[Warning: This story contains spoilers for the first episode of Marvel’s The Punisher.]
“Welcome back, Frank.”
The final three words of the first episode of Marvel’s The Punisher are more than appropriate, both as a nod to the name of one of the greatest Frank Castle stories ever told (courtesy of Preacher creators Garth Ennis and the late Steve Dillon), as well as in the context of the episode: Frank, played by Walking Dead vet Jon Bernthal (reprising the role he first played in Marvel’s Daredevil), is considered dead to the world — but as a bunch of mobsters and lowlife criminals discovered, the man they call the Punisher is very much alive and kicking.
From showrunner Steve Lightfoot (Hannibal), The Punisher takes place following the aftermath of Daredevil, in which Frank finally found and killed the man responsible for murdering his wife and two kids. But as the series quickly establishes, Frank’s work isn’t quite finished. The opening moments of the first episode see Castle traveling around the United States taking out the remaining entities who played a role in the death of his family, with methods of murder ranging from delivering a lethal headshot from afar to choking the life out of a man in a dirty airport bathroom — all crimes committed while wearing body armor emblazoned with the Punisher’s signature skull.
Following the killing spree, Castle returns to a normal life, such as one can ever exist for this man. Six months pass, and in that time, the erstwhile Punisher has returned to New York, albeit operating under a new name: Peter Castiglione, a heavily bearded construction worker with a penchant for hammering concrete walls to death. (Hey, gotta kill something.) He lives a simple existence, as the first and last one in and out of his physically grueling job, taking lunch breaks alone on a rooftop with a stunning view of Manhattan, going home at night to read Moby Dick until he sleeps, if he ever sleeps at all. All the while, he recalls pleasantly mundane memories of his family, including playing guitar with his kids and waking up to his wife’s soothing voice. But the memories are perverted by their violent ends, which still haunt Frank deeply, despite punishing the people responsible for their deaths.
Castle has a couple of friendly faces in his life, including Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore), one of Frank’s old friends from the war, and one of very few people who knows the truth behind Peter Castiglione. (It’s worth noting that in the comics, Hoyle and Castle eventually become adversaries, leading to one of their deaths. One guess as to which one meets his maker.) There’s also Donny (Lucca de Oliveira), the newest worker at the construction site, kind enough to share half of his sandwich with Frank after he loses his lunch at the hands of some bullies at work. (The notion of anyone bullying Frank Castle is a strange one indeed.) Frank doesn’t want to befriend anyone, of course, not even someone as affable as Donny — and in pushing Donny away, he drives him straight into the arms of Lance (Chris Critelli) and his posse, who work construction by day, but pull off petty crimes at night.
One night, Lance and his crew take Donny on a stick-up job, robbing a poker game protected by a New York crime family known as the Gnuccis. (Again, a nod to “Welcome Back Frank,” as the Gnucci family served as the primary antagonists of that arc.) During the robbery, the criminals identify Donny, which leads Lance and the others to silence the loose end by throwing him in a cement mixer. There’s just one problem: Frank Castle is still at work, present while these men try to kill Donny. Guess who gets killed instead? Frank — or “The Gimp,” as his construction colleagues liked to call him — takes his hammer and goes to work on Lance and the others, brutally beating them to death. What’s more, he seeks out the mobsters Lance stole from, and kills them all, as a means of making sure they’re unable to find and kill Donny.
Despite his best efforts to keep his hands clean, then, Frank Castle is very much back in the killing game, if only for one night. Of course, it won’t be for one night only; there’s still a whole season of television to get through before he can hang up the guns for good. What’s more, Frank’s actions against the Gnucci land the man firmly on someone’s radar: Micro, played by Girls alum Ebon Moss-Bachrach, well-known to Punisher fans as Frank Castle’s eye in the sky.
“Welcome back, Frank,” Micro mutters as he watches surveillance footage of Castle emerging from the poker game, fresh from killing the Gnucci mobsters. Looks like the start of a beautiful friendship indeed.
What did you think of the first episode of The Punisher? And what are your thoughts on some of the other storylines, including Amber Rose Revah as agent Dinah Madani? Sound off in the comments section below, and stay tuned for more coverage of the first season of the Netflix series.