While some of the Marvel heroes brought to life on Netflix have launched within their own series, that’s not always the approach. Luke Cage, for example, had a considerable run on Jessica Jones before his own series arrived a year later. By doing so, some elements of his backstory and personality were already established when his own show began, and Luke and Jessica’s relationship in this year’s The Defenders had the benefit of some history behind it.
In the case of The Punisher, which arrives on Netflix this week, audiences will likely need to know at least the basics of Frank Castle’s past in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While not much of Luke Cage was reliant on Jessica Jones, season 2 of Daredevil offered quite a bit of backstory and origin for Castle. What’s more, it also established his relationship with Karen Page, who will be along for the ride in The Punisher.
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The new series will naturally reiterate how Frank Castle went from a family man and military vet to a murderous vigilante, but knowing what the character went through in Daredevil will help to flesh out his arc in The Punisher.
One Bad Day
Including Frank Castle in season 2 of Daredevil was actually a cleverway to introduce the character. While fans were worried it meant the Punisher wouldn’t be able to lead his own series, he effectively co-starred alongside the Devil of Hell’s Kitchen in a story that explored the two vigilantes' motives and morals. It also allowed Marvel and Netflix to test a new version of the character after three successive Punisher movies failed to make much of an impact at the box office. Luckily, Jon Bernthal’s performance floored critics and audiences alike and the announcement of The Punisher swiftly followed Daredevil season 2’s release.
While Daredevil season 1 was characterized by violence and brutality unlike anything seen in the Marvel movies, season 2 upped the ante in a big way thanks to the introduction of the Punisher. Before we even see Castle’s face, we witness his wrath as he mows down a meeting of mobsters and lays out his M.O. For fans of the comics, the Punisher laying waste to gangs is nothing new, but Daredevil put a slight twist on things as it brought the character into the MCU.
A former Marine who served in Iraq, Castle returned home and was given one day with his wife and daughter. The day after his return, he took them to Central Park for a picnic where they were caught in the middle of a shoot-out between the Kitchen Irish, the Dogs of Hell, and the Mexican Cartel. One by one, the brutal new version of Castle stages bloody raids on these gangs, eventually bringing Daredevil down on him. Matt Murdock quickly realizes the threat of Castle after being shot point blank by him and then later being kidnapped and chained to a roof by his fellow vigilante.
Castle’s and Murdock’s actions are continually played against one another, with both men arguing over the right way to fight the war on crime. While each one breaks the law in their pursuit of justice, Castle’s version looks more like revenge. In fact, he’s even willing to murder an innocent fellow Marine at one point just to prevent his plan from being discovered. Still, Castle says Daredevil is just one bad day away from becoming like the Punisher. Eventually, Castle and Murdock bond as the Punisher reveals the extent of his backstory before being arrested. That, however, is only the beginning of the character’s story.
The Trial of the Punisher
Castle’s crusade nearly gets him killed by one of his targets in the Kitchen Irish, but Daredevil steps in to help. That doesn’t stop Castle from being severely wounded and off to trial for his crimes, however. It’s while recovering in the hospital and awaiting trial that Castle meets Murdock outside of the mask when he and Foggy show up to represent him. Karen then shows up herself, demanding answers from Castle after her separate investigation uncovers more of the character’s backstory. Soon enough, Karen is the only one who Castle will communicate with, as he recognizes the darkness she’s been hiding since before she arrived in season 1. It’s during the build-up to the trial and the event itself that we begin to realize that there was more to the mob fight and the killing of Frank’s family.
The trial provides an opportunity to show off Matt’s skills as a lawyer once again, and we meet Frank’s former commanding officer Ray Schoonover, who speaks highly of his comrade. Things eventually fall apart, however, when Castle gets word that someone inside Rikers Island has information on the man who killed his family. Castle pleads guilty, and kicks off the third stage of his arc on Daredevil.