Frank Castle is a survivor. He survived a war in Afghanistan, the assassination attempt that killed his family, a clash with the Devil of Hell's Kitchen, and a vendetta against his frenemy Billy Russo. But will he survive Season 2 of his own show? First, recap The Punisher Season 1 before you dive into the antihero's newest misadventure. And then start worrying about Castle's fate. Because even if he survives Season 2, he may not survive the greatest threat of all: Netflix cancellation.
To date, The Punisher remains one of only two of Netflix's Marvel shows to avoid the ax. The streaming service has already officially pulled the plug on Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and even its original flagship Marvel series Daredevil. The only ones to survives the bloodbath are The Punisher and Jessica Jones, which has a third season scheduled to arrive later this year. But once the new seasons of those two series are out, traditional wisdom is that they will be cancelled as well, as Disney prepares to move all of its content off of Netflix and onto its own streaming service, Disney+.
But before that happens, Frank still has to make his way through what's sure to be another bloody season of knife fights, shady government operatives, and vast conspiracies. Where did the show leave the Punisher at the end of Season 1? Let's recap…
1. Agent Dinah Madani
Homeland security agent Dinah Madani provided a major entry point into the series for new fans, as a character invested in delving into the secrets of Frank Castle's past. She was put on his trail thanks to the death of her former partner, Ahmad Zubair, who it turns out was murdered by the special forces team Castle was a part of, called Cerberus. Her investigations lead to the discovery that Frank is still alive, as well as the inconvenient fact that CIA agent William Rawlins was the person responsible for both Cerberus and Zubair's death.
2. William Rawlins
Tapped by Deputy Director of the CIA Marion James as her deputy, Rawlins is determined to secure his political future by cleaning up after himself. When Castle tracks down Henderson, another surviving member of Cerberus and the person who covertly videotaped Zubair's murder, Rawlins gets there first and has Henderson killed before he can talk. It turns out that Rawlins is working in league with Billy Russo, Frank's former army pal and another member of Cerberus.
3. Billy Russo
Since leaving the armed forces, Russo created a cushy job for himself running Anvil, a firm that provides veterans with jobs as private security forces. It's with these forces that Rawlins is able to do all of his dirty work. Russo sleeps with Madani to spy on her investigation into Cerberus, and he also attempts to recruit a troubled young soldier named Lewis Wilson, who ends up building a series of bombs targeting high-profile targets including an anti-gun senator, Frank's friend Curtis Hoyle, and intrepid journalist Karen Page. It's while trying to stop Wilson that Frank is finally and officially revealed to the public as being alive — and is mistakenly branded as the bomber, to boot.
4. David Lieberman
Throughout the season, Frank is helped in his missions by a hacker named "Micro" — who turns out to be a former CIA analyst, the one who sent the video of Zubair's execution to Madani and then went into hiding after an assassination attempt by the CIA left him presumed dead. While they worked together, David asked Frank to keep an eye on his wife and two children, which Frank did under the pseudonym of Pete… and grew closer to his wife Sarah than he would have liked. Eventually, Russo has David's family kidnapped as leverage against him and Frank, and David offers himself in exchange for his family. Although apparently "killed" in the exchange, David had in reality faked his death once again.
5. Frank Castle
After Russo betrays Madani and kills her new partner, Sam Stein, the homeland security agent goes to CIA director James and tells her everything she knows about Russo, Anvil, Rawlins, and Cerberus. James confronts Rawlins, and he suggests throwing Russo under the bus, which she agrees to. Rawlins and Russo torture Frank together, but Russo frees Frank so he can kill Rawlins; then he tries to kill Frank in return.
Although saved at the last minute by Madani, Frank meets Russo at the carousel where his family was killed for their final showdown. Ultimately, Frank is victorious, but decides not to kill Russo, leaving his face brutally disfigured instead. In the end, Russo is apprehended, Madani gets justice for her two dead partners, Lieberman is reunited with his family, and Frank joins a veterans support group.
How long will this peaceful period in Frank's life last? Well, considering he's back for Season 2, you know the answer is "not long." Find out what happens next when the new batch of episodes drops on Netflix on Friday, Jan. 18.