Marvel’s The Punisher is a tightly woven story of betrayal, heroism and acceptance. Jon Bernthal perfectly embodies Frank Castle and leads a stellar cast. Anyone expecting a straightforward superhero show need not apply. There’s blood, sweat and tears as Frank finds his revenge but, mostly blood. Even though the story does occasionally get lost in all the blood, it’s still one of Marvel’s best comic book adaptations. Despite these positives, there are still a few bumps along the road.
Like all the other Marvel Netflix series, 13 hours does lead to some lulls in story and character development. With all this extra time, you would think there’d be no chance for plot holes but, they’re still there. It’s common for the first season of a show to miss a few moments from time to time, however, Marvel and Netflix have had six seasons of TV to figure things out. Sometimes the characters make baffling choices, the story can get confusing and too mysterious, other times writers leave viewers hanging with unanswered questions. These are threads that are left hanging for a future season to pick up, these are just missed opportunities. So, here are the 15 biggest plot holes from The Punisher.
14 WAY TOO MANY CHARACTERS TO START
The Punisher starts like the other Marvel Netflix shows by introducing us to the various people in Frank’s world. Some of them are important and some just aren’t. By episode three it really becomes too many characters. Between Curt’s support group, Homeland Security and everyone we meet in flashbacks, a spreadsheet is needed to keep everyone straight. The older Vietnam vet in Curt’s support group? Completely unnecessary.
Frank’s construction co-worker Donnie? Don’t get too attached. Head agent in charge Wolfe? A waste of C. Thomas Howell. Thankfully he’s not around long. That’s actually the description for many of these characters. They show up for an episode or two just so they can die bloody. In the end, it felt like there could have been less time spent with these unimportant characters and a little more with the ones that matter.
13 FRANK CAN REALLY TAKE A BEATING
One thing we have to be clear about right from the start is that Frank is no superhero. He doesn’t have any special powers. There are times when the show really forgets this fact and has him do unbelievable things. For example, in the penultimate episode, Frank is getting severely beaten by Rawlins. He’s obviously seriously injured, literally covered in blood, on death’s door talking to his dead wife (though that happens a lot so…), but he doesn’t die.
After a shot of adrenaline, he then jumps up and beats Rawlins to death in one of the show’s worst death scenes. Yes, if he dies that’s a terrible ending to the show, but come on he’s not Luke Cage, nor is he wearing a special suit like Daredevil. At a certain point the over the top nature of the moment, detracted from the show’s realistic, grounded style.
12 THE CONSPIRACY STARTS OUT VERY CONFUSING
Throughout the other Marvel Netflix series the plots have been pretty uncomplicated. There’s a bad guy that needs to be taken down, the hero must figure out their issues, embrace their power and defeat the villain. While The Punisher does basically stick to this narrative, the conspiracy storyline used to get there is too confusing at the beginning.
The show puts his previous origin on the backburner in favor of the secrets surrounding an off the books spec ops group and the mysterious murder of an innocent Afghani man. It takes awhile to figure out who’s involved and who can be trusted. And some of the bad guys get killed very quickly so, there’s no answers coming from them. Eventually everything comes together to make some sort of sense but, it doesn’t grab viewers right from the start like Kingpin, Kilgrave or Cottonmouth.
11 HEROIN SMUGGLING BACKSTORY IS UNIMPORTANT
When we met Frank in season two of Daredevil, we went on a long road to discover that his wife and children were murdered because they got caught in the crossfire of his former commanding officer’s heroin smuggling ring. The series even begins with Frank killing the last two people involved in the drug cartel. However, here we take an even longer, winding road to find out that the drug ring was just paying for a much larger, deadlier conspiracy.
Turns out these secrets are what actually led to his family’s death. Writers needed more to sustain 13 hours of TV but, they pretty much wiped away what we spent half a season of Daredevil unraveling. While it may have been a necessary change, it still felt like we had been a little cheated.
10 KAREN NEVER CALLS HER LAWYER
When unhinged bomber Lewis takes aim at Karen and a US Senator, Frank swoops in to save her. With police and Billy’s private contractors all at the hotel, the incident becomes a mess. Detective Mahoney, who we’ve previously met in Daredevil and Jessica Jones, is running the investigation. Considering the seriousness of the crime and her experience as a paralegal, it seems very naive of Karen to not call her lawyer friend Foggy or his boss Jeri.
Though she was a victim, Mahoney knows she helped Frank escape and is not as innocent as she pretends. Karen is a smart cookie and would have known this was the time to wait for counsel. Even if Elden Henson or Carrie-Anne Moss wasn’t available, a line of dialogue mentioning her lawyers still would have worked.
9 JAMES CAN’T TELL RAWLINS IS CRAZY UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE
Right before she offers him a promotion to be her No. 2, CIA Deputy Director Marion James, played by the always great Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, asks Rawlins if he has any skeletons in his closet. As viewers, we know his secrets are deadly and can bring down everyone, however, she doesn’t and takes his word for it.
The thing is, she’s supposed to be this super smart operator who’s been in intelligence for 30 years. So, with all that experience she didn’t know her guy was a sad, weak man who was lying about his service record. From the moment he comes on screen everything Rawlins does screams creepy. It’s a wonder no arrested him in the first episode. It seems especially weird that she never suspected anything considering Rawlins isn’t that great at running his operation.
8 RAWLINS IS A VERY DUMB BAD GUY
Rawlins is such a pathetic, weasel of a man. We’re told he’s from a very powerful family. Considering how obsessed he is with proving himself worthy, he must be the weak link in that chain. Once Frank attacks him because his orders caused men to die, he cannot handle the memory of being emasculated by Castle. Ultimately, this is what causes his plan to fail, his wounded pride.
He becomes so involved in killing The Punisher, that all the bodies he keeps dropping is what puts Frank and Micro on his trail. And it’s not even all the deaths, it’s the clumsiness of them that draws attention. All in all, he’s a terrible leader whose men have no respect for him and who isn’t nearly as smart as he thinks he is. His awful instincts finally get him killed while Frank and Billy survive a little longer.
7 MADANI LETS FRANK GO AND THERE ARE NO CONSEQUENCES
After the dust settles, the truth has come out and Rawlins is dead, Madani decides to let Frank go because she now understands they were looking for the same justice. It’s a cool moment that sets up a possible friendship for season two. When she gets back to Homeland Security and has to explain herself to her boss and CIA Deputy Director James, they essentially yell at her and send her to her office.
She just let a convicted serial murderer and suspected terrorist walk out her front door and there were literally no consequences. This may have been the most unbelievable part of this whole conspiracy. There’s just no way she wouldn’t have been demoted at the very least or fired and prosecuted at worst. Later on they mention that everyone involved is so dirty, no one wants anyone talking.
6 MADANI DOESN’T KNOW BILLY IS THE BAD GUY
While Madani is a great agent with solid instincts she does have one blind spot: her relationship with Billy Russo. In every other aspect of her life she’s portrayed as this clever, capable woman who can handle almost anything the world throws at her. However, she never for one moment suspects her weird, creepy boyfriend is a sociopath who murdered her partner. It’s true Billy is very good at playing the charming ex-soldier who’s just so broken up over losing Frank and his family he can’t live with himself.
However, every once in awhile his mask slips just a little and the real Billy is showing. The whole reason Madani started cozying up to him was to investigate his connection to the murder in Kandahar that started this whole crazy story. Seems like if she was suspicious from day one, a woman like her wouldn’t have let her guard down and gotten played.
5 CURT GOES TO SEE LEWIS WITHOUT BACKUP
Frank’s friend Curt is so devoted to the other soldiers in his support group he goes above and beyond to help them. When he sees Lewis spiraling out of control, he does everything he can to help him, even bailing the ungrateful guy out of jail. The minute he hears him on the radio, Curt knows Lewis is the bomber. He goes to his house to check on him and doesn’t call the police, Frank or Billy to let them know what’s going on.
Curt served with Frank and Billy so he knows not to go into a dangerous situation without backup. He went to see an unhinged, military trained, terrorist bomber without any sort of plan. This is a remarkably dumb move for such a smart guy.
4 MADANI IS BAD AT PLANNING OPS
Homeland Security agent Madani is smart. She’s the only one who sees through the conspiracy right from the start. It takes all the characters a little longer to believe in her investigation. Her colleagues keep telling her to think of her career and stop chasing ghosts. Obviously she doesn’t and she gets very single minded in her pursuit of the truth. She keeps planning ops to go after Frank and the others she thinks are involved, but they keep going wrong, with agents continuously losing their lives.
By the time the big showdown with Billy and his men happens, she’s proven she was right about everything but, once again things seemingly go bad and people end up dead. Her boss is a stand up guy who knows his business so, why does he keep letting her plan these deadly operations? She’s a good agent but not a great head agent in charge.
3 KAREN TALKS TO FRANK WHILE THE FBI ARE IN HER OFFICE
Though she never comes out and says “I know The Punisher and he’s still alive,” it seems obvious to everyone in town that Karen is close personal friends with Frank. When Lewis threatens her while on his bombing spree, the FBI show up to investigate and protect her. This is when Frank calls to check on her and tell her he’s going to handle things his way.
For a few minutes she has a conversation with him, not really hiding who it might be, while an FBI agent is standing in the room. She does eventually ask him to leave but, she might as well have said “Hey my friend The Punisher is on the line can you step outside?” Karen was definitely more self assured than we’ve seen before in this series but, it was still one of those classic Karen mistakes that makes you wonder what’s her purpose again?
Once again for the cheap seats, Frank Castle does not have superpowers. He’s an excellently trained special forces Marine but, he’s still human. Yes, he’s a better fighter and shooter than most regular guys, so sometimes it looks like he has superpowers. In the opening scene he’s still on his rampage against the drug dealers he thinks are responsible for his family’s murders when he tracks a bad guy to Juarez, Mexico.
As the guy celebrates escaping The Punisher, we see him in Frank’s crosshairs, with him ending up dead. The camera then pulls back to reveal Frank in El Paso, Texas. He shot a guy in Mexico while he was in Texas. Really!? We know comic books are about suspending reality but, come on that’s just ridiculous.
2 THE TIMELINE IS UNCLEAR
We knew right from the start that Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist were leading to The Defenders so it made sense that the events and timelines of those shows lined up perfectly. They also had frequent mentions to the incident aka The Battle of New York. In The Punisher, it’s never made clear where in the timeline the show stands.
If it takes place after The Defenders then there should be some dialogue between Frank and Karen about Matt’s death. If it’s before any of that happens then there should still be at least some easter egg about the bulletproof man in Harlem or the woman who broke that man’s neck. If this series is meant to be in the same universe, let alone the same city as the other Netflix heroes then some sort of reference point would have been helpful.
1 MICRO IS A STUPID HACKER
Yes, that title is a little misleading, as Micro is an excellent hacker whose skills save the day several times. However, this whole crazy conspiracy came to Madani’s attention when he received information and video of an execution from one of Frank’s friends. He decides something has to be done about this and sends everything to Madani...from his home computer.
Yes, the CIA analyst and genius hacker wasn’t smart enough to not send the evidence of a government cover up from his easily traceable home computer. Any teenager avoiding detection knows to use an outside system. Even Madani knew how to trick the system when she found out she was being monitored. Perhaps if he had just gone to the local library or coffee shop this whole thing could have been avoided.
Which of these plot holes is the worst? Let us know in the comments!