WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Marvel’s The Punisher, streaming now on Netflix.
In the ninth episode of Marvel’s The Punisher, Frank Castle frantically asks tech guru Micro to search online for the identity of a troubled veteran who’s already set off three bombs and is now targeting Karen Page. That spurs Micro to ask what viewers have wondered since Daredevil‘s second season: “What’s the deal with you two?”
It’s a deceptively complex question, answered by Frank (Jon Bernthal) in his typically straightforward manner: “The deal is, nobody goes after her, OK? Not on my watch. […] What would you do if it was Sarah? There’s a maniac who is coming after her; what would you do?” When Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) points out that Sarah is his wife and family, Frank fires back, kicking the chair as punctuation, “Listen! I’m only going to say this once, OK: So is Karen! If something happens to her, I –”
Frank is unable to verbalize what he would do, perhaps because he can’t allow himself to imagine such a scenario. He resorts instead to slamming his hand on the table, and then begging Micro to find details about a guy named Lewis who drives a cab. It’s notable that Frank doesn’t attempt to clarify that Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) is like family; no, when Micro says, “Sarah’s my wife, Sarah’s my family,” Frank responds “So is Karen.” There’s a lot to unpack in those three words.
Their complicated relationship of course dates back to the second season of Daredevil, when Karen championed Frank’s case while working for Nelson & Murdock. She was the first, and perhaps only, person who saw that The Punisher was more than a bloodthirsty mass murderer, that he was a man traumatized by the loss of his family, and perhaps more, and that he was someone worth saving. Frank was nevertheless convicted and sent to prison, but promptly escaped with the help of fellow inmate Wilson Fisk. Seeking to clear his name after being framed for additional murders by the drug lord the Blacksmith (better known as his former commanding officer Ray Schoonover), Frank sought out Karen, and saved her life in at least three instances (from the Blacksmith and his men).
After months in hiding, Frank resurfaces to again seeks out Karen on The Punisher, as she’s one of the few people who knows he survived the explosion in Daredevil Season 2. His stated reason is that he needs help finding information about this Micro who has tracked him down, but it’s obvious he requires more: a human connection; family. His Marine buddy Curtis Hoyle can give him advice, and lend him books, but Franks longs for something more. Not romance, necessarily, just … more.
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