How ’The Punisher’s Entire Story Can Be Traced Back To One Single Execution

Nicole Rivelli/Netflix

The truth about what happened to Frank Castle — and why his family was killed — runs very deep. As soon as he seems to get at the truth, another layer of deception is revealed. Spoilers for Episodes 1-6! But who killed Ahmad Zubair in Marvel's The Punisher — and what exactly does the dead man have to do with the titular antihero? The Afghani police officer is no longer alive by the time viewers even meet him in the series premiere… and yet, he may turn out to be the linchpin that ties the strands of Frank's convoluted story together.

Although viewers yet didn't know his name, Ahmad Zubair figured into Netflix's promotion for The Punisher, with a video clip of the man being executed featured heavily in the show's trailers. As it turns out, that video clip isn't just a disturbing look into Frank Castle's backstory — it's the reason he and his family were attacked in the first place.

As a Marine, Frank was a member of an off-the-books special ops team called Cerberus, which operated extra-judiciously in Afghanistan. Unsurprisingly, not everything was on the up-and-up when it came Cerberus: their work involved torturing innocent civilians they suspected of being terrorists and smuggling drugs out of the Middle East and into the United States. So when one member of the team got fed up with the corruption and violence, he took a clandestine video of Ahmad's execution.

When that video found its way into the hands of NSA analyst David Lieberman (code name: Micro), the men in charge of Cerberus decided the leak needed to be taken care of. Unfortunately, they thought that Frank was the soldier responsible for the video (even though he wasn't), and arranged the mob war in Central Park purposefully so that Frank and his family would be caught in the crossfire. While his wife and children were all killed, Frank escaped with his life; and when they tried to assassinate Lieberman, he also escaped with his life… so maybe these special ops forces aren't so good at their jobs after all.

So who actually killed Ahmad? Although all the men in the video were wearing masks, it's pretty clear that the man who pulled the trigger was their commanding officer, William Rawlins (code name: Agent Orange). Rawlins has managed to ride the wave of chaos instigated by Cerberus to a cushy promotion at the CIA — although Frank and Micro are still out there, perpetual thorns in his side that he'll need to eliminate if he wants to get away with his various misdeeds.

It's bad luck for Rawlins, then, that his murder of Ahmad looks like it will bring two of his biggest threats together to unite against him. Ahmad's death connects Frank — who was targeted because of the videotape — to Agent Dinah Madani — who was Ahmad's partner and friend while she was stationed in Afghanistan. Madani has been determined to figure out what happened to Ahmad ever since she returned to the States… and their parallel missions of vengeance will undoubtedly result in Madani and Frank teaming up before long.

Spoilers through Episode 11: When questioned by Madani, Frank reveals that he was the man who pulled the trigger that killed Ahmad, though, he believed he was just following orders.

Agent Orange may be a formidable threat with ample resources at his disposal; but there's no way he'll stand a chance against the combined might of the Punisher's wrath, Madani's determination, and Micro's technical wizardry. The only question is, how many more innocent civilians like Ahmad and Frank's family will be caught in the crossfire before this war comes to an end and Cerberus is decapitated? Hopefully Frank's punishment of Rawlins will end the cycle of violence the man started when he murdered Ahmad Zubair.