Leading up to The Defenders, the various Marvel shows have included hints and nods that connect the characters to each other. When you first sit down with the latest entry, The Punisher, which premiered on Nov. 17, it may not even feel like a Marvel series. The tone, and the company the character keeps, are very different. However, more comic book goodness eventually seeps in as the show continues, and there are plenty of Marvel Easter eggs in The Punisher that connect the series back to the source material and the MCU at large. There are spoilers for The Punisher Season 1 ahead, but organized by episode so you can scroll at your own discretion.
The biggest Easter Egg that the show could include would be to reference Spider-Man. The character The Punisher actually debuted in The Amazing Spider-Man. In the comics, both Peter Parker and Frank Castle live in Queens and are sometimes adversaries, sometimes even an unlikely duo and team up. Well, they aren't exactly friends, more like begrudging allies. An anti-hero and the closest thing Marvel has to a boy wonder could never be pals, right? Alas, with Tom Holland's Spidey taking over the big screen, that team-up may never happen on the small screen.
There are also a lot of new characters created for The Punisher like Marion James, Dinah Madani, Lewis Walcott, and Rafael Hernandez. At least, we believe for now that they're original creations and not morphing later into personas from the comics. That said, the Easter Eggs in The Punisher do include some familiar faces from the mean streets of Hell's Kitchen as well as some new elements from the comics that will warm your Marvel heart.
When Frank is working construction under the name Pete Castiglione, a nod to The Punisher's given name in the comics, he befriends a coworker who opens up to him about his dead father. "He was like a superhero to me or something," says the kid. "Except they don't die, right?" It's a nice and subtle way to remind the audience that this is a universe in which superheroes exist. The MCU has taken a few hits, but not many. Of course the average citizen would look at the likes of Thor, Steve Rogers, and even Black Widow as if they were immortal. Frank also takes up in Sunnyside, Queens as another nod to the source material.
Karen Page appears in Episode 2, first as a byline and then in person. Her boss at the paper, Mitchell Ellison, appear as well. Karen is likely still mourning Matt Murdock's alleged death at this point, too.
Other comic book characters who appear this early on in the season are David Lieberman, also known as Micro, who is Frank's "frienemy" for lack of a better word. The disc he left at Frank's house in Daredevil Season 2 gets a shout-out. There's also Billy Russo, who will become the Marvel villain Jigsaw, if the series follows the comics. Curtis Hoyle, who leads the veteran group that Frank doesn't attend, is also a Marvel character whose role has been expanded for the series. So is William Rawlins, who lead Billy and Frank's unit.
Now that the ball is rolling, new terms like "Operation Cerberus" (that unit in question) and "The ANVIL Corporation" get thrown around. The former is not a Marvel reference, but the latter could be an interpretation of the Spider-Man and Hulk villain Johnny Anvil.
In Episode 4, everyone's favorite Netflix Marvel weapons guy Turk shows up. His cameos are always a delightful way to obtain criminal information. He gives Frank a hot pink rifle called "Sweet Sixteen" that a gangster ordered for his daughter. That has to be a reference to something, right? Hopefully we'll learn more about this family in the future, but it's still always nice to see Turk.
The middle of the season is light on references, which is often the case with these shows as they get into their own story and away from the larger universe. That said, at this point the remarks about Billy Russo's pretty face are really adding up, clearly referencing how he will become Jigsaw. Is the fact that Micro's son listens to Wu Tang Clan an Iron Fist reference? RZA did direct an episode, so it's possible. Let's count it.
In Episode 9, Senator Stan Ori shows up as an anti-gun politician who isn't a big fan of vigilantism. He is a minor Punisher nemesis in Marvel comics, but for different reasons. Ori also comments that it's been barely a year since The Punisher terrorized New York while making a point, which almost feels like th opposite of an Easter Egg. What about the events of The Defenders, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and not to mention Dr. Strange, and Spider-Man: Homecoming? All of those took place in New York in the MCU since Frank Castle was introduced in Daredevil Season 2 and wreaked some kind of havoc.
Also in Episode 9 is Royce Johnson as Brett Mahoney, who has also appeared on Jessica Jones and Daredevil. Frank also squishes out his former boss' eyes in Episode 12 and in the comics, Rawlins wears an eyepatch.
The final episodes bring the return of Frank's Punisher uniform. He and Matt Murdock are the only characters who really don their suits. The other Defenders just sort of toy around with the idea. Billy's face is messed up, marking the beginning of his transformation. Then, of course, the final confrontation taking place on the carousel where Frank lost his family is a nod to this anti-hero's origin.
That's about it for The Punisher, as Easter eggs go. It's a contained story, which is in its own way refreshing, but stays anchored in the Marvel universe where necessary.