Back in May 2018, set videos revealed that the Punisher’s nemesis Jigsaw, previously known as Billy Russo was alive and (sort of?) well. The video depicted Jigsaw shooting off a machine gun in classic Punisher style and screaming for Frank. He sports a buzz cut and a face traced with scars after what had to have been extensive surgery. However, if you remember, Billy Russo ended season one with his entire head wrapped in bloody gauze.

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Maybe you shouldn’t have been the absolute worst, Billy! Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

In the comics, Jigsaw’s known for the patchwork quality of his face. After a run-in with Frank Castle, Billy Russo’s injuries still have exposed stitches holding together the damaged skin, thus giving him the moniker Jigsaw. However, the set footage reveals that the villain’s facial disfigurement is much more realistic, carefully treading the line between garishly cartoonish and lifelike.

Marvel’s THE PUNISHER: Cringing for Punishment

A Quick Recap

The explosive finale of season one of THE PUNISHER ended on a surprisingly introspective note. Frank Castle, successful in his revenge quest, attends a group session for veterans dealing with PTSD. For the first time, Frank confronts what his life might look like now that he has no one to bring to justice.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Marvel TV show if a new villain didn’t pop up for season two. Billy Russo, one of Frank’s closest friends and fellow team member overseas, revealed his sinister intentions over the course of season one. As Frank got closer to uncovering the truth about the massacre of his family, Billy did everything in his power to prevent it.

By the finale, Billy Russo gloats about his involvement in the deaths of the Castle family. In return, Frank beats him unconscious, grinding Billy’s face into the shattered mirror of the same carousel where he watched his son and daughter die.  

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Yikes! He’s got crazy eyes. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

In the hospital after the fact, the doctor speculates that due to severe head trauma, Billy Russo may wake up with serious memory loss. If he ever wakes up. From the look of the set video, it seems like Billy remembers a whole lot.

Billy Russo: Backstabber Extraordinaire

For fans of the show more familiar with the comics, Billy Russo’s betrayal was obvious. Jigsaw is one of the Punisher’s more famous villains, an especially impressive feat when you consider that the Punisher doesn’t really leave his adversaries alive.

Jigsaw made his first full appearance in THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #162 in 1976. Prior to his first encounter with the Punisher, Russo was nicknamed “the Beaut,” a testament to his good looks. Russo, orphaned at a young age, later became a hit-man for the Italian mob.

When the Punisher’s family is killed in a gang confrontation gone wrong, Billy Russo is hired by mob boss Frank Costa to kill everyone associated with the Castles. Russo is successful in his mission except for one victim — the Punisher.

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Talk about a dramatic entrance. Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

Hours after Billy Russo attempts to murder Frank Castle via a bomb placed in his apartment, the Punisher massacres every single one of Billy Russo’s associates. However, he leaves Billy Russo alive, tossing him through a glass window as a message to the underground crime world. When he recovers, Billy Russo adopts the name Jigsaw in order to seek revenge against the Punisher.

Will Jigsaw Be The Primary Antagonist For Season Two?

Before the set videos were released, it had been heavily speculated that THE PUNISHER season two would draw from two iconic stories: THE SLAVERS and SUICIDE RUN. However, based on casting decisions, it appeared likely that season two would focus on Frank Castle continuing as the Punisher, taking on evil outside of the tragedy that took his family.

Solving the MCU’s Villain Problem

Billy Russo’s obvious role as a Jigsaw aiming to destroy the Punisher complicates things a bit. THE SLAVERS story finds the Punisher working to destroy a slave ring. SUICIDE RUN follows an injured Frank Castle hiding out in a small town to lick his wounds. In his absence, a copycat vigilante stirs up trouble in the Punisher’s name. Depending on which story becomes the primary inspiration for the season, it’s possible that Billy Russo’s re-emergence causes Frank’s injury and temporary retirement.

Jigsaw’s Disfigurement

It’s a common trope in pretty much any media that has ever existed for the villain to have a physical disfigurement or a disability. Darth Vader breathes heavily because his suit acts as a respirator — in addition to hiding his scarred body and providing prosthetic limbs. After dipping into dark magic, Tom Riddle’s obsession with evading death results in a pallid, noseless form. Slashers in horror films all wear masks to hide a physical form meant for audiences to find terrifying and unsightly. The Joker’s vibrant makeup hides the scars pulling his mouth into a perpetual smile.

Most recently, box-office hit WONDER WOMAN featured Dr. Poison, a woman who wears a mask across half her face to hide facial disfigurement caused by a botched experiment. Although, when Ares unmasks her, he uses her disfigurement as a reason for why Diana should abandon humanity altogether. The association is pretty clear: disfigurement and disability are a way to signify evil.

How THE PUNISHER Explores Trauma

As Jigsaw, Billy Russo’s facial disfigurement works as a clear indication that he’s been completely taken over by evil. Viewers are intended to see Jigsaw and understand immediately that he’s a villain. This is a pretty harmful assumption to indulge in. As we all know, disability and disfigurement in the real world are much more arbitrary than media would like to portray.

The Evolving Depiction of Jigsaw

Ben Barnes’ portrayal of Jigsaw is not the first time the character has been seen on screen. In 2008, Dominic West portrayed the villain in the film PUNISHER: WAR ZONE. Jigsaw’s origin remained largely faithful to the comics. The Punisher follows an escaping Billy Russo, where he tosses him into a glass crusher rather than a window. In this adaptation, Jigsaw’s facial disfigurement much more closely resembles his comic book counterpart.

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Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment.

So far, the Netflix version of Jigsaw appears to lean less into the cartoonish gore. It’s a good decision on Netflix’s part. Of the many shows rolling around in the television universe, Daredevil is the only hero who wears a costume. Iron Fist is the only one who requires any kind of special effects for his powers. So, THE PUNISHER itself has remained a fairly down-to-earth show in season one. But, embracing a villain that looks more like a harsh caricature of disfigurement would be detrimental to the show.

MARVEL’S THE PUNISHER: A ComicsVerse Review

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