The Punisher (TV series)
Marvel's The Punisher, or simply The Punisher, is an American web television series created for Netflix by Steve Lightfoot, based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It is set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), sharing continuity with the films and other television series of the franchise, and is a spin-off of Marvel's Daredevil. The series is produced by Marvel Television in association with ABC Studios and Bohemian Risk Productions, with Lightfoot serving as showrunner.
The series revolves around Frank Castle, who uses lethal methods to fight crime as the vigilante "the Punisher", with Jon Bernthal reprising the role from Daredevil. Ben Barnes, Amber Rose Revah, and Jason R. Moore also star. They are joined by Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Daniel Webber, Paul Schulze, Michael Nathanson, Jaime Ray Newman, and Deborah Ann Woll in the first season, with Josh Stewart, Floriana Lima, Giorgia Whigham, Corbin Bernsen, and Annette O'Toole joining for the second season. A television series centered on the Punisher received a put pilot commitment at Fox in 2011, but that project fell through. In June 2015, Bernthal was cast as the character to appear in the second season of Daredevil. Development on a spin-off titled The Punisher began by January 2016, before the second season of Daredevil was released. In April 2016, Marvel and Netflix ordered the series, confirmed Bernthal's involvement, and announced Lightfoot as executive producer and showrunner. Filming for the series takes place in New York City.
All episodes of the first season were released on November 17, 2017. A month later, the series was renewed for a second season.
Frank Castle, known throughout New York City as "the Punisher" after exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his family, uncovers a larger conspiracy beyond what was done to him and his family.
Cast and characters
- Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle / Punisher:
A vigilante who aims to fight the criminal underworld by any means necessary, no matter how lethal the results. Daredevil season one showrunner Steven S. DeKnight said this version of Punisher would be "completely the Marvel version," as previous portrayals did not appear under the Marvel Studios / Marvel Television banner. However, Bernthal did study all the previous portrayals, saying, "once you devour and eat up as much as you can, my way is to make it as personal as possible". On how Castle resonates with him, Bernthal said, "He ain't got a fucking cape. He ain't got any superpowers. He's a fucking tortured, angry father and husband who's living in this unbelievable world of darkness and loss and torment." Bernthal added that there would be "a military component" in the series since Castle is "a soldier... [The series] will be somewhat centered on that". He also stated that "the character that was portrayed on Daredevil season two was sort of the origin tale of how this guy became the Punisher, why he put on the vest." Bernthal noted he "always want[ed] to preserve the essence of" Castle, who Bernthal described as "brutal", "damaged" and "tortured", by exploring "the pain and what's behind the violence and the reason why he's committing the violence" that is "utterly satisfying and addictive for him".
- Ebon Moss-Bachrach as David Lieberman / Micro:
A former NSA analyst who assists Castle after faking his death. Regarding Micro's relationship with Castle, Moss-Bachrach said, "We have found ourselves with common enemies and it's a marriage of convenience." Moss-Bachrach also felt the comics version of the character was "a one-trick pony", supplying equipment to Castle, but that the character gets "interesting when their relationship gets bad" and hoped to explore that in the series.
- Ben Barnes as Billy Russo: Castle's former best friend from when he served in USMC Force Recon. Russo runs Anvil, a private military corporation.
- Amber Rose Revah as Dinah Madani:
An Iranian-American Department of Homeland Security agent stationed in Afghanistan, who returns to New York City for an investigation that leads her to cross paths with Castle. Revah noted that Madani "sees herself as American – that's what her being is, that's what she wants to protect, that's why she does what she does." As Madani is not based on a character from the comics, Revah's "research was based more on Homeland and what it's like for those people, and the logical processes the character would be going through. I think, for a lot of actors, if you're playing someone from comics, you probably feel you have some sort of responsibility to represent this character in a light that reflects how they were represented in the comic books. Because I didn't have that, it probably let me be more open in my representation." Revah spoke with actual Homeland officers as well as Iranian people "to make that [part of the character] authentic." A special shotgun was made for Revah to use, designed for her stature.
- Daniel Webber as Lewis Wilson: A young veteran struggling with his new life as a taxi driver. He attends group therapy sessions with other servicemen under Curtis Hoyle. Webber felt his character was "a mirror to Frank’s journey. These characters really look at each other and they both go separate routes."
- Paul Schulze as William Rawlins: The Director of Covert Operations at the CIA, who crosses paths with Castle due to their time in Afghanistan.
- Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle: A friend of Castle, one of the few people who knows he is alive and former US Navy Special Amphibious Reconnaissance Corpsman, who became the leader of a therapy group after losing the lower part of his left leg in combat.
- Michael Nathanson as Sam Stein: A Department of Homeland Security agent and Madani's partner.
- Jaime Ray Newman as Sarah Lieberman: David's wife.
- Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page:
A reporter at the New York Bulletin and Matt Murdock's former assistant, who befriended Castle after working on his case. Woll reprises her role from previous Marvel Netflix series. Regarding Page's continuing relationship with Castle, Woll said, "Frank has a soft spot in Karen's heart, and certainly with the dark history that Karen has, there are very few people she can share her authentic self with. Frank is someone who she could potentially fully open up to." She added, "there's something about Frank where [Karen] doesn't have to be ashamed of her darkest, deepest side of herself. She gets to be more honest with him".
- Josh Stewart as John Pilgrim: A man who portrays a calm exterior with a ruthless interior, that is forced to use his violent skills again after leaving his previous life behind.
- Floriana Lima as Krista Dumont: A psychotherapist for military veterans.
- Giorgia Whigham as Amy Bendix: A grifter with a mysterious past.
- Corbin Bernsen as Anderson Schultz: An extremely wealthy man who will go to any lengths to maintain his power and legacy.
- Annette O'Toole as Eliza Schultz: Anderson's wife, who is equally manipulative.
- C. Thomas Howell as Carson Wolf: A corrupt senior DHS agent, supervisor of "Operation Cerberus," and Madani's supervisor who crosses paths with Micro and then later Castle. Wolf is revealed to be corrupt, working for Rawlins, who had Wolf frame Micro for being a traitor, and seemingly killed Micro, though Micro had survived the attempt on his life. Wolf is captured and interrogated by Frank, before being killed after attempting to kill Frank.
- Delaney Williams as O'Connor: A phony Vietnam veteran and NRA member who attends Hoyle's support groups. O’Connor is killed by Wilson for faking his military service.
- Geoffrey Cantor as Mitchell Ellison: The editor-in-chief of the New York Bulletin and Page's boss. Cantor reprises his role from Daredevil.
- Shez Sardar as Ahmad Zubair: An Afghan policeman who worked with Madani.
- Jeb Kreager as Gunner Henderson: A Marine Corps veteran and member of the Cerberus Squad that worked alongside Castle and later went reclusive upon returning home. Gunner later reunited with Castle and helps him kill multiple Anvil agents sent to kill Gunner; Gunner is shot in the abdomen by one and bleeds to death.
- Clancy Brown as Ray Schoonover: Castle's commanding officer in Afghanistan. Brown reprises his role from Daredevil.
- Tim Guinee as Clay Wilson: Lewis Wilson's father who works to help his son get adjusted to his civilian life.
- Rob Morgan as Turk Barrett: A low-level criminal who operates in Hell's Kitchen and Harlem. Morgan reprises his role from previous Marvel Netflix shows.
- Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio as Marion James: A Deputy Director of the CIA.
- Andrew Polk as Morty Bennett: A colonel who was a member of Cerberus Squad and worked under Rawlins. Morty is killed by Russo after being used as bait for Castle.
- Rick Holmes as Stan Ori: A U.S. Senator who is interviewed by Karen Page on his gun control views.
- Royce Johnson as Brett Mahoney: A Sergeant at the NYPD's 15th Precinct. Johnson reprises his role from previous Marvel Netflix series.
- Houshang Touzie as Hamid Madani: Dinah's father who is a doctor.
NY1 anchors Pat Kiernan, Roma Torre, and Stacy-Ann Gooden cameo as themselves.
Season 1 (2017)
|No.||Title||Directed by||Written by||Original release date|
|1||"3AM"||Tom Shankland||Steve Lightfoot||November 17, 2017|
|2||"Two Dead Men"||Tom Shankland||Steve Lightfoot||November 17, 2017|
|3||"Kandahar"||Andy Goddard||Steve Lightfoot||November 17, 2017|
|4||"Resupply"||Kari Skogland||Dario Scardapane||November 17, 2017|
|5||"Gunner"||Dearbhla Walsh||Michael Jones-Morales||November 17, 2017|
|6||"The Judas Goat"||Jeremy Webb||Christine Boylan||November 17, 2017|
|7||"Crosshairs"||Andy Goddard||Bruce Marshall Romans||November 17, 2017|
|8||"Cold Steel"||Antonio Campos||Felicia D. Henderson||November 17, 2017|
|9||"Front Toward Enemy"||Marc Jobst||Angela LaManna||November 17, 2017|
|10||"Virtue of the Vicious"||Jim O'Hanlon||Ken Kristensen||November 17, 2017|
|11||"Danger Close"||Kevin Hooks||Felicia D. Henderson||November 17, 2017|
|12||"Home"||Jet Wilkinson||Dario Scardapane||November 17, 2017|
|13||"Memento Mori"||Stephen Surjik||Steve Lightfoot||November 17, 2017|
In October 2011, ABC Studios sold a script based on the Punisher to Fox, who gave the project a put pilot commitment. The series would be an hour-long procedural following NYPD detective Frank Castle, "whose alter ego is that of a vigilante seeking justice for those failed by the court system." Ed Bernero was attached as executive producer, but by May 2012, the project had not moved forward. A year later, the character's film rights reverted to Marvel from Lionsgate. In June 2015, Jon Bernthal was announced as cast as Frank Castle in the second season of Marvel's Daredevil on Netflix. The series was the first of several live action series provided to Netflix by Marvel Television and ABC Studios, with subsequent series featuring Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist all leading up to a miniseries based on the Defenders.
By January 2016, ahead of the Daredevil season two release, Netflix was in "very early development" on a spin-off series titled The Punisher, and was looking for a showrunner. The series would be centered on Bernthal as Castle, and was described as a stand-alone series, outside of the series leading up to Marvel's The Defenders. Head of Marvel Television and executive producer Jeph Loeb implied that Marvel Television had not instigated the development of the spin-off and were focusing on making "the best 13 episodes of Daredevil season two" at the time, but did say, "I'm never going to discourage a network from looking at one of our characters and encouraging us to do more ... If we are lucky enough that through the writing, through the direction, through the actor that people want to see more of that person, terrific." Loeb stated a month later that the reports about the potential spin-off were "something that people are speculating on, as opposed to something that's actually happening."
In April 2016, Netflix officially ordered a full 13 episode season of The Punisher, confirmed Bernthal's involvement, and named Steve Lightfoot as executive producer and showrunner. Loeb, Cindy Holland, and Jim Chory also serve as executive producers. A second season was ordered in December 2017.
Lightfoot noted that "anti-heroes with dark pasts, that are morally grey, are always interesting to write." On deciding to work on The Punisher, Lightfoot stated, "I was drawn to a guy who is dealing with grief – how does he do that?... We talked a lot as we developed the show that once you take hold of the hand of violence it's impossible to let it go. That relationship to violence really interested me, not just the fact he has the ability to use it but also the cost of it." Lightfoot was inspired by the Bourne film series and the film American Sniper when approaching the series.
Bernthal had been cast as Castle in June 2015 to appear in the second season of Daredevil, and was confirmed to be reprising the role for the spin-off in April 2016. That September, Ben Barnes was cast in the series in an unspecified series regular role. The next month, set photos revealed that Deborah Ann Woll would reprise her Daredevil role as Karen Page, Barnes was announced as playing Billy Russo, while Ebon Moss-Bachrach and Amber Rose Revah also joined the series, as David Lieberman / Micro and Dinah Madani, respectively. At New York Comic Con, Bernthal confirmed Woll as a co-star. At the end of October, Marvel announced the additional casting of Daniel Webber as Lewis Wilson, Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle, Paul Schulze as William Rawlins, Jaime Ray Newman as Sarah Lieberman, and Michael Nathanson as Sam Stein.
For the second season, Bernthal, Barnes, Revah, and Moore all reprise their roles. They are joined by Josh Stewart as John Pilgrim, Floriana Lima as Krista Dumont, and Giorgia Whigham as Amy Bendix, who were cast in February 2018. In May 2018, Corbin Bernsen and Annette O'Toole were announced as joining the cast as Anderson and Eliza Schultz, respectively.
Filming for the series takes place in New York City, including Brooklyn, and Astoria, Queens.
In April 2017, Tyler Bates was announced as the composer for The Punisher, after previously composing for Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
The Punisher is available on the streaming service Netflix, worldwide. The episodes for each season were released simultaneously, as opposed to a serialized format, to encourage binge-watching, a format which has been successful for other Netflix series.
The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported a 62% approval rating with an average rating of 6.82/10 based on 55 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "A rocky start can't keep The Punisher from pushing the boundaries of Marvel's TV universe with a fresh take on the comics-derived action thriller." Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 55 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
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