The Punisher hints at the comic book alter-ego of Billy Russo (Ben Barnes), whose disfigurement at the hands of Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) in the Marvel comics results in his being dubbed “Jigsaw.”
Russo’s famed moniker is never adopted in The Punisher, nor is Russo as horrifically disfigured as his comic book counterpart; instead, Russo is an amnesiac whose brutal battle with former best friend and war buddy Castle left him scarred and in the care of psychotherapist Krista Dumont (Floriana Lima), who evokes the term “jigsaw” as a part of Russo’s therapy.
“Gotta build the jigsaw,” a bedridden Russo tells Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah), who makes almost daily visits to his hospital bed, where she stares down at the man who shot her in the head one year prior.
The former pretty boy’s visage is now completely concealed by a blank face mask, decorated only by crude color markings of Russo’s own making.
“We’ve been using the metaphor that Billy’s injuries turned his memories and identity into a jigsaw puzzle,” explains Dumont. “I’m here to help him solve it.”
Russo is almost never without his mask until he escapes his holding at a hospital, later showing his scarred — but not entirely disfigured — face that bears the scars of his near-fatal confrontation with Castle, who rammed Russo’s face into broken glass in revenge for Russo being involved with the slaughtering of his family.
The unhinged criminal then establishes “Valhalla,” a brotherhood composed of wayward military veterans who operate as masked criminals under Russo’s charge. The actions of a volatile and unpredictable Russo causes an outburst from cohort Bobby (Charles Brice), who calls Russo a “jigsaw-faced bastard” — the last thing he does before he’s promptly shot in the head for stepping out of line.
Russo’s toned down markings include a bullet wound hole in his right cheek and two other prominent facial scars, which further forces Russo to unravel as he once again is confronted by the haunting demon of his nightly terrors: the Punisher.
“It’s interesting, you know, I always make parallels to the Joker character in Batman, where he’s the antagonist that can’t be killed,” Barnes told EW.
“There’s no question that Frank has the desire to kill Billy and that he’s never had trouble killing anybody before, but there’s this combination of having felt so deeply for him and knowing there’s something in Billy that is maybe good at his core. Jon played it in this very interesting way.”
All episodes of The Punisher are now streaming exclusively on Netflix.