Welcome back, Frank. The Punisher’s solo series has finally made its debut on Netflix after much fanfare. It’s been met with controversy because of its use of graphic gun violence and the nature of Frank Castle as a whole. But we’re glad that it’s finally here, because it is a rip roaring ride from start to finish. It doesn’t always need to spend entire episodes mastering gun-fu style scenes or just constantly watching Frank mow down criminals in a hail of bullets.
It’s actually a lot more intelligent than that. It focuses on a conspiracy that stretched all the way back to his military days. The Punisher may not be the most colorful of heroes, but he is one of the most violent. And because of that, the series is allowed to have a little more scope than some of the other Netflix shows. The conspiracy side of the story almost has a political thriller feel to it, and we loved it. But like the rest of the Marvel Netflix series, the show was packed with plenty of references to the comics. It foreshadows certain characters’ fates, teases huge stories from the comics and even calls back to some minor characters from Frank’s long history.
SPOILER WARNING: There are major spoilers for the entire season of The Punisher ahead.
15 RESTROOM DEATH
So as Frank waged bloody war on the gangs who murdered his family in the second season of Daredevil, it seemed like a few of them managed to slip away from his grasp. So he quickly dispatches the last few remaining members who had their hands in the slaughter at the beginning of the series.
One of those is a member of the Kitchen Irish, who is trying to flee the country before Frank catches up with him in an airport bathroom stall. He throttles the gangster to death, mirroring the way he murdered William Rawlins during the comics. Rawlins also appears in The Punisher’s solo film, although he isn’t murdered in the same fashion as the comics. It was a perfect call back though.
14 WELCOME BACK, FRANK
Garth Ennis’ take on Frank Castle is universally acclaimed by both fans and critics alike. The 12-issue series is known as “Welcome Back, Frank”. And it sees the Gnucci crime family become the target of Frank Castle’s bloody vengeance as the police pretend to hunt him, but he’s actually doing their jobs for them.
At the end of the very first episode, Micro says to The Punisher, “Welcome back, Frank”. A clear reference to the classic series under the Marvel Knights imprint. It’s clear that with the Netflix series, the showrunners have taken inspiration from Garth Ennis’ run in terms of the tone they use and also the amount of violence. But let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be The Punisher if it wasn’t filled with over the top violence would it?
13 CURTIS HOYLE
Whilst Castle is still going by his alias, he visits a veteran’s support group. And although he doesn’t actually sit in on the discussion, he does stand outside to listen to what’s said. The group is run by his old teammate, Curtis Hoyle. The pair served together and maintained a close friendship afterwards. He’s one of the few characters on the series that knew Castle was still alive.
Curtis is a character from the comics, and he debuted in The Punisher #1 back in 1987. And although the two are friends in the series, he was a villain in the comics. Frank disguised himself to find out who Hoyle was working for until Hoyle guessed his identity. Frank ended up killing him by throwing him out of a helicopter.
12 GNUCCI CRIME FAMILY
In the first episode of the series, a small group of construction workers hold up a backroom gambling ring with thousands of dollars on the table. They don’t know who they’re stealing from, until one of the gangsters mentions the Gnucci family name. It’s a small reference, but it confirms that the Gnucci crime family exist in the MCU.
Most famously, the head of the crime family is Ma Gnucci, who was an infamous villain first appearing in The Punisher vol.5 in 2000. She became a quadriplegic after her limbs were eaten by Polar Bears when The Punisher led the family into Central Park Zoo. She died when Frank kicked the crime boss into her burning mansion with no way of escaping the inferno. Ouch.
11 THE DOGS OF HELL
During Daredevil season two, we got to know The Punisher in a brutal introduction as he waged war against the gangs of New York, and one memorable episode saw Frank and Matt debate the use of violence as Matt was chained up before The Punisher fired a grenade at the Dogs of Hell’s clubhouse. Daredevil beat most of the group to a bloody pulp.
But it looks like some of the group managed to make it out unscathed as Frank hunts down two surviving members. He knocks them off their bikes and then brutally runs them both over without a moments’ hesitation. It’s definitely a gruesome way to go, but it’s a perfect example of Castle’s attitude to murder and violence. It wasn’t just the Dogs of Hell Castle finished off though, but the Kitchen Irish and the Mexican Cartel too.
10 RAWLINS’ EYE
During the flashbacks to Frank’s time in Kandahar as part of a secret illegal death squad, he worked for a man named William Rawlins. Rawlins is one of the main villains of the series, as we later discover that he’s the brains behind the heroin operation that Schoonover had been running during Daredevil season two.
But when an operation goes south after Frank tried to warn Rawlins it was a trap, Frank reacted in a violent way; punching Rawlins so hard that it blinded him. In the comics Rawlins is blinded after being tortured, but this version of his origin ties in better with Frank’s military career and fuels the animosity between the two. After the punch, Rawlins’ eye was left in a gray, milky color.
9 SPRAY PAINTING THE SKULL
We very briefly saw Frank wear the iconic bulletproof vest with the skull logo on at the beginning of the season, but for the majority of the episodes he dresses in tactical clothing rather than the costume he’s known for. The show drives his character development forward more than servicing the fans, and that’s not such a bad thing.
But when he realizes that he needs to make an impression against his enemies, it’s time for him to don the costume once again. He spray paints the bulletproof vest with the skull, similar to when Thomas Jane did the same thing during the 2004 version of The Punisher. It’s a nice little callback to Frank’s cinematic history. Although that film might not be as fondly remembered by everyone, it’s still worth remembering.
8 STAN ORI
Because of everything that happens in the series, the gun control debate is brought up several times. Especially when a troubled ex-soldier turns into a bomber, the discussion on guns is prevalent throughout several episodes. When Karen Page interviews a Senator who has a stern anti-gun stance, he becomes the target for the bomber.
The Senator’s name is Stan Ori, and although he might be just a minor supporting role in the show, he’s a villain who is another kill on Frank’s long list. Frank killed his son because he was a dirty cop, and to get payback, Ori sent a hitman after him. So Frank did what he does best and murdered the pair of them. The version on the TV show seems a lot more timid compared to the comics villain however.
7 AGENT ORANGE
One of the main villains in The Punisher is William Rawlins. He’s a CIA officer who controlled an elite unit that Frank was part of during his time in Kandahar. But whilst they’re overseas, none of the squad know Rawlins’ real name, as he goes by Agent Orange.
Whilst Agent Orange was the name for herbicide chemicals used in Vietnam, there was also an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. who had telepathic abilities that went by the same name. So although it isn’t especially connected to Rawlins, it’s interesting to see the references sprawl back to Frank’s original Vietnam career in the comics. Obviously that was updated to Afghanistan for the series, but it’s one of many reference to Vietnam. It’s also great to see them pulling from other characters in the Marvel Universe.
6 THE CASTIGLIONE CONNECTION
When the series kicks off, it sees Frank working on a construction site taking down walls with a sledgehammer for an entire day and sleeping in a tiny one bed apartment. He’s sporting long hair and a beard whilst going by the name ‘Pete Castiglione’. But why that specific last name?
It’s origins lie in the “Blood of War” and “The Sicilian Saga”stories, when Frank heads back to Sicily to lay low after some explosive dealings with Senator Ori. It’s his family’s original name before they moved over from Sicily. And although this isn’t explained during the live action series, Frank does mention that his wife’s grandmother was from Sicily -- so there’s still that family tie with the name. The name didn’t stick for too long, because before you know it, Frank Castle is back at large.
5 BRETT MAHONEY
So although we don’t get any other heroes or vigilantes appearing in The Punisher, the series is firmly placed within the same universe as Daredevil and the rest of The Defenders by using some of the same supporting characters. Karen Page appears to anchor Frank’s emotional side, but another character is Detective Brett Mahoney.
It’s not the first time that Mahoney has come up against The Punisher, he was the policeman that got the arrest after Daredevil turned him over. This time he’s working with Dinah Madani when The Punisher is suspected of attacking Senator Stan Ori, even though it’s an extremely troubled ex-soldier who began bombing the city. Brett Mahoney appearing in each Netflix series is almost like the new Stan Lee cameo, we’re constantly waiting for him to make his debut.
4 DINAH FORESHADOWS BILLY’S FATE
Billy Russo was one of Frank’s best friends when he was serving in the military, and is shown to mentally stable, unlike his comic book counterpart. During the series he becomes romantically involved with Dinah Madani, the Homeland Security agent investigating Frank Castle, Rawlins and the whole conspiracy.
At one point during their time together, we see the episode focus on Billy’s beauty routine, moisturizing his skin. Madani later says that not everyone can be as pretty as him. In the comics, Billy Russo was a mentally unstable hitman who was the archnemesis of Frank, and he had a horrifically scarred face after being pushed straight through a glass window. It’s a nice touch of foreshadowing Russo’s fate and for his future in the series.
3 MOBY DICK
When Frank is going under an alias and working on the construction site, he’s living in a very small apartment, keeping to himself. He’s seen reading Moby Dick, a story about Captain Ahab who becomes obsessed with hunting the legendary white whale. It’s a clever parallel between Ahab and Frank Castle thrown in by the series.
No matter the cause, the circumstances or the victims -- Frank will always return to his vigilante career because he’s obsessed with getting revenge on those who hurt others or commit violent crimes. Yes, he’s driven by the deaths of his family, but his military training means that he’s a soldier for life. But as much as he likes to deny it, it’s obvious that Frank secretly enjoys killing criminals in a brutal manner. Much like Captain Ahab secretly enjoyed hunting the white whale.
2 TURK BARRETT
Although the NYPD have their constant cameo in Brett Mahoney on each Netflix series, the criminal element of the MCU shows have one too: Turk Barrett. Turk is usually pressured into giving information or taking part in some kind of criminal organization, and his appearance in The Punisher is no different.
When he realizes that he needs a new arsenal of weapons to wage his war on the conspiracy The Punisher kidnaps Turk so that he can get him some more. Unfortunately, all he gets from Turk is a bright pink sniper rifle that was meant for a gangster’s daughter. It’s not exactly what Frank had in mind when he went looking for Turk. But considering the rest of Turk’s appearances have been quite funny, we didn’t expect any less.
So after his origin was teased by Madani whilst the two were seeing each other, the end of the series finally sees a fully-fledged fight between Frank Castle and Billy Russo. The two former best friends used to see each other as family, but that relationship is now twisted and warped as they brutally fight on the carousel where Castle lost his family.
Russo doesn’t really match up to the violent talents of Frank Castle, and is brutally beaten by the vigilante who scrapes his face down broken glass. The photo we’ve used isn’t as gory as the final product, let us assure you. And although Russo begs to be killed after seeing his own reflection, Frank lets him live, knowing the pain he’ll have to endure and suffer would be revenge enough for the crimes he’s committed. Big villain for season two? It seems likely.
Which of these easter eggs were you able to spot? Let us know in the comments!