The Punisher is a big moment for Marvel and Netflix. It’s the first Netflix Marvel series that’s not directly connected to the Defenders crossover superhero project. Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders exist in an intertwining space; one in which the Punisher has guest starred in, but wasn’t part of the original design. The Punisher is a guest in Marvel and Netflix’s space, and has the potential to be a success in its own right.
Since The Punisher exists as Netflix and Marvel’s stand-alone, non-team series, it doesn’t need to tie in to the overarching plot. That means there probably won’t be any mention of The Hand, assassins, the Defenders or any other magical aspects. And it doesn’t come with the baggage of Netflix’s Defenders, nor does it require watching six seasons of television to fully enjoy.
Actor Jon Bernthal, who plays Punisher, told Entertainment Weekly that the show is different from what Marvel fans may be expecting, saying “we are stripping down every supernatural element.” Just because The Punisher isn’t taking cues from the storyline Marvel has put in place over the past couple of years doesn’t mean it will ignore the character’s origins in the overarching universe.
Not everyone has the time to revisit Daredevil’s entire second season, so we’ve highlighted the most important parts for you ahead of The Punisher’s premiere.
The Punisher makes his debut in the first episode of Daredevil’s second season. Although they don’t identify him by his antihero alias, Frank Castle is introduced as a paramilitary officer hunting down gangs and mafia members across New York. Punisher is hunting down the sole survivor of his attack on the Kitchen Irish mob, a hitman named Grotto, only to run into Daredevil. The blind superhero is doing double duty to protect Grotto from harm, both as Daredevil and as his alter-ego, lawyer Matt Murdock.
Their encounter ends with Daredevil getting shot in the head, but he somehow manages to survive the attack. After Daredevil is found by his best friend and colleague, Foggy, their investigation into who the vigilante is brings them straight to the district attorney’s office. Murdock and Foggy learn that the DA have been watching this mysterious figure, even coming up with a name for him: The Punisher.
Matt returns to his quest of tracking the Punisher down, while Punisher begins honing in on his new target: a group called the Dogs of Hell. Their individual pursuits bring Daredevil and the Punisher back together, resulting in the second round of fighting between the two characters. While fighting, a group of cops are given the order to open fire on Punisher, even though doing so could result in Daredevil being shot. Daredevil goes out of his way to keep Punisher out of the line of fire. The fight ends with both men falling through a skylight, injuring Daredevil to such an extent that he can’t return to fighting form, allowing the Punisher to take him hostage.
It’s the third episode where Matt and Punisher’s relationship gets interesting. Poor Matt is tied up to a chimney on a rooftop, watching as Punisher prepares to launch an attack on the Dogs of Hell. The two have a philosophical conversation about whether it’s necessary to kill. Daredevil doesn’t believe in taking someone’s life; Punisher views it as the only solution.
The debate culminates in one of the series’ best scenes. The Punisher tapes a gun to Daredevil’s hand. The gun contains one bullet and, upon bringing Grotto to the roof where Daredevil is chained, Punisher tells Murdock that he’ll kill Grotto unless the hero makes the decision to take Punisher out instead. Daredevil, always the clever hero, uses the bullet to shoot his chains, freeing him, but he isn’t able to stop Punisher from shooting Grotto and attacking the Dogs of Hell.
It’s not until the fourth episode that we learn Punisher’s name is Frank Castle. The Irish mob is out for his blood, looking for vengeance. This represents the overarching theme for the fourth episode: the hunt for Frank Castle. Karen Page, one of Murdock’s closest confidants, manages to track down where Castle lives and learns about his past, including details about his wife and daughter.
It’s the Irish mob who find Castle first, though. After a shootout that leaves many members of the mob dead, they manage to take him hostage. But Castle doesn’t have to wait long for Daredevil to find him. Castle manages to slip out of his ties thanks to a razor blade he had hidden up his sleeve and, along with Daredevil’s help, takes out the remaining mobsters. The two escape the tunnel where the fight occurred and walk over to a cemetery, just in time for a little bit of bonding.
Their meeting is cut short by the arrival of Sgt. Mahoney, who wants to bring both vigilantes in. Daredevil manages to convince Mahoney that he should only bring in Punisher, to prove that vigilantes can be forces of good.
A little while later, Murdock learns that the DA want to have Castle sentenced to death for his crimes. Using his persuasive powers to get a meeting with Castle in his heavily guarded hospital room, Murdock convinces Castle to take him on as his defense attorney, promising to work out plea deal that will keep him alive. At the last minute, Castle changes his mind, deciding he wants to plead his innocence and go to court.
In court, Foggy manages to win the jury over by convincing them to put themselves in Castle’s shoes, looking at everything he’s been through. It looks like things are going well for Castle, especially after testimony from Castle’s commanding officer in the Marines, but when a kid stands up and shouts that Castle killed his father, things start to go downhill.
In a last ditch attempt to win the case, Foggy, Karen and Matt decide to put Castle on the stand. Turns out, that’s not a good idea. Castle talks about how he would kill everyone again if he had the chance, standing by his actions. With Castle out of court and back in jail, things go from bad to worse. Castle gets into a massive fight in prison, killing anyone who comes after him. After everything is said and done, Castle winds up in solitary confinement. While in prison, Castle gets a visit from Wilson Fisk (aka The Kingpin), the baddie from the first season, who asks Castle to hunt down a notorious criminal known as the Blacksmith when he gets out of prison. Fisk manages to disguise Castle as a guard and sets him free.
With Castle back on the street, he finds Blacksmith’s team, ripping through them after having a heart-to-heart with Karen about love and life. (As one does, naturally.) Daredevil isn’t far away, though, and when he confronts Castle about not killing a man who he assumes to be Blacksmith, Castle pushes Daredevil into the bay.
It’s only when Colonel Blacksmith takes Karen hostage that Castle finally gets to kill the man he’s been hunting. With that mission accomplished, it should seem like the Punisher is ready to move on from a life of crime. After stumbling upon a cache of weapons, however, it’s evident that the Punisher is only just getting started.
The Punisher will be available to stream in full on Nov. 17.