We all know the story of Frank Castle. He's the man who lost everything, and cut a bloody swathe through those who took so much from him. In the comics, the Punisher has dedicated himself to a one-man war against crime. In Marvel's Punisher series, the Punisher is very different. This version of the Punisher lives only to avenge his family, and he's succeeded.
Comic book characters are typically quite static, endlessly returning to a restored status quo. In contrast, Marvel's Netflix characters are growing and changing. So the first season of The Punisher brought Frank Castle to a place of closure. It also dropped tantalizing hints of romance between Castle and Karen Page. Note: This article contains heavy spoilers for The Punisher Season 1.
These Hints Were Intentional
In an interview with CinemaBlend, Deborah Ann Woll reflected that the writers and showrunners toyed with hints of romance between Castle and her character, Karen Page. She was interviewed before Season 1 aired, and was reluctant to spoil anything. That said, Woll couldn't deny that the potential was there:
"There were certainly scenes where we took it farther in some takes than we did in other takes. We'll have to sort of wait and see what the editors chose, and how far they decided to push it. But we as actors allowed for that possibility. It'll kinda be up to Marvel and the powers that be to see how far they wanted to take it."
It's an intriguing comment, which makes it sound as though Woll and Bernthal deliberately filmed different takes of some key scenes. Discerning viewers will have seen more than a few hints of romantic tension in the series, so clearly the editors were interested in that dynamic. But could it go further? And should it do so?
The Continuing Journey of Frank Castle
The key question is 'How far you can change the Punisher before he ceases to be the Punisher'? Frank Castle can never heal, but in this series at least, he's earned a measure of peace. The Punisher has slaughtered all his enemies, avenging his family's deaths. He's no longer a wanted man, and has a shot at building something resembling a normal life.
At the same time, it's worth remembering what happened in the first episode of Season 1. There, we saw that Frank Castle will always be a ticking bomb, just waiting to go off. Sooner or later, something will launch him on a new campaign, and the Punisher will strike from the shadows once again. Season 1 already set up a very personal trigger for the Punisher: Karen Page. Later episodes revealed that, if Karen is threatened, the Punisher will do whatever he deems necessary to keep her alive. Karen has become dear to him, and he's absolutely devoted to her.
Karen, for her part, serves two fascinating roles in The Punisher. Initially, she acted as Castle's conscience, a voice of reason that challenges his brutal philosophy. At the same time though, Karen's also an unwary champion of justice who's all too willing to stumble into the line of fire. The closer Karen and Frank get, the more likely she is to become the unwitting trigger for the Punisher's next rampage.
So there we have it. The seeds have been sown for a budding romance, one that sees the Punisher develop as a character in a way he's never done in the comics. Unfortunately though, any romantic subplot would place Karen straight in the line of fire.
Do you think Karen and the Punisher would make a good couple? Let me know in the comments!