On a hot day in late June, an unassuming trailer home occupies a large, empty parking lot in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood. It’s surrounded by a broken chain link fence, several shipping containers and a smorgasbord of junkyard scraps. A few lots over, the trailer’s interior rests inside a soundstage. Its 1970s decor seems unlike anything that Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal) would willingly choose to live in. Then again, its rugged exterior and outdated interior say everything there is to know about the man more commonly known as The Punisher.
Production designer Scott Murphy accompanies several journalists on a tour of the two trailer sets. He has plenty to say about the process behind their creation but says nothing about why Castle and newcomer Amy Bendix (Giorgia Whigham), a runaway teenager who comes under his protection, are holed up here during The Punisher season 2. But to be honest, he doesn’t have to. The locale suggests it’s meant to be a hiding place, though the remnants of an apparent shotgun blast to the front door indicates it’s not a very good one.
“Who knows? Maybe it was Frank Castle, interior decorator,” Murphy quips when asked about who shot the door. All jokes aside, The Punisher season 2 features a laundry list of villains known and unknown who could have made their mark on the Punisher’s hideout. Billy Russo (Ben Barnes), known to comic book fans as Jigsaw, is back after Frank nearly killed him last season. Meanwhile, an outsider named John Pilgrim (Josh Stewart) has joined the mix. Either man could have shot the trailer door, for as Murphy puts it, he didn’t create these sets for easy dialogue and dinner scenes alone. They were meant to be destroyed.
“We built it in a way that, as a set, it’s modular, so we can pull walls away for certain shots,” he says. “So far, when we’ve been in there, it’s been mostly dialogue. No one has pulled the walls away yet, though we do have a big action scene coming up and I’m hoping they use it. But I think we’ll be taking it apart and shooting it the way it’s designed to be shot very soon.”
Considering what happened to Micro’s (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) hideout in season 1, the chances are high that anywhere Castle and company decide to lay low won’t survive intact. Again, Murphy offers few details about the aforementioned action scene and how much damage it will inflict on his trailer set, but we all know where this is going. This is The Punisher we’re talking about. Once the first shot is fired, there’s no telling who or what will be left standing in the end.
Things here are meant to be destroyed, even though the exterior set is within view of the New York skyline. Episode directors wouldn’t have to go out of their way to avoid shooting it if necessary, but Murphy admits that the buildings are visible for a reason. When asked about it, he says that the trailer was always meant to be in close proximity to the city.
“We never really say where this is, exactly. It’s somewhere in the outer boroughs,” he says. “Daredevil and Iron Fist are generally Manhattan-centered and Luke Cage is in Harlem. The Punisher is more in the outer boroughs but we never really say where, exactly.”
“When I first talked to our showrunner, Steve Lightfoot, about doing the previous season, one of the things we discussed was opening it up to the outer boroughs and making it much more blue-collar,” Murphy adds. “I think all the Marvel shows are very gritty and we really embraced that on this show. While some of the other shows might have a lot of high-end environments, however, The Punisher is much more grounded and rooted in blue-collar Americana.”
“Blue-collar” isn’t the precise term that Lightfoot uses in conversation, but it’s not far off from where he sees Castle fitting into this larger narrative that Netflix and Marvel have created. More than anything, the Hannibal alum thinks about Castle’s journey this season in terms of “Americana.”
“He’s spent time trying to just get by. He’s been wandering America, having a look at the country he fought for but that he’d never really seen. He’s trying to be a guy who can fit in and leave all the violence behind,” Lightfoot says of Frank, who begins season 2 in the Midwest. “He’s been wandering because the one thing he doesn’t want to do is put down roots. It’s less about the America he’s found and more about the fact that it’s such a huge country. If you want to keep wandering, it’s very easy to do just that and not put down roots. To not be found. He’s enjoying that nomadic lifestyle and the freedom it affords him.”
Of course, the showrunner adds that violence is “an integral part of his character,” so “it doesn’t take him long to find a new fight to get involved in.” This is also where Castle’s efforts to avoid planting roots again, which he’s afraid of doing following the murder of his family prior to the events of season 1, become meaningless. He’s been planting new roots all along — the seeds that would eventually grow into his feared moniker.
“Season 1 was about Frank coming to terms with the death of his family, as much as one ever can, and his whole part in that. For me, that season was about Frank owning up to the acts he’d been party to, how they lead to his family’s death and his ultimate acceptance of all that,” says Lightfoot. “Season 2 is about him now realizing that there’s a part of him who is always going to be the guy who decides to fix things in a way that is beyond the law. If I had to say what the theme of season 2 is, then I’d say it’s about him adopting the mantle of The Punisher.”
Bernthal, meanwhile, thinks of it less in terms of Castle’s ultimately becoming the anti-hero comic book fans know and love, and more in terms of shedding his humanity for something else. “It’s about him building this wall around his heart. I don’t think he likes to feel much. He doesn’t really care too much about human contact now, which is what being human is kind of about. As we’ve already seen, he eventually starts to care about some of these people, but it’s a struggle. It’s always a struggle.”
This is where Whigham’s character Amy, who is loosely based on the same character of the “Suicide Run” story arc from the comics, enters the picture. In meeting her, Castle finds himself on a path that could potentially lead to his redemption. However, it might also lead to much darker, deadlier things.
“This season, he’s is trying to figure that all out,” adds Bernthal. “He’s trying to figure out exactly who he is. I don’t think he’s ever been a guy who’s been too concerned with finding peace of mind, harmony or love. Sadly, he’s kind of at home in the blackness and the darkness.”
Audiences will have to wait and see how and when Castle decides to embrace his true nature when The Punisher’s second season drops sometime in January. They’ll get to follow along with returning characters Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah), Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore) and Brett Mahoney (Royce Johnson), and newcomers Krista Dumont (Floriana Lima), Anderson Schultz (Corbin Bernsen) and (Annette O’Toole) as they find out first hand whether or not they’re going to be punished. Because Castle isn’t afraid to go the extra mile to fire a bullet into those he feels are most deserving, even if the city that never sleeps is within view of his violence.
The Punisher season 2 is expected to hit Netflix sometime in January 2019.