Back when Marvel's first foray into Netflix programming Daredevil went online, many talked about how the show's first season opened up the Marvel Cinematic Universe to a whole new range of narrative possibilities with its decidedly mature content, well-balanced characters, and street level perspective. In fact, four days after the initial Daredevil series released, I wrote an article specifically about how Marvel and Netflix's debut collaboration had paved the way for The Punisher to join the MCU, a dream which was confirmed later that year when a second season for Daredevil was greenlit with the decision that Frank Castle would be a major new addition to the show. Then, after debuting in Daredevil's second season to much acclaim, Jon Bernthal's Punisher was finally given his own series announcement, with Hannibal's resident genius Steve Lightfoot taking on the showrunner role.
Anticipation couldn't be higher, as Jon Bernthal's portrayal of Frank Castle was the undeniable highlight of this year's Marvel television releases, with the divisive antihero stealing virtually every scene he was in.
While The Punisher series is still in early stages of development, information has begun to trickle out through audition tapes and rumored release windows. However, today brings some fresh speculation on casting.
TVLine reports that Ben Barnes (Westworld, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) will face off against Jon Bernthal as a series regular and probable villain in the upcoming The Punisher series.
Information regarding what character Barnes will be playing has not been released, but with the casting announcement, rumors have begun to emerge.
According to the same scoop from TVLine, one hefty rumor is pegging Barnes as Bobby Saint, a character NOT derived from the vast comic pantheon, but rather the foolhardy son of a crime lord from the best forgotten and critically maligned 2004 Punisher film. What?
This would honestly be a pretty bizarre choice for the series considering that the character has essentially no history with Frank Castle other than whatever this opening scene was supposed to be:
Perhaps they are dramatically re-imagining Bobby Saint from the ground up as a blank slate to allow for complete creative freedom in The Punisher series. It wouldn't be the first time Marvel has imported pre-existing minor characters into the MCU, with the new version not retaining much more than the original name. This open-minded methodology can be crucial when attempting to write a coherent and focused series, despite the complaints of comic fans who demand to see their childhood icons come to life on screen. However, because Bobby Saint doesn't even come from an actual comic and thus doesn't have the name recognition that even the most obscure comic character would, I think this casting rumor may be a red herring.
Plus it's only fun if we can speculate.
So who else could Ben Barnes actually be playing?
Nicky comes from a similar archetype as Bobby Saint: Born into a Mafia family, coerced by an ambitious aunt into murdering his parents, abused by said aunt until finally snapping, and then scratching and clawing to the top to eventually become Don, etc.
It's a very grim background and thus pretty run-of-the-mill for a Punisher: Max character. However, the cowardly mafioso is prototypical of the world that The Punisher navigates, and meshes nicely with the narrative inclinations of such a story.
Barnes certainly has the look and experience to pull off the half-spoiled, extremely damaged, and thoughtlessly arrogant Cavella (see Dorian Gray), and it seems like he could enjoy inhabiting such a devious role.
Whether or not we will see Nicky Cavella in The Punisher remains to be seen, but you can bet that someone will fulfill this archetype.
Billy Russo / Jigsaw
Yes, considered by many to be one of Frank Castle's greatest and most iconic foes, Jigsaw automatically deserves a place on this list and here's why.
So far, Marvel's Netflix projects have all been a resounding success, with Daredevil, Jessica Jones, and — if early reviews are anything to go by — Luke Cage, all earning supremely high praise for their mature storytelling, bigger character risks, and slick composition. However, another trait binds all of these properties (including the not-so-distant Iron Fist) besides their impending team-up.
All of these shows' first seasons deal with the most iconic villain from each of their canons. Kingpin, The Purple Man, Cornell "Cottonmouth" Stokes, even Davos and Wendell Rand; the formula has been to start off with a major villainous icon, and the formula is working splendidly.
In many ways, Jigsaw is to the Punisher as Kingpin is to Daredevil. He was the primary villain in the also disappointing 2008 Punisher: War Zone, (although we will attribute the failings of that adaptation to the film, not the character itself).
He is a cockroach that always returns, one of the few enemies the Punisher can't seem to put down for good. And for the purposes of a 13-episode Netflix series with possible additional seasons, he is ripe for the choosing.
Barnes could play the self-image obsessed brat-turned-boogeyman that is Jigsaw, and with proper on-screen development, Jigsaw could shine as a perfect symbol of everything Frank despises: complete disregard for innocent life, true sadism, and he calls him "Fwank."
Of course, Ben Barnes could be playing none of these characters, but with a series regular order of at least 10 episodes, my money is on something big.
What Do You Think? Who is Ben Barnes Playing?
Sound off in the comments below!