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Ever since the release of Netflix’s glorious second season of its superhero drama Daredevil on March 18, most of the series’ positive critical praise has been heaped on Jon Bernthal’s stirring turn as the Punisher, a calculating psychopath who’s waging war on organized crime in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. While the Punisher isn’t new to the screen, Bernthal’s performance marks the first time in recent memory when the comic fan favorite has been done really, really well. Even comic nerds have to look really close to find a flaw in the characterization of Marvel’s most notorious good guy (and that’s really saying something). How did Netflix manage such a feat? Let’s find out.

1. Where the Others Went Wrong

When you’re approaching the story of the Punisher, it’s really easy to get things very, very wrong. In spite of the character’s undeniable action hero appeal, film studios have repeatedly seen misfires when it comes to adapting Frank Castle for the screen. Three times before, Frank Castle’s vendetta has been rendered in film, and three times before seriously flawed films have ended up on screen. In 1989, Dolph Lundgren’s turn was hampered by terrible direction and an awful script. Script issues plagued Thomas Jane’s cult-classic interpretation of the character in 2004, as well (though Jane is largely considered by fans to be the best Castle … until now.) Finally, 2008’s War Zone was such a tragedy of filmmaking that it seemed the Punisher could never be respectfully captured on film. Then, Bernthal strapped on the skull and all was right with the world.

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2. They Finally Got His Origin Right

In 1989 and 2004, both versions of Frank Castle played ex-cops who were targeted by a vengeful mob boss. That is patently wrong. In the comics, Frank Castle is an ex-soldier who did a lot of nasty stuff in the war. When he returns home, he’s dead set on making a new, peaceful life with his family. Then, one day while picnicking in the park, his entire family is gunned down when they’re caught in the crossfire between two rival mob families. On the surface, that might seem pretty on par with the narrative set up by the films, however, there’s one huge difference. In the films, Frank Castle paints a target on his own back, necessitating the need for a little justice. In the comics, however, it’s a cruel twist of fate that puts the Punisher low, a key facet of his origin that — to date — has been overlooked. Why is it so important you ask? Read on …

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