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[Warning: This story contains minor spoilers for the first six episodes of Marvel’s The Punisher.]
It’s almost time for a new round of punishment.
Frank Castle returns to the Marvel Cinematic Universe this weekend in The Punisher, with the entirety of its first season dropping Friday on Netflix. Starring The Walking Dead veteran Jon Bernthal as the gun-toting vigilante, The Punisher follows on the heels of the character’s first MCU appearance in season two of Marvel’s Daredevil, in which Castle rose from the presumed dead to exact vengeance on the people responsible for killing his family.
Castle’s vengeance quest was satisfied at the end of the 2016 Marvel-Netflix series — or so he thought. The new project, from showrunner Steve Lightfoot, sees a renewed focus on Frank’s family, as the brutal killer learns more and more about exactly why his wife and two children were mercilessly gunned down — and why his own past played a primary and unexpected role in that bloodshed.
Based on the first six episodes of the series, here’s what to expect from The Punisher when it bows Friday.
In the opening minutes of the season, Frank violently eradicates several foes in disturbing fashion, ranging from far-off head-shots to down-and-dirty bathroom brawls. Marvel and Netflix’s partnership has produced six different titles now, and without question, The Punisher is the bloodiest of the bunch — a gruesome thing to consider, given some of the violence achieved over the course of Daredevil, as one example. Remember when Wilson Fisk decapitating a man with a car door was the most shocking act of violence in a live-action Marvel property? Wait until you get a load of Frank.
Through the graphic content, The Punisher takes time to examine the psychology of the men who are capable of so much destruction. A significant portion of screen time is devoted to a group of former soldiers who meet together to work through their experiences at war and the ghosts that followed them home. The first episode alone spends an extended amount of time focusing on Frank’s mundane existence, following him from the time he wakes up to the time his head hits the pillow, with some routine if labor-intensive activity in between. Does this look inside the mind of Frank and others like him excuse their lethality? Not in the least — but it’s a helpful entry point into the characters who populate this corner of the Marvel Netflix Universe.
Frank’s wife and children are long deceased by the time The Punisher picks up, but they’re far from gone. Indeed, they live with Frank every day. The Castle family is very much a part of this series, appearing both in flashback and hallucinatory form, weaving in and out of Frank’s daily existence. What’s more, Frank makes it clear near the midpoint of the season that he’s a man of two families: his wife and children, as well as the Marine Corps, which remains a very active force in the new series. Speaking of which, Frank’s second family provides…
4. More Blood
Early on in the season, we see Frank at war. He’s a Marine fighting overseas, sent off on an op he strongly disagrees with, leading to the deaths of countless soldiers — as well as countless enemies — as Frank becomes a veritable one-man army and rampages through the battlefield in incredibly disturbing fashion. It’s one of the most unsettling and visceral action scenes ever depicted in Marvel, and it arrives with plenty of season still to go.
Anyone looking for The Punisher to tie closely with the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, don’t hold your breath. Despite first appearing in Daredevil, Bernthal’s Frank Castle stands apart from the other heroes kicking around Netflix’s corner of the superhero landscape. The Hand and Danny Rand are nowhere in sight here, and it’s a good thing, for the obvious reasons, but also because The Punisher stands as a show one can hop into without having watched a single frame of what’s come before. With that said…
Certain shades of the Marvel Universe appear within The Punisher, if not Theo Rossi’s Shades from Luke Cage specifically. (At least not through six episodes.) Deborah Ann Woll reprises her role as Karen Page, taking on Rosario Dawson duties, while several other characters are either inspired by or pulled straight out of the pages of Marvel’s Punisher comics. Diehard fans of the character will recognize names like “Gnucci,” “Micro” and “Billy Russo.” Whether these names will pay off in all of the expected ways remains to be seen.
7. Seriously, So Much Blood
It cannot be stated enough: The Punisher is a blood-soaked affair. Certainly, one expects violence to follow Frank’s vigilante pursuits. Perhaps one does not expect exactly this much violence: hammered bodies covered in cement, eyes gouged out in a single punch to the face, knives to the throat, arrows to the chest. Consider the gruesome action as a primary factor before launching into The Punisher, and then proceed accordingly. There’s no punishment for deciding this level of bloodshed is simply too much.