After months of uncertainty as to just when The Punisher would make his solo Netflix debut, fans of the Marvel anti-hero finally get to see him back in action. Unlike a lot of Marvel properties, the team behind The Punisher didn’t try to cram in as many Easter eggs or nods to the source material as possible, but they did sneak in quite a few fun things you might have missed.
If you thought you missed a cameo from Stan Lee, or Avengers Tower in the New York skyline, don’t worry, you didn’t. Stan Lee’s usual Netflix cameo as a police officer in the “see something, say something” advertisements was nowhere to be found.
Perhaps it wound up in a cut scene or was so far in the background that we couldn’t spot it. The Netflix shows also don’t waste any of their budget putting in the movie version of the skyline, so no one needed to keep their eyes peeled for a shot of the former Avengers headquarters.
With those two usual Easter eggs out of the way, The Punisher creative team did leave plenty of room for nods to the comics, the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and even clever foreshadowing that didn’t detract from the storytelling.
Here are the 15 Things You Completely Missed In The Punisher!
Note: Spoilers ahead for The Punisher and other Marvel properties.
15 3 A.M.
Episode titles for a television series always offer a hint at what’s to come, but in this case, the title did a little more.
The premiere episode of The Punisher is “3 A.M.” It’s a nod to the fact that every night Frank Castle isn’t out hunting down bad guys, he wakes up from nightmares of his wife and kids being murdered. With so much time spent on his nightmares, it’s evident when, later on in the series, they vanish. Once he’s back out in the world taking on his enemies, the nightmares start to go away.
Fittingly, the episode title also serves as an announcement as to when the series was available to watch in Frank Castle’s neck of the woods. When Netflix premieres its new series, the streaming site typically makes them available at midnight Pacific Standard Time. That means, over in New York where the Punisher operates, the show was ready to watch at exactly 3 A.M. Eastern Standard Time.
14 The Dogs of Hell
When the series opens, Frank Castle is busy cleaning up the last of the mess audiences saw in Daredevil season two. He’s busy traveling around North America to take out the last vestiges of the gangs he encountered. One of them has ties to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe though.
The Dogs of Hell were targeted on the East Coast by Frank Castle during his time in Hell’s Kitchen (and Foggy Nelson even made his way into their favorite bar), but the biker gang made its MCU debut on a different television property.
Over on the West Coast, the Dogs of Hell showed up in a season one episode of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Members of the gang were controlled by the Asgardian Lorelei when she made her way to Earth and Lady Sif joined with Agent Coulson’s team to bring her back.
Does this mean Frank put an end to the gang for good? Or are there still members operating on the West Coast? We’ll have to wait and see.
13 Pete Castiglione
If you thought the alias Frank Castle took on to hide his identity sounded familiar, there’s a good reason for that. It’s his family’s given name in the comics.
As immigrants came through Ellis Island in the early 20th century to gain citizenship to the United States, many surnames were changed to be simpler for officials to spell or pronounce. (Ever wondered why there are so many “Smiths” in the U.S.?) The Castiglione family came to the States from Italy, but upon arrival, their name became the simpler Castle.
Of course, the name does pop up in alternate timelines and “What If” comic book stories as well where the family didn’t change their name.
It was also revealed in more recent comics that there are other members of the Castiglione family in the U.S. besides Frank Castle, but they’ve all been living under assumed names. Maybe Frank still has some family out there in the MCU as well.
12 A Soldier In A Hole
When the audience is introduced to the support group for veterans struggling to reenter American society, Curtis tells a story about a soldier stuck in a hole. The story works as foreshadowing for the series in a couple of ways.
Most obviously, the story foreshadows just what happens to Donny. Donny, who attempted to befriend Frank at the construction site by bonding with him over lost family and the military, winds up at the bottom of a hole with wet cement pouring in thanks to his new “friends.” It’s Frank who has to save him.
The story also works to foreshadow the eventual relationship between Micro and Punisher though. As Micro points out when he’s criticized for leaking video of secret military operations - he was just doing his job. Just like Frank was just following orders.
The two are soldiers for the U.S. in very different ways and wind up combatting the same problem from two very different sides, finding a way to get out of the same hole.
11 Reading Choices
For a series that involves a lot of violence and conspiracy theories, The Punisher also has a surprisingly interesting reading list involved. In order to escape his everyday life, Frank Castle spends quite a bit of time reading or talking about reading. We’ve got a few of his most interesting choices.
Melville's Moby Dick is the first book he’s spotted reading, and certainly one that Frank might identify with the most. Captain Ahab spends the book chasing his white whale, which has become synonymous with unattainable desires in pop culture, indicating that Frank’s desire to rid his home of crime, or perhaps living a normal life, might be unattainable.
Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up is actually a collection of essays and letters by the writer of The Great Gatsby. His essays weren’t liked at the time, but they were written during a period in his life when he was depressed and seeing the hopelessness in situations. He wrote about things falling apart and the desire to change them, something Frank would like.
10 Welcome Back, Frank
At the close of the series premiere, Micro utters the phrase “Welcome back, Frank,” when he’s able to spot him on surveillance cameras. Innocent enough of a sentence, it’s actually the name of a specific comic book arc.
The twelve issue series ran in 2000 and 2001 under the Marvel Knights imprint, which typically featured darker comic book stories. Written by Garth Ennis and illustrated by Steve Dillon, it’s often credited for bringing the Punisher back to basics.
In the series, Frank doesn’t have Micro helping him on the backend and he doesn’t have a battle van full of weapons. Instead, he has a police officer feeding him information on local criminals and he makes friends with a few people in the neighborhood.
Notably, it’s this arc that brings Frank up against the Gnucci crime family, the same group playing high stakes poker in the Netflix series. Frank also takes the Gnucci family’s money and gives it to his neighbors, just as he does to Donny.
9 Sunnyside, Queens
It seems that every Marvel Netflix hero has their own neck of the woods in the shows, so it makes sense that Frank wouldn’t be crossing paths with the likes of Jessica Jones or Luke Cage in his neighborhood. Why did he settle in Queens though? Thank the comics for that.
When the Punisher made his Marvel comic debut, it wasn’t as a hero, but as an antagonist for another hero, who happened to claim Queens as his own stomping grounds. That would be Peter Parker’s Spider-Man. Fans who were hoping that might get the web slinger a mention will be disappointed that nothing is said of the kid running around in a mask.
Then again, maybe Spider-Man hasn’t had much to do what with the Punisher making it his mission to kill any bad guy that gets in his way. In a subtle nod though, Frank does get his first phone call from David Lieberman at a diner named Pete’s.
8 A Ghost In New York
As a hint to his own past, David tells Frank that the latter isn’t the only “ghost in New York,” when they have their first phone call. We later find out that, just like Frank, everyone believes David is dead. They still aren’t the only ones the audience might consider ghosts though.
It’s a slight reminder that Frank has had dealings with another man who is now believed to be dead. At the end of The Defenders miniseries, set presumably while the Punisher was busy hunting down his gang members, Daredevil is believed to be dead underneath Midland Circle.
Savvy comic book fans already knew that wasn’t the case, theorizing that Daredevil would adapt the “Born Again” storyline in the future. Savvy TV fans also knew that wasn’t the case since Daredevil was renewed for a third season. In-universe though, Daredevil is another New York ghost.
7 Chaos Under The Streets
If that nod to New York ghosts didn’t get fans’ attention, those who watch closely for background Easter eggs might have noticed another nod to the events of The Defenders.
Any time the Netflix shows enter the office of The New York Bulletin, it’s a safe bet there will be some sort of Easter egg for the MCU present.
In previous shows, the headlines indicating Hulk’s rampage through Harlem and the Battle of New York in The Avengers have been framed and hanging on the wall. They’re still up in what is now Karen’s office.
Under the arm of her editor though is a newer issue of the paper with the headline, “Chaos Under The Streets,” reminding the audience that the bulk of the fight in The Defenders actually took place under New York.
It’s also an indication that The Punisher is likely set not long after the events there and that Karen Page is still finding her footing as a reporter and in a world without Daredevil.
6 Putting People Back Together
If you went into the series not knowing the comic book story for Billy Russo, the show didn’t waste any time hinting at what might happen to him.
Billy Russo, military buddy of Frank, is introduced early on in the series as a soldier who managed to find success when he left the service, even starting his own company that capitalizes on the skills he learned while serving. Of course, that isn’t all exactly true, but the hints at what’s coming for him aren’t about his betrayal, but about his appearance.
In the comics, Billy is a villain known as Jigsaw, a man bested by the Punisher in a fight who is repeatedly put face-first through windows so that his face looks like a jigsaw puzzle put back together. When Billy meets up with Curtis for the first time, he comments about the other man being better at “putting people back together,” calling to mind puzzle pieces in the same way.
When the Punisher finally scrapes his old friend’s face on a carousel mirror, the audience gets the pay-off.
5 The Picture of Dorian Gray
The Picture of Dorian Gray was written by Oscar Wilde in the late 19th century and was originally published as a short story in a magazine. It provides some interesting reading material for Billy Russo while he’s stationed in Afghanistan.
Wilde expanded his story into a novel later, and it’s the novel that Russo has in hand in episode three. The novel follows a young man named Dorian Gray who realizes that his beauty isn’t something that will last. He decides to sell his soul so that his portrait will fade, but his beauty won’t.
It’s an appropriate read for a character called “pretty boy” throughout the series, who knows that he can use his looks to his advantage. It’s also appropriate because Ben Barnes actually played Dorian Gray in the 2009 film.
4 A Red Empire State Building
Unless you’re a viewer who was busy scanning the skyline while watching The Punisher, you might have missed out on this little detail in episode six.
The episode features a quick shot of what looks like the Empire State Building lit up in red. The building’s lighting usually only changes its color scheme in the real world for special events, like in memoriam of a particular tragedy. In this case, it just might be for Daredevil.
At the end of The Defenders, as Danny Rand overlooks the city from a rooftop, he spots a red Empire State Building as well, possibly lit for the fallen Daredevil, as seen in the image above. If the building is lit up in red again for The Punisher, it’s another indication that the series isn’t set long after the events of The Defenders.
3 Rumble In The Jungle
During a scene where secondary antagonist Lewis is trying to keep his PTSD under control, his father attempts to bond with him while watching a classic boxing match: Ali vs. Foreman. Called the “Rumble in the Jungle” by the media when it was televised from South Africa in 1974, it’s an interesting choice for the show.
Not only does it allow Lewis to give his dad some insight into what’s happening with him - boxers are lucky because they can see their enemy - it also provides a couple of nice Easter eggs for fans.
The Rumble was fought in early 1974, the same year the Punisher debuted in the pages of a Spider-Man comic. The fight was also televised during the tail end of the Vietnam War, a conflict in which the Punisher also served as a marine.
2 WHiH World News
Before Ant-Man went into production, WHiH wasn’t a network anyone would have noticed. Now, it’s become the unofficial news network of the MCU.
Right before Ant-Man landed in theaters, Marvel centered a viral marketing campaign on the idea that WHiH Newsfront would interview the main character of the film. Leslie Bibb reprised her Iron Man role as a journalist for the campaign, and the news network has gone on to appear in many of the movies and television shows, including Avengers: Age of Ultron, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and The Punisher, ever since.
In the case of The Punisher, WHiH News is the first network to report that Frank Castle is still alive and at large in New York before the audience sees other local stations pick up the scoop. It’s a shame Netflix didn’t use WHiH’s youtube channel in conjunction with their own viral marketing campaign.
1 The Bulletin’s Whiteboard
In addition to the Bulletin’s back issues providing the audience with fun Easter eggs of connections in-universe, there’s also the whiteboard where reporter assignments are doled out.
During a trip to the Bulletin’s offices, the whiteboard can be spotted behind Ellison, and though it’s not exactly easy to make out this time around, a couple of the names on the board do point to real people who worked on the show.
The names S. Murphy and K. McDonnell are two of the eight names that appear to have recently been assigned articles for the Bulletin. Murphy is a nod to Scott Murphy who is the production designer for The Punisher. He also worked on Daredevil and is working on season two of Luke Cage. McDonnell is likely a nod to James McDonnell, despite the differing first initial as McDonnell is the set dresser for The Punisher.
Fun fact: they both also worked on different Spider-Man movies for Sony.
Did we miss some fun nods in the first season of The Punisher? Let us know in the comments!