One batch, two batch, penny and dime…
It’s been about a year and a half since we last checked in with the Punisher, played by Jon Bernthal, who made his debut in the role in Daredevil season 2 and headlines his own spin-off dropping Friday. In that time, we’ve had three more series set in Netflix’s grim-dark corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so it makes sense if you’ve forgotten where we left off with Bernthal’s murderous vigilante. Like, do you even remember the significance of the quote above? Okay, we’ll remind you: It’s a nursery rhyme from his daughter’s favorite book, which he mutters to himself before, you know, “punishing” someone.
To help prepare you for The Punisher‘s 13-episode season, we’ve put together this quick guide to remind you what you need to know about Frank Castle.
What happened in Daredevil season 2?
When we first meet Frank in Daredevil, he’s a military veteran waging a one-man war on organized crime in New York City. His motivation for this crazy crusade? His entire family (wife and small children) was murdered, apparently in a shootout between rival gangs. The details of this massacre change constantly over the span of both Daredevil and The Punisher, but suffice to say, it’s left a deep mark on Frank’s psyche. As we quickly learn from his growing body count, he doesn’t share Daredevil’s (Charlie Cox) no-killing rule, which puts him in direct conflict with the horned hero. While this odd couple relationship gets off on the wrong foot (or however else you would describe Punisher tying Daredevil up with chains on a rooftop and lecturing him about the ethics of murder), Daredevil ends up coming to Frank’s aid after he’s kidnapped by the Irish mob as revenge for killing one of their own. There are consequences to killing! As Daredevil and Punisher bond, everyone’s favorite legal secretary-turned-journalist Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll) starts digging into Frank’s past.
After escaping the Irish mob, Frank is arrested — by Sgt. Brett Mahoney, who you might see again very soon. Matt’s bleeding heart decides to take Frank on as a client after the District Attorney announces they’re seeking the death penalty. By this point, both Matt and Karen have started to sympathize with Frank, and Karen even develops a connection with him as they talk about his traumatic past. Foggy and Karen convince Frank to take a plea deal, but he changes his mind at the last minute and pleads innocent because he wants to take down the DA, who is covering something up about the circumstances surrounding his family’s death. So, Daredevil briefly becomes The People v. Frank Castle: American Crime Story and follows Nelson & Murdock as they try to navigate their own “trial of the century.”
During the trial, Foggy and Matt manage to sway the jury by using Frank’s former superior officer Col. Ray Schoonover (Clancy Brown) as a character witness; however, Frank screws himself over when he takes the stand and vows that he would kill all of those people again. Not the best way to defend yourself! So Frank is found guilty and sentenced to prison, where he comes face-to-face with the man who convinced him to tank his case: none other than Daredevil’s original enemy, Wilson Fisk (Vincent D’Onofrio).
Inside prison, Fisk tasks Frank with murdering the prison’s “kingpin” (you can see why a jealous Fisk would want that title for his own). Fisk says this man was involved in the massacre of Frank’s family, but he’s not the one ultimately responsible; he tells Frank he was just working for another drug lord, known as the Blacksmith. Fisk arranges for Frank to escape prison because he hopes Frank’s war on the Blacksmith and the rest of New York’s criminal element will clear the way for him to take control of the city once he’s released and become the true Kingpin. In their own investigation, Matt, Foggy, and Karen learn that Frank’s wife and two children died because they got caught in the crossfire between three rival gangs when a sting operation meant to capture the Blacksmith went sideways.
Unfortunately, the Blacksmith sets his sights on Karen when she starts working on a story about him, so Daredevil joins the search for the Blacksmith and eventually crosses paths with the Punisher once again. Daredevil and Punisher investigate one of the Blacksmith’s boats, but his men attack, causing the boat to explode and leading many to believe that Castle died in the blast (this is why characters at the beginning of The Punisher talk about Frank Castle as if he’s dead). Obviously, he didn’t. In the wake of his apparent death, Karen decides to honor Frank with a profile, which leads her to Schoonover’s doorstep. In a very expected twist, Karen realizes Schoonover is the Blacksmith, and Schoonover tries to kill her. Thankfully, Frank arrives in time to save her and murder Schoonover. That’s not Frank’s only last-minute save; he also shows up to help Daredevil and Elektra take down some Hand ninjas in the season finale. As the season ends, Frank finally dons the character’s trademark skull-emblazoned outfit, accepting his comic-book mandated destiny.
Remember the names Schoonover and Mahoney. You’ll probably be hearing from them again…
What you need to know from the other Marvel/Netflix shows
Honestly, not much, because the series, executive-produced by Hannibal‘s Steve Lightfoot, is pretty divorced from everything else. Marvel/Netflix MVP Claire Temple doesn’t even make an appearance! The Punisher takes places after The Defenders, which means you shouldn’t expect a cameo from Cox because Daredevil “died” in the final battle against the Hand (As the final Defenders scene revealed, he’s still alive and recuperating under the care of some nuns). With Daredevil sidelined, crime is on the rise in New York when The Punisher begins. Unfortunately, after one violent opening montage, the Punisher himself seems content to have finished his crusade and disappear back into his memories and loss.