Not to long ago, the idea of Marvel doing adult driven dramas for street-level characters like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist was an interesting experiment in the ever growing landscape of superhero television. Now, all these characters are teaming up in an Avengers-style team up show Defenders with third and second seasons on the way for each show. But there's now another show being added to the Netflix mix: The Punisher. Jon Bernthal, previously the violate Shane on The Walking Dead, co-starred as Frank Castle in Daredevil's second season and gave such an intense emotional performance that fans demanded a stand-alone show where Punisher's insatiable quest for vengeance could be explored more.
Fans were recently given their wish when Marvel and Netflix officially announced a Punisher Netflix show set to showcase the character's next journey after the events of Daredevil season two, where Frank eventually found one of the men responsible for killing his family that fateful day in the park. The show is set to be run by acclaimed Hannibal writer Steve Lightfoot and fans are clamoring for more information. So we here at CBR have compiled the seven things that we know for sure about The Punisher series and 8 rumors that frankly, we need to be true.
15 KNOW: HIS COSTAR
From Nelson and Murdock secretary to rookie reporter, Karen Page, played by True Blood star Deborah Ann Woll, has had one of the more unexpected breakout, and dark, arcs in the course of Daredevil's two seasons. Now she's going to be starring opposite Bernthal's Frank Castle in his solo outing. In her effort to escape a tragic accident in her past, Karen has run into more trouble than she bargained for and besides Daredevil, was the only other character to establish a positive bond with Punisher through the course of season two.
Karen was the only one to consistently go to bat for Frank and pushed to dig deeper into the conspiracy around his family's murder, resulting in a lot of shared screen time between the two. Bernthal and Woll had a clear chemistry together, with Karen penetrating Frank's shell. The two brought out emotionally honest sides to each other that many fans responded to, so it's natural that their relationship continue in 13 more episodes.
14 KNOW: ROCKING A BEARD
The Punisher is a lasting character in large part due to the iconic white skull emblazoned on his chest. He evokes dread in the hearts of criminals and from one look, you know The Punisher is not your typical hero trying to save the masses. Yet while seeing Jon Bernthal fully embrace this look for his own show, it's the great beard he grew for the role that has us (well, some of us with beards) super-excited.
Set photos have shown Bernthal rocking a beard and longer hair for the role, and he does not need any make up team for this look. This look could also possibly signal Frank on the run for some time on the show (as many are assuming is true of the similarly-bearded Captain America in Infinity War), or using it to move out in the open as his face was made very public during the trial in season 2 of Daredevil.
13 KNOW: IN AND OUT OF NYC
During San-Diego Comic Con, fans at the Hall H panel for the Defenders were treated to a surprise screening of Punisher footage. One of the big takeaways was that Frank isn't keeping his war on crime and quest for vengeance regulated to Hell's Kitchen this time -- he's on the move. The footage had Frank chasing down bikers in the countryside, taking out a target in Mexico while perched in a building in El Paso, and attacking a man in a JFK Airport bathroom.
The hunt to completely eradicate the groups responsible for his family's demise appears to have Frank on a road trip of sorts, something that is not uncommon in Punisher's storied comic book history. Crime is everywhere and clearly the conspiracy that ruined his life is wide-reaching, making for an interesting dynamic that hasn't really been explored in the other shows. He will be a vigilante without borders.
12 KNOW: FRANK'S MILITARY SIDE
In the show, Frank Castle is a veteran who fought with the Marines in Afghanistan. In the comics, he was originally a Vietnam veteran, but that would make him far too old in a contemporary show. Either way, though: once a Marine always a Marine. Frank at his core is a solider and without his training and war experience, he would have never had the tools to become The Punisher.
This is an integral part of the character that Jon Bernthal said would play a larger role in the new show. At SDCC 2017, he expressed that the military component and background would be a key element of the show and he was proud to play a character that many service members identified with due to that military background.
11 KNOW: PUNISHER YEAR ONE
If Daredevil season 2 was Punisher's backdoor origin season then the first season of this show will be his first year wearing the skull. That makes everything about this portrayal all the more compelling. The cast and crew that have been interviewed so far have stressed the importance of where Frank is in his "superhero" career, as well.
The Punisher during episode one is not quite The Punisher and the Frank we saw in the season finale of Daredevil was not the final version we thought he had become. What this all means is that you get to go along every step of this journey with Frank, making you more invested and pulled into his violent world as he becomes the boogeyman death machine from the comics.
10 KNOW: THERE WILL BE GUITARS (AND FLASHBACKS)
You read that right, Frank Castle on the Netflix side of the MCU knows how to play guitar and this is something we will see during the course of the show. The San Diego Comic Con footage opened with a flashback to Frank playing guitar for his little girl and cutting back to the present day where Frank used his hidden musical talents as a cover to observe a target on the streets.
One of the best scenes in season 2 was Frank in Karen's car, after he broke in, listening to Shining Star. It humanized him in a disturbing yet fun way, so a little guitar playing isn't out of the realm of reason for Frank in his first solo outing. Perhaps in the flashbacks he might have his own charming original rhymes he sang to his kids, or covers of famous hits in that gruff soon-to-be-killer voice of his.
9 KNOW: IT WILL BE VERY VIOLENT
Given the character, this is already a foregone conclusion. Even without the Punisher, the Netflix shows have made a trademark of being more violent than their more Pg-13 cousins uptown, but The Punisher is defined by a willingness to kill and do whatever is necessary to complete his mission. Violence and war are also at the core of this character, and no matter how human and complex the story gets, Punisher is going to shoot every bad guy in the face.
We've already seen how brutal he is as a supporting character in someone else's show, but now he has 13 hours all to himself. There will be plenty of times you might want to fast forward through the action, especially if you're squeamish. Bank on that!
8 RUMOR: NO SPIDEY
The divide between Marvel TV and Marvel Studios still remains, and every-time someone involved in Infinity War gets asked about crossing over with the small screen heroes they deflect to, "maybe one day, right now it's not likely" or something along those lines. This means that, most likely, there's no wall crawling-based, spider themed superhero that Frank will be running into.
While the prospect of seeing everyone based in NYC connect in someway is an enticing one, it's OK for now that the teen Spider-Man stay away from Frank's first outing as The Punisher. Spider-Man and Punisher have a long history in the comics, Punisher making his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #129, but for these live-action adaptions, the tone simply wouldn't mesh as their careers in the MCU are just beginning.
7 RUMOR: JIGSAW IS THE VILLAIN
No official word on the villain for the first season has been made yet, but in a recent casting announcement, Marvel revealed that actor Ben Barnes will be playing Billy Russo. The description for Billy reveals that he was Frank's best friend in the service and now runs a private military operation. Yet Marvel faithful are quick to recognize that Billy Russo is the name to one of Punisher's archenemies, Jigsaw.
Jigsaw was the main villain behind the cult favorite Punisher: War Zone movie and has been a staple in the comics for quite some time. He stands out due to his cut up and stitched face, that resembles a jigsaw puzzle (hence the name), due to Punisher putting his face through glass over and over again. So it's not hard to imagine this version of Billy as the villain on a similar year-one journey to Frank's.
6 RUMOR: MICRO IS FROM AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D.
In a blink and miss it moment, back in season 2 of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Daisy (who at the time was going as Skye), got information from a fellow hacker of hers who she called "Micro" and described as a "crime-scene junkie." This was a clear reference to David Leiberman, aka Micro, the proverbial man in the chair for Punisher, who would supply Frank with information, basic hacking training, and plenty of weaponry and supplies.
Recently, Marvel announced that Girls actor Ebon Moss-Bachrach will be filling the role of Microchip, and it stands to reason that he's the same Micro who hacked in the same circles as Daisy. While Marvel Studios and Marvel TV may not cross over anytime soon, the TV shows have more room to share their toys. It also helps that they've established Punisher being apart of a larger government conspiracy, meaning the remnants of S.H.I.E.L.D. left in the show may have their own small role to play.
5 RUMOR: ROMANCE FOR FRANK
In even more interviews at San Diego Comic-Con, the two leads for The Punisher hinted at a more vulnerable Frank and will explore his more emotional side at times. This would then possibly lead to romance for Frank; in fact, the crew talked about that being a real possibility for the show. Now, Punisher getting over the death of his family and finding love is something that is impossible as it would most likely end his journey for vengeance, but the idea of it is something new from the usual doom and gloom related to Frank.
Plus, fans can connect better with the more emotionally-charged portrayal of Punisher from Jon Bernthal. While he's still the killing machine criminals fear, there's something very human and personal about this portrayal that has made it a more interesting take. So, exploring the possibility of a happy end for Frank could be a bittersweet why to gain more insight into to the character.
4 RUMOR: NO CLAIRE TEMPLE
As of now it, appears that the Phil Coulson of the Netflix shows, Claire Temple, played by the charismatic Rosario Dawson, will not be apart of Netflix's latest edition into their corner of the MCU. There have been no reports of her on set and no mention of her in interviews leading up to the series. Granted, she could be a surprise addition in some later episode, but everyone involved with the show has made clear that while it's still connected, it's very much it's own show away from everyone. Punisher inhabits its own world that the other heroes would not want to be in.
Furthermore, it has enough connective tissue, with Karen being in it, that it's technically a Daredevil spin-off. So, the addition of Claire would probably feel forced and while she's willing to help some vigilantes, Claire would probably have a tough time justifying patching up a serial killer... even if his targets are exclusively bad guys (who he brutally murders).
3 RUMOR: NO DAREDEVIL
Again, this show is very much its own thing in the MCU, and while fans loved the relationship between Daredevil and Punisher, Charlie Cox does not seem set to appear at all. With Karen and Matt broken up after season 2, it doesn't look like she'll be asking Matt for any help. Indeed, that ship seems to have sailed, at least for now.
Despite what hardcore fans of Daredevil and the interconnected Netflix Marvel universe may think, this is a good thing for the show. It allows Punisher to shine and gets away from Frank and Matt fighting once again. It also allows Karen to carve out her own path and come back to Daredevil a changed -- and decidedly more robust -- character for it.
2 RUMOR: MOST UNCOMFORTABLE NETFLIX SERIES YET
Back when The Punisher was only being rumored as a new Netflix series, Jon Bernthal commented on the possibility as something he absolutely wanted to do, but wanted to make sure they did it right. He said that he wanted the series to not only push the envelope, but also to take the audience on a journey that would alienate them and then bring them back. These sentiments have been echoed in the interviews since the confirmation of the show being picked up to series, leading to rumors of this being something very uncomfortable for the audience. That is a great thing.
Punisher is not a character for everyone, and his stories are at their best when dealing with tougher material for more mature audiences. If the series is willing to surgically alienate the audience, then we can expect some perfect material for the Punisher that will hopefully satisfy our need for the sometimes uncomfortably cathartic justice Frank Castle provides to the worst of humanity.
1 RUMOR: MORE COMPLEX THAN JUST BULLETS
When it was announced Steve Lightfoot would show-run for The Punisher, he commented that he was drawn to the complexities of the character and stressed that the show would be a deep-dive into what makes Frank click. He highlighted the humanity of the character mixed with his brute force of nature. Add this to many of the other rumors discussed above and it's safe to say there will probably be more to this series than just shooting bad guys in the face. While on the surface Frank is a pretty straightforward character, there's plenty to unpack and the show appears to want to take him in some new directions.
Lightfoot is also known for making compelling antiheroes out of bad people, like Hannibal Lecter in Hannibal, and is able to bring a unique touch to otherwise banal carnage. Thirteen hours is a lot to binge and sometimes the Netflix shows haven't lived up to filling all of their air time with enough compelling drama. So, we hope that all of the talk of complex character study and uncomfortable subject material will lead to a Punisher show worthy of the character's long and complicated legacy.
Any other rumors or tidbits about Netflix's Punisher series that we missed? Let us know in the comments!