Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.


Nightmare Fuel / The Punisher (2017)

Go To

Unsurprisingly, there's a lot of very dark material in a series about Frank Castle aka The Punisher, a ruthless One-Man Army who in a world of superhumans has killed more men than Alien Invasions, Killer Robots and Physical Gods with nothing but unhinged determination and whatever knife, firearm or blunt instrument he can manage to get his hands on. May God have mercy on your soul if you run across him in some dark alleyway.

    open/close all folders 

Season 1

    Episode 1 - "3: 00 am"
Right behind you.
  • Frank takes down his last original target in a bathroom stall, kicking the door in and then closing it so his skull emblem fills the entire frame. Suddenly the audience is put right in the same position as any target knowing this will be the last thing they see.
    • The look Frank keeps as the guy tries to talk Frank out of killing him pointing out that it won’t bring his family back. Frank however keeps the same blank expression and emotionless stare. A chilling reminder that Frank Castle the family man really did die with his family that day.
  • One of the assholes that repeatedly harasses Frank (as Pete Castiglione) gets horribly injured at work. Donnie begs Frank to help him out, reasoning that since he was in the Marines he must know first aid. Frank just stares coldly at him and walks away without a word.
  • Lance and his buddies trying to dispose of Donnie by throwing him in a cement mixer that slowly fills up. Donnie is crying and screaming for his life the whole time as they drag him and dump him in.
    • And all while this is going on, Frank starts fighting the guys who threw him in there. As he kills them one by one, he tosses their bodies down into the cement, where they land next to Donnie, just increasing his panic note .
    • And Frank's weapon of choice for taking out Lance and his accomplices is a sledgehammer. It's every bit as brutal as you can imagine, and the scene is set to the aggressive and chaotic "Hell Broke Luce".
  • On a less murdery note, Frank himself is very unsettling in his public persona. Lance and his buddies comment that no matter what time they clock in, day or night, Frank is always there. Just smashing away at the walls without a word. It's very creepy to watch.
  • That moment at the end of the shootout with the gangsters that Lance and his buddies robbed, when their boss gets the power back on. He walks back into the room, and the camera pans as he's looking over the bodies of his men. Then it jumps back to the boss - and Frank's just magically popped into existence right behind him.

    Episode 2 - "Two Dead Men" 
  • David explaining that finding Frank was the easy part: he just had to wait for a group of criminals to show up dead, brings up disturbing implications about Frank's Serial Killer-esque compulsions.
  • Watching the Zubair execution video is enough to leave Frank shaking.

    Episode 3 - "Kandahar" 

  • Task Force Cerberus. A black-bag CIA operation that Russo says sounds like the Vietnam War "Phoenix Program", with all of the atrocities that it implies. Led by a Jerkass of a CIA Agent. Good men like Frank lost a lot of humanity serving it (and many of them died). Evil men like Russo and Schoonover got their kicks.
  • Frank having literal nightmares where he's reunited with his wife after returning from duty... only for a member of the military to walk into their home and shoot her in the head as he watches on helplessly, screaming. And then the soldier takes off his mask revealing himself to be...Frank, looking as he did when he executed Zubair. The death of Maria, and Frank killing that prisoner, have become conflated in his mind due to the revelation that Schoonover was (partly) responsible for his family's death.
  • We see Ahmed Zubair's execution in full detail. He's tied up, surrounded by Frank and other soldiers. Rawlins comes in and starts throwing punches on Zubair, and asks him in Arabic if any of the soldiers present in the room know that he's a police officer. The whole time, he pleads, "I Have a Family!" When satisfied, Rawlins just turns away and without looking back tells them "Do it." And as Zubair continues pleading, Frank wordlessly steps forward and shoots Zubair point-blank in the head.
    • Even worse, Rawlins asks the questions about Zubair being a cop in Arabic, a language Frank doesn't know. So when Rawlins gives the kill order, Frank just straight-up executes an innocent man in cold blood...and he doesn't even know it because the information that would've told Frank that this man was innocent was conveyed in a language he can't speak.
  • We finally see what about Kandahar that made Frank Castle so... The Punisher. It's a bloody and drawn out firefight that starts with him using his military grade assault rifle and breaching shotgun, until he starts dwindling on ammo and humanity. Picking up whatever guns he can off of fallen combatants and resorting to his knife by the end of it. Whatever Frank was before the fight, got blurred and bloodied. Leaving what will soon be The Punisher.
    • That brief moment in the aftermath when Frank (possibly) coughs up blood into a bucket.
    • More disturbing is Rawlins is just bored and only asks, "...Did you kill the target?"

    Episode 4 - "Resupply" 
  • Lewis’ Sanity Slippage is a brutal reminder of what war can do to a person and if they experience enough trauma without treatment, they may reach a point of no return.
  • Frank chides David for not getting his hands dirty. When David joins the mission, he nearly kills Madani by crashing the truck into her car. Even Frank seems a bit guilty pushing him into the situation.

    Episode 5 - "Gunner" 
  • Frank and Gunner pick off the Anvil contractors tracking them one by one. It plays out from the Anvil contractors' perspectives like a horror movie just seeing the way Frank picks them off.
    • The last operative to be killed deserves some special mention; right before he's put down, he's been reduced to a panicking, sobbing wreck with the knowledge that he's got no help coming, and starts wildly shooting his gun at random while screaming in sheer terror that he's gonna kill Frank and Gunner, right before he is brutally stabbed by Frank in the neck and flung to the ground after Frank breaks his neck.
    Operative: note  Come on! (fires his gun) COME ON! (fires his gun again) COME ON! (continues to fire his gun until the clip runs out of ammo) You're gonna die, you hear me?! I'm gonna kill you! (doesn't notice Frank emerge from the brush behind him, armed with a knife) YOU'RE GONNA DIE!!! (Frank plunges the knife into the side of the operative's neck and twists the operative around so he can speak directly into the man's helmet camera)
    Frank Castle: [to the camera] Whoever you are, I'm coming for you. (breaks the operative's neck with his bare hands)
    • Another operative is unfortunate enough to fall into one of Gunner's booby traps; a spring-mechanism-pole that impales him deep in the groin. Frank worsens his injuries by pulling him deeper into said-pole while the operative is still-alive and screaming in pain, while taking the operative's gun to shoot his buddy catching up.

    Episode 6 - "The Judas Goat" 
  • Frank's fever dream while he's in the back of Micro's van counts as this. After starting out as a happy interlude of his and Micro's family at dinner is interrupted by guns shots, as military men burst in and start firing. Jon Bernthal really sells Frank's reaction, screaming and wailing and begging, so much so that one has to wonder if this is a fever dream or something Frank has to endure every night.
    • The way it unfolds gets more chilling the more you watch it. Those military men are dressed like Frank's old unit, reinforcing the guilt of the earlier dreams of Maria: that Frank feels that he got his family killed. As soon as he realizes something is wrong, what happens? He's tied to his chair. Helpless to do anything, just like he was on that day at the carousel. Basically, Frank has to relive the most traumatic, shattering moment of his life... only with extra doses of guilt, and new people he's grown to care for thrown in. His out-of-control reaction isn't just grief and pain: it's a man legitimately at risk of losing his fucking mind for good.
  • The surgical work that Curtis has to do to get the arrow out of Frank is not very pleasant. You'd want a drink just as badly as David does.
  • As much as he deserved it, Lewis killing O'Connor is still a shock; if not only because of Lewis' sudden outburst and just how furious he becomes. After killing him, he lets out a yell that sounds almost like a wild beast.

    Episode 7 - "Crosshairs"
Bennett: There's no need. Tomorrow, I'll be gone.
Billy: Yeah.
  • Lewis is so rattled from murdering O'Connor that he drives home in his taxi naked.
  • Seeing Lewis buying supplies for bombmaking, and turning O'Connor's house into a lab. On a taxi driver's salary.
  • How much of a sociopath is Billy Russo? Well, how about killing Colonel Bennett by stabbing him with a knife concealed up his right sleeve, then calmly admitting, as Bennett dies in front of him, how he's never cared about Morty at all.
    • Not only that, but when Morty is being led into the room, he finds that Russo has killed the dominatrix who Morty had been with for his BDSM session (and who had been used by Russo as a lookout to alert him and his men to Frank's presence at the base). And that's what cues Morty in that he's been set up to be murdered.
  • Frank finds Rawlins' estate, sets up his rifle when Rawlins comes over to the window, and fires...and the bullet is stopped by the bulletproof glass. But what's unsettling is how aside from momentarily flinching at the bullet's impact, Rawlins maintains his composure and folds his arms behind his back and continues staring intently out the window.

    Episode 8 - "Cold Steel"
  • Russo's interactions with his mother. It starts off suggesting it'd be a Pet the Dog moment for Russo; he's visiting his sick mother who he sees is taken care of. Then he starts making veiled, spiteful allusions to her past and how she abandoned him, and his tone towards the bedridden woman he's ranting on is terrifying. Finally, he pulls away his mother's bedsheets, and it's revealed that she's strapped down at the wrists and ankles.
  • Sam's death, at the hands of Billy Russo.
    Billy Russo: [growling] Who's pretty now?
    • More disturbing is Dinah's Bath of Angst in the next scene, as Russo washes off of her the blood of the man he killed.
  • Frank's interaction with Zach could count as a major Adult Fear that is enough to make David nearly blow his own cover. Although he and Frank are on relatively good terms, Frank is still a highly-unstable killing machine, and upon Frank threatening Zach with the KA-BAR knife, Micro is understandably terrified.

    Episode 9 - "Front Toward Enemy" 

  • The video of the explosion in the ATF building, one minute people are celebrating a co-worker's birthday, the next minute they are running for their lives.
  • Lewis' bombs are homemade on a taxi driver's salary. This means that making deadly explosives is very easy if one knows what they're doing. You just have to hope that the person with that sort of knowledge won't be unhinged.
  • And Lewis decides to send his manifesto to Karen Page of all people. Think about it from Karen's perspective: the people who've tried to have her killed in the past are always people working for crime syndicates she's exposing, whether that be Wilson Fisk or the Hand. Here, she's being targeted by a lone and very mentally ill person with no attachments to Fisk or any other known syndicates. And with Matt being gone, and Foggy not talking to her, she has no one else to turn to.

    Episode 10 - "Virtue of the Vicious" 

  • Karen being held hostage by Lewis. Just seeing the poor girl get held hostage in a year that's seen her witness several other horrific events while around Frank, and who recently just lost her boyfriend under a falling skyscraper...
  • Both Madani and Frank realize Russo has betrayed them in different ways in the midst of trying to find Lewis. The entire sequence is very intense and one can sense the confusion and dread seeing your former lover/friend pointing a gun at you in an emergency situation.
  • We are not given a Gory Discretion Shot as Lewis Wilson finally decides to blow himself up with his dead man switch bomb. We see him engulfed by flames, visibly disintegrating. After the explosion dies down, the only thing left of him was a bloody smear on the door he was facing.

    Episode 11 - "Danger Close"
"I don't know anything..." "Fair enough."
  • Billy Russo's men launch an attack on the hideout. It was wise of Russo not to show up, because the team of over 30 men ends up quickly dead. Highlights include Frank stabbing a man under the jaw while staring into his eyes, a grenade attached to a severed head (presumably from the man he stabbed), a rampage with an M249 at close range, and a vicious series of knife attacks on the one he initially thought was Russo (and didn't want to kill right away). They never stood a chance.
    • One point deserves reiterating: to open the fight, Frank decapitates one of Russo's men (presumably with just his knife) and uses his severed head as a booby trap.
    • Afterwards, Frank's interrogation of the last surviving attacker. With the heat of battle completely over, he still calmly ends the conversation by aiming his pistol and shooting the helpless man in the head. It manages to somehow be chilling even after all the much more extreme violence beforehand.
  • This episode thrives off of Adult Fear even more than the rest of the series, showing Rawlins and Russo's men kidnapping David's family - specifically Sarah and Zach, while Leo flees this fate, barely.

    Episode 12 - "Home"
  • Frank admits to Russo that he regularly has thoughts of suicide, to the point just getting out of bed in the morning is often a battle for him, as it would be a means to "get back" to his wife and children. He then says Russo doesn't knows what that feels like, but he'll make sure he learns what that means.
  • The entire extended torture of Frank Castle by Bill Rawlins. Having been informed by Marion that his career at the CIA is over, Rawlins goes into a full Villainous Breakdown, ranting that the country needs him, how he is "the bulwark against our enemies". With nothing left, Rawlins decides to just get satisfaction from Frank for taking his eye.
    Rawlins: This country needs me, Frank. I was the bulwark against our enemies, what I did was greater than you could EVER MEASURE! DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU'VE DONE?! [...] You are nothing but a grunt! You do not get to take me down. You are going to beg to me. Blood loss is gonna make you weak, you're gonna slip in and out of shock, you will know pain and fear! Fear, Frank. Your ribs must be crrrracked! Ohh, I'm gonna take all the breath out of your lungs, out of YOUR LUNGS, until you can barely whisper, and the last word out of your mouth, is gonna be PLEASE...PLEASE...PLEASE...!
    • Beating Frank to a bloody pulp. In the next episode, Madani's father thinks that a broken rib pierced his lung.
    • The Smash Cuts between Rawlins gloating that Frank is slipping in and out of consciousness from blood loss.
    • Getting a first person shot from Frank's point of view as Rawlins inches a knife closer and closer to Frank's eye.
      Rawlins: You're a dead man. Your heart just doesn't know it yet... (Slasher Smile)
  • As savage as the above is, it pales in comparison to what Frank does to Rawlins. After getting freed by Russo, Frank punches Rawlins to the ground, shanks him in the gut with the knife Rawlins intended to blind Frank with, stabs him in the chest about a dozen times, gives him some Punctuated Pounding, and finally gouges out Rawlins' eyes with his thumbs. It's so brutal that Wilson Fisk's decapitation-by-car door of Anatoly Ranskahov looks very mild by comparison. And all is done, Russo is just watching in approval:
    Billy Russo: Goddamn, Frankie. I love watching you work.
    • The beating must really be seen to be believed. At one point, Frank is beating Rawlins so hard that the camera shakes.

    Episode 13 - "Memento Mori"
" I'm not gonna let you die today. Dying's easy. You're gonna learn about pain. "
  • The way Russo ruthlessly dispatches the agents sent after him with cold, proficient accuracy at the start of the episode, all with a calm look on his face.
  • The two innocent teenagers, Carl and Hayley, whom Russo ties to the carousel horses as hostages, just to mess with Frank. It would be bad enough if they were simply tied up, but Russo makes it massively, massively worse by slashing their wrists so they'll bleed out if Frank takes too long rescuing them. Throughout the entire ensuing fight, they're still tied up, bleeding more and more down their sleeves while crying helplessly through their gags. And of course, he clearly wants to remind Frank of his own dead children.
  • The entire confrontation on the carousel is like something out of a nightmare, with eerily colored lights flickering from the carousel and the numerous shots of Frank and Billy being reflected in the broken mirrors plus a a haunting surreal music playing in the background. The whole thing seems like a dream sequence more than an actual part of the plot.
  • Billy's Villainous Breakdown during the fight on the carousel is a truly terrifying sight to behold note , thanks in no small part to a chilling performance from Barnes. As Frank and Russo are exchanging fire, a stray bullet from Frank ricochets off a pole and hits Russo right in the cheek. As Billy lets loose a cry of absolute pain while attempting to remove the bullet from his mouth, Barnes manages to convey a perfectly contorted expression of pure agony and horror before Billy finally manages to spit the bullet out. It's then that Billy completely loses it, as he takes out his sidearm, and angrily yells that he's had enough, ordering Frank to come out and show himself where Billy can see him or he executes Carl and Hayley right on the spot. It's the way Barnes screams at Carl and Hayley to beg Frank to come save them, all while jamming his gun into Hayley's neck, that makes the tension all the more unsettling, as it becomes clear to the viewers as to how far off the deep end Russo has fallen.
    Russo: Alright, that's enough Frank! (pulls out his sidearm) I SAID THAT'S ENOUGH OF THIS SHIT!! (points his gun at Hayley and Carl) You come out...You come out where I can see you, or I kill these kids RIGHT NOW! (at Carl and Hayley) You beg. (presses his gun into Hayley's neck) You beg my friend Frank to come out and save your lives right now! BEEEEG!!!!!!
    • Russo's defeat by Frank is this. Frank stabs him in the gut with a huge shard of mirror, breaks his arm, and viciously runs his face down the broken mirror the shard came from while Russo screams. Then, instead of killing him, he repeatedly slams Russo's face into the mirror, telling him that death is too easy, and now Russo will now know loss like Frank every time he sees his scarred face. He then slams Billy's face into the mirror a final time, leaving chunks of it embedded in his face.
    • Ben Barnes' screaming is what really sells how horrifying this scene is; it digs right into your soul.
    • Just how Frank grinds Russo's face against the mirror. With how slowly he does it and with how utterly horrific Russo's screams sounded, you can just feel it in Frank's movements that he has focused just one thing onto Russo alone: pure, unrelenting hatred.
    • Doctors later say Russo has suffered such serious head trauma and blood loss as a result he may be afflicted with serious memory loss... ''if he ever even wakes up.'' Suffice to say, it's fairly obvious how Billy Russo becomes Jigsaw in this version.

Season 2

    Episode 1 - "Roadhouse Blues" 
  • Frank for the majority of the episode tries to live a normal life as “Pete Castilone” bit when some assassins come after Amy, The Punisher in him becomes unleashed as he brutally eliminates almost all of them.
    • Also one might notice just how much Frank is enjoying this. While he would probably never admit it a part of Frank thirst for the battle, the bloodshed, all of it. A reminder that Frank at his core is no hero just a guy who happens to kill people on the wrong side of the law.
     Episode 2- "Fight or Flight" 
  • From Rachel’s perspective you can see how terrifying it would be to be around Frank. A man who she has only known for a day at most who has shown that he is capable of killing with ease, carries around a gun and ties her to a bed and duck tapes in a motel room. If you didn’t know that Frank was the hero (or Anti-Hero at least) of the story you could be forgiven for thinking Rachel is in danger.
     Episode 4- "Scar Tissue" 
     Episode 5- "One-Eyed Jacks" 
  • The fight between Frank and the Russian gang is downright brutal as Frank uses heavy weights of a gym to take down the Mooks coming at him.
    • Special mentions goes to when he uses a weight to bash a guys face in several times with the guys face looking entirely unrecognizable when he’s done.

Meta and unsorted

  • Outside of a brief stinger cameo in The Defenders (2017) SDCC trailer incorporating footage from the various fight scenes of the show, we also get a barely coherent monologue from Frank comparing himself to the Devil "coming to collect" on the sins of the past.
    The Punisher: All the things that I done, memories, they never hurt me. But the past, it's more than memories. It's the devil you sold your soul to. He's comin'. He's comin' to collect.
  • The Official Trailer for Season 2 reminds us why The Punisher is a man to be feared.
    • Frank brutally killing the mooks that try to kill Amy at a bar. He slams one guy's head on a knife. Amy later notes that it seemed Frank enjoyed having a reason to kill again.
      • The Showdown trailer reveals why Frank was so brutal. The mooks had just shot the bartender, whom Frank had fallen in love with.
    • Billy’s psyche has not improved since Frank cut up his face and he’s desperately looking for some payback…


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: