When fans saw Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock for the first time in years as Peter Parker’s lawyer in Spider-Man: No Way Home, they finally received hope that their favorite blind crime fighter would officially enter the MCU fold. These hopes only elevated when Vincent D’Onofrio returned as Kingpin in Hawkeye. Kevin Feige himself recognized Charlie Cox as his choice for Daredevil even before he returned as the character. In March 2022, all of the Netflix Marvel shows transferred to Disney+, sparking hope that the series would become MCU Canon. Daredevil, who has appeared in No Way Home, She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, and the new Echo series, will be getting his own new show, Daredevil: Born Again, which will air in 2025.
One of the breakout characters of the Netflix era of Marvel television was, of course, Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle, aka The Punisher. he first appeared in Daredevil season two and would later get his own spin-off series that ran for two seasons. The Punisher is one of the most famous characters in the Marvel Universe and has crossed paths with heroes like Spider-Man, Captain America, and Ghost Rider, so with how great Bernthal’s performance was received, many wanted him to make the leap to the MCU big screen. Well, we have good news for all Frank Castle fans because The Punisher is all set to return to the screen as part of the new MCU canon in the upcoming series Daredevil: Born Again, with Bernthal reprising his role.
With the MCU introducing different timelines and variants of characters that look alike, that has raised the question if Bernthal is returning in Daredevil: Born Again, is it the same Punisher from the Netflix era or is this a variant that is also played by Bernthal? Is The Punisher series canon with the MCU?
Update January 26, 2024: This article has been updated following recent developments in the MCU including information regarding Daredevil: Born Again, the premiere of Echo, and The Defenders Saga place on Disney+.
What Marvel TV Shows are MCU Canon?
Charlie Cox and Vincent D’Onofrio reprised their roles as Matt Murdock and Wilson Fisk, respectively, in the MCU. Yet despite the two actors returning, it was unclear if the series was going to be canon to the main MCU as divisions between Marvel Studios and Marvel Television during their initial development left the series ignored by the MCU films. Yet Kevin Feige says that Daredevil: Born Again would pick up Matt Murdock’s story, implying a continuation of the Netflix series. Then promotional material for Echo clearly used clips from Daredevil which seemed to basically imply that the Netflix series of the Defenders Saga were canon.
Yet there were mixed messages. In the Marvel Studios The Marvel Cinematic Universe An Official Timeline book, which was released on October 24, 2023, none of the events in the Defenders Saga were mentioned. The book featured every entry from Phase 1 up to Phase 4, from the first film, Iron Man, all the way to The Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special. The lack of mention of series like Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, and The Punisher seemed to imply they were not canon…except for one quote. In the forward for the book, Kevin Feige said, “As we move forward and dive deeper into the Multiverse Saga, you never know when timelines may just crash or converge (hint, hint/spoiler alert).” This worked to leave the door open for the Defenders Saga series to be considered canon.
Then, on January 9, 2024, when Echo finally hit Disney+, fans seemingly got their answer. The Defenders Saga, was added to the MCU Timeline viewing order. Before Echo, the series were not listed as part of the main timeline and were in their own separate viewing order, similar to the non-MCU Spider-Man films and the Fox X-Men and Fantastic Four films. Now, though, they were part of the sacred timeline.
Is The Punisher Connected to the MCU?
The answer to that question now is a firm yes. The Punisher will indeed become part of the MCU canon now that his appearance in the upcoming Born Again series is confirmed and the status of his series being added to the main MCU timeline. Fans now know that his first season also takes place after the events of Spider-Man: Homecoming.
Now the question is, with Bernthal returning as The Punisher and the series being canon, how will he fit into the MCU? The Punisher is obviously part of the Marvel Universe in the comics, but how does an R-rated gun-wielding vigilante fit within the rather all-ages-friendly MCU? Luckily, with the release of Echo and Marvel Spotlight, the franchise is experimenting with more mature-rated stories, and The Punisher is the ideal fit for that.
How Will Daredevil and The Punisher’s Chemistry Change in the MCU?
Fans of Daredevil already know that The Punisher was one of the core characters in the series’ second season. Not only that, but the two characters have historically butted heads regularly in the comics. The Punisher is a guy who definitively ends criminal careers by employing a vast arsenal of weapons. He believes the only real way to stop crime is to prevent criminals from committing evil. It’s a part of the vigilante’s philosophy. Daredevil, on the other hand, has a strict no-killing philosophy. Being a devout Catholic, Matt Murdock believes in second chances and sincerely hopes those he administers justice to find it in them to turn their lives around.
Views on killing aren’t the only reasons they fail to see eye-to-eye, but it is the most notable aspect of their rivalry due to their natures. The Punisher is a unique adversary to Daredevil in that they disagree with each other’s methods of heroism but simultaneously understand each other more than anyone else in the Marvel universe. Frank tells Matt that he is one bad day away from being him, but despite their differences, he respects and admires him and his way of doing things and hopes he never changes.
This makes his presence in Daredevil: Born Again interesting. The two have not crossed paths since Daredevil season two. Will the series address this? Did The Punisher survive the Blip, and if he did, how did he spend his time? With news that Daredevil: Born Again underwent major behind-the-scenes changes, including the reveal that former writer of The Punisher, Dario Scardapane, will take over the series as showrunner, it could suggest The Punisher will have a much larger role in the series.
How Does The Punisher Being In The MCU Impact The Franchise
Confirming that The Punisher, both the character and the series, creates some interesting questions for the larger MCU. Given that The Punisher made his debut in The Amazing Spider-Man comic series, there is hope that the character will cross paths with Tom Holland’s Spider-Man. With Daredevil returning for his own series, there is a chance that The Punisher could lead a revival of his series or team up with other former Defenders like Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, or Iron Fist. Fans are now curious to see how and where The Punisher fits within the wider MCU.
Another big question regards actor Ebon Moss-Bachrach. While now best known for playing Richie on the hit series The Bear, the actor also played The Punshier’s right-hand man, Micro, in the two seasons of the show. Interestingly, Moss-Bachrach has now emerged as the rumored frontrunner for the role of Ben Grimm, aka The Thing, in the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot. If he is cast that means that he will play two canon characters in the MCU.
Now, this is nothing new for the MCU. Gemma Chan previously played Min-Erva in Captain Marvel before being cast as Sersi in Eternals, and part of the reason they were able to get away with that is due to Min-Erva’s blue makeup and small role not many people likely noticed. Seeing how The Thing will largely be a CGI character, the actor will not be shown as much.
Also, this isn’t the first time this has happened regarding the Netflix series and MCU actors. Alfre Woodard appeared as Miram Shape in Captain America: Civil War and that same year played the villain Mariah Dillard Strokes on Luke Cage. Luke Cage also featured Mahersha Ali as Sharp’s brother, Cornell “Cottonmouth” Stokes, and Ali is also set to appear as Blade in his upcoming solo film. Marvel’s solution: don’t mention it. It’s worked so far and will likely continue to work since these characters are never likely to appear alongside one another.
The Punisher being made canon to the MCU is certainly a big deal. He was one of the biggest names in Marvel Comics before the launch of the MCU and has been a fan favorite since his creation. He has the potential to have a big impact on the universe. He will first appear in Daredevil: Born Again, but after that, there are numerous possibilities for him after that.