Death is a funny thing. Or maybe it’s not. I guess it really depends on the circumstances. It could be hilarious, like Weekend at Bernie’s or it could be tragic, like some kid left in a hot car too long. Either way, I want to see more of it. Specifically, I want to see more of it on network television, but cable and premium channels can take notes too. Why do I want more death? Because sometimes a character or story calls for it.
We like shows about ultimate badasses. USA’s Burn Notice is very popular and used to be amazing – now it’s just pretty good – and it’s about an ultimate badass. A superspy who used to be heartless and presumably handed out death like candy. He’s teamed up with an ex-Navy SEAL, world renowned for their killing progress, and his terrorist IRA girlfriend who has definitely blown people up. When you take three of the most dangerous people on Earth and set them against really bad men, you’d expect a lot of blood, right? Wrong. Michael Westen has killed maybe one person in five years. Not very badass.
So come on, let’s kill more people.
Fox and Marvel are teaming up to (vomit) reimagine The Punisher as a cop who only moonlights as a vigilante. One is probably safe to assume that in his world, punishment is a harsh beating and 4-6 years for attempted robbery. That is not who Frank Castle is or what Frank Castle does. Frank Castle shoots crime point blank in the face with a shotgun, then uses bone shards to blind mafia henchmen. I’m sure you could make a decent Punisher show on network TV, you just have to stay true to the character and let him kill people.
Why do shows refuse to kill people? Take a look at Terra Nova, where the settles are pretty constantly attacked or harassed by ‘The Sixers.’ Despite this constant tension and despite the fact that the residents of Terra Nova have approximately 10 times as many bodies and presumably a lot more resources, vehicles, and weaponry and despite being led by the ultimate hard ass soldiers, they don’t do shit about it. If you’re stuck sixty million years in the past, surrounded by dinosaurs, and dependent on what supplies you can make, when some asshole tries to steal your medical supplies and endanger your people, you don’t let him go with a warning or trade him. You shoot him on the spot.
There are dozens of shows on television right now that feature what we’re told very dangerous people with very dangerous skills in very life threatening situations. Whether it’s Leverage or Burn Notice, Prime Suspect, Castle, Criminal Minds, CSI, Bones or The Mentalist, characters with a lot of responsibility are put in situations all the time where the correct answer is to pull the trigger and kill someone.
So why isn’t anyone dying? Despite this list of people not killing others, death is always on TV. More than half of those shows start with a death – someone murdered, generally, and then our heroes go off in search of a culprit. With something like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit we see some heinous stuff – like guys getting their dicks chopped off, children raped, or old people set on fire. Granted, we don’t often see this in any detail, but if this gruesome level of violence can be depicted to any degree, why can’t a good guy shoot a bad guy who deserves it? Is there some construct in people’s heads saying “good guys don’t kill?” Because that’s bullshit. Good people can kill. Especially when the bad guy is threatening someone actively. You don’t have to talk them down – plus, this is television, not real life, so why can’t see some fatal ass whooping?
One show which is helping to push the boundary is Person of Interest. Jim Caviezel’s character has killed a few people, but he’s definitely not afraid to walk into a room full of degenerate criminals and shoot them in the femurs. In a way, is that worse than killing someone? Brutally handicapping them and taking away their mobility for the rest of their lives? Hell, some of these guys are dying off screen most likely. So that’s awesome. I dig this guy shooting bad dudes.
Death is a part of life and it’s also a part of entertainment. If you want to sell me a show based on the ultimate bad mother fucker who punishes bad mother fuckers, odds are this guy is going to end some lives – and that’s good. That’s great. That’s what he’s supposed to do. It’s in character for The Punisher, with ice in his veins, to put a gun to a rapist’s head and blow his brains out. Some of the shows I mentioned are mostly comedy (Castle), but they put their characters in real mortal danger where the answer is – shoot them. Sometimes they do, so that’s good, but really, if you want to see me a badass, show me a badass. I don’t want to hear about how cool and dangerous he was, I want to witness how badass he is. Every time I see a mother fucking hardcore ass-busting killer on TV leave someone for the cops, I go past my boiling point.