The lead character of The Punisher, Frank Castle, was absent from Marvel and Netflix's The Defenders, and now we know where he was while the NYC heroes were teaming up. Netflix first launched their own corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with Daredevil in 2015, and continued to expand their New York City-focused shared world with the premieres of Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist. Earlier this year, all four of Netflix's Marvel heroes teamed up for the miniseries The Defenders, which also featured multiple characters from each show.
However, one fan-favorite character missing from The Defenders was Daredevil season 2 addition The Punisher. Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) ran across Matt Murdock during his search for vengeance against those who killed his family, and while Frank and Matt didn't see eye to eye, they eventually formed a kind of truce. So, since Daredevil's other allies joined the fight in The Defenders, it was a little curious that Matt didn't call on Frank Castle - despite their differing opinions in how to get justice. Of course, now that The Punisher season 1 has premiered, we know what Frank was up to while The Defenders were saving New York City.
In the series premiere of The Punisher, fans meet back up with Frank presumably shortly after Daredevil season 2 ended, with him hunting down criminals in rural Alabama, killing a man in Juarez, Mexico from El Paso, USA, and confronting another in the bathroom at JFK International Airport in New York City. The episode flashes forward to six months later when Frank is living a simple existence as Pete Castiglione, working construction and only interacting with his old friend Curtis (Jason R. Moore). While Pete is going about his business, Frank Castle aka The Punisher is presumed dead.
Given his new identity and simple life - and the fact that he allows everyone who was close to him aside from Curtis and Karen believe he's still dead - it's clear that Frank is happy keeping his head down and letting the Punisher mantle stay dead. As such, we can presume that's exactly what he was doing when The Defenders united to take on The Hand.
Based on the timeline, we know The Defenders took place a few months after the end of Daredevil season 2, and while the opening of The Punisher premiere indicates Frank spent some time traveling around the United States, it's likely he tied up all those loose ends and returned to New York before the city's heroes united in Hell's Kitchen. So, while Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Danny Rand aka the Immortal Iron Fist, and Luke Cage were taking on The Hand, Frank Castle was working construction across the East River in Brooklyn.
Of course, even if Matt or Karen called on Frank to help in The Defenders, it's unclear if he would have joined the fight. In Daredevil season 2, Frank's sole purpose was to kill those who killed his family, which isn't exactly the mentality of someone you'd call on to be a trusted ally - or any ally at all, really. So, even if Frank had been around during The Defenders, it's unlikely he would have been much help anyway. Still, now thanks to The Punisher season 1, we know what he was up to - even if it's a reason crafted in order to explain within the MCU continuity why Marvel kept The Punisher and The Defenders separate.
The Punisher season 1 is available in its entirety on Netflix. Premiere dates for the new seasons of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist have yet to be announced.