Marvel Comics’ heavily armed vigilante known as The Punisher has repeatedly missed the mark in theaters, but after a celebrated debut in the second season of Daredevil on Netflix, he’s getting his very own solo series this year. Portrayed by Jon Bernthal, formerly of The Walking Dead, Frank Castle (The Punisher’s civilian alter ego) played a key role in season 2 of Daredevil, catapulting the character back into the spotlight. A member of the U.S. Marine Corps who received Special Forces training with the U.S. Army, Castle wages a deadly one-man war on crime after his family is killed in the crossfire of a drug deal gone sour.
Bernthal’s performance in Daredevil was hailed by critics as one of the best elements in the show’s widely praised second season, and it didn’t take long for Netflix and Marvel to confirm plans for a spinoff series focusing on the lethal vigilante. With The Punisher set to premiere in November 2017, here’s everything we know about the series so far.
Finally, a release date (and a new trailer)
After months of teasing an announcement of the series’ release date, Netflix finally revealed when audiences will be able to binge their way through The Punisher at the tail-end of a new trailer that debuted in late October.
The series will premiere November 17, 2017, on Netflix.
Along with revealing the series’ premiere date, the new trailer features plenty of fresh — and brutally violent — footage from Frank Castle’s first season as a solo act. The preview serves as a good reminder that Frank’s notoriously bloody, ultraviolent prison sequence from the second season of Daredevil might just be the tip of the bruising iceberg when it comes to what The Punisher has in store for audiences.
Mass shooting prompts panel cancellation
Following a mass shooting in which a domestic terrorist killed at least 58 people and wounded nearly 500 others October 1 in Las Vegas, Netflix and Marvel TV announced that The Punisher panel scheduled for this year’s New York Comic Con convention will be canceled.
“We are stunned and saddened by this week’s senseless act in Las Vegas,” read a joint statement from Netflix and Marvel. “After careful consideration, Netflix and Marvel have decided it wouldn’t be appropriate for Marvel’s The Punisher to participate in New York Comic-Con. Our thoughts continue to be with the victims and those affected by this tragedy.”
The panel, which was originally planned for October 7, was expected to reveal the premiere date for the violent series featuring a deadly vigilante who uses a variety of powerful guns and other weapons to dispatch criminals. The Punisher is one of several recent series to have a premiere or other type of event postponed due to a mass shooting in the U.S. Previously, USA Network’s Shooter had its premiere date postponed twice due to mass shootings that occurred just before each of its scheduled premieres.
A punishing debut trailer
The first full-length trailer for The Punisher premiered September 20, 2017. Along with giving the most extensive look yet at the character’s solo series, the trailer also provided a bit more context for the first season’s story arc.
The official synopsis for the season indicates that the series will entrench Bernthal’s lethal vigilante in a far-reaching conspiracy.
“After exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his wife and children, Frank Castle uncovers a conspiracy that runs far deeper than New York’s criminal underworld,” reads the description of the series that accompanied the trailer.
He’s coming for you
In September 2017, the official Punisher Twitter account tweeted out a short teaser trailer for the series, along with the caption, “Surprise.” In the video, Frank is shown taking down some soldiers in a desolate, wooded area. The trailer is shot in Blair Witch-style “found footage,” and after stabbing the second soldier, he looks into the camera menacingly and states, “I’m coming for you.”
— The Punisher (@ThePunisher) September 18, 2017
Who is he talking to? Who knows? The trailer doesn’t reveal much — it just reinforces what we already knew: The Punisher is a merciless and he’s pretty crazy.
Stripped down and stressed out
While Netflix and Marvel’s The Defenders supergroup series has been received rather well, some fans have been upset and confused by the absence of Bernthal’s popular Punisher. According to Jon Bernthal, though, that should come as no surprise once the show comes out.
In Entertainment Weekly’s “spoiler room,” Natalie Abrams got the inside scoop from Bernthal himself, who says that the two shows have very different vibes: “We are stripping down every supernatural element. This show is different. It looks different. Frank is a character rooted in the most basic human emotions … He’s a comic-book character, but he doesn’t fly, he doesn’t have X-ray vision. He’s an unbelievably skilled soldier who’s been very, very angry and very, very hurt.”
While we love awesome superpowers, we’re also happy to hear that The Punisher will be dark, eschewing the more fantastic elements of the other Marvel shows in favor of a more gritty feel.
Behind the gun
Rumors of a Punisher solo series began circulating months before the second season of Daredevil premiered on Netflix, and despite Marvel’s insistence that nothing was certain at that point, it didn’t take long for The Punisher to get the green light once positive reviews of Bernthal’s performance began circulating.
Netflix officially ordered a 13-episode season of The Punisher in April 2016, just a month after the character’s debut in Daredevil. Bernthal was quickly confirmed to reprise the title role, and Hannibal executive producer and writer Steve Lightfoot was named the showrunner on the series.
Filming on the season kicked off in Brooklyn, New York, in October 2016 and continued until April 2017.
A killer cast
A flurry of additional cast members were revealed throughout the second half of 2016.
Actor Ben Barnes (Westworld, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian) joined the series in September 2016, and although he was initially reported to be playing a simple crime boss, he was later confirmed in a different role — one that’s likely to be the primary villain in the first season.
According to Marvel, Barnes is attached to portray Billy Russo, a friend of Frank Castle during his time in the Special Forces, who now runs a private military company called Anvil. In Marvel Comics continuity, the character Billy Russo is also the deadly assassin (and aspiring gangster) known as Jigsaw due to the terrible scars he was left with after The Punisher tossed him through a plate-glass window. Whether Barnes’ character will follow a similar arc in the series remains a mystery.
Other casting additions include Ebon Moss-Bachrach (The Lake House, Girls ) as Micro, a former National Security Agency data analyst whose computer skills and access provide valuable assistance in Punisher’s war on crime; and Amber Rose Revah (The Devil’s Double) as Dinah Madani, a Department of Homeland Security agent who crosses paths with The Punisher.
Daredevil actress Deborah Ann Woll (pictured above) will also reprise her role as Karen Page for the series, further developing the relationship her character has with Frank Castle after the pair bonded during Punisher’s introductory story arc. In October, photos from the set of The Punisher initially revealed Woll’s involvement in the series, which was later confirmed by Marvel.
Additional cast members for the first season of The Punisher include Daniel Webber as Lewis Walcott, a young veteran struggling to acclimate to civilian life; Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle, a friend of Frank who knows he’s still alive; Paul Schulze as Rawlins, a CIA agent; Jaime Ray Newman as Sarah Lieberman, Micro’s wife; and Michael Nathanson as Sam Stein, another DHS agent and Dinah Madani’s partner.
Oscar-nominated House of Sand and Fog and The Expanse actress Shohreh Aghdashloo (pictured above) was later announced in the role of Farah Madani, Dinah’s mother and a psychiatrist who will play a recurring role in the season.
Prone to violent episodes
On August 28, 2017, the official Twitter account for The Punisher posted a series of updates in Morse code.
…– / .- —
— The Punisher (@ThePunisher) August 28, 2017
The 13 updates were later deciphered by Entertainment Weekly, and likely identify the titles of each of the episodes in the show’s first season, a la Stranger Things. The probable titles are as follows:
- 3 AM
- Two Dead Men
- The Judas Goat
- Cold Steel
- Front Toward Enemy
- Virtue of the Vicious
- Danger Close
- Memento Mori
Kandahar refers to the city in Afghanistan where Frank Castle was stationed, which was also mentioned by Clancy Brown’s character in the second season of Daredevil. The Judas Goat is a term used to describe a trained goat used to lead sheep to the slaughter, while Front Toward Enemy is the phrase typically imprinted on Claymore anti-personnel mines. Virtue of the Vicious is an excerpt from an Oscar Wilde quote.
Finally, Memento Mori is the Latin term for reflection on one’s mortality.
Caught in the sights
Marvel unveiled the first look at The Punisher during its 2017 panel at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
The Punisher just showed up. pic.twitter.com/9YDHmxc33z
— Brian Truitt (@briantruitt) July 22, 2017
The short clip wasn’t made available publicly, but Variety described it as follows:
“In the clip, fans see The Punisher, whose real name is Frank Castle, in a flashback teaching his daughter how to play guitar. It then snaps back to the present, with Castle driving a souped-up car as he engages in a shootout with a biker. After successfully shooting the man off his motorcycle, Castle circles back and runs the man over.”
“The scene then jumps to El Paso, Texas, where a cartel boss is heading into a club,” the description continues. “Castle observes him through a window via a sniper rifle scope. As the cartel boss gets frisky with two women, Castle kills him from a considerable distance with the rifle. Finally, he corners a hood named Mickey O’Hare in a bathroom at JFK Airport in New York. When O’Hare asks if killing him will bring him any closure, Castle replies no before strangling O’Hare with his own necktie.”
The first official teaser for the series made its debut in August 2017, with the brief preview rolling after the credits at the end of The Defenders team-up series. The teaser was later widely released by Netflix, offering fans the very first footage from the show.
Netflix followed up that first teaser with a dark photo of Bernthal in the full, skull-adorned uniform of The Punisher. The photo posted to Twitter features a cryptic caption, teasing that “The murder of Frank Castle’s family was just the beginning.”
The murder of Frank Castle's family was just the beginning. pic.twitter.com/JfgkpG6QX8
— The Punisher (@ThePunisher) August 24, 2017
The show’s Twitter account later posted a new promotional video for the show that took a character-based, graphics-heavy approach to introducing the cast, but continued to keep the official release date for the series a mystery.
Titled “Fall In,” the teaser features each of the first season’s primary cast members, and closes with a grim shot of Bernthal as Frank Castle.
Fall in. pic.twitter.com/nq7kxyidIC
— The Punisher (@ThePunisher) August 28, 2017
Update: We’ve added a new trailer and the official release date for the series.
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