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All episodes of the first season were released on November 17, 2017. A month later, the series was renewed for a second season, which was released on January 18, 2019. On February 18, 2019, Netflix canceled the series after two seasons.
After exacting revenge on those responsible for the death of his family (see second season of Daredevil), the first season finds former Force ReconMarine Frank Castle, known throughout New York City as "the Punisher", uncovering a larger conspiracy beyond what was done to him and his family. The second season sees Castle, who has been living a quiet life on the road, drawn into the mystery surrounding the attempted murder of Amy Bendix, forcing him to decide if he should embrace his life as the Punisher.
Cast and characters
Jon Bernthal as Frank Castle / Punisher: A vigilante who aims to fight the criminal underworld by any means necessary, no matter how lethal the results.Daredevilseason one showrunner Steven S. DeKnight said this version of Punisher would be "completely the Marvel version," as previous portrayals did not appear under the Marvel Studios / Marvel Television banner. However, Bernthal did study all the previous portrayals, saying, "once you devour and eat up as much as you can, my way is to make it as personal as possible". On how Castle resonates with him, Bernthal said, "He ain't got a ****ing cape. He ain't got any superpowers. He's a ****ing tortured, angry father and husband who's living in this unbelievable world of darkness and loss and torment." Bernthal added that there would be "a military component" in the series since Castle is "a soldier... [The series] will be somewhat centered on that". He also stated that "the character that was portrayed on Daredevil season two was sort of the origin tale of how this guy became the Punisher, why he put on the vest." Bernthal noted he "always want[ed] to preserve the essence of" Castle, who Bernthal described as "brutal", "damaged" and "tortured", by exploring "the pain and what's behind the violence and the reason why he's committing the violence" that is "utterly satisfying and addictive for him".
Ebon Moss-Bachrach as David Lieberman / Micro: A former NSA analyst who assists Castle after faking his death. Regarding Micro's relationship with Castle, Moss-Bachrach said, "We have found ourselves with common enemies and it's a marriage of convenience." Moss-Bachrach also felt the comics version of the character was "a one-trick pony", supplying equipment to Castle, but that the character gets "interesting when their relationship gets bad" and hoped to explore that in the series.
Amber Rose Revah as Dinah Madani: An Iranian-American U.S. Department of Homeland Security, ICE-Homeland Security Investigations, Special Agent stationed in Afghanistan, who returns to New York City for an investigation that leads her to cross paths with Castle. Revah noted that Madani "sees herself as American - that's what her being is, that's what she wants to protect, that's why she does what she does." As Madani is not based on a character from the comics, Revah's "research was based more on Homeland and what it's like for those people, and the logical processes the character would be going through. I think, for a lot of actors, if you're playing someone from comics, you probably feel you have some sort of responsibility to represent this character in a light that reflects how they were represented in the comic books. Because I didn't have that, it probably let me be more open in my representation." Revah spoke with actual Homeland officers as well as Iranian people "to make that [part of the character] authentic." A special shotgun was made for Revah to use, designed for her stature.
Daniel Webber as Lewis Wilson: A young veteran struggling with his new life as a taxi driver. He attends group therapy sessions with other servicemen under Curtis Hoyle. Webber felt his character was "a mirror to Frank's journey. These characters really look at each other and they both go separate routes."
Deborah Ann Woll as Karen Page: A reporter at the New York Bulletin and Matt Murdock's former assistant, who befriended Castle after working on his case. Woll reprises her role from previous Marvel Netflix series. Regarding Page's continuing relationship with Castle, Woll said, "Frank has a soft spot in Karen's heart, and certainly with the dark history that Karen has, there are very few people she can share her authentic self with. Frank is someone who she could potentially fully open up to." She added, "there's something about Frank where [Karen] doesn't have to be ashamed of her darkest, deepest side of herself. She gets to be more honest with him".
Floriana Lima as Krista Dumont: A psychotherapist for military veterans, who works with Billy Russo. She is "very covered up" and "very uptight" in her personal life and "doesn't want to let anyone into her personal world," according to season two costume designer Lorraine Calvert.
Giorgia Whigham as Amy Bendix: A drifter with a mysterious past. She is a teenager who dislikes using profanity and is on the run from Pilgrim's men which leads to her eventually crossing paths with Castle.
Ripley Sobo as Leo Lieberman: David and Sarah's daughter.
Kobi Frumer as Zach Lieberman: David and Sarah's son.
Tony Plana as Rafael "Rafi" Hernandez: The director of operations for Homeland Security and Madani's mentor.
Royce Johnson as Brett Mahoney: A Detective-Sergeant at the NYPD's 15th Precinct. Johnson reprises his role from previous Marvel Netflix series.
Introduced in season 2
Corbin Bernsen as Anderson Schultz: The co-leader of Testament Industries who hires John Pilgrim for his own nefarious purposes.
Annette O'Toole as Eliza Schultz: The co-leader of Testament Industries who hires John Pilgrim for her own nefarious purposes.
Jordan Dean as Jake Nelson: A fellow veteran who befriends and teams up with Billy Russo, but suffers from drug addiction.
Samuel Gomez as José: A fellow veteran who is part of Billy Russo's crew.
Jimi Stanton as Tod: A fellow veteran who is part of Billy Russo's crew.
Brett Bartholomew as Phillip: A fellow veteran who is part of Billy Russo's crew.
Introduced in season 1
C. Thomas Howell as Carson Wolf: A corrupt senior DHS agent, supervisor of "Operation Cerberus," and Madani's supervisor who crosses paths with Micro and then later Castle. Wolf is revealed to be corrupt, working for Rawlins, who had Wolf frame Micro for being a traitor, and seemingly killed Micro, though Micro had survived the attempt on his life. Wolf is captured and interrogated by Frank, before being killed after attempting to kill Frank.
Delaney Williams as O'Connor: A racist phony Vietnam veteran and NRA member who attends Hoyle's support groups. O'Connor is killed by Wilson for faking his military service.
Shez Sardar as Ahmad Zubair: An Afghan policeman who worked with Madani.
Jeb Kreager as Gunner Henderson: A Marine Corps veteran and member of the Cerberus Squad that worked alongside Castle and later went reclusive upon returning home. Gunner later reunited with Castle and helps him kill multiple Anvil agents sent to kill Gunner; Gunner is shot in the abdomen by one and bleeds to death.
By January 2016, ahead of the Daredevil season two release, Netflix was in "very early development" on a spin-off series titled The Punisher, and was looking for a showrunner. The series would be centered on Bernthal as Castle, and was described as a stand-alone series, outside of the series leading up to Marvel's The Defenders. Head of Marvel Television and executive producer Jeph Loeb implied that Marvel Television had not instigated the development of the spin-off and were focusing on making "the best 13 episodes of Daredevil season two" at the time, but did say, "I'm never going to discourage a network from looking at one of our characters and encouraging us to do more ... If we are lucky enough that through the writing, through the direction, through the actor that people want to see more of that person, terrific." Loeb stated a month later that the reports about the potential spin-off were "something that people are speculating on, as opposed to something that's actually happening."
In April 2016, Netflix officially ordered a full 13 episode season of The Punisher, confirmed Bernthal's involvement, and named Steve Lightfoot as executive producer and showrunner. Loeb, Cindy Holland, and Jim Chory also serve as executive producers. A second 13-episode season was ordered in December 2017. The series was canceled on February 18, 2019.
Lightfoot noted that "anti-heroes with dark pasts, that are morally grey, are always interesting to write." On deciding to work on The Punisher, Lightfoot stated, "I was drawn to a guy who is dealing with grief - how does he do that?... We talked a lot as we developed the show that once you take hold of the hand of violence it's impossible to let it go. That relationship to violence really interested me, not just the fact he has the ability to use it but also the cost of it." Lightfoot was inspired by the Bourne film series and the film American Sniper when approaching the series.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the first season holds a 67% approval rating with an average rating of 6.73/10 based on 78 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "A rocky start can't keep The Punisher from pushing the boundaries of Marvel's TV universe with a fresh take on the comics-derived action thriller."Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned a score of 55 out of 100, based on 20 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
On Rotten Tomatoes, the second season holds a 60% approval rating with an average rating of 6.73/10 based on 35 reviews. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Punishers second season leaves fans torn between the undeniably action-packed fun and the underwhelming portrayal of the charismatic Frank Castle." On Metacritic, it was assigned a score of 58 out of 100, based on 6 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".