I followed a rather unconventional road to shipping Kastle, I will admit. Matt Murdock and I didn’t really hit it off, and so I skipped Daredevil season one and two. That means that my first real introduction to Karen Page came on The Defenders, which I was of course going to watch because my girl Jessica was there, and I might not have liked Matt Murdock, but I love Jessica Jones.
What I didn’t love on The Defenders was Karen Page. She and Matt just didn’t bring out the best in each other, and since I couldn’t ship that, like a lot of people did, and I didn’t even liked them separately, I felt very vindicated about my decision to not watch Daredevil.
Then, The Punisher came out.
Now, despite my Daredevil reticence, I’d watched and mostly enjoyed Jessica Jones and Luke Cage, and so I decided to give Frank Castle a chance to grab me the way Matt Murdock never did. And then, there was Karen Page.
Because, being as thorough as I am, I did my research before The Punisher came out. I knew he’d been introduced in Daredevil season 2, and that if I wanted to full Frank Castle experience, I’d have to start there, even if that meant more of Matt, Foggy and Karen than I really wanted to experience.
Color me surprised when, after just a few interactions with Frank, something started to happen to my Karen dislike.
Looking back on it, I think I never disliked Karen Page as much as I disliked how the Daredevil writers made Karen Page so much about Matt Murdock and Daredevil. Since she was only there to be our emotional link to Frank Castle in season 2, and since she wasn’t meant to be such a lasting part of his backstory, that dynamic was, of course, absent from her relationship with Frank.
He was Frank, and she was Karen, and even when they were nothing together, they were still very distinct, likeable individuals.
And that’s without even going into the chemistry, because boy, the chemistry.
I have no particular complaints about Deborah Ann Woll’s chemistry with Charlie Cox – I don’t think they’re awful together, and with good writing, who knows what could have come out of that, but their chemistry was never the kind to jump off the screen at you, either. It wasn’t the kind that made you stop and take notice.
Jon Bernthal and Deborah Ann Woll have that kind of chemistry, the kind that makes people notice, the kind that, if TBPT are smart, can change the course of a show.
Marvel TV has done a lot right (and a lot wrong, but that’s neither here nor there), but the one thing they haven’t really managed is set up an OTP we truly care about. It was hard to care for Danny and Colleen when we just didn’t like Danny and kept thinking that Colleen deserved better, after all. It was even harder to root for Luke and Claire, when the storyline was treating that relationship like a stopgap, the writing always on the wall.
We cared, momentarily, for Luke and Jessica, but the setup was so incredibly messed up that we would have needed a hell of a lot more to get them to OTP status. At best, right now, we could say Luke and Jessica sorta work as reluctant friends and allies, but that’s it.
And then there’s Kastle, the little ship that could.
Sometimes the best ships organically develop the way Kastle did, out of chemistry and a showrunner’s inclination to follow that. Take Olicity on Arrow, for example. That wasn’t where the show was going, was never supposed to be the be all and end all, and yet two seconds of Emily Bett Rickards and Stephen Amell together, and you knew. You knew there was something special there, something that needed to be exploited.
I saw that same magic in Daredevil season two, it just wasn’t between Matt and Karen.
Because someone was smart, that magic carried over to The Punisher, where, with some love and attention, Kastle grew from a possibility to the most important relationship on this show. What does Frank Castle care about, you ask anyone who’s seen even one episode of his appearances on the Netflix Marvel universe, and that person will say two things:
Getting revenge for his family, and Karen Page.
That’s how big this is.
Now, why am I here remarking on the obvious, you ask? Yes, they struck lightning, and yes, they took advantage of it in season 1 of The Punisher, and tried to remain faithful to it in season 2, even with the limited availability of Deborah Ann Woll, but the people behind this show, the people at Netflix, they still don’t seem to understand what they’ve got in their hands with Kastle.
They don’t seem to understand the power of shippers, especially shippers that fell for something that developed organically.
Shippers sell. They buy merchandise, they create buzz, and they commit themselves to supporting not just what they love, but the medium that provides what they love. They are, without a doubt, one of the most powerful forces in fandom, and Netflix would be silly to ignore that.
I don’t know what the plan is for The Punisher. I don’t know if we’ll get a season 3. I do know, however, what the smart move is. The smart move is to renew this show for another season. The smart move is to make Deborah Ann Woll a regular in that season. The smart move is to make that season about Frank finding that elusive after, with her.
Because when you get a ship like Kastle, the kind that makes people stop and pay attention, the kind that makes people invest in the characters, and not just in the plot, you take advantage, or you lose.
Don’t be on the wrong side of history here, Netflix. Give The Punisher one last shot at an after.
The Punisher seasons 1 & 2 are available to stream on Netflix.