I hate to spring another portmanteau word on you so soon after the atrocity that was “Hypocrasisyphus”, but I have been seriously putting things together that do not belong together. For example, I have been binge-watching two Netflix series; Stranger Things 2 and The Punisher. Stranger Things 2 is the sequel to the Duffer Brothers’ hit last year, Stranger Things, and The Punisher is the return of a surprise breakout role for Jon Bernthal as the violent vigilante anti-hero, Punisher, from Daredevil, Season 2.
I love the 80’s monster movie thing that is called Stranger Things mostly because of the kids. I mean, the most important protagonists in the story are the gang of Dragon’s Lair-playing kids that are so like the gang of kids I taught and played games with in the 80’s. They have the same cohesion and feel as the kids gangs in Steven Spielberg movies like the Goonies and E.T. They are the real heroes of the story who actually do the most to defeat the monsters they face from a looming evil dimension on the verge of taking over our world after taking over the body and soul of my relative, Will Byers, one of the gang.
I won’t spend much more effort describing that one, since I wrote about Stranger Things 2 in a previous post. Instead, I want to connect it to my most recent binge, The Punisher. As I said before, these two series have absolutely no relationship to each other beyond one nutty retired school teacher bingeing on and loving them both.
The Punisher is about war, violence, the trauma that those things create, and putting the shattered pieces of lives, families, and psyches back together again in a way that resembles making scrambled eggs from Humpty Dumpty.
The main character, Frank Castle, has been a special forces soldier with a talent for violence and a reasonable code of honor developed to combat unreasonable malevolence.
He has come home from war after having been a part of a covert, CIA assassination squad that has done terrible things, in fact, things more terrible than even the soldiers themselves realize.
The result being, somewhere along the way, a toxic secret has gotten out. Castle’s wife and two children are targeted and killed while Castle himself survives. He seeks to put himself back together like the King’s men attempt to do with Humpty Dumpty, through revenge, and killing the people who killed his family, and the people who were part of the plot behind it. Through two series he murders, assassinates, and otherwise exterminates bad guys, drug dealers, rogue agents, and others who have betrayed him in multiple ways.
But as mind-numbing and stomach-turning as the violence is, the story is about family. The family that Castle lost. And the family of the Edward Snowden-like character, Micro, who are still alive, but only because the NSA spook Micro is thought to be dead when he actually is alive and working against the same villains who killed Castle’s family.
And there are just enough scenes with family and guitar-playing moments of insight to convince us that Castle would’ve been a pretty great dad, if only he had been given the chance, thus amplifying the tragedy a hundred fold. Aha! There’s the unlikely link. The two things are both about the struggle to raise kids in a dark and dangerous world. I knew if I just twisted the puzzle pieces hard enough, I could make them fit together.