Frank Castle, Marvel's The Punisher, defines himself as a marine and a family man. There's only one problem. Frank Castle doesn't have a family. They were murdered before we ever met him. It's this moment that is his apotheosis, as it were, the moment that Frank Castle went from a man who had done tour after tour in Afghanistan to the path of becoming the vigilante-style superhero known as The Punisher. But what happened to The Punisher's family exactly?
Many origin stories for superheroes take an entire series, or an entire movie. But, with only so many ways to tell these origin stories, Marvel has begun to find ways to move past them. Some are creative: inserting T'Challa's moment of seeing his father die and becoming Black Panther in his stead, into the middle of a plot point for Captain America: Civil War. (It was also a genius way to start the hype for his upcoming solo outing.) Some are less creative: handwaving away Spider-Man's origin story as "unnecessary" for Spider-Man: Homecoming with a silent smirk that suggests Sony did enough of those to last us all a lifetime.
For this series, Frank Castle's origin story was already neatly interpolated through Daredevil Season 2, giving us a fresh slate to begin a new story when The Punisher arrives. Let's review.
The first story we have about what happened to Frank's family is the simplest. He says they were gunned down in the middle of a gang street fight. That's his motivation for all the killing he's doing in Daredevil Season 2. He's taking out the different gangs, starting with the Irish Mob and then moving down the chain to the bikers and the Cartel.
This actually lines up with the original comic books as well. Frank Castle is an ex-soldier, home from Vietnam, whose family is murdered due to homegrown violence. "They messed with the wrong man"-type vigilante stuff that takes place was popular in the mid-1970s when the war was over and nobody won, while places like New York City were in a state of collapse and urban decay.
The problem is, it's all just a little too pat for Netflix's version of Marvel. This is 2016, and the simplest explanations no longer suffice. It can't just be gang violence in New York City. There has to be something more behind it.
We first get an idea that things are not what they seem when Karen goes digging and realizes there are no major headlines. This was a huge shootout, in Central Park, an innocent family slaughtered. Why is there no record of it? Not even in the back pages?
More comes to light when Page gets a hold of the now former Chief Medical Examiner, who says the Castles weren't the only ones who died. So did an undercover cop. The whole thing was a sting operation. It was a set up. So, how did Castle's family get mixed up in it?
Moreover, why is there no record of Frank Castle, either? He was a marine, who served for years overseas in Afghanistan. And yet... nada. The entire record was wiped clean. A man's family is killed, and it's all covered up. A man's war record, and years of service to his country, is classified away so no one can find it. What are we missing?
The Real Story
Turns out that District Attorney Samantha Reyes, the one who has been making such a big deal about Castle's case, is the one who was in charge of that operation. The sting was an attempt to bring in a fellow called "The Blacksmith," who was the one making this deal with the three gangs. It was her who chose to allow the operation to go forward, despite there being innocent people in the area, because she didn't want to tip anyone off.
She is, of course, convinced Castle is coming for her and her kid in retaliation. She shouldn't have worried. Just admitting the "Blacksmith" exists is enough. Our newly-revealed Big Bad has her assassinated.
Not to worry about that either, because Castle has also learned the truth — that there's a brand new bad guy to add to the list of everyone he's going to kill. Moreover, just as Karen Page realizes this bad guy is actually none other than Castle's own Marine commander Ray Schoonover, Castle himself turns up, having figured it out way ahead of her. The Blacksmith is a dead man.
Castle escapes in the chaos, but the police believe him to be dead. While Castle does come back to accept his mantle of "The Punisher" by season's end, letting his other persona, Frank Castle, stay dead seems to be the best option for all involved.
The Punisher arrives on Friday, Nov. 17, 2017 on Netflix.