Charlie Cox as Matt Murdock / Daredevil faces off with Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle / Punisher

Ready For A Punisher Rewatch? You Might Want To Do Daredevil First

It's basically a prequel.

by Ani Bundel
Originally Published: 

When Netflix’s Marvel-verse initially launched in 2015 with Daredevil, the show was treated as something of a standalone story, not unlike how the Marvel Cinematic Universe did with Iron Man, just in case it was a flop. But also like Iron Man, when it became clear Daredevil was a hit, the franchise went full steam ahead, seeding spinoff shows left and right. So when Frank “The Punisher” Castle began showing up in Daredevil episodes, it was only a matter of time before he’d get his own show. And sure enough, The Punisher premiered in 2017.

Castle wasn’t the first character to get his own spinoff. Jessica Jones, the second series to come from the Netflix-Marvel venture in 2015, used its very first episode to introduce the hero of the franchise’s third series, Luke Cage. But Cage, who was introduced as a character viewers would instantly love, only guest-starred in a few episodes of Jessica Jones before heading out to headline his own show in 2016. When Marvel TV decided to introduce Castle on Daredevil in 2016, the producers faced a much more difficult task. You see, Castle is not a traditional hero. He's a former Marine and a stone-cold killer, a rather difficult anti-hero character to sell to audiences. So Daredevil's producers decided to make Castle the prominent "big bad" figure in most of Season 2 to flesh out his character, despite Daredevil's main villain being Wilson Fisk in Seasons 1 and 3.

Out of the 13 installments in Daredevil Season 2, Castle showed up in 12 of them. When the second season opened, Castle’s crime scenes were investigated by Daredevil, and defended by Matt Murdock’s law firm. Episode 5, "Kinbaku," (the introduction of Elektra Natchios, Matt Murdock's love interest for the season) is the only one in which he didn't appear. But even though Frank Castle didn't show up in Episode 5, that doesn't mean fans of The Punisher should skip it. Although most of the hour focused on flashbacks to Murdock's past with Elektra and her arrival in New York City, Castle wasn't far from anyone's thoughts. Moreover, his time offscreen wasn't spent idle either; he was prepping for the second half of the series.

In essence, Daredevil Season 2 operates as Castle's origin story, the journey he makes from being a classic villain and antagonist to an anti-hero worthy of his own story. That makes his episodes in Daredevil something of a Punisher prequel. Let's dive into his story:

Episodes 1-4: A New Villain In Town

Castle arrived with a bang in the very first episode, titled, well, "Bang." For the first four episodes (including "Dogs to a Gunfight," "New York's Finest," and "Penny and Dime"), Murdock's quest to find the "army" that took down the Irish mob (which was really just Castle) consumed the main plot of the season.

Not only did the case consume his night work, but also his day job. Although neither of them knew it at first, Murdock was already dealing with his fellow vigilante as a potential client. By the end of the fourth episode, his law firm, Nelson and Murdock, was representing Frank Castle and defended his mass gang killings in what was billed as the "trial of the century."

Episodes 6-8: Castle's Backstory

After his one episode away from the season, Castle returned with a vengeance in Episode 6 ("Regrets Only") when the always-plucky Karen Page did a deep dive into Castle's past and seemingly earned his trust. But then, in Episode 7 ("Semper Fidelis"), when Elektra's meddling screwed up Murdock's opening defense statement in Castle's trial, it seemed like their client would stop cooperating.

But Castle wasn't worried. His self-hatred for who'd he'd become meant he'd convinced himself it would be best to be locked away. When Matt's partner, Foggy, saved the day and swayed the jury in Episode 8 ("Guilty as Sin"), Castle took the stand and wrecked his lawyers' hard work to ensure he'd wind up heading to jail.

Episode 9: The Turning Point

With Castle in jail, Elektra and Daredevil growing closer during their hunt for the Hand, and Stick's reveal of the Chaste, it almost seemed like Castle would fade into the background until his spinoff premiered. But no. In Episode 9 ("Seven Minutes in Heaven"), Castle ran into an old friend of the show, Season 1's Wilson Fisk.

Fisk initially wanted to get Castle out of the way and arranged to have him killed. But then he got a load of what the guy could do. Seeing an opportunity to send a killer to take out Matt Murdock, he worked to get Castle out of jail so he could be an asset on the outside.

Episodes 10-13: Castle The Anti-Hero

But instead of taking down Murdock, in Episode 10 ("The Man in the Box"), Castle proved there's good in him yet, moving him from the role of pure villain to anti-hero. He saved Karen Page's life, and the two began an uneasy friendship, despite her misgivings over Castle's murderous ways when she witnessed him casually assassinate a room of low-level henchmen in Episode 11 (".380").

It only got more complicated in Episode 12 ("The Dark at the End of the Tunnel"). Hoping to write an exposé on Castle's innocence for the New York Bulletin, Page interviewed his old former Marine commander, Ray Schoonover. But as the interview went on, Schoonover revealed under her questioning that he was the season's *real* main antagonist, the Blacksmith, who had been setting up Castle to take the fall for his crimes the whole time. Of course, Castle showed up and saved Karen again by killing Schoonover.

In the finale ("A Cold Day in Hell's Kitchen"), Page was kidnapped. But by that time, Murdock and Castle had teamed up (along with Elektra) and saved her. Castle's experience using his abilities as a force for good convinced him to take up his mantle, embrace being the Punisher, and go on to headline his own story.

All three seasons of Daredevil and both seasons of The Punisher are streaming on Netflix.

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