First thoughts on Jigsaw pictures

I’ve not long finished watching the Netflix series The Punisher, which sees Jon Bernthal take up the role of Frank Castle, the one man army waging a quest for bloody justice. As a massive fan of the comic book character, particular Garth Ennis’ fantastic work, I kinda enjoyed the show although I was glad that they wrapped up the conspiracy theory angle. I’d quite like it if future seasons stuck more to the basics, Castle’s war against organised crime.

One character who is returning to the season is Frank’s former friend and now enemy, Billy “the Beaut” Russo (Ben Barnes), last scene heavily bandaged in hospital after Frank introduced his face to some cut glass. Earlier this week the first on set images of Barnes appeared and the reaction I’ve seen has been largely negative.

It is true that the TV version is distinctly less horrific than the version of the character who adopts the name Jigsaw due to his patchwork face of scars. But for me this is a good thing. Why? Well, let me explain.

jigsaw
Barnes as Russo/Jigsaw

First of all, while it may have been entertaining to see a horrifically mutilated Jigsaw akin to something from a horror movie, it wouldn’t be fitting with the world the Netflix shows have built, which is far more restrained than the source material. To have Barnes walk around like Leatherface wouldn’t fit with the rest of the look of the show.

My second argument for the reduced scarring is that it could actually work well into the character’s story, motivation and presence in the second series. A fully deformed Russo would be almost sympathetic and his psychopathic tendencies easier to dismiss. But the less scarred version? That’s a lot more interesting.

While the scars are noticeable and the kind of thing you wouldn’t want to have done to you, they’re not actually that bad. But here is where the writers’ can play up Russo’s vanity and warped perception. He can see himself as an utterly hideous freak, describing the wounds in extreme terms or even seeing something different when he looks in the mirror. It can become an obsession for him, a mania that he can’t escape from, regardless of the reassurance of others or the actual physical reality.

Billy was a rich man in season one, and while many of his assets will no doubt have been seized by the authorities, it makes sense that he’d have some stashed away. We could have the story follow that he’s burned through these resources with surgeries to tidy his wounds, but wants more done.

This could lead him to sell his military skills as an enforcer/hitman to organized crime, leading him to cross paths with Frank once more.

Similarly, they could highlight the depths of his obsession by showing his changed circumstances. We saw Billy as a man with expensive tests but he could now be shown a broken man in more than ways than one. Living in a mirror of Frank’s stripped down bases, he has only the essentials and a plethora of skin creams and ointments which he applies with obsessive dedication. Rebuilding his shattered face is his major obsession, rivalled only by his desire for revenge on the man who inflicted it on him.

At least, that’s how I would write it.

So, I don’t see the minimal scarring as a cop out, but rather as a sign that the show is avoiding grotesquery and going for something a little more subtle and psychological.

Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO.

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