When the Punisher debuted in Daredevil Season 2 it was, to be honest, difficult to see anything heroic about him. Frank Castle arrived in Hell’s Kitchen with his guns blazing, leading to very brutal confrontations with Matt Murdock. However, despite the gore and puddles of blood, one person believed there was something more to his journey and showed him a compassion that few others would: Karen Page.
This lit a path for Frank, offering him empathy he never thought he’d experience again. Following his arrest and subsequent trial, Karen fought tooth and nail for Frank Castle (not the Punisher), and by the end of the season, it was clear that Frank, even while embracing his future as the Punisher, knew that she was a rare bright spot in his cold, cruel world. While this wouldn’t change Frank’s destiny, as he escaped prison and went forth into the world again to discover more of his past, he at least had a true friend in Karen.
That’s about as far as it seemed things would go — and then, Netflix debuted a final trailer to announces the series’ release date. One scene in the trailer, albeit a super-brief moment, hints at their bond evolving into something beyond friendship. At the 1:49 mark, we see the pair, apparently distressed and under attack, with Frank endearingly holding Karen’s face.
It’s possible she’s wounded and he’s simply trying to comfort or protect her, but from the look in his eyes, it appears as though there’s more to it than that. A romance wouldn’t be too far-fetched; Karen was the first (and probably the only) person who understood Frank, not as a weapon of destruction, but as a person. Daredevil, as much as he believed in Frank’s potential for good, still remained cynical, and at times shared the public opinion of Frank as a gun-toting madman parading as an army of one. It’s tough to argue with Matt’s stance, because Frank has shown he’s more liability than ally.
Karen, however, has seen through the mire and recognized Frank’s humanity, digging deep to uncover the mystery behind his family’s slaughter and the powers-that-be who tried to wipe Frank off the map after he did their dirty work. She eventually helped lead him to the Blacksmith, a man Frank once looked up to but who betrayed his friend and ally. In the process, she saw the betrayal that engulfed his life. Something, as Marvel’s various Netflix series have hinted, she can relate to.
In the comics, Karen is not aligned with the Punisher. After leaving for years, she returned to Hell’s Kitchen to continue her turbulent relationship with Matt, one filled with drugs and a history acting in pornographic videos. But in the Netflix universe, we’ve yet to find out the demons of her past. She has alluded to personal tragedy, so it’s clear that while she and Frank have different ways of venting and handling their angst, one some level they’re kindred spirits. Having feelings for each other would make sense, because people who grapple with loss often connect, finding comfort and solace in each other. This doesn’t mean they’ll embark on a typical romance, filled with flowers, dinner and physical affection, but despite Karen’s perceived loss and Frank’s tragic history, both have found someone else who understands grief as a poison.
In uncovering Frank’s past, Karen also learned a lot about herself, leading her to eventually succeed the dead Ben Urich as one of The Bulletin‘s lead reporters. While her crimefighting method may not be as extreme as Frank’s, she gets why he does what he does in the name of justice.
On the flip-side, Frank, while scouring through the grime of the world, hasn’t found much to believe in. He’ll likely never agree with Daredevil’s non-lethal tactics, no matter how much they fight alongside each other, and in that sense, Frank will always be an outsider, just like Karen — and this is what makes them compatible. She’s his moral compass and the only one he’ll listen to — well, as much as he can. While Frank sees Daredevil as naive, in Karen he sees a glimmer of light. It may not be enough to set Frank right, because he’s dead-set on his destiny of doling out his crimson brand of justice. At the end of the day, in Karen he has rediscovered an innocence that may well remind him of a chapter in his life he thought was dead, one based on family and love.
Arriving Friday, Nov. 17, 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.
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