While Netflix is dropping their Marvel shows like flies and Disney is starting to hoard their intellectual property to boost their own streaming service, it seems like the upcoming second season of Punisher, due out in January or maybe early February, might be the last chapter of their particular corner of the MCU. And if it is, it won’t just have to live up the stellar, unabashed awesomeness of the first season, it’ll have to blow the roof off with a balanced mix of emotional weight and fast-paced, gory violence. Fortunately, the first season set it up to succeed. Billy is all set to transition into Jigsaw, Micro is looking forward to a new life with his family, Agent Madani ended her investigation into her partner’s death, and Frank is finally willing to face his trauma.
All of this can lead to some very interesting character interactions, narrative developments, and a plethora of amazing action sequences. However, there’s also a lot of ways that things could go horribly, horribly wrong. After all, the Punisher’s various comic lines over the years have been eclectic to say the least. He’s had highs under the direction of Garth Ennis when he was a one-track-minded sociopathic violence machine desperate to direct his aggression towards those deserving as opposed to the opposite. He’s also had lows where he was turned into a zombie. Here’s just a few of the things we hope they include and things they need to stay away from this season.
20 HOPE TO SEE: BARRACUDA
Punisher’s list of signature enemies is actually pretty short. He tends to borrow villains from Spider-Man and Daredevil and, based on the fact that he tends to end his enemies, Punisher doesn’t have many repeat offenders. However, one of the most prominent of Punisher’s villains who’s returned to fight him a few times is Barracuda, the vicious gangster who would put the Marquis de Sade to shame.
Just as resourceful as Frank and with an equivalent military training, Barracuda is considered his most dangerous nemesis despite never actually showing up in the 616 continuity. While Jigsaw is pretty much guaranteed to show up in Punisher Season 2, it would be a genuine joy to see Punisher face off against Barracuda in live action.
19 DON'T NEED: PUNISHER-DAREDEVIL REUNION
When Jon Bernthal first showed up as Frank Castle in the second season of Netflix’s Daredevil, he made a huge splash with his aggressive yet nuanced acting style. And no single scene demonstrated how perfect he was for the role than the whole of episode “New York’s Finest,” where Punisher and Daredevil spent almost forty minutes in a tense verbal standoff, clashing over their respective ideologies.
Their interactions throughout the rest of the season were equally as gripping, proving that Daredevil actor Charlie Cox and Bernthal have incredible chemistry. Unfortunately, while the last season of Daredevil teased Matt Murdock teetering on the edge of his own beliefs, he ended up reaffirming them, meaning that if Daredevil showed up in next season of Punisher, they wouldn’t have a lot to talk about.
18 HOPE TO SEE: PUNISHER-KAREN REUNION
While historically she’s been Daredevil’s love interest, it’s clear that in the MCU, Karen Page has much more onscreen chemistry with Punisher. Part of that can be attributed to the actors, Jon Bernthal and Deborah Ann Woll are both professional actors and the fact that Bernthal, unlike Charlie Cox, is allowed to look Woll in the eyes certainly helps.
Their baggage just matches better, especially now that Karen’s backstory has been delved into a bit more. Woll has already been confirmed as coming back for Season 2 of Punisher, but it’s unclear what her role is in the story or if it will put her back in contact with Frank.
17 DON'T NEED: INFINITY WAR REFERENCES
The biggest, most prominent event in the MCU thus far has been the famous “Snap” where Thanos, having assembled the six Infinity Stones, wiped out half the universe in a microsecond. It wasn’t brought up in Season 3 of Daredevil, but seeing as how Punisher deals much more with the nature of the mortal coil, it might be discussed in Season 2.
The Netflix shows have thus far done a pretty good job of differentiating themselves from the rest of the MCU by never relying too much on connective tissue outside of their own corner of the universe. It’s a net positive and not mentioning how half the world if now dead, while unusual, is necessary to maintain it.
16 HOPE TO SEE: THE BATTLE VAN
While Season 1 of Punisher established Frank’s penchant for secretive vans, true fans of the comics have been waiting for Castle to assemble his legendary Battle Van. Typically outfitted by Micro (Microchip in the comics), the Battle Van is typically equipped with a peel-off paint job, no less than four mini-guns, sonar, and an 11-foot robotic arm.
It’s basically a homemade tank that has become as important to Frank’s war on crime as the Batmobile has for Batman. While the robot arm might be a little farfetched, it would be cool to see Jon Bernthal step into a jacked-up Sprinter, ready to go to war with a set of machine guns under the headlights.
15 DON'T NEED: MORE GUN POLITICS
The episode “Virtue of the Vicious” was divisive. It set up Karen Page as an unlikely mouthpiece for 2nd Amendment rights, portrayed a pro-gun control politician as a lying buffoon, and generally stuck its hand elbow-deep into the muck that is the discussion of gun politics.
While it was probably inevitable that the show would address the topic of gun control given the current political climate and the fact that Punisher’s powers boil down to “has guns, will use them,” it needed to be handled with a less heavy-handed approach. It’s a nuanced subject that isn’t as black and white as it may seem and if the show is going to voice its opinion on the issue, it needs to be subtler in its approach.
14 HOPE TO SEE: FRANK'S FAMILY
The first season of Punisher showed various flashbacks to Frank’s family and even played around with scenes surrounding their demise. But if it wants to up the ante, it’ll need to show what happened. Yes, it’ll be graphic and romanticized to the point of being gratuitous and unnecessary, but in order for Frank, and by extension the audience, to face his trauma, he’s going to need to relive the events of that fateful day.
On the plus side, it’s almost guaranteed to be one of the most riveting, emotional scenes of the entire show and could even lead into one of the most action-packed, bloody, violent fights of the entire MCU. Will it be worth it? Maybe not. Will it be important? Undoubtedly so.
13 DON'T NEED: TOO MUCH MORE MICRO
While not always his constant companion in the comics, Micro and his family drama was a much needed backdrop to Frank’s story in Season 1. Not only did Micro himself provide a bit of levity, but his family served as a reminder to Frank of what he lost that started his one-man war. While it’s likely Micro will come back in Season 2, his story is done.
He and his family were reunited and they are prepared to work through their shared trauma together. Frank still has his own issues to work through and the fact that he didn’t join Micro’s family at the end of Season 1 showed that he’s cognizant of his own toxic nature enough to keep them at an arm’s length.
12 HOPE TO SEE: PUNISHER MEETS LUKE CAGE
The Punisher is an armed, dangerous soldier who symbolizes a group undeservedly slipped through the cracks of a broken system. Luke Cage on the other hand, is a bulletproof black man who represents a historically repressed minority taking back their own territory by deconstructing the negative hierarchies that arose resulted from being socially stunted.
Just by that dynamic, it’d be hard for these two characters not to have an interesting rapport. Add to it the fact that we last saw Cage taking over Black Mariah’s criminal empire and Punisher might be looking for a new outlet to direct his violent rage and it could lead to a screen-breakingly awesome fight between the two.
11 DON'T NEED: MORE CRUDE HUMOR
Since they aren’t a part of network television, the Netflix MCU shows can get away with a lot of things other Marvel projects can’t. Despite not being so restricted, the shows have largely used these liberties sparingly, only indulging when it adds to the narrative or atmosphere.
But then Punisher came along and gave audiences not only the most brutal combat sequences in the MCU to date, but some surprisingly graphic intimate scenes and a lot of references to adult topics. While Punisher is very much a more adult character than most of the others, the amount of crude humor and revealing scenes in Punisher got to gratuitous levels. It’d be better if the second season toned it down.
10 HOPE TO SEE: MORE STEALTH
The first season of the show demonstrated that Frank can be tricky, sniping from miles away, disguising himself in plain sight, etc., but it didn’t really delve into the other part of his training: the stealth element. He’s not exactly a ninja, but Frank is a noted assassin and master of evasion.
As awesome as it is to see him bust through a building full of mobsters like a tank, an important part of his character is that he can be subtle as well, just as dangerous from the shadows as he is silhouetted by an explosion. It would be interesting to show the exact level of patience Frank has to put into some of his more intricate takedowns.
9 DON'T NEED: RIVERDALE CROSSOVER
Believe it or not, this is much more possible than it sounds. In 1994, Archie Comics did a crossover with Punisher where the vigilante hunted down someone who bore an eerie similarity to Archie Andrews.
Given the popularity of the Archie Comics adaptation Riverdale, and considering that CW has a pretty ironclad contract with Netflix, it’s not unreasonable to speculate that a one-off crossover episode could have been introduced in a pitch meeting before Season 2 of Punisher went into production. To say that such an event would be a disaster would be an understatement of gross proportions.
8 HOPE TO SEE: MADANI GETS HER REVENGE
Dinah Madani was one of the best characters in the first season of Punisher. A too-clever-by-half agent, Madani is nevertheless a step behind Billy Russo, who plays her like a fiddle for the majority of their relationship. When she realizes that Russo used her and took out her friends behind her back, Madani gears up to join castle in the season’s big finale shootout… but then goes down the second she arrives.
While she survives being shot, Madani is subsequently denied getting personal vengeance against the man who took advantage of her. Given that Punisher’s whole deal is, you know, punishment, it’d be fitting to see Madani finally get one up on Jigsaw.
7 DON'T NEED: DEFENDERS SEASON 2 SETUPS
With Disney retaking ownership of the online streaming rights of the Marvel characters for their own streaming service, the fate of the proposed second season of Defenders has pretty much been left in limbo. But it wouldn’t be outside of Netflix’s wheelhouse to promote the only-theoretical season of the team-up show.
Before Disney nuked them, initial plans were reportedly to include Punisher in the next Defenders roster. As such, it’s not unlikely that there’s a chance that Season 2 of Punisher will include some teaser bait for him joining forces with them. While he may have been introduced as a supporting player in Daredevil, Punisher works best as a solo act.
6 HOPE TO SEE: PROPER JIGSAW MAKEUP
The end of Season 1 of Punisher teased Billy Russo’s transformation into the deformed villain Jigsaw, arguably Punisher’s most recognizable enemy. The only other time the character had been realized in live-action was in the underappreciated Punisher: War Zone where he was played by Dominic West. In the film, he sported some appropriately heavy makeup to give him his signature, puzzle-like face scars.
It’d be safe to assume that Netflix, with its significant budget and makeup department, would be able to make Ben Barnes look as he should. However, early photos leaked from the set show him in disturbingly little makeup, with only a few faded scars on the border of his face.
5 DON'T NEED: PUNISHER TURNS BLACK
There’s a weird, disturbing history of comic book characters becoming other races to make a heavy-handed and tone-deaf commentary on race relations. The most famous is probably Lois Lane becoming African-American to investigate Metropolis’s Little Africa neighborhood, but Punisher wasn’t spared from a similar storyline where, on the run from everything and everyone, Frank turns to a former nurse for plastic surgery.
Instead, she gives him a skin graft that makes him black. He then has to deal with police brutality before Luke Cage shows up to save him. They carry on together for a bit before the skin graft… fades off. Comics, man.
4 HOPE TO SEE: WAR JOURNAL
Towards the end of the first “Civil War” storyline, Punisher’s classic War Journal was revived, centered around Castle’s one-man war against crime continuing despite the lines defining that conflict falling apart around him. Due to the mix-matched nature of “Civil War,” Castle started finding himself up against superpowered villains as opposed to human gangsters.
The introduction of these new, more powerful opponents forced him to think on his feet more and rely less on overwhelming firepower. It marked an important transition period for the character, but in terms of the Netflix show, it could just boil down to Castle dealing with superpowered individuals. Which would be awesome.
3 DON'T NEED: FRANKENCASTLE
The Netflix corner of the MCU has done well to establish that even the private sector of their world has access to some pretty significant medical technology. From Misty Knight to Bullseye, so long as they can find themselves a rich enough benefactor, they can recover from anything from limb amputation to paralysis with the right surgery or cybernetic prosthetic.
That being said, it would be world-breakingly ridiculous for Frank to pass away and be brought back as the famous FrankenCastle, a stitched-together zombie super-Punisher who worked with the Legion of Monsters until he regained his humanity. While resurrection has already been established in the MCU, it really wouldn’t fit the stark grittiness of Punisher.
2 HOPE TO SEE: CREATIVITY
While Punisher is known for packing an arsenal of ballistic weaponry, he’s also known for getting creative with his various punishments. After all, some crimes are so vicious that getting shot as a consequence just doesn’t balance the scales.
In the comics, Punisher has thrown people off the Empire State Building, into a pit of polar bears, fed a man to a great white shark, tossed a quadruple amputee into a burning building, and has ended multiple people in other creative ways. The Netflix show has thus far merely hinted at Castle’s deadly resourcefulness and ingenuity, but let's see where they go in Season 2.
1 DON'T NEED: PUNISHER/EMINEM
Unlike some other comic companies, Marvel makes a point of writing its universe as similar to the real world as possible. This practice has led to some really weird celebrity insertions into various lines, including the thankfully short-lived 2009 Punisher-Eminem team up. After a concert in Detroit, Em meets Punisher and it is revealed he’s old friends with the villainous Barracuda.
Comic nonsense happens and, after beating Punisher down, Eminem is forced to team up with the vigilante to get out of a sticky situation. Eminem is still one tough customer, but this was bad a decade and wouldn’t be welcome today, though a quick cameo a la Ghostface Killah showing up in Luke Cage might be a fun little nod to the source material.