Even before season 2 of Daredevil hit, most of the buzz surrounding it was not about the Man Without Fear himself, but on the revelation that he would be squaring off against another familiar face from the Marvel universe: The Punisher, played by The Walking Dead's Jon Bernthal. Many of the show's positive reviews focused on the strong performance from Bernthal as The Punisher, singling him out as the highlight of the season.
As is often the case for a character's first appearance, the story arc of The Punisher was very much an origin story, and one that paved the way for his own spinoff series. In fact, the Frank Castle audiences saw in Daredevil might not have even been The Punisher at all.
That's according to Bernthal himself, who spoke to Awards Daily about his work in Daredevil. According to Bernthal, Frank Castle had not yet transcended the immediate fallout of his personal tragedy to become the hero of the comic books:
"I think when you’re talking about characters like these, the way they fight, what’s motivating the fight is very important. Beating someone up to drag them into jail is different than someone who is exercising his rage on people. The Frank Castle you find in this story is not The Punisher. He’s reeling from the loss of his family. He’s driven by rage and is on a singular mission to find these people who took his family from him, and do it as brutally as possible."
Of course, Castle is referred as The Punisher during the course of the season, and by the time he dons his signature skull logo in the final episode there is little doubt that is who he has become. For the entirety of the season until then, though, Castle is a relentless ball of rage. While vengeance has always been a motivator for Castle in the comic books and subsequent film adaptations, Bernthal hints that it is only when he is able to get beyond his immediate need for revenge that he is able to truly become The Punisher.
The writers for Daredevil showed a considerable amount of patience in letting the story of The Punisher unfold during the course of season 2, and Bernthal sees that as an advantage of the Netflix model. According to him, a traditional network would not have allowed the show to unfold his origin story the same way:
"With the TV model, whether cable or network, you sort of have to operate in these gray areas where if your character is going down a road where you could lose the audience, you have to keep it gray and play it both ways. A character like Frank Castle, he goes all the way, and later on humanity sets in. The regret, humiliation and shame pour in later with him. I love that you don’t have to tell all these different stories and let that affect you in a natural way. There’s no question that the Netflix model is a real ally in that."
With Bernthal's comments in mind, it will be interesting to see where they take The Punisher during the course of his own solo series. With Daredevil getting his origin story out of the way, there is no limit to the stories they can draw upon for his own show. One option would be to pull from Garth Ennis' run on the Punisher MAX comics, which included a story arc in which he squared off against Kingpin. That would allow the showrunners to bring Vincent D'Onofrio back into the mix and keep the show tied in with Daredevil. The Punisher also faced a number of other heroes in the Marvel universe as well, such as Spider-Man. That would give Marvel an opportunity to further cross over with its movie continuity, although that may not be likely.
Whatever plot they end up following for The Punisher's solo series, no doubt fans who saw Bernthal's performance in Daredevil will be eager to see what he can do when he no longer has to share the spotlight with the Devil of Hell's Kitchen. While a timeline for the series has not yet been announced, there will be more to come as Netflix continues to build its own corner of the Marvel universe.
Daredevil season 1 & 2 and Jessica Jones season 1 are now available on Netflix. Luke Cage season 1 will arrive on September 30th, 2016. Release dates for Jessica Jones season 2, Iron Fist, The Defenders, and The Punisher spinoff on Netflix have not yet been announced. Daredevil season 3 has yet to be confirmed.