WARNING: This article contains major spoilers for Marvel’s The Punisher, now streaming on Netflix.
The people behind Marvel Studios and Marvel Television love to remind fans that "it's all connected" in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is evident with crossover movies and series such as Avengers and The Defenders, projects that have seen already-established superheroes come together to fight forces they couldn't defeat alone. In Marvel's Netflix series, in particular, prominent characters tend to be introduced in another series prior to their own: Daredevil Season 2 introduced The Punisher, while Jessica Jones Season 1 introduced Luke Cage, for example. It's fair to say, then, that fans have come to expect at least a name drop or reference to other prominent characters during Marvel's movies and television series.
So, does Marvel's The Punisher continue this tradition? Well, we were all expecting a notable Marvel hero to appear in The Punisher due to comments from C.B. Cebulski. Marvel's newly-minted Editor-in-Chief made a comment in August teasing “another Marvel hero may be showing up.” This immediately sparked a debate as to whether Charlie Cox's Daredevil might appear to continue their previous confrontation, or perhaps a brand new hero would emerge.
Unfortunately, however, The Punisher does not introduce any notable characters from the comics, nor does it feature any superheroic guest stars from anywhere else in the MCU. With Frank Castle's story leaning so heavily into his time in the US Marines, it wasn't too outrageous to hope for a namedrop of another Marine-turned-vigilante: Marc Spector, aka Moon Knight. Nonetheless, there was no mention or tease of Spector's existence, nor any other character's, despite a good portion of the series including Frank's service.
Perhaps more surprising is the lack of an appearance, even briefly, of Daredevil. It's hard to imagine a scenario in which Charlie Cox would have refused to reprise his role as the Man Without Fear for The Punisher, especially since fans loved his complicated dynamic with Frank so much. It would have also been interesting to see how The Punisher would shape up against Luke Cage, who just so happens to have impenetrable, bulletproof skin.
Instead, The Punisher is nearly completely self-contained, barring the presence of Karen Page and Turk Barrett. As a result, the show focused on building its own world and its own set of interesting and compelling characters.
Available to stream now on Netflix, The Punisher stars Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle, Ben Barnes as Billy Russo, Ebon Moss-Bachrach as Micro, Amber Rose Revah as Dinah Madani, Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page, Daniel Webber as Lewis Walcott, Shohreh Aghdashloo as Farah Madani and Paul Schulze as Rawlins, with Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio in an undisclosed role.