Warning: contains spoilers for Daredevil season 2.
Netflix’s Marvel series have all performed well both critically and commercially. In the wake of Daredevil’s second season, the company has announced that they’re going to produce a Punisher spin-off, to the surprise of no-one who caught even a glimpse of Jon Bernthal’s incredibly compelling and well-realised performance.
But Daredevil Season 2 already showed us The Punisher’s origin, from Frank Castle dealing with the death of his family to becoming The Punisher for real. Introduced as essentially a villain for Daredevil, a spin-off would have to see the character acting under very different circumstances. So what can we expect from it?
In one of the codas to Daredevil Season 2, The Punisher was shown retrieving a CD from his house before he burnt it to the ground. The CD was labelled ‘Micro’, and that quite openly alludes to one of The Punisher’s comicbook allies, Microchip.
Microchip was introduced in the 1990s (In case it wasn’t immediately obvious) as one of The Punisher’s main sources of weapons and technology, but also one of his friends. As a hacker he’s able to help get intel for The Punisher and help launder his money, although the two eventually fell out and stopped working together.
Based on the coda scene we’ve been shown, it seems likely that any future Punisher series will feature Microchip in some capacity, probably as an ally in Frank’s war on crime – though feel free to speculate about what might be on that CD such that Frank felt the need to keep it hidden in his house.
Microchip has previously appeared in the 90s Spider-Man cartoon and the Punisher: War Zone film, so it’s not like he’s a completely alien part of the mythos – but he’s also one that hasn’t been popular in the comics for a long time, so it’ll be interesting to see how he gets worked into any TV series. If, indeed, they decide to keep him.
This time it’s not personal
One characteristic of Frank Castle’s introduction in Daredevil S2 is that we spent a lot of time watching him on a very personal crusade to take out the people who killed his family, even if he was taking a fairly broad-spectrum approach to that. But he did also kill criminals who weren’t directly connected to that activity, like the ninjas at the end of the series or the shop owner who tried to sell him child porn with his guns.
One characteristic of The Punisher in the comics is that not everything has to be personal for him. He’s a criminal’s nightmare because you don’t even have to provoke him – he’ll come for you eventually. That’s not to say fights can’t get personal – but if the next series starts with Frank tracking down someone connected to his family’s killings again, it’ll feel a little too much like they don’t want to do The Punisher properly.
Admittedly, this version of Castle is very different from the comics version in a lot of ways. He’s much younger and far more emotional, so maybe they’ll want to run with that, and maybe they won’t. Personally I wouldn’t mind seeing him get a little bit more cold and calculating now that the true source of his angst has – quite literally – been laid to rest.
One easy way to make the fight personal without turning it into a retread would be to flip the tables and have a villain coming after The Punisher. The nature of the character means recurring villains are, er, rare. But if we had to pick one: Jigsaw. The series could easily do that character’s origin as someone The Punisher failed to finish off and who in essence has become The Punisher’s dark mirror (if you can imagine a dark version of a serial-killing maniac, we mean).
Welcome back, Frank?
There aren’t many Punisher stories that stick out as the perfect template for an adaptation, but the one that does is Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon’s 12-issue storyline Welcome Back, Frank, which sees The Punisher taking on a family of mobsters known as the Gnuccis.
Some elements of this story – specifically The Punisher’s oddball housemates and the villain, the Russian – were adapted into the 2004 Punisher movie, but that didn’t stop Netflix covering similar ground to the Daredevil movie in its TV series. A more faithful version of this story would surely be first on anyone’s list when adapting The Punisher, and indeed, the rooftop sequence where Daredevil and The Punisher debate the ethics of killing in Daredevil Season 2 was already taken from this storyline.
That’s not to say there aren’t other stories available – Frank has joined SHIELD, been recruited by heaven as an avenging angel, died and been resurrected as a Frankenstein’s monster, become a member of the Thunderbolts, gone to space, visited Archie Comics’ Riverdale (really!) and so much more. But with Netflix’s relatively street-level focus, we’d expect him to be shooting crooks and not doing too much outside that comfort zone.
As for supporting characters, we wonder whether Daredevil will find time to show up in The Punisher’s Netflix series and return the favour. If he doesn’t, it wouldn’t be entirely shocking to see Karen Page back after the rapport she shared with Frank – especially since she’s now a freelance reporter and doesn’t come as a package with Foggy and Matt.
However, we’d also like to see Detective Soap make a showing. Soap is a hapless loser cop assigned with the impossible task of stopping The Punisher, and instead simply recruited by Castle to funnel him intel. Garth Ennis’ version of Soap is probably a little too bleak for Netflix (characterised by drunkenness, extreme cowardice and a string of unfortunate sexual encounters) but we can imagine a slightly less mean-spirited version of the character making his way to the screen. Again, they already did a version of the character in the Punisher: War Zone movie.
At this point, though, we don’t even know when The Punisher’s series will be out. Marvel and Netflix are already full-steam ahead on Defenders and that has to be delivered in 2017, so we wouldn’t be entirely surprised to see The Punisher turn up there before his own solo series happens. But at the same time, it’s possible he’ll sit it out, or turn up for a one-episode cameo rather than join the team in any specific way.
It’s likely that a Punisher series will at least touch on some of the Netflix universe’s ongoing threads, so even if it happens after Defenders there’s a possibility we’ll see characters like Madame Gao, The Hand and the Kingpin, locations like Josie’s bar, and the likes of newspaper The Bulletin and law firm Hogarth, Chao and Benowitz (and Nelson?) playing a part.
At this point a Netflix series could go in almost any direction. But after Daredevil season 2, the only thing we can say for certain is that we’re really excited to see where it does go. Let us know what you’d like to see too.