The MCU Just Made Punisher's Origin Even Darker
Warning: Spoilers for Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness!
Marvel’s The Punisher includes a tragic backstory for the titular anti-hero, with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness only making that history even darker than before. The Punisher tells the story of Frank Castle, an anti-hero whose vendetta against criminals stems from the tragic loss of his family. The Punisher was part of the Netflix side of the MCU, leading Frank into conflict with characters like Daredevil, with the latter’s appearance in Spider-Man: No Way Home seemingly making both characters canon to Marvel Studios’ universe.
With this then, Doctor Strange 2 included an aspect that only goes to make Frank’s backstory even darker. Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness deals heavily with the concept of the multiverse that Marvel has been building throughout Phase 4. In the film, Strange comes across America Chavez, a young teenager whose powers can open portals across the multiverse. Given these powers, Chavez knows more about the multiverse concept than even Strange or Wong, providing insight into why Castle’s The Punisher origins are now all the more tragic.
Chavez reveals to Strange in the first act of Doctor Strange 2 that dreams are windows into other universes. While it isn’t confirmed whether every dream someone has is another universe’s actual event, it is at least confirmed that some are. The film opens with Strange dreaming about an actual other-universe incident of another version of Strange helping America. Given the events of The Punisher, this new rule makes Frank’s backstory way more tragic than it already was. In The Punisher, Frank’s family was killed before the events of Daredevil season 2, leading to regular dreams from Frank about those deaths. These recurring dreams allow for two things, building sympathy for Frank as a character but also providing the motivation for Frank’s anti-hero actions through his obsession over their deaths. With Doctor Strange 2 making it canon that dreams provide insight into other universes, it makes these dreams even darker. It is confirmed that Frank’s family is tragically killed in multiple different universes, making his pain and suffering something that extends across the multiverse.
Also, one of Frank’s dreams involves him being strapped to a chair at the dining table, with his family seemingly enjoying a meal in front of him, leading to violence the MCU hasn’t seen since Punisher. The dream shows home invaders enter the room and silently stand around the family, who are oblivious to their intrusion. Frank, though, can see what is happening and begins begging for the men to stop. The men then shoot Frank’s family while he is physically unable to help, watching as they are butchered in front of him. Doctor Strange 2 introduces the concept that this dream could very well have been a reality of another universe, making this dream in particular extremely dark to comprehend.
While Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle hasn’t yet appeared in an MCU project by Marvel Studios, like Charlie Cox’s Daredevil in Spider-Man: No Way Home or Vincent D’onofrio as Kingpin in Hawkeye, the latter two appearances have led many to believe Marvel Netflix shows are now canon, including The Punisher. If this is the case, the events of The Punisher happened at some point in the MCU timeline. With this, Frank Castle has already begun his anti-hero crusade, fuelled by the deaths of his family. With Doctor Strange 2 confirming that dreams are windows across the multiverse, The Punisher, and Frank Castle’s history, are only made all the more tragic.