Donna Summer – I Feel Love
In episode four, "Resupply," the Department of Homeland Security is embarking on an operation to procure a stash of guns from an illegal weapons dealer, but Frank and Micro have plans to procure the guns for themselves. A key element of their plan is the music of Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco.
Micro throws the Homeland Security team into disarray by hijacking their communications and blasting the classic dance track, "I Feel Love," through every speaker involved with the operation. With DHS confused and distracted, Frank is able to hijack the weapons shipment. While a pair of agents ultimately catch up to the truck, The Punisher threatens them with a flamethrower and politely asks them to jump into the cold river.
Originally released in 1977, "I Feel Love" was co-written by Giorgio Moroder and is widely recognized as one of the definitive pop recordings of the 1970s. With its hypnotically layered synthesizer grooves and the legendary vocal prowess of Donna Summer, the song is considered by many to be the birthplace of the EDM/Trance scenes which would eventually replace Disco in the 1980s.
Marilyn Manson – Fated, Faithful, Fatal
In the opening moments of episode eleven, "Danger Close," Frank is sitting by the river alongside some of New York's homeless. He's utterly shellshocked (more so than usual, that is) from reflecting on his relationship with Billy Russo. In the previous episode, he learned that Russo, his closest friend from the war, had betrayed him and is working with Rawlins, the CIA boss whose influence corrupted Castle's soul and led to the deaths of his family.
All the while, Marilyn Manson's "Fated, Faithful, Fatal" plays in the background. The song is actually an acoustic version of "The Mephistopheles of Los Angeles," from Manson's 2015 album, The Pale Emperor. The lyrics involve feeling betrayed and ready to just roll over and die, but being a demon in service to the devil and thus unable to receive sympathy from others. Does that sound familiar?
Frank Castle's relationship with Billy Russo turns out to be one of the strongest elements of the show, with both characters bound by duty and loyalty before learning that those so-called virtues are what condemn them both to lives of pain and irredeemable acts.
Paul Weller – You Do Something To Me
Through much of the series, Frank Castle is a man who wants to die. He's driven by revenge, but also by his love for his dead wife, Maria. Episode twelve, "Home," sees Frank closer to his own mortality than ever before. He's strapped to a chair and gets severely beaten by Rawlins. As he drifts closer to death, he sees images of his wife in an otherworldly black void, dancing with her, making love with her, and otherwise enjoying her company, all while Paul Weller's beautiful 1995 track, "You Do Something To Me" plays in the background.
The blues-tinged romantic ballad from the erstwhile frontman of The Jam is used to tremendous effect in the episode, with punches from Rawlins literally sending Castle's consciousness into the arms of his dead wife, and Frank is ultimately forced to choose between staying with her in death, or leaving her to kill Rawlins and complete his revenge. The vision of Maria practically begs Frank, "Let's go home," and clasps her hand around his. But it's too late. He lets go of her and says, "I am home." He then wakes up and proceeds to brutally stab Rawlins with his own knife before gouging his eyes out with his bare hands. He fades back into unconsciousness, and calls out to Maria, but she's not there. He then wakes up, doomed to follow-through on his choice to embrace killing, rather than his family.
Credence Clearwater Revival – Penthouse Pauper
The season finale, "Momento Mori," is all about the final showdown between Frank Castle and Billy Russo. While Castle is being treated for the numerous injuries sustained during the previous episode, Russo goes on the run, killing the entire team of DHS agents sent to capture him, and blowing up his ANVIL headquarters.
"Penthouse Pauper" by Credence Clearwater Revival sets the mood for Russo's calm killing spree. CCR is arguably the most iconic southern rock band of all time, and their 1969 album, Bayou Country, is an all-time classic. The song is about being forced into roles and how people need to lose everything before they can start taking control of their own destiny.Billy Russo is a stone-cold killer and sociopath, but now that he's freed from his obligations to William Rawlins and he's on the run from the law, he's far more dangerous than ever before.
The Punisher on Netflix is as much a musical journey as it is a visual one, and a textbook example of how the right song in the right scene can make all the difference in the world. When The Punisher returns for an inevitable second season, it's all but guaranteed that its unique aesthetic style will be given the opportunity to develop further, to continue using music as a vital storytelling tool.