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Series / The Punisher (2017)
aka: The Punisher

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"Welcome back, Frank."
"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."
Frank Castle

The Punisher is an original series based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name. It's set in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — like most other shows produced by Marvel Television — alongside The Defenders, Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and Iron Fist, spinning off from Daredevil. The series originally premiered on Netflix in 2017.

The series follows former United States Marine Corps Lieutenant Frank Castle (Jon Bernthal, reprising his role from Daredevil) who, after his wife, son and daughter are murdered in a shoot-out between rival gangs, decides to wage a one-man war on crime.

Haunted by memories of his past and hunted by law enforcement, Frank finds himself drawn back into an all-new war when he learns that what happened to his family may have more to do with his past in the Marine Corps than he thought.

Ebon Moss-Bachrach co-stars as Frank's Vitriolic Mission Control David "Micro" Lieberman, as well as Ben Barnes as Billy Russo, Amber Rose Revah as Dinah Madani, Jason R. Moore as Curtis Hoyle, Daniel Webber as Lewis Wilson, Shohreh Aghdashloo as Farah Madani, and Deborah Ann Woll reprises her role as Karen Page from Daredevil (2015) and The Defenders (2017).

The show's first season premiered on November 17th, 2017, with a second season released on January 18th, 2019, which added Josh Stewart as John Pilgrim, Floriana Lima as Krista Dumont, Giorgia Whigham as Amy Bendix, and Corbin Benson and Annette O'Toole as Anderson and Eliza Schultz.

On February 18, 2019, it was announced the 2nd season was going to be its final one as the series was canceled alongside Jessica Jones (2015), effectively killing off the final original Marvel shows on Netflix. In February 2022, the series, alongside the rest of the Defenders franchise, exited Netflix's platform, moving to Disney+ the next month. In March 2023, it was confirmed that Bernthal would be reprising his role as the Punisher in the Disney Plus series Daredevil: Born Again.

The Punisher contains examples of:

  • 10-Minute Retirement: The first episode opens with Frank taking out the last Cartel, Kitchen Irish, and Dogs of Hell members associated with the Central Park shootout that killed his family. Believing his revenge is complete, he then burns his skull vest and takes up a new life in construction under the name 'Pete Castiglione'. One six-month Time Skip later, he's forced to intervene when his Jerkass co-workers attempt to murder Donny, the only person who was nice to him in all that time. This puts him on David's radar as if he sent up a signal flare.
  • Abandoned Warehouse: David's Hacker Cave is located in a large abandoned power plant. He apparently uses his hacker skills to tap into the grid.
  • Abuse Discretion Shot: Billy's orphanage is not fully shown, but points to a very brutal childhood.
  • Actor Allusion: In one scene, Russo is shown reading The Picture of Dorian Gray. Russo's actor, Ben Barnes, played the title character in the 2009 film adaptation of the novel. Fittingly, both Billy Russo and Dorian Gray are men whose pretty looks hide their evil nature.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
  • Adaptation Origin Connection: Billy Russo of the comics was a Maggia hitman with no connection to Frank outside of being hired to kill him after the massacre in Central Park. In the show, Billy is Frank's best friend who served with him in the Marines. This change makes for a more personal story.
  • Adaptational Attractiveness: In the comics, Jigsaw's face is a horrible mass of scars. In the series, Russo has about seven scars on his face that leave it more or less intact. He's still obviously handsome and becomes a romantic interest.
  • Adaptational Friendship: Karen Page is a friend and ally of Frank Castle in the TV show (with a few hints of romantic interest). In the comics, the characters have barely interacted, and Karen remained almost solely associated with Daredevil.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • In the comics, Curtis Hoyle became The Dragon for a criminal General's organization, and was ultimately killed by Frank. The show's version of the character is one of Frank's friends and allies, and currently runs a support group for veterans with PTSD.
    • While the show depicts Senator Ori as being unscrupulous, in the comics, he was outright corrupt and in league with both dirty cops and an Italian crime family.
  • Advertised Extra: Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page gets title credits billing, and was heavily featured in the show's marketing and publicity tour. However, she is only in four out of 13 episodes, and her only contributions are to help bring Frank and David together, as well as later show up so Frank can save her when she gets targeted by Lewis. This is a somewhat justified case, given that Karen's home show is Daredevil (2015), she never even crossed paths with Frank in the comics, and Deborah Ann Woll's schedule was tight since she was also filming The Defenders (2017). She also wasn't a part of Steve Lightfoot's story plan at all to start, until he decided to find a place for her after being impressed with her acting alongside Bernthal in Daredevil.
  • Affirmative Action Girl: Sandwiched between other insults and a leering comment that Dinah Madani's tenacity is "hot," Carson Wolf suggests that her success is due to political correctness.
    Carson Wolf: I guess you tick a lot of boxes, because they didn't want the poster girl embarrassing them.
    Dinah Madani: Wow. That was sexist, racist, and demeaning of my abilities all in one sentence, sir. Bravo.
  • Amnesiacs are Innocent: Played with with Billy in Season 2. No one is about to let him off the hook for his crimes just because he can no longer remember them, but at the same time, he rails against being hated and punished for things that he has no recollection of doing. The anger and confusion (and possibly the same brain damage that caused the amnesia) promptly leads him to start committing new crimes.
  • And Starring: And Deborah Ann Woll.
  • And the Adventure Continues: How Season 2 and Frank's story ends. After finally taking care of the men personally haunting him, Frank fully becomes the Punisher and continues to wage war against crime.
  • And Then What?:
    • The series opens with the question. Frank completes his vengeance (or so he thinks) in the first few minutes of the first episode. He's left with nothing to do but cope with his grief, and he's doing so very poorly.
    • Karen asks this in regards to his seemingly never-ending Roaring Rampage of Revenge. Having lost Matt, Karen doesn't want to see Frank go down the same path.
      Frank: I need to find these bastards and I got to kill them.
      Karen: So where does that end, Frank?
    • Season 1 similarly ends with this same question, as Frank tells the support group he's finally worked up the courage to attend that for the first time in his life, he's without a war to fight, and he's honestly scared that he doesn't know how to live without one.
  • Anti-Villain: John Pilgrim in Season 2. For all of the brutality he visits on people across the series, his only motivation is to help the Schultz family maintain their power so they can take care of his dying wife and young sons. He even admits to Amy toward the end that he wishes he could just stop and walk away from everything.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: While David's story about how Cerberus's name translates to "Spot" is a real theory of the name's origin, it is only one among several, and there is no consensus among linguists about where the name came from.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • When Madani is reading over Thomas Weems' military record, it says that he joined the Marine Corps in 1999 and later joined the Marine Corps Special Operations Command. It also says that after his assignment in Iraq, he was promoted to the rank of Chief Petty Officer. However, Chief Petty Officer is a Navy enlisted rank. The equivalent Marine Corps rank to a Chief Petty Officer is Gunnery Sergeant.
    • Frank looks ludicrously old to be a Lieutenant, even if he was prior enlisted. Promoting him just to Captain would have been much less jarring.
    • Similarly, Colonel Schoonover must have some extreme combat stress-related aging; otherwise, he's much too old for his rank, let alone going out and leading elite troops in the field.
  • Ascended Extra: Not unlike Colonel Schoonover, Curtis Hoyle was barely a relevant character in the comics, only appearing in two issues.
  • Ask a Stupid Question...: David's Zach walks in on Frank in the midst of fixing a headlight, and asks what is he doing. Frank sarcastically claims to be "bakin' a cake".
  • Asshole Victim: With Frank Castle on the case, this trope turning up is a given. Few of the named characters he targets are not certified assholes. The most notable non-Frank-related Asshole to get comeuppance is O'Connor. When that bigoted, lying, manipulative Gun Nut with stolen valor gets confronted with all the bullshit he's been feeding Lewis, your heart is unlikely to break for him. It's watching Lewis jump off the slope that'll have you getting hit by the feels.
  • Assurance Backfire: In a way that only Frank Castle can pull off.
    Amy: [horrified] “I killed him!”
    Mook: [still screaming]
    Frank: “No, you didn’t kill him. You just shot him.” [Turns his gun on the guy, fires with a Gory Discretion Shot, and Amy’s eyes go wide] "I killed him. Don’t worry about it."
  • The Atoner: John Pilgrim traded a mobster's life of sin and debauchery to be a fundamentalist Christian hitman. Unfortunately, a lot of people have to die before he realizes that murdering for Jesus is still murder.
  • Badass Bystander: Ringo. Despite just being a bouncer at a random roadside bar, he holds his own against multiple trained assassins, deals out almost as much hurt on them as Frank does, and soaks a ton of damage before finally going down.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Frank seems to think he’s menacing David’s family for leverage, but it looks to everyone else like he’s stepping in to be the new Dad around the house. And after helping Leo fix the disposal, it seems like he’s about to promise as much.
    Sarah: [embarrassed] In the past, we’d just call a guy.
    Frank: Well, you don’t have to call a guy anymore. (long, pregnant pause) Now you've got Leo, here.
  • Beardness Protection Program: In the first season, Frank has grown out his beard and slicked his hair a bit, which allows him to move around in public without anyone recognizing him. He shaves back to a normal appearance after a diner waitress, Karen, and Sarah all comment that he looks like a hipster.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: In season one, Billy Russo and William Rawlins are the main villains, working together to eliminate anyone with knowledge of Operation Cerberus, an illegal CIA operation that was funded with their heroin sales. Interestingly, Rawlins' arrogance leads him to believe that he is the Big Bad and Russo is The Dragon, though it's pretty clear that it's a partnership, and Russo lets Frank kill Rawlins once Rawlins lets it slip he'll no longer be able to keep up his end of their bargain.
  • Big Bad Ensemble: John Pilgrim and Billy Russo in Season 2. For the first 6 episodes, Pilgrim functions as the main threat to Frank and his associates despite working for a Greater-Scope Villain, the Schultz family. And while Russo is present throughout the whole season, he spends half of it wallowing in angst and pain and never directly fights Frank until the 7th episode, where he becomes Frank's main antagonist from then on. Pilgrim returns in the 11th episode in full force and he and Russo become simultaneous threats to Frank that he must battle at the same time.
  • Big "NO!": Frank when imagining Maria being executed in front of him.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Season 2 ends on a more somber note compared to the surprisingly peaceful closure of season 1. Frank remains live and uncaptured, having fully embraced his Punisher identity by killing crime full-time, and he and Dinah manage to finally kill off Billy; putting an end to his spree of terror and marking Frank as the Sole Survivor of Operation Cerberus. He had also managed to put an end to Testament, killing both the Schultzes while letting Pilgrim live to drop out and watch over his two children. However, Frank has shunned all chances of living a civilian life again as a result of becoming a full-time vigilante, even declining Dinah's offer to let him work for the C.I.A. He also had to cut ties with Amy to keep her safe, giving her the cash to move far away. Now with his family and brother figure dead, and all ties with all surviving allies severed, Frank is truly alone, and yet at peace with himself.
  • Black-and-Gray Morality: In the first season, the chief antagonists are members of the Department of Homeland Security and the CIA who not only committed war crimes in Afghanistan, but covered the atrocities up and want Frank and David dead to maintain the secret. Our protagonist, Frank, participated in these crimes, and appeared never to have had any intention of revealing it. He hews strictly to his personal code, but that code bears little resemblance to U.S. law, nor even what most people would consider acceptable.
  • Black Comedy: In keeping with the tone of a show about a former force recon marine having his family murdered and then taking brutal revenge on those responsible, the humor is absolutely pitch black.
    • In Episode 7 - "Crosshairs" when Frank enters Colonel Bennett's headquarters while Morty is in the midst of BDSM.
      Frank Castle: Well shit, Morty. Looks like I got here just in time.
    • Then Frank takes his ski mask off, showing Bennet his face.
      Col. Morty Bennett: Oh, dear Lord, God in Heaven!
      Frank Castle: Not exactly.
    • In Episode 8 - "Cold Steel": There's a brief moment during a serious discussion where David is worried that they may have traced them by David accessing Rawlin's file. Frank assures him that it is most likely that they didn't, given that the recent incidents with Gunner's murder and Frank's attack on Bennett's army base went unreported. This segues into a quick mood shift that's absolute hilarity, made all the sweeter by the absolutely calm and matter-of-fact way Frank delivers the line before continuing their serious discussion.
      David Lieberman: Yeah. I mean… the Bulletin ran a piece about Bennett turning up stabbed to death in a motel upstate, but… that's it.
      Frank Castle: (looking slightly puzzled) They killed him. (Beat) That's good.
    • In Episode 9 - "Front Toward Enemy", when Karen debates Senator Ori on the radio, Ori points out that she had sympathy for Frank Castle, and Frank killed thirty-seven people.
      David: Thirty-seven?
      Frank Castle: That they know about.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: Billy Russo has a hidden, retractable blade under his forearm that pops out of his right sleeve. We first see him use it to kill Colonel Bennett in the motel, and he later uses it to kill Sam.
  • Bloodier and Gorier: By far the goriest entry in all of Marvel's Netflix television series, and one of the gorier entries of the MCU overall along with "What If… Zombies?!" and Werewolf By Night. This is after the other Netflix shows were already unprecedented on that level, making stuff like Wilson Fisk's car door decapitation of Anatoly look mild.
  • Blood Knight: In season two, Frank begins to admit that it was not the death of his family that created The Punisher. He had been living a violent life outside the law before, and the season ends with him committing to his signature career as a freelance murderer of bad guys.
  • Blunt "Yes": David's response to Frank's declaration that he'll only work with David if he can personally murder everyone involved in The Conspiracy is a blunt "Yeah, I can live with that."
  • Body Horror: All over the place, but the stuff of note:
    • Billy Russo’s defeat.
    • John Pilgrim treating his buckshot wound. There were a lot of pellets involved.
  • Boom, Headshot!:
    • Frank finishes off many of his opponents in this series by shooting them in the head.
    • Billy Russo matches and possibly exceeds Frank in this arena.
    • Lewis Wilson's no slouch in this department either, headshotting Isaac when stealing his Anvil uniform so he can attack Karen and Senator Ori.
  • Broken Bird:
    • Sarah has become one since David faked his death, being incapable of raising and disciplining her children, taken up drinking, and relying on Frank almost immediately after he first approaches her. Both Frank and Sarah admit she really shouldn't trust a man she barely knows, especially not when that man is, y'know, Frank Castle.
    • Madani is bedridden for several days following Sam's death at Billy Russo's hands. In Season 2, Frank describes her as being just as "batshit and lost" as he is.
    • Karen is in the midst of mourning Matt and can't stop thinking about losing him. She keeps a photo of her with Matt and Foggy placed on a tabletop by the TV, her new apartment looks very similar in appearance to Matt's loft apartment, and she implies during a conversation with Frank about not wanting to be alone that she hasn't even spoken to Foggy much (if at all) since Midland Circle.
  • Bulletproof Human Shield: Frank picks up the body of a dead mook to protect him as he runs away from living mooks who are shooting at him. It works.
  • The Bus Came Back: In season one, Brett Mahoney and Mitchell Ellison make their first onscreen appearances since season 2 of Daredevil. Ellison appears twice in Karen's scenes, while Mahoney becomes a fairly major character, particularly in season two, where he's the principle police crusader to take Frank in.
  • Call-Back: Early in season two, John Pilgrim tells the cops protecting Amy and Frank that if they sow the wind, they will reap the whirlwind. In the final episode, John tells Frank, "You are the whirlwind."
  • Comicbook Movies Dont Use Codenames:
    • Frank never really calls himself the Punisher, but it's still a nickname the media and authorities give him. A Justified Trope, since even back in Daredevil season 2, the "Punisher" was simply the nickname given to him by the NYPD, barring the occasional times Frank has used it to deride the word. In fact, prior to episode 9, the name isn't used even once outside of a single usage by Sam.
    • David Lieberman uses the name "Micro" as an online alias when delivering secrets. But outside of that intro episode, he's only ever referred to by his legal name.
    • Billy Russo references a jigsaw as part of his therapy in season two, and one character refers to him as being "jigsaw-faced," but this never becomes his codename.
    • There is a devoutly religious, Made of Iron Determinator hitman with a dying wife in the Max continuity simply called The Mennonite, who is never actually named, but an identical character in the series is called John Pilgrim.
  • Canon Foreigner:
    • The DHS characters (Dinah Madani, Sam Stein, Carson Wolf, Rafi Hernandez) are all original characters created just for the show.
    • Sarah is either this or a differently-named version of the 616 Micro's ex-fiancé Jan O'Reilly.
    • Lewis Wilson has no comics counterpart.
  • Car Fu:
    • The opening montage in the first episode sees Frank chasing down two Dogs of Hell bikers on an Alabama backroad while engaging them in a running firefight. He eventually shoots one of the bikes, causing them to crash. Frank then hangs a U-turn and runs over the bikers, killing them.
    • During the arms deal sting, Madani and Frank engage in a game of cat and mouse as they chase each others' Ford Mustangs in a scene reminiscent of Bullitt. That is, until David T-bones Madani with a panel truck.
  • Catchphrase:
    • When lining up a kill, Frank sometimes says "One batch, two batch, penny and dime," the title of the children's book he read to Lisa when she was alive.
    • Lewis is in love with the Latin phrase sic semper tyranis, ("thus always to tyrants") to the point that it's a clue telling Frank and Curtis that he's the bomber when he uses it while calling in to threaten Karen on the radio.
  • Celebrity Paradox:
    • Full Metal Jacket apparently exists in the MCU, given Billy Russo asks at the end of the debriefing on Operation Cerberus, "Sir, does this mean that Ann Margret's not coming?" Yet Private Pyle is played by Vincent D'Onofrio, who portrays Wilson Fisk.
    • Russo is seen reading The Picture of Dorian Gray in another flashback. No idea on whether the 2009 film adaptation of the story, in which Ben Barnes played the titular character, also exists.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: Gunner Henderson is introduced as another member of Frank's squad who's participating in Operation Cerberus. He expresses some concern over whether they might be committing illegal activities when they're burying Zubair's body. He turns out to be the man who filmed Zubair's execution.
  • Chekhov's Skill: In season 2, Frank teaches Amy how to disarm an attacker. She puts this to good use a few episodes later, saving her life.
  • Chick Magnet: Frank has chemistry of some degree with most female characters he interacts with. With Sarah, it's a slightly drunken one-sided kiss; with Karen, it's decidedly mutual attraction; with Madani, it's a mutual respect born of their similar personalities and the suggestive circumstances of their first face-to-face meeting. He starts a brief romantic relationship with Beth Quinn in season two.
  • Chroma Key: For scenes where the stump of Curtis's amputated left leg is visible, Jason R. Moore wears a long green sock.
  • CIA Evil, FBI Good: The Big Bad Ensemble are members of a CIA black ops group that committed war crimes including torture and drug smuggling, among other things. The Sympathetic Inspector Antagonists, meanwhile, are from the FBI and DHS. Subverted by Deputy Director Marion James, Rawlins' direct superior, who is a Reasonable Authority Figure that is disgusted by what Rawlins has done and gotten her to help cover up. While she goes along with his plan to discredit and kill the last people who can confirm CIA involvement in this shitshow, she does so on the condition that Rawlins will immediately resign from the CIA, or she'll turn him in to Homeland Security herself, consequences be damned.
    • The end of Season 2 sees Madani leave Homeland in favour of the CIA, with it being implied that this was a better fit for her after turning more morally grey over the course of the series. Combined with the spoilered information above, this might be taken as the CIA being not necessarily villainous, but definitely at the shadier end of heroism.
  • Cool Car:
    • The Battle Van, obviously. Hard not to label a literal rolling arsenal "cool".
    • Frank and Madani engage in a car chase of Ford Mustangs right out of Bullitt, with Madani driving a classic 1960s Mustang and Frank driving a cherry-red 2015 model. Unfortunately, Micro T-Bones Madani's Mustang, and then it explodes.
  • The Conspiracy: David and Frank are being targeted by members of a covert CIA operation to cover up war crimes they committed years ago in Afghanistan.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • The show opens with a montage of Frank tracking down the last members of the various gangs that were at the Central Park shootout.
    • Karen is one of people Dinah questions when she gets wind that Frank is in New York City, given she was the one he interacted with most throughout his trial and following his escape. During the questioning, Dinah also recites Karen's history, with Nelson & Murdock's taking down of Wilson Fisk and later her involvement in the first investigation of Frank.
    • During their radio debate, Karen asks Senator Ori if he’s ever felt afraid for his life or been in a situation where a gun can mean the difference between life and death, the exact situation she faced when she killed James Wesley.
    • Dinah's file on Frank includes the ceremonial photograph of Frank receiving the Navy Cross award that Karen saw in his house in "Penny and Dime".
    • Karen and Senator Ori have a debate about gun control on a WNEX radio show, the same station that hosts Trish Talk.
    • If you look closely at Frank, you can pinpoint scars he received in Daredevil season 2, like the stab wound from his fight with Fisk and the other prisoners in the cell block, or the sewed up bullet wound he took to the right arm from a police sniper during his second fight with Matt.
    • The operation where Major Schoonover lost his arm (which he testified about at Frank's trial) is shown in a flashback sequence here. But now there's more context to the situation: Schoonover and Agent Orange refused to listen to Frank's warnings that the mission was a set-up. Even Russo had backed up Frank during the discussion.
  • Contrived Coincidence:
    • In Season 1, when Frank needs guns, he attempts to intercept a black market shipment that's being tracked by the NYPD. It just so happens that the one and only law enforcement agent who is actively investigating his activities in Afghanistan is also investigating this shipment, for entirely unrelated reasons.
    • Frank gets himself involved in a criminal conspiracy that he was in the right place and right time to fight, though it has nothing to do with his backstory. The contrived coincidence comes more from the fact that it happens at the exact same time that Billy Russo breaks out of the hospital, giving Frank two wars to fight at once.
  • Cool Car: Frank's iconic "battle van" pops up, but it's just an ordinary Ford Econoline with a rack of roof lights, acquired from a chop shop. Frank also gets to drive a brand-new cherry-red Ford Mustang, while Madani chases him in her blue 1969 Mustang.
  • Cop Killer:
    • Frank's family was killed because Frank executed Madani's partner Ahmed Zubair on the orders of William Rawlins. Because he didn't speak Pashto/Dari, he had no idea that Zubair was an Afghan National Police officer who discovered that fellow members of Operation Cerberus were moving heroin inside the corpses of KIAs, and using the profits to finance assassination squads. Rawlins and Schoonover then ordered Frank be assassinated because they were led to believe Frank was the one who sent David the videotape of the Zubair assassination, as opposed to Gunner Henderson, the one who actually made the recording.
    • Once Frank is drawn back in to hunting down the people who ordered the death of his family, his first victim is Carson Wolf, the Special Agent in Charge of the DHS's New York City field office. After torturing him to get information on David, Frank kills Wolf by breaking his neck.
    • Billy Russo and several Private Military Contractors on his payroll ambush Dinah Madani and her SWAT team when Dinah feeds them false information leading them to a warehouse where they think Frank will be making a gun buy. Most of Dinah's SWAT team is killed, as are all of Russo's men. Russo himself stabs Sam to death with a retractable blade concealed under his right sleeve. Also, in the season 1 finale, Russo nonchalantly guns down DHS agents sent to arrest him at his pad.
  • Crapsack World: The Punisher gives us the titular character fighting highly corrupt military conspiracies involved in heroin trafficking and human rights violations. The second season gives us a corrupt company that is involved in many murders. It certainly doesn't help the fact that the series was inspired by some of Punisher's darkest comics.
  • Creepy Children Singing: In the announcement teaser trailer.
  • Crippling Overspecialization: Frank is incredibly good at killing bad guys. Forming healthy relationships, or solving things peacefully… not so much.
  • Cruel Mercy:
    • Russo spends a lot of money on his seriously ill mother so he can berate her for being a terrible parent. While she's nearly catatonic, her reaction to him shows she's terrified.
    • Russo himself is the only member of the conspiracy Frank spares, after brutally beating and disfiguring him to the point his begging to die. The reason is whenever he wakes up, Frank has a moment where he realizes his wife and children are dead, experiencing it every day. Russo will get a chance to think of that every time he sees a mirror now.
    • Deconstructed in Season 2, where Frank learns that by sparing Russo to force him to live with his crimes, all he's done is leave him alive to cause even more trouble. Even more ironic, Frank's horrifying beatdown was so severe that Russo lost all memory of the event itself.
  • Cultured Badass: When Frank isn’t murdering bad guys in horrible ways, Curtis is catching him up on the classics like Moby-Dick. In flashbacks, we see him name the source of an oft-quoted Tennyson poem, and recites a version of the old nonsense poem "Two Dead Boys".
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Frank vs Lance and his buddies.
  • Curse Cut Short: Out of Leo, of all people. She drops the first half of MF while trying to repair their garbage disposal.
  • Cut Lex Luthor a Check:
    • Rawlins comes from extremely old Virginia money and is on track to be the new Deputy Director of the CIA, yet still needs to engage in drug smuggling and other corrupt activities for personal profit. His operation is getting, at best, millions of dollars from these drug transactions which risk putting him in jail, but getting that kind of appropriation legitimately should be child's play for him.
    • At the end of Season 2, Castle is offered a job as an assassin, which would presumably come with protection by the government and a steady paycheck. He turns it down without a second thought because he prefers hunting criminals on his own and dealing with the consequences himself.
  • Darker and Edgier: Easily the darkest MCU TV series to date. Unlike Daredevil (2015) and the rest of The Defenders (2017), the fantastic elements are absent here and the show is much more oriented towards espionage, action, as well as conspiracies that deal with government and corporate corruption. Basically, the series is less MCU and more like 24.
  • Decoy Protagonist: In season two, Frank starts a romantic relationship with Beth Quinn, starts bonding with her son, and learns about her deadbeat former boyfriend. She drops out of the narrative after episode two.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?:
    • Some of the arguments between Frank and David can sound like an old married couple squabbling.
    • Frank protests Rawlins and Schoonover's planned operation because he senses it is an ambush, even pointing out that what they're doing as Operation Cerberus is giving them a reputation as the "American Taliban."
  • Dirty Coward:
    • Bill Rawlins is calm, level, and detached when it comes to sending his men to die; but Russo suspects early on that Rawlins's vendetta against Frank has a lot to do with Frank busting his left eye and making him genuinely fear for his life, and not wanting to ever feel that way again.
    • Lewis Wilson is accused by Frank face-to-face, and by Karen on the radio, of rank cowardice for bombing innocent civilians from a safe distance.
    • Amy starts out wanting to run away from any and all danger, even if that means leaving others in the lurch. There is usually a hint of Jerkass Has a Point, though, since her cowardice is contrasted with Frank's borderline-self-destructive instinct to throw himself into any fight that comes along, and it's frequently left vague which one of them is being sensible and which one is rationalising their baggage. She also grows braver over the course of the season.
  • Double Tap: The Punisher is trying to kill his enemies. During firefights he makes sure to finish off injured and incapacitated targets by shooting them directly in the head - ruthlessly, methodically, almost mechanically, without a split-second's hesitation. He isn't going to give them a chance to retreat and regroup. If he has sufficient time, he even makes sure to give headshots to targets that have stopped moving even though he already emptied a clip of ammo into the rest of their bodies - not out of anger, but to make sure they're fully neutralized so he can focus on the next threat.
  • Dragon-in-Chief: Even though Russo working with Rawlins, he still has his own group of minions, seems to have a better idea of the big picture, and is more physically capable of handling himself in a fight.
  • Early-Bird Cameo: David had been mentioned as one of Daisy Johnson's contacts during the second season of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., 3 years before his on-screen debut.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: David is reunited with his family, who are overjoyed that he's actually alive and starting to heal from the damage his absence caused, everyone involved with the death of Frank's family is dead (except Russo, who suffers a Fate Worse than Death), and Frank Castle is officially legally dead, with the CIA and Homeland Security pulling strings to give Frank a new life as Pete Castiglione, and Frank is now attending Curtis' PTSD support group meetings trying to recover. Something like over two hundred people had to die for all this happen.
  • Elephant in the Living Room: Matt Murdock's "death" in The Defenders is not so much as mentioned even once, even though it's obvious that that event is the reason why Karen is in a state of mourning on this show.note 
    • Frank finally asks if he's alive in Season 2.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil:
    • Anvil employs several female mercs. Frank respects their equal-opportunity stance by mowing them down alongside their male compatriots without a moment's hesitation.
    • Pilgrim has a couple of women among his hired help, including Marlena Olin. While Frank almost nonchalantly smashes their male partner's skull against a bathroom sink, he keeps it nonlethal with Olin and the other female mook at first. He soon gets tired of this shit and kills Olin’s partner with her own knife. Once Olin pulls a gun, the gloves are off completely.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Krista Dumont's first scene has her rather emotionally defending Billy Russo's recovery, saying that her only goal is to help him get well. She will later get very emotionally involved in Russo's recovery and sacrifice everything to put him back on his villainous path.
  • Even Bad Men Love Their Mamas: Played With. Billy Russo is spending lots of money to have his mother taken care of in a nice care facility as a Cruel Mercy, since she was apparently a drug-addicted prostitute who abandoned him as an infant, and he wants to exert power over her now as an adult.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Billy lets Curtis go so he and Frank can end their Mexican Standoff. Though he has the opportunity to kill Curtis anyway, he does not, saying, "My word still means something."
  • Every Car Is a Pinto: Played pretty realistically. After Madani's car accident, it takes some time for her Mustang to explode, and the explosion is very minor. It would have been extremely dangerous if she'd still been in it, but Frank dragged her just a few feet away, and she's fine.
  • Evil Wears Black: In season two, Billy Russo wears the same dark outfit, including a black-on-black fleece-lined jacket, black jeans, and black boots, from episode two onwards.
  • Extreme Mêlée Revenge: Rawlins and Russo both end up receiving this at the hands of Frank. Rawlins is repeatedly stabbed and punched, has his throat slit, and gets both eyes gouged out. Russo gets stabbed in the gut with a shard of glass, has his face ground against the broken mirror, gets his arm broken, and is slammed into another mirror repeatedly.
  • Eye Scream:
    • Rawlins lost the sight in his left eye when Frank punched him in Afghanistan. It's now a milky gray.
    • Rawlins later gets a double dosage of this when Frank finishes him off by by burying his thumbs into his eyesockets.
  • Facial Horror: Billy gets his face horribly mangled against broken glass by Frank. By the second season, he's gone through facial reconstruction so he is recognizable, but with severe scarring across his face, especially his forehead and right cheek.
  • Failure Gambit: Frank pulls off a rather complicated one on Carson Wolf to get information about David. He invades Carson's home by coming down the chimney, and beats him up, then ties him to a dining room chair with his own necktie for some enhanced interrogation, with a pistol displayed prominently in his waistband. Carson doesn't crack, and eventually slips his bonds and steals the pistol, forcing Frank to his knees at gunpoint. Then he engages in some Evil Gloating, telling Frank everything he needs to know in the process. But when he tries to execute Frank, he finds out the pistol was empty all along and Frank breaks his neck.
  • Faking the Dead:
    • At the start of the show, David has faked his death and gone into hiding to keep his family safe. A big part of the plot sees Frank working to help David so he can be reunited with them. Then he does it again with Homeland Security's help, when they pretend to "accidentally" gun him down in order to get him away from Russo's mercenaries. Fortunately, this time, they tell his family he's fine within a few minutes.
    • Frank himself already faked his death when he blew up the Blacksmith's boat. Only a few people, like Matt, Karen, and Curtis, are aware that he survived. David is able to figure out that Frank's alive by waiting for a cluster of bodies to drop.
  • Fanservice:
    • Dinah Madani gets quite a few shots wearing very little, and looks quite good doing it. May cross over into Fan Disservice, as she tends to be covered in bruises from workplace injuries or blood from major workplace incidents when it happens.
    • When Madani has one of these scenes, it's usually with Billy Russo, who gets about as much love from the camera as she does. And then there's the start of episode 8 with his personal grooming going into Mundane Made Awesome territory that would not look out of place in an aftershave commercial.
    • Frank’s shirtless and showing off his ripped upper body a good deal of the time, whether from battle damage to his clothes or stripping to tend his wounds. Even more than Dinah, he’s often covered in blood and open wounds, so which one it’s meant to be is unclear. In Season 2, he also flashes his ass at the camera… because he's got a bullet in it he needs to deal with.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Frank ultimately decides that Billy Russo doesn't deserve an easy death and severely disfigures him, instead, and bashes his head in hard enough to cause permanent brain damage.
  • FBI Agent: Dinah Madani and Sam Stein are DHS agents.
  • Flat "What": Russo's reaction when Frank explains what's been going on to him. Of course, Russo is in on it from the beginning, so he's just a really good actor.
  • Foe Romance Subtext: When one character comments that Frank and Marlena fight like a married couple, they just exchange looks of loathing.
  • Foil:
    • Frank and David, as allies, are these: David has faked his own death, and that means even his wife and children believe he's dead. It's a reversal of Frank's situation: Frank lost his family, but David cut ties with his. David's still wrestling with the consequences of this decision when we first meet him, and he sees Frank as his way of getting his family back.
    • Sam at one point comments to Madani that she has a lot in common with Frank: US government personnel hell-bent on taking justice for themselves and the people they cared about, even if it means ignoring the proper legal channels of the law. Madani even survives taking a shot to the head at the end of the season in Central Park, much like Frank did in his backstory, though she doesn't end up with permanent brain damage like him.
    • Frank and Amy are both defined by a traumatic incident where they lost everyone they loved, but they've taken the opposite lessons from the experience: Amy wants to run away from any and all danger, even if it means abandoning others, while Frank keeps throwing himself into fights, even when avoiding them would be more prudent.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Anyone familiar with Billy Russo in the Punisher comics knows that he becomes Jigsaw. The only question is how.
  • Foreshadowing: Someone mentions "putting the pieces together" to catch Billy Russo. You know, like a jigsaw puzzle.
    • In the first episode, Curtis jokingly threatens to beat Frank to death with his prosthetic leg. Lewis later subdues Curtis with it before strapping him to a claymore mine.
    • When Frank is commenting about Zach's KABAR knife, he says that the knife is much easier to use against a man with a gun at close quarters. This takes place minutes before Russo kills Sam in this exact way.
    • When Curtis is telling Russo why he shouldn't hire Lewis to work at Anvil, he tells Russo about Lewis nearly shooting his father, to which Russo replies, "God, I've always wanted to do that." He then laughs awkwardly when Curtis gives him a cold look. We later learn that Russo's mom was a prostitute and Russo himself spent his childhood in group homes.
    • In Kandahar, Billy Russo is reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, about another man whose beautiful face hides an evil core, who was also played by Ben Barnes in a live-action adaptation, and whose face becomes unrecognizable in the end.
  • Four Lines, All Waiting: There's roughly four different main storylines going on in the first season: Frank and David's partnership (with a subplot concerning David's family), Madani and Sam's investigation, Russo's villainy, and the decline of Lewis's sanity.
  • Friend to All Children: Frank is remarkably kinder and more gentle when dealing with David's children. He helps Leo with the garbage disposal and encourages her efforts, and later steps in at Sarah's request to help get Zach out of his bullying ways. This is likely due to him missing his own children.
  • Gambit Roulette: The reasons and circumstances of Castle's tragedy are ultimately revealed to be the result of a confluence of disparate gambits:
    1. Russo refused to kill Frank himself, forcing Schoonover to do the job — and he chose to arrange a meeting between numerous gangs during which Frank would be killed in the crossfire.
    2. Schoonover was unable to make the meeting because he was being investigated by the DA.
    3. DA Samantha Reyes had the crime families under surveillance, but decided not to follow procedure and evacuate the civilians. As a result, all of them died and Frank took a bullet to the head.
    4. Reyes sent the hospital a "Do Not Resuscitate" order, hoping Frank would die on the table.
  • Golden Mean Fallacy: On the issue of gun control. For the far right, we have a paranoid Mad Bomber who murders people to protest gun control laws and other perceived attacks on his freedom by an evil government. For the far left, Senator Ori is a Dirty Coward who has no intelligent argument against guns and hypocritically relies on them for his own protection. The only sane person who touches the debate is Karen, who takes a moderate position as a responsible gun owner who supports reasonable gun control measures.
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair:
    • Rawlins and Schoonover have shaved heads.
    • Billy Russo has slicked-back dark hair indicative of his villain status.
  • Good Versus Good: Frank may be hunting down criminals who have killed complete innocents, but because he's also a Nominal Hero who at this point has caused untold amounts of property damage, murdered dozens of (bad) people, and even broke out of prison, he often finds himself having to run from the cops and other law enforcement groups as well.
  • Gorn: The most brutal series Marvel has put out so far, with Frank both dishing out and receiving some gruesome wounds. Exaggerated with Billy Russo's disfigurement, which is out-and-out Nightmare Fuel that must be seen to be believed.
  • Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Amy uses only minced oaths, such as saying "Ess aitch one tee" and "flustercuck," the latter serving as an episode's Title Drop. This emphasizes her youth and innocence.
  • Hallway Fight: As is tradition for MCU Netflix series, but here, the fight is less martial arts and instead Frank gunning down the soldiers in his way.
  • Handicapped Badass: Curtis may be minus his left leg below the knee, but he's still fit, tall, trained, and incredibly brave. It's obvious the fight between him and Lewis would have been very one-sided if he hadn't had that Achilles' heel. As it is, Curtis probably still would have won if he'd been trying to kill or maim, instead of simply overpower his opponent.
  • Hate Sink: Arthur Walsh is a former worker at the Ray of Hope group home, he molested the boys until he was arrested and had a stint in Sing-Sing. When confronted by former victim Billy Russo, insists that he was a good caretaker, who "loved you kids" and that they were "happy to love me back. He blames the boy who reported Walsh's abuse for his current circumstances. He also mocks Russo for the time that he broke his arm for defending himself, and makes racist comments when asking about Russo's scars. Billy Russo is pushed over the edge and stabs Walsh with a plunger, and When Frank Castle finds out, he is glad he is dead.
  • Heroic BSoD: Frank falls into one in Season 2 when Russo makes him believe he accidentally killed three innocent bystanders.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Rawlins really shouldn't have given Frank that epinephrine shot. If he hadn't, Frank probably would've actually felt that shiv in the side, and likely wouldn't have had the wherewithal to break free and stab/beat Rawlins to death.
  • Hollywood Healing: Frank's able to recover from injuries pretty fast. Best seen when he's back on his feet less than a day after enduring a near-fatal torture session from Rawlins.
  • Hollywood Law:
    • In episode 5, Madani questions Karen Page about Frank's trial. Several issues are present:
      • First off, Madani’s questioning about a former client of Nelson & Murdock is highly problematic, because Karen easily could have disclosed confidential information learned from her work on the Castle case. New York attorneys have a duty to protect the confidential information of former clients, and Karen worked as a legal assistant for Nelson & Murdock. The law recognizes those who work for attorneys as “privileged agents"note , so Matt and Foggy's duty to protect confidential information would apply to Karen, as she was their agent.
      • That said, back in Daredevil, Karen had questioned Frank during the trial about his past, which is generally accepted for a paralegal or legal assistant to do in a case. But Karen also gave Frank advice on what she thought Frank should do for his defense, which crosses the line into Karen giving legal advice, which is something only lawyers are allowed to do.
      • What does this mean for Madani’s questioning of Karen? Well, three things: 1) Karen has a duty to not disclose confidential information about Frank Castle, unless that information specifically could be used to prevent a crime, death, or substantial bodily harm. 2) The legal advice that Karen gave to Frank is not protected, because Karen is not a lawyer and cannot give legal advice. And 3) Karen is also flirting with aiding and abetting Frank in committing crimes by providing him information after her employment at Nelson & Murdocknote , something that is not protected by any privilege. In other words, Karen should not have agreed to sit down with Madani without bringing along Foggy to help her navigate what was confidential and what she could disclose. (Presumably the only reason Karen does not bring Foggy is because they haven't spoken to each other since losing Matt.)
    • The CIA conduct unauthorized wiretaps to find information on the “Punisher tip line.” This information is then used to kidnap Sarah and Zach. Wiretapping anyone in the United States without a warrant is a violation of the 4th Amendment of the United States. Spy agencies kidnapping US citizens is also clearly illegal, as the CIA is not permitted to operate on American soil under any circumstances. Justified since these actions are comitted by corrupt members involved with the heroin trade.
    • David, by faking his own death, technically is committing fraud, and if there were any pending federal charges against him, faking one’s own death would be a “substantial interference with the administration of justice” that would warrant a sentence enhancement. Though since Wolf was trying to kill him for doing his job of reporting illegal activity, David has a pretty solid legal defense if charges are ever pressed.
  • Hollywood Silencer: Lewis' pistol just gives off the classic "fwip" and is fired repeatedly inside a crowded building with no one reacting to it.
  • Hollywood Tactics: Madani and Stein’s simulated hostage rescue exercise at Anvil is quite sloppy. They evidently don’t know how to check corners, and the team enters a room, tosses a training grenade, and looks right at it when it blows. If it was meant to simulate a flash-bang, then they just practiced deafening and disorienting themselves, giving their opponents a great opportunity to shoot them. If it was standing in for a frag, then they learned how to commit suicide. Afterwards, they are only criticized for Sam accidentally shooting a hostage. At least they managed to not point their weapons at each other.
    • A Kandahar flashback shows the Cerberus team conducting a night operation. . . without night-vision goggles. Frank then proceeds to clear out a building all by himself and takes his helmet off in the middle of the fight.
  • Holy Hitman: John Pilgrim is prone to quoting Bible verses and prays for his (many, many) victims' souls.
  • Homage:
    • Lewis Wilson is clearly inspired by Taxi Driver as a military veteran who works as a taxi driver, deals with PTSD that makes him unable to adjust to society, becomes homicidal, and ultimately tries to change society by force of arms. Curtis asks Frank if that sounds familiar to him.
    • In season two, an overwhelming mass of armed thugs lays siege to a cut-off and outgunned police precinct containing some cops and an extremely badass criminal. This is a clear homage to Assault on Precinct 13.
  • Horrifying Hero: Frank kills first, saves victims later, which means that for a while, all the victims of a crime know is that bullets are flying and bodies are dropping around them. For instance, when Frank and David raid a chop shop for vehicles while it is being robbed by thieves who are torturing the workers for information, an unlucky bound and tied-up hostage spends the whole gunfight shitting in his pants with a pin-pulled grenade at his feet until Frank tells him that it's a dud.
  • How Much More Can He Take?: The final fight between Castle and Pilgrim involves the two mutually taking and inflicting frankly ludicrous amounts of damage. And this is with both of them still badly injured from prior encounters. Frank eventually wins, but Pilgrim is still conscious and capable of speech.
  • Idealized Sex:
  • I Gave My Word: Russo leaves a wounded Curtis with a cellphone to call for help and leaves without further harming him, because "my word still means something, too."
  • I Never Said It Was Poison: After Russo kills Sam, he and Dinah have a conversation about it, during which Russo comments on how Sam was stabbed. Dinah's face indicates she thinks it's somewhat odd that Russo would know that. While it's no smoking gun, it does lead to her keeping Russo at arm's length and being much more suspicious of him, and her suspicions are confirmed at the hotel when Russo shoots at Frank as he's rushing to save Karen from Lewis.
  • Interplay of Sex and Violence:
    • Cinematically, this time. As Frank is getting the crap beat out of him by Rawlins, and he slips in and out of consciousness, scenes of his torture are spliced with memories of making love to his wife.
    • Krista and Billy have a rather sado-masochistic love scene, both digging painfully at each other's old injuries. In case you weren't getting the subtext, it is also intercut with scenes of Billy's gang committing murder.
  • Irony: Frank spared Billy's life because he wanted him to live with the constant reminder of his betrayals, but he beat Billy so badly that he suffered traumatic brain injury and memory loss. All the awful things he did after he left the Marine Corps is lost to him, and as far as he remembers, he and Frank are close as brothers. As Curtis points out, "Everyone has to live with what Billy did, except Billy."
  • It's Personal: Russo believes that Rawlins' decision to target Frank and his family has nothing to do with trying to cover up Operation Cerberus, but purely to satisfy a murderous grudge from when Frank busted his left eye and made him experience fear for his life. Given the way Rawlins goes off the rails after Marion James makes it clear his career in the CIA is over, Russo's reservations are clearly not unfounded.
  • It Works Better with Bullets:
    • While Frank is attempting to beat a confession out of Carson, Carson manages to slip his bonds and grab Frank's gun. This, however, was part of Frank's plan; the gun is empty, and Carson gives up all the info Frank needs while thinking he has the upper hand.
    • Pilgrim hands Marlena his pistol and invites her to show him her plan of attack, only to grab her in a fatal chokehold. She tries to shoot him but the gun is empty.
  • Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Subverted throughout the season.
    • Frank has Carson Wolf tied to a chair and is beating him. Wolf says he has some training at Guantanamo, so he knows that intel from tortured prisoners isn't reliable, as they'll eventually start telling you whatever they think you want to hear. Hell, he even comments that Frank is answering his own damn questions while beating him. What Wolf doesn't realize is that the torture part is just a Failure Gambit on Frank's part, as he lets Wolf "disarm" him and then gloat while pointing what he thinks is a loaded gun at Frank. Frank never expected to get any info from the torture.
    • After a team of Russo's men attacks him at David's lair, Frank takes out a gun and gives an ultimatum to one of the survivors of the firefight to give him info on where Sarah and Zach are being held. The PMC reveals he doesn't know anything, as it was obviously "need to know"; Frank doesn't bother any further, and just shoots the man in the head as he threatened.
      Frank Castle: Fair enough.
    • In episode 12, Rawlins' attempts to torture information out of Frank just allows Frank to send recordings of it to Dinah and David. Russo gets sickened eventually once he realizes Rawlins is just indulging in his own sadism to get petty revenge on Frank for taking his left eye from him, and eventually weakens Frank's bonds so that Frank can get his own back at Rawlins.
    • Played straight in episode one, as Lance talks when Frank beat him with a sledgehammer. Justified, too, as Lance, unlike the other examples here, is not someone with the military training to resist torture.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Lewis, as a result of his crummy life as a veteran, PTSD flashbacks, and O'Connor's toxic influence.
  • Just a Flesh Wound: Most of Frank's injuries bother him for a single scene and then might as well have never happened.
  • Lady Macbeth: Krista Dumont supports Billy's criminal activity, helping make him the best he can be, which translates to the best supercriminal.
  • Let Off by the Detective: After Frank defeats Russo, he's informed by Rafi and Marion that he's being allowed to go free and live under a new identity, owing to the people he was pursuing and government corruption he exposed.
  • Libation for the Dead: On Frank's birthday, Russo and Curtis go out and commiserate at his grave.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Early in season two, Russo steals an outfit from a random hooligan and wears it for the remainder of the season.
  • Lodged Blade Removal: Frank goes to the isolated mountain hideout of an old friend. His friend shoots him in the shoulder with a arrow, not knowing it's Frank. Frank doesn't try to pull the arrow out, instead snapping off the shaft close to the point of entry in order to have more freedom of movement, since him and his buddy are about to be attacked by a Spec Ops team. Later, when his medic buddy is treating him, the medic says trying to pull the arrow out would only cause more damage. Therefore, he has to make an incision in Frank's back and push the arrow all the way through. This treatment method is not necessarily true. In an operating room with a trained team of surgeons, the arrowhead would have been painstakingly extracted back through the existing wound with as little additional tissue damage as possible. Frank's buddy, however, didn't have the time or tools to do all of that.
  • The Lost Lenore:
    • Maria is one for Frank.
    • Although Matt Murdock is never mentioned by name, he is clearly this to Karen. Matt's "death" at Midland Circle has made Karen a bit of a lonely shut-in, isolated even from Foggy, her working relationship with Ellison is strained, and she buries herself in work to distract herself from the pain she's experiencing without Matt around.
    • Ahmed Zubair is one for Madani.
  • Made of Iron:
    • A defining trait of Frank is that he fights through horrific injuries. He ends both seasons a mass of bruises, cuts, and holes.
    • John Pilgrim spends the latter half of season two taking about as much punishment as Frank. In a late episode, the camera even does a close-up montage of the injuries he's sustained so far.
  • Mangst: There is hardly a character in the series, male or female, who isn't absolutely brimming with manly stoicism. Frank, Curtis, Sarah, David, Karen, Madani, Lewis. The only characters who aren't doing this would likely be Russo, Rawlins, and Sam.
  • Mars and Venus Gender Contrast: Season 2 sees Amy, and at one point Madani, make a number of pointed remarks about what men are supposedly like (to whit, overly aggressive, compulsively competitive, and much too good at forgiving themselves). Of course, given the extreme amounts of testosterone on display, it's not hard to see what gave them that idea.
  • Meaningful Rename: John Pilgrim is a devoutly religious man and in a very transitive spiritual state. We later learn that he adopted this name as part of his "rebirth" (his first name used to be "Robert").
  • Menacing Mask: Jigsaw had his men, along with himself, wear masks to terrify their victims during their robberies.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Curtis very fittingly describes Billy Russo as this, with his three-piece suits and his slicked-back corporate hairstyle.
  • Mook Horror Show: A regular occurrence for a show about a Pay Evil unto Evil character like The Punisher. Most notably when a team of Russo's men is lured by Frank to David's lair. The entire fight has various Dutch Angle shots, Frank moving in and out of the shadows, Frank throwing a human head grenade out for his enemies, Bloody Horror as Frank shoots a number of targets point-blank in the face with a shotgun, and so on.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Billy exchanges his hospital attire for the clothing of a convenient asshole who bullied him on the bus.
  • Mugging the Monster:
    • In the first episode, we see some of Frank's coworkers at the construction site threatening and bullying him because the long hours he works is costing them overtime pay. They assume he's mentally challenged because he never speaks or reacts to their slights. Then they try to kill Donny. Frank kills all of them, saving Lance for last and breaking just about every bone in his body before dropping him in wet concrete.
    • In season two, a switchblade-toting ruffian decides to antagonize Billy Russo on a bus. Russo ignores him, then follows him into an alley and reemerges with the man's clothing.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • At the end of the first episode, Micro sees Frank operating and says, "Welcome back, Frank." "Welcome Back, Frank" is the title of Garth Ennis' first Punisher story.
    • In "The Dark Hearts of Men", Russo tricking Frank into thinking he accidentally killed innocent women is lifted from the MAX arc "Girls in White Dresses".
    • In season 2, Frank tussles with a large Russian gangster who takes quite a beating before finally going down and who winds up with severe facial injuries, a possible reference to The Russian from the comics.
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Someone called "The Punisher" is, as usual, not someone you want to mess with. Frank unsurprisingly raises his body count far beyond the 98+ people we learned he had killed by the end of Daredevil (2015) season 2 in this series.
  • Never Bring a Gun to a Knife Fight:
    • In conversation with Zach, Frank says that he would rather have a knife than a gun when up close to an opponent. This foreshadows Sam Stein's death just a few scenes later when Russo stabs him to death with the retractable blade on his right sleeve.
    • Frank defeats several gun-toting opponents with their knives.
    • In the final episode of Season 1, Billy pointedly tells Frank to discard his knife as well as his gun.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The season 2 trailer implies that Pilgrim and Russo will team up to go after Frank. This never happens in the show, and the two plotlines never intersect each other.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: In season 2, pretty much everyone wishes Frank had killed Billy at the carousel. Billy gets Laser-Guided Amnesia, forgetting everything since leaving military service, which includes killing Frank’s family. So instead of “living with his mistakes” like Frank intended, he’s almost an entirely different character.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • David takes heavy cues from Edward Snowden, as an NSA analyst who was forced to go into hiding because of illegal activities he uncovered.
    • Anvil, Billy Russo's private military contractor firm, is probably meant to be based on Blackwater, given its sketchiness. At one point, when hiring operatives for the SWAT team ambush, Russo tells one operative who says he's had a hard time finding employment, "Listen, there's not much of anything I can do about a YouTube video of you guys opening up on a bunch of Iraqi civilians."
    • Lewis Wilson is a thinly-veiled reincarnate of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
      • Both are veterans. McVeigh served in the Gulf War and spent his free time reading up on various military topics, including explosives. While no explanation is given to how Lewis became proficient with IEDs, it's implied that he did independent research during his time in the military.
      • Both McVeighnote  and Lewisnote  specifically recall shooting people in the head during their wars.
      • Both are staunch proponents of the second amendment. Lewis gets arrested while distributing gun rights pamphlets with O'Connor. By comparison, McVeigh quit the NRA because he thought they were too liberal.
      • In a letter to representative John J. LaFalce, McVeigh wrote, "It is a lie if we tell ourselves that the police can protect us everywhere at all times. Firearms restrictions are bad enough, but now a woman can't even carry Mace in her purse?" Lewis says something similar in this show when he and O'Connor are handing out flyers at the courthouse: "Every day they lose more of their liberty. It's being chipped away, in that building, right now, and they don't even know it... No, we are not protesting, we are handing out literature."
  • "Not So Different" Remark: Lewis tries pulling this on Frank, even saying they should be working together. Frank's having none of it, since he considers Lewis to be a coward for using bombs and injuring civilians, and at the moment holding Karen hostage, while Frank is rather more meticulous about choosing his targets, and tries to keep collateral damage to a minimum.
  • Odd Couple: David is an intellectual and egg-headed computer hacker, while Frank is a blunt, manly jarhead. They couldn't be less alike, though they're both great at what they do, and they need each other. Their similar experience with change, loss, and betrayal helps them find common ground and bond.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted twice:
    • William "Bill" Rawlins and William "Billy" Russo.
    • Leo (one of Lance's buddies on the construction crew) and Leo Lieberman (David's daughter).
  • Once More, with Clarity:
    • The "Rashomon"-Style accounts of Lewis's attack on the senator are ultimately pieced together into a coherent narrative.
    • Through the first two episodes, the only parts of the Ahmed Zubair execution tape that we see are the final moments of the tape, and Rawlins ordering Frank to kill Zubair. In the third episode, we finally get a flashback showing the events as they happened.
  • Only Bad Guys Call Their Lawyers: Invoked by Billy Russo.
    Dinah Madani: I thought you'd be accompanied by counsel.
    Billy Russo: Why? Lawyers are for the guilty.
  • Only a Flesh Wound: Frank often fights through grievous injuries without much of a problem. The accumulation of damage tends to catch up to him after a fight, causing him to collapse and need medical attention, but once a wound is bandaged, its effects disappear.
  • Pants-Positive Safety: To the point of being at least Once an Episode. Especially outrageous since most of the characters are highly-trained government agents or ex-special forces soldiers, and should all really know better.
    • Subverted on occasion, such as Frank stuffing an empty Glock in his waistband to encourage Carson Wolf to snag it as part of an interrogation gambit.
  • Papa Wolf: While Frank initially protects Amy simply as a matter of course, his father instinct obviously kicks in after he becomes something of a Parental Substitute for her. He snarls at one mook, "You touch her and I will tear your apart" after doing the same to the mook's entire team.
  • Parental Substitute: Frank comes to view himself as a surrogate parent to Amy Bendix in season 2.
  • Patriotic Fervor: The series swings into the very opposite direction of the positive side of the trope (which has been embodied mostly by Captain America in the franchise) and shows the ugly sides of modern-day America in a very realistic way, with government officials committing horrific war crimes and then using their connections to cover it up.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: Frank's condition for working with David is that they're not going to bother trying to expose The Conspiracy to the proper authorities, but instead that Frank gets to murder every last one of them himself.
  • Pet the Dog:
  • Prefers Rocks to Pillows: One of the early signs that Lewis is becoming unhinged is when he cannot sleep well on his home's bed, and after nearly shooting his own father, digs a foxhole in the backyard and sleeps there (even if it's November and it's freezing outside, as Curtis points out when he finds him there).
  • Phony Veteran: O'Connor, the NRA guy in Curtis's support group who proves to be a Toxic Friend Influence to Lewis, is greatly exaggerating the length of his military service, and completely lying about having combat experience.
  • Pink Product Ploy: An In-Universe example: In the episode "Resupply", Frank tries hitting Turk up for guns. All Turk has to offer is a rifle painted hot pink, as a birthday present for a mobster's daughter, nicknamed "Sweet Sixteen". When he brings the gun back to the lair, he makes it pretty clear that he has no intention of using it.
    Castle: Some things really shouldn't be allowed to happen to a Ruger Min-14.
  • Politically Correct Villain: A rare example where someone is both this trope and The Fundamentalist. John Pilgrim in Season 2 is genuinely contrite about his past as a white supremacist, at one point telling Curtis that while he'd once despised him on sight, he can now see him clearly and respect him as a Worthy Opponent.
  • Poor Communication Kills:
    • The Operation Cerberus members have kidnapped and tied up Ahmed Zubair. Frank has no idea that Zubair is an innocent cop because he doesn't speak Pashtu, and Rawlins' questions to Zubair about him being a cop are only asked in that language.
    • Rawlins and Schoonover have gotten wind of a potential target and lay out a plan of attack. Frank and Russo look at the attack plans and realize that this is an ambush, as Frank thinks it's suspicious that an elusive target would wait out in the open in a place where the terrain makes egress difficult. Despite Russo taking Frank's side, Rawlins overrules the two Lieutenants, stating that his intelligence trumps the war whisperer's reservations. Sure enough, it is an ambush. Many of Frank and Russo's men are killed, and Schoonover loses his right arm to a mortar blast. When the survivors return to the compound after the mission, Frank expresses how angry he is at Rawlins for not caring about the men, by punching him in the face hard enough to knock the sight out of his left eye.
  • Posthumous Character:
    • The murdered Afghan cop, Ahmad Zubair, whose death kickstarted the plot, appears numerous times in flashbacks.
    • Colonel Schoonover is dead in the present day, but he shows up in flashbacks to Frank and Russo's time in Kandahar.
  • Powerful People Are Subs: Colonel Morty Bennett commands a base of troops by day, but at night, he engages in submissive roleplay with a dominatrix.
    • Frank mocks him for this when he walks in on them.
      Frank Castle: Well shit, Morty. Looks like I got here just in time...
    • As does Russo in a later scene:
      Billy Russo: You know, without us, Frank Castle would have your balls wired to a car battery by now. You'd probably love that, though, would you?
  • Prepare to Die: While preparing to execute Frank, Carson Wolf starts talking about Frank's dead wife and children and tells him "You're gonna see your family real soon." He pulls the trigger... and the gun clicks empty.
    Frank Castle: Gun's empty, asshole.
  • Private Military Contractors: Russo runs ANVIL, which is explicitly this. He uses it to help with his and Rawlins' illegal activities, including dispatching his troops to try and kill Frank on more than one occasion.
  • Product Placement: In season 2, Amy has several notable interactions with Coca-Cola products. In the first episode, Frank questions whether she's old enough to be in a bar, and she responds by pointedly ordering a Sprite. When she's arrested, a whole scene is dedicated to her begging a cop for money to buy a Coke. She eventually steals one from the machine. When hiding out in her friend's apartment, her friend offers her a Coke to drink while she's away.
  • Race Lift: Curtis Hoyle is white in the comics, but played here by African American Jason R. Moore.
  • Punny Name: Colonel Morty Bennett was the mortuary officer stuffing drugs into the corpses of KIAs.
  • "Rashomon"-Style: The tenth episode is set up in this way, with Karen, Dinah, Billy, and Senator Ori's perspective of the events of Lewis Wilson's bombing attempt as they recount to Brett Mahoney what happened. Doubles as Once More, with Clarity, as the various perspectives of the characters involved are pieced together into the whole story.
    • Ori's version of the events: he fired a few shots at his would-be assassin, then ran to get help, during which time his killer took Karen hostage, and Frank Castle tried to kill him.
    • Karen's version of the events: Ori cried and begged for his life, then threw Karen to the assassin to save himself. Frank Castle was not only there to save the Senator, but Frank actually took a bullet meant for him.
  • Rated M for Manly: Including battle cries that would make Rambo proud.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Budgetary issues can be seen especially in the Kandahar flashbacks. Notice how none of Frank's flashbacks had establishing shots of Afghanistan, and all of them were in the dark, in barracks, tents, and buildings. We didn't even see any heavy machinery, no helicopters, fighter planes, tanks. Imagine what the writers could have written had they not needed to jump through hoops and been limited by the budget.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Played for Laughs when Turk Barrett runs out of guns and has to instead sell Frank a Barbie pink Ruger Mini-14 that a mob boss was planning to buy for his daughter. Despite his anger, Frank takes it anyway, returning to base in his sinister black Punisher hoodie while still carrying the bright pink gun.
  • Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: Discussed. Aside from Matt, Karen, and Curtis, everyone thinks Frank died in the explosion of Colonel Schoonover's boat, only for Frank to soon start leaving a new trail of destruction in this series. David says that his way of tracking Frank was to watch for a pile of bad guys to drop, then plug himself in to cameras in that area.
  • Retired Monster: Subverted with John Pilgrim, who was once a psychotic white-supremacist gangster, but is now a devout, Mennonite family man... who serves as a triggerman for his church's corrupt benefactors.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: While Rawlins and Schoonover were right to suspect that there was a mole in Operation Cerberus who leaked the Zubair tape to Madani, they were just wrong about who the mole was, thinking it was Frank, and not Gunner.
  • Right-Wing Militia Fanatic:
    • Lewis Wilson gradually descends into being one of these over the course of season 1, starting as a "something is not right with my life" pitiful veteran, then becoming a "loose-cannon risk" veteran (which causes Curtis to warn Russo not to hire him at Anvil), and straight to "the system is shit and it's best I kill everything that I think is corrupt" veteran who blows up government installations, then attempts to assassinate Karen and a senator she's interviewing on the topic of gun control.
    • O'Connor, another attendee of Curtis' support group, is one of these. Turns out he's not the badass he claims to be, lied about almost everything about his service, and is apparently just using the support group to find others to recruit into whatever the hell he thinks he's doing. His toxic influence led directly to Lewis Jumping Off the Slippery Slope.
  • Ripped from the Headlines: Frank Castle has always been a controversial character — a Shell-Shocked Veteran/Vigilante Man/Superhero Packing Heat who is openly critical of corruption in the military and law enforcement — especially in The New '10s. Netflix has not hesitated to confront any of those controversies head-on.
    • The Lewis Wilson "gun control" arc references the ongoing debate in American politics over gun legislation in the face of a spate of a recent mass shooting. The show takes no overt side in the debate and presents multiple viewpoints, none of which are shown as heroic, morally righteous, or completely honest, with every extreme presented by Strawman Politicals just as bad as each other; no side is presented as wholly right or wrong:
      • O'Connor is the most vocally racist far-right character in the show and is presented as a hypocritical liar who pretends to be a Vietnam veteran while actually never having seen combat at all.
      • Conversely, gun control advocate Senator Stan Ori is shown blatantly manipulating information if not outright lying to the public to forward his agenda.
      • Lewis is a domestic terrorist, and is shown not as a deranged fanatic, but a Tragic Shell-Shocked Veteran who never really came back from his time overseas and was corrupted by O'Connor's influence.
      • Karen Page is presented as the middle ground, believing that guns aren't the problem, but the people abusing them arenote . Thing is, Karen killed James Wesley, has a shady past, and she's a gun-owner who's frequently been tangled up with the vigilantism of Matt and Frank, so even she's not wholly non-biased in this regard.
      • Frank's views on the subject are left unstated (of course, he's a gun-toting vigilante), but most of the people Frank is fighting throughout the season are in league with corrupt members of the government and got their guns through perfectly legal channels.
    • The show delves deep into issues surrounding US veterans from the ongoing War on Terror. From PTSD to feelings of abandonment and betrayal by the country they swore to serve, not one of the former soldiers shown is without issues; ones that Private Military Contractors like Anvil are quick to take advantage of. As one might expect, Russo is the Dragon Ascendant.
    • One element of the source material that caused endless criticism when it was first published was military and intelligence agencies using the War on Terror to smuggle heroin out of Afghanistan — just as they did during The Vietnam War. In the series, it's not even questioned that the US government made millions in heroin — the conspiracy is that the profits acted as untraceable funding for war crimes such as torture and death squads… just like in Vietnam and Nicaragua. Which is lampshaded during the initial Cerberus debriefing when Billy Russo says the mission sounds a lot like the Phoenix program that was conducted in Vietnam.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: The series opens with Frank concluding the rampage he was on throughout the course of Daredevil season 2, and he's wiped out every criminal organization involved in the shoot-out that killed his family before the premiere episode's Cold Open ends. He soon learns, however, that there were even more players behind the killing and he begins another rampage to make sure he gets everyone once and for all.
    David: You and me? We want the same thing right now. So work with me.
    Frank: One condition: They die. Yeah? Every single one of 'em. No trials. No bullshit. They die.
    David: Yeah, I can live with that.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Sam, who is killed by Billy Russo in episode 8.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: Frank attempts to do this to David's son Zach after learning that on top of delinquent behavior, he's managed to get his hands on a Kabar and even threatens him with the knife. However, when Zach simply yells at him to end his life, he immediately drops this approach and tries to be a more positive role model (which works a lot better).
  • Screaming Warrior: Frank regularly starts screaming in combat situations, such as while emptying all the rounds from a heavy machine gun into a pillar one of his pursuers is trying to hide behind. He also does the same when he starts clearing an ambush in Kandahar, screaming more and more as he relies on more violent ways to kill the enemies.
  • Second Episode Introduction: Billy Russo, Karen Page, and Sarah Lieberman all make their first appearances in episode 2. Rawlins also makes his first onscreen appearance in episode 2, on the video Frank watches of the Zubair torture on the CD David had given him, but doesn't get a proper introduction until the third episode, during the flashbacks of Frank and Russo's time in Kandahar.
  • Secret-Keeper: Curtis is the only person Frank has been staying in contact with ever since faking his death in the explosion at the docks. It's all because Frank wanted it that way, and he felt it would protect his fellow comrades.
  • Semper Fi: Frank, Billy Russo, and Curtis Hoyle are all former members of the Marine Corps. Frank and Billy were Lieutenants, and Curtis was a Corpsman( If Curtis was a corpsman he wasn't a marine. Marines use Navy corpsman. Also, lieutenant is a rank, while corpsman is a rate).
  • Sequel Hook: In the end, Billy Russo has had his face shredded and winds up in a coma, from which he may suffer memory loss. This sets him up to possibly return as his comic book persona Jigsaw in later seasons.
  • Serial Killer: David says that finding Frank was "easy", because Frank's desire to kill criminals is such a compulsion that all David had to do is wait for a big group of bad people to turn up dead and then check camera footage in the area. Sooner or later, Frank would be there.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Lewis Wilson's father just wanted to be there for his son and help him get better, although he was turning blinders to how Lewis was worsening. But he will be the target of harassment and threats in the wake of Lewis's bombings. Frank spells out to Lewis himself what will happen to his dad:
    "One day, not long from now, he's gonna wake up, he's... he's gonna walk outside and the word "terrorist" is gonna be painted on his car. His mailbox is gonna be so full of hate, and death threats, he's just gonna give up. His friends, his family, they're not gonna come around! His phone's not gonna ring. He will know loneliness, Lewis! He will suffer! Your old man, his life, it's ruined!"
  • Sharp-Dressed Man: Billy Russo loves his three-piece suits and slicked-back hair.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: In a show about former soldiers, this trope inevitably shows up.
    • Frank constantly imagines his family getting killed in front of him.
    • Lewis Wilson loses his chance to work for Anvil because Curtis sees all of the red flags for severe PTSD and warns Russo of it.
    • Curtis's group runs the gammut, from decent guys with good lives holding things together reasonably well (Curtis) to people scraping by and having a hard time (most of the others in the support group, it seems) to ones who are just angry, unable to move on, and letting their mental health deteriorate to dangerous levels (Lewis), and outright frauds (O'Connor).
  • Shoo Out the Clowns: Sam, who is the first season's closest thing to comic relief, meets his end at Billy Russo's knife in episode 8.
  • Shrine to the Fallen: Karen has a small shrine to Matt in her apartment underneath her TV, visible in the background behind Frank.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the first episode, we see that Curtis has loaned Frank a copy of Moby-Dick, a story about how mindless revenge is ultimately destructive not only to yourself, but to everyone around you.
    • Frank also reads The Crack Up by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The fact that it is 3:00 a.m. when he reads it references a line from the book.
    • Billy Russo is seen reading The Picture of Dorian Gray, about another man whose beautiful face hides an evil core. Ben Barnes also portrayed Dorian Gray in the 2009 film adaptation.
    • The chase scene between Madani and Frank after the arms deal has echoes to the memorable chase in Bullitt, right down to the main sounds during the chase being the engine noise of two extremely powerful muscle cars, and both are in Mustangs. It's even lampshaded when Rafi accuses Madani of "going all Steve McQueen."
    • David calls Frank a "one man Wild Bunch" at one point.
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Billy Russo's remarkable good looks made him a target for exploitation as an orphaned child. It makes him extra sensitive to comments about his "pretty face."
  • Sociopathic Soldier: A lot of members of Anvil have no problem with opening fire on Homeland Security agents on Russo's order, among other dirty work. A few are mentioned to have opened fire on civilians during duty and Russo likes recruiting veterans in support groups (although he won't take an obviously unstable person like Lewis). It's no wonder Ori is hesitant about hiring those guys as security during a speech about a shell-shocked veteran turned terrorist having access to guns.
  • Southern-Fried Private: Downplayed with Gunner Henderson. He's from Kentucky, and has a pretty strong drawl. He is quite a bit more friendly and idealistic than Frank, but is still completely serious about his work. He is also the first to raise concern about the possibility that they're engaging in war crimes.
  • Spared by the Adaptation: Both the mainstream version and MAX version of Micro were killed by Frank Castle in the comics. He survives here.
  • Speculative Fiction: At the time of its airing this is the only example in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where this is averted entirely. The series has no fantasy or sci-fi elements at all (even Micro's hacking skills are far more downplayed and grounded in reality than most examples of this trope, including elsewhere in the MCU).
  • Spin-Off: This show follows the continuing exploits of the version of Frank Castle that served as a secondary character in Netflix's Daredevil (2015) season 2.
  • Spiritual Successor: As a techno-thriller about a torture-happy ex-special forces agent gone rogue, it's very much in the 24 mold. They even tapped 24 semi-regular Paul Schulze to play yet another G-Man.
  • Stop Hitting Yourself: Non-comedic example when Lewis Wilson rips off Curtis' prosthetic leg and thrashes him nearly to death with it.
  • Strawman Political: The show gives both sides of the gun control debate strawmen: O'Connor and Lewis, an phony veteran and a future terrorist, argue for gun rights, while a cowardly and hypocritical politician argues for gun control. Karen stands in the middle of them as the sympathetic point-of-view: a practical and responsible gun owner.
  • Superman Stays Out of Gotham: The Punisher goes to great lengths to isolate itself from the rest of the Netflix shows. The only references made to earlier shows outside of references to the Punisher events of Daredevil season 2 are a single reference to Wilson Fisk during Madani's first interaction with Karen, and Ellison holding a newspaper headlined "Chaos Under The Streets" in his first appearance. The primary reason for this is that The Defenders didn't involve Frank or affect him in anyway. Therefore, his show didn't deal with anything about the fallout of The Defenders.
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: For a comic adapting the Punisher, and drawing the most inspiration from The Punisher MAX at that. David is reunited with his family, Curtis makes it through alive, and most surprisingly, Frank is at the very least trying to get better.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Sgt. Mahoney, especially in Season 2.
  • Take It to the Bridge: Frank has two meets with Karen for information by the riverbanks.
  • Tastes Like Friendship:
    • Frank eats simple, joyless sandwiches every day at his demolition job. When Frank's sandwich gets stepped on, Donny tries to befriend him by offering half of his mother's famous sandwich. Frank rebuffs Donny's friendship, but ultimately does stand up for him.
    • The strength of Frank's friendship with David can be tracked by their food preparation. At first, David does not even bother to let Frank know about the sandwich ingredients in the fridge, letting him eat StarKist Pouches while making subs for himself. In later episodes, Frank can be seen eating a nice pasta dish made for him by David, and he even actually cooks a meal for his new buddy.
  • Tattooed Crook: John Pilgrim was once in a white-supremacist gang bearing Nazi tattoos. His own tattoos have been lasered off, but are still visible as faded outlines.
  • Temporary Substitute: This is the only one of the Netflix shows to not feature Clare Temple in any capacity. While Rosario Dawson was up for appearing, the creators couldn't figure out a way to have her organically appear (likely considering there was no way she'd be inclined to help someone like Frank). In the first season, Curtis has to stitch Frank's arrow wound up, Dinah's father has to put him back together after being tortured by Rawlins and Karen Page serves as the link between the other shows, which was Clare's role.
  • Tempting Fate: In the opening montage, a number of Mexican cartel members who participated in the death of Frank's family are all seen having fun, even mocking the Punisher for supposedly letting them slip. The one who returned is sniped by Frank from over two miles away before the scene is over.
    • The leader of a group of bounty hunters points out to Castle that there's six of them versus Castle, who promptly kills the other five and kneecaps the leader for interrogation.
  • That's What I Would Do: Frank says this verbatim when explaining to Schoonover and Agent Orange how he knows the enemy is setting up an ambush.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: Frank gets really messy when he is injured, first we see him taking his time with Lance's crew as he breaks their bones with a sledgehammer. In Kandahar, he bashes a man's head repeatedly with a rock and then gouging out Rawlins' eyes, after slitting his throat.
  • Through the Eyes of Madness: The less-than-sane Frank has a recurring dream in which he sees himself shooting Maria in the head.
  • To the Pain: Once Rawlins finally gets his hands on Frank, he provides him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown (partially because of trying to access David's computer, but mostly because he's that pissed off) and describes in earnest how much it's going to hurt for Frank, to the point that his last words will be "please [make it stop]".
  • Torture Always Works: Zig-zagged. Frank gets the information he needs out of Wolf by tricking Wolf into thinking he has the upper hand, because Wolf has a few years of training at Gitmo and knows torture doesn't work. That said, Frank does use torture on those not trained in how to resist it, like Lance and his buddies.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Dinah Madani is the first significant woman of Middle Eastern descent in the MCU, as the daughter of Iranian immigrants.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting:
    • Season one: Outside of Frank interrupting Madani's gun bust, the Frank-David storyline doesn't start to connect to the Madani storyline until the last four episodes.
    • Season two: The Billy Russo and Amy Bendix plotlines never intersect. Amy spends a lot of time sitting around a trailer while the protagonists are dealing with Russo.
  • Unreliable Narrator: In the "Rashomon"-Style flashbacks of "Virtue Of The Vicious," every witness is too emotionally involved to get things straight.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension:
    • Season 1: Frank has some sexual tension with both Karen and Madani, but none of them consider the other to be an actual prospective partner.
    • Season 2: The UST is good and dead between him and Madani, murdered by their deep and vitriolic philosophical differences on...murder—and Billy Russo. It’s alive and well between him and Karen, and the writers get as much mileage out of it as they can without sabotaging the Karen/Matt subplot of Daredevil.
  • Vague Age: It's never established exactly how young Amy is. At some points she claims to be 16, but the average age of her assumed identities is 18. She only drinks nonalcoholic beverages and never swears. The actress was 20 during filming.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Frank and David's partnership begins with David playing spy games and Frank eventually strapping him down to a chair for information. They gradually start to like each other a bit more throughout the series.
  • War Is Hell: As opposed to the glorification of battle that Captain America: The First Avenger puts on, this series paints a very brutal, very realistic and very depressing picture of war and the effect it has on people, good and bad ones.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Billy pays a visit to his mother where he's keeping her drugged and strapped to a bed in an And I Must Scream situation to punish her for putting him up for adoption. She's never seen again after that episode.
  • Weapons of Their Trade: While working as a construction worker in the first episode, Frank tries to work out his frustrations by demolishing walls with a sledgehammer. He ends up beating Lance and his buddies to death with it.
  • Where It All Began: Billy says this almost word for word when getting Frank to meet him at the carousel.
  • Widow's Weeds:
    • Frank primarily wears black clothing.
    • Karen Page is primarily seen wearing the colors of black (mourning) and blue (depression), indicative of her life state following the loss of Matt.
  • Will They or Won't They?:
    • Season one's marketing campaign gets a lot of mileage out of Frank's connection with Karen but Frank’s conversations with David and Curtis make clear that he still considers himself married to Maria. Likewise, Karen is still mourning Matt following his "death" in The Defenders.
    • Season two continues with a heated and subtext-laden conversation between Frank and Karen in the hospital, where Karen urgently begs Frank to allow himself to love...someone. Frank, for his part, asks some pretty pointed questions about Matt Murdock. Again, the world holds its breath as the two close in...and again, the show avoids going through or committing to closing that door; they are interrupted by Amy and must immediately escape the hospital.
  • World of Badass: Combat veterans, government agents, assassins, cops and gangsters abound.
  • Worst Aid:
    • David's attempts to keep Frank stabilized after he gets shot by a Friendly Fire arrow from Gunner. He tries pumping Frank with antibiotics and fluids, which won't do shit while the arrow is lodged in Frank and infested with bacteria. Except that fluids and antibiotics are exactly what David should have done as fluid resuscitation is helpful for both the hypovolemia from blood loss and fluid problems from infection, and the antibiotics would help Frank's immune system fight the infection, even with the arrow still in him, especially since David is not qualified to do surgery to remove the arrow on his own. Also from this scene: David quite rightly sanitizes his hands before treating Frank... and proceeds to rub them dry on his pants.
    • Frank forces Amy to sew up the bullet wound just above his ass. She can barely sew to begin with, has no experience in first aid, and is extremely awkward about the placement of the wound.
  • Would Hit a Girl:
    • While Frank is extremely gallant to women and girls in general, like Madani, Karen, and Sarah, he also shows no hesitation or angst about putting a bullet in the female member of the death squad Rawlins sends to kill him and Gunner on the mountain.
    • In the Season 2 premiere, Frank fights a mixed-gender hit squad in a tavern and doesn't hold back against any of them.
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Implied with Russo and Rawlins in when they have Frank tied up in David's den. Thanks to Marion having learned of Rawlins' traitorous actions, he is being pushed out of his high-profile CIA position. Rawlins lets Russo know this, as a justification for torturing Frank his own way instead of a simple bullet to the head. Since Rawlins is now powerless (and even dismisses Russo as a "gutter rat"), Russo discreetly cuts Frank's zip ties, then watches in admiration as Frank breaks free and viciously beats Rawlins to death.

"First time, as long as I can remember, I don't have a war to fight. And I guess, if I'm gonna be honest, I just... I'm scared."

Alternative Title(s): The Punisher