You probably wouldn't call the Punisher a romantic hero — if you'd even call him a hero of any kind. But that didn't stop fans of his turn in Season 2 of Daredevil from 'shipping Frank Castle and Karen Page, the independently-minded journalist who leveled up from being Matt Murdock's secretary. If Karen and Frank hook up in The Punisher Season 1, premiering Nov. 17, it's a given that certain sections of the Internet are going to go wild and probably throw out a couple of "I told you so's." But is that in the cards for the unlikely allies? Daredevil and Punisher star Deborah Ann Woll isn't sure, and she certainly doesn't want her character to be defined by her relationship to Jon Bernthal's, nor any other man's.
"I think one thing to keep in mind certainly as we go into more modern storytelling is that women don’t necessarily have to be a part of a romantic coupling or plot," Woll tells Bustle over the phone in early November. "I think that’s a fun thing we’re playing with, that I don’t necessarily have to be linked up with a guy in order to have a compelling storyline."
Woll points out that "what allowed [the creators] to put Karen and Frank in the same room" was the expansion of her character from how she had existed in the comics. While the actor sees that original version of Karen as relatively passive, the Karen that she and the Marvel Netflix Universe have created is much more willful, has a more intriguing (and still murky) past, and seems to be owning the darkness within her more and more — in part, due to her affiliation with Frank Castle. The two characters never meet in the comics, yet they're kindred spirits in this adaptation.
"[Frank] knows what he did; he knows that he’s grief stricken; he knows that he’s a killer; he knows all these things and he kind of makes no apologies for it," Woll says of Frank. "And I think Karen’s still hung up a little bit on this idea that this darkness in her, this violence that’s kind of simmering beneath the polished veneer is unacceptable or unworthy." What he brings out in her, the actor says, "in a f*cked up kind of way, is self-acceptance."
It's a little star-crossed, a little dark, a little inappropriate and forbidden — total catnip for 'shippers, right? But there's more standing between them than just the obstacle of, you know, everyone else in the world assuming that Frank Castle is dead. The reason for Frank's entire crusade is the burning loss of the people he'd dedicated his life to.
"This is someone whose whole purpose is to avenge his family and the wife and children that he loves," says Woll. "And I’ve always felt some way that Karen can’t step on those toes until he’s resolved that."
Still, the series seems intent on at least touching on the tension between the pair. In a preview of The Punisher Season 1, Frank and Karen have a clandestine meeting on the riverside, wherein Karen wonders if there's an "after" for him before Frank vows to protect her and softly kisses her on the cheek. It's evidence that Karen is a humanizing force on Frank, but also a possible hint of more romance to come. Fortunately for those wishing for that, Woll isn't ruling it out completely. In fact, she drops the L-word.
"I certainly think they care for one another, deeply," says the actor. "It’s complicated — loving someone who’s that extreme, caring for someone who goes to the lengths that Frank does. It’s tricky. I think they need each other, and at the same time, they can’t really give into that. But we’ll see. I think Jon and I have acknowledged that there’s potential in that storyline, and it could happen going forward."
So keep that hope alive, #Kastle 'shippers. You can see if Frank and Karen take that next step (possibly under a hailstorm of bullets) when The Punisher Season 2 drops on Netflix.