't seen Bernthal on the late night talk show circuit or popping up in behind-the-scenes videos. Every other Marvel / Netflix series got a boat load of advertising right up to the debut. But it's been very quiet for the Punisher. The last Punisher related video on the Netflix Youtube page was from over a month ago. The Marvel Youtube page has been almost as quiet with only one mention in the last three weeks which is when the November 17th released date was announced. Only the specific Punisher twitter account is doing any kind of advertising and that is basically feeding towards people who are already interested in the series.
There was a Punisher "red carpet" event, yet there are no video interviews from it on the Marvel site. I've seen no video game tie-ins on Marvel's Contest of Champions… it's still Thor: Ragnarok. And this is all in stark contrast to the promotions that were happening prior to October 1st as all of the titles of the episodes were released in Morse code. There was a trailer release matched perfectly to the Metallica song One. From the excitement that trailer created to now seems like a lifetime.
It may be that Marvel and Netflix have conceded that it's very difficult to promote the series sensitively in the context of current events.
If that's the case, it's understandable. But Bernthal was well received in the role when he debuted in Daredevil, and is very capable of conveying the tragedy and humanity of the character with nuance. Netflix has also given us some of the best-written and produced Marvel TV material to date, which gives one hope that the character hasn't been reduced to a one-dimensional archetype here. Watching the reaction to the show's debut on November 17 will tell us a lot about the future of this character.