We went on set of the Netflix show about the kill-crazy vig­i­lante, and watched him mur­der a bowl of pho.


on the kind of Brook­lyn win­ter’s day that makes the rats in the walls think twice be­fore peek­ing out, and Em­pire has come to watch the Punisher — the most feared killing ma­chine in comic books — do some ac­tual, hon­est-to-good­ness pun­ish­ing.

He’s the kind of man whose body counts are so high you can only keep track with a body ac­coun­tant. But cur­rently, he’s sit­ting on the floor of a ware­house, nurs­ing a beer, re­mem­ber­ing how he met his wife while play­ing gui­tar un­der a tree in Cen­tral Park. “Changed my life,” smiles Jon Bern­thal’s Frank Cas­tle, and takes a sip. The only things be­ing pun­ished here are the heart­strings. Do not ad­just your Netflix con­nec­tion. The

Punisher, the show that sees Bern­thal’s vig­i­lante strut his solo stuff af­ter mak­ing a bloody splash in Dare­devil Sea­son 2, hasn’t gone soft. Bern­thal, who prepped to play Cas­tle by go­ing on long walks through Man­hat­tan in the small hours with a back­pack and a don’t-fuck-with-me glare, won’t sud­denly be busk­ing, like a psy­cho Ed Sheeran.

We’re wit­ness­ing a key scene in a mid-sea­son episode, where Cas­tle and his tech guy, Mi­cro

(Girls’ Ebon Moss-bachrach), stop plan­ning to kill the bad guys and fo­cus on mat­ters of the heart. Specif­i­cally, how they met their wives. “Part of this sea­son for Frank is [about how] he’s built this wall around his heart,” says Bern­thal. “He’s start­ing to care about things, and peo­ple.” But this 13-episode se­ries, the first non

De­fend­ers ven­ture for Netflix and Marvel, is all about Cas­tle, a bot­tom­less pit of fury af­ter his wife and kids were killed, de­cid­ing to do a lot of you-know-what. “It’s the only thing that si­lences the demons, tem­po­rar­ily,” says Bern­thal of Cas­tle. “There’s go­ing to be an at­tempt to move be­yond the Punisher, but that’s some­thing he can’t shake. There’s part of me that’s hun­gry to get back into the dark­ness, that’s ex­cited to see it fall apart. And I’ll go back to my long walks.” That body ac­coun­tant bet­ter get a new cal­cu­la­tor.

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