WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Marvel's The Punisher, now streaming on Netflix.
Fans of Marvel film and television productions have come to anticipate comic book Easter eggs and sly nods to other corners of the sprawling cinematic universe. However, they probably never expected to find a lengthy, unmistakable homage to the ABC drama Lost on The Punisher.
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It arrives in the third episode of the Netflix series, "Kandahar," after former NSA analyst David Lieberman (aka Micro, played by Ebon Moss-Bachrach) goes to great lengths to contact the presumed-dead Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) and arrange a face-to-face meeting, only to be stood up. Returning to a secret bunker beneath an abandoned power station, his home since he was seemingly killed by a dirty Homeland Security agent, Micro discovers -- too late -- that he's brought The Punisher with him in the trunk of his car.
Knocked unconscious, Micro awakens to find himself naked and strapped to a chair, marked for "advanced interrogation techniques." But before Castle can do more than eat some beef stew straight for a can -- "You know, you risk botulism doing that," Micro cautions -- an alarm blares and a countdown flashes on a computer screen.
"OK, this place is rigged," he explains as Castle scours the area. "It means, I don't type a code into the central terminal, then ... kaboom. That alarm means we got three minutes before it gets awful warm in here." However, the setup doesn't only require a code; there's also a retinal scan, seemingly ensuring Micro must be kept alive by his captor. With Castle holding a gun to his head, Micro insists the security system is hardwired and, therefore, unable to be disabled.
The scenario's similarity to Lost, and its infamous Hatch, is impossible to miss. Introduced in the second season of the popular ABC drama, the Hatch led to the DHARMA Initiative underground facility known as The Swan, in which the survivors on the island input a code into a computer every 108 minutes, believing that would prevent a global catastrophe. As on The Punisher, there was an alarm that sounded as the deadline approached; likewise, there was debate whether there were would be any real consequences if the countdown reached zero.
In the case of Micro, the truth is revealed only gradually, beginning with Castle's discovery that there are no explosive devices in the bunker. With that, Micro modifies the story, explaining that if he doesn't enter the code, video of the facility will be immediately emailed to media outlets, intended to serve as a guarantee that if he were found and killed by rogue intelligence agents, their actions and identities would be exposed to the world. Or, in this case, the world would learn that the infamous Punisher is still very much alive after the events of Daredevil's second season.
But all of that is only to buy Micro time. When he sees his opening, he injects Castle with a fast-working, debilitating drug, which knocks him out. When he awakes, he first groggily asks why Micro didn't kill him, and then about the codes. "Turned that off," he replies casually, demonstrating the layers of his lie. In the end, much like on Lost, Micro's code is also a psychological experiment, designed to get Castle to let his guard down, if only for a moment.
"Y'know, it's like you said," he explains to a bewildered Punisher. "Routines, right? Patterns. They lull us into a sense of, uh, normality, a false sense of security. We cease to question. Even somebody like you."
"You're an asshole," Castle mutters. Well, that much is true.
Now available on Netflix, Marvel's The Punisher stars Jon Bernthal, Ben Barnes, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Amber Rose Revah, Deborah Ann Woll, Daniel Webber, Jason R. Moore, Paul Schulze, Jaime Ray Newman and Michael Nathanson.