The Punisher follows Frank Castle after his run from jail in Season 2 of Daredevil. Currently, he’s living under the identity of Pete Castiglione and works in construction. This Punisher character ranking contains spoilers.
Welcome back to another edition of TNL’s Definitive Rankings. Today, we’ll be trying to evaluate a cast made up of morally ambiguous characters at best and homicidal maniacs at worst. Does Billy Russo have some redeeming qualities? Are Frank Castle’s good intentions enough to offset his long list of murders?
As you can see, we have our work cut out for us with this one. To navigate our Punisher character ranking, just keep in mind that we’re trying to objectively rank these messed-up individuals from most evil to most pure. Now, overall likability, unbear-ability, and hotness may or may not tip the scale sometimes. We’re nerds. We try to be scientific about our stuff and end up crying about that one character that was on the show for five minutes and everyone forgot about.
Joining Gaby and Rachael today, we have fellow Nerd League writer Kelmer Messina and Longbox Podcast Co-Host Tyler Olson. Our usual Matt Murphy couldn’t come to the phone because, unlike Taylor Swift, he is alive and well but is a certified Kastle hater.
If you’re looking for a review of The Punisher, you can find one here. If instead, you’re here for our ruthless character ranking, let’s start you off with the absolute worse piece of garbage this show has seen:
A Definitive Ranking of The Punisher Characters
R: *to the tune of Cell Block Tango* He had it coming. He had it coming. He only had himself to blaaaaaaaaaame. If you’d have been there. If you’d been Lewis. I betcha you would have done the saaaaaaaame.
G: This dude single-handedly rattled a PTSD-stricken veteran to the point of mass-murdering psychopath-y. Were those too many em-dashes? Well, I don’t give a crap. Just like our little friend O’Conner here didn’t give a crap about pretending to be a veteran. My dude, do you have nothing better to do with your time? Well, now you don’t.
T: First off, I love seeing actors from The Wire show up out of the blue in Marvel shows. Secondly, I’ve never been more okay with seeing someone get viciously stabbed and then wrapped in a shower curtain.
K: I don’t care enough about him to write something…
15. William “Agent Orange” Rawlins
R: I would rather be locked in a room with a fully armed, rabid Frank Castle than this man.
G: At least Billy and Frank are nice to look at and don’t get hard from torturing other humans.
T: Every time Rawlins shows up on screen, I’m reminded that I still need to get my deviated septum fixed. Also, can we get Frank v The Mountain in an eye-gouge contest?
K: What’s so scary about Rawlins is how believable he is. The fact that we so easily accepted the existence of a villain that committed these crimes overseas, won recognition for it, and is mercilessly killing anyone who would get in his way shows how disturbing the world we live in is.
14. Billy Russo
R: I think Billy Russo was on my screen for all of six seconds before I texted Gaby saying I didn’t trust him. Maybe I’m still recovering from Westworld. Or maybe it’s the fact that no man in the history of movies/television/books with that haircut and a surplus of perfectly tailored skinny suits has ever been trustworthy. I’m sure Ben Barnes is a lovely, charming person in real life, but his characters are the absolute worst.
G: Jesus, Ben. One morally sound character? One? Also, what in the world was Billy Russo doing with his birth mom?
T: Billy Russo kind of reminds me of Christian Grey. But instead of tying up college women for dubious sexual reasons, it’s his mom.
K: Et tu, Billy? Jokes aside, Billy is probably the best villain in a Marvel/Netflix show since Kilgrave, probably even topping him.
13. Lewis Walcott
K: Lewis’s episodes as a “villain” were actually interesting, but we seriously did not need that much backstory. His character was mostly unnecessary and his story arc felt like filler.
T: This is gonna sound bad but, I liked Lewis. He has some valid concerns that are eventually just overpowered by mental instability and manipulative rhetoric turning him into one of the most tragic characters to come to a Marvel show in a while. I just felt bad for him. On the other hand, don’t blow people up, kids.
R: Trying to pinpoint exactly where Lewis falls in our ranking was tough for me. Yes, he’s a terrorist and, yes, that absolutely makes him a bad person. But I also found myself rooting for Lewis to find a way to conquer his personal demons throughout the show. I wanted a happy ending for Lewis. The episode where he digs the foxhole was key for me. There was no turning back after that.
G: The guy was at least burdened by what he was doing. (Did y’all not get a little choked up when he blew himself up?). Meanwhile, I didn’t see no Russo or Rawlins sleeping in foxholes in their own backyards.
12. Carson Wolf
R: I feel like the second Wolf made that jarring statement to Madani (which I will not repeat here because it still makes me angry), Frank Castle’s ears must have started to burn. If there’s one thing besides injustice and villainy that The Punisher can’t stand, Marvel has made it abundantly clear that it’s sexism.
G: Literal best moment was when he thought he was cool for having freed himself, and then bam. The gun’s got no bullets, sucker.
T: I found Wolf’s apartment layout and design to be much more interesting than Wolf himself. Did you see how wide those windows were?
K: A*shole? Yes. Badass? Definitely.
11. Frank Castle
R: On one hand Frank Castle is a terrifying, unhinged murderer who helped kill an innocent man during his time as a marine in the Middle East. On the other hand, I would happily watch six seasons of Frank Castle and Karen Page disregarding personal space and pining for one another while they take down New York’s criminal underbelly.
G: Was it hard to be realistic and place Frank this high up the list? Yes. But also, the guy is a mass murderer, whether we sympathize with him or not. That being said, Frank is still a more likable character than most. What that says about us as a society is unclear. #TeamFrank.
K: Frank’s trauma often feels ridiculous, and his violence seems almost always excessive. However, his occasional niceness and selfless actions make us believe he can and will eventually redeem himself for his sins and find peace.
T: The most amazing part about Frank Castle is not just his ability to know how to use every single piece of weaponry given to him, but how to produce an exact replica of his original spray paint logo without a stencil.
10. Marion James
R: Someone needs to learn how to vet her subordinates a little better.
K: She can’t make up her mind if she’s good or bad. You can’t just be described as a decent person and then justify murder.
G: “I asked you if you had any skeletons in the closet.” Shut up, Marion. Some head of CIA you are.
T: Two words: background check.
9. Rafael Hernández
R: I spent most of The Punisher thinking that Rafael was A) going to turn on Madani and B) Madani’s father. I’m very glad that neither of these things are true.
G: Even after the credits rolled, I was waiting for him to turn around and say “You’ve been Punk’d!” or something.
T: I’m happy knowing I’m not the only one who didn’t trust this guy a bit. The show is over, and I still don’t trust him.
K: Y’all have trust issues. This is the kind of guy that will eventually take a bullet for Madani.
8. Dinah Madani
R: Which gods do I have to make blood sacrifices to in order to ensure that my eyebrows are as on-point all the time as Dinah Madani’s eyebrows?
G: When Marvel and DC are like, “Hey, here’s a new female character” all the alarms go off in my head. Is she going to be cool? Likeable? Two-dimensional? You rarely get all of the above. But when I saw Madani get bathed by Sam-murdering Billy Russo, something inside of me went, “don’t touch my child,” and that’s when I knew. That’s when I knew we had a precious cinnamon roll in our hands.
T: Even though Madani fell for the fuckiest-fuckboy that is Billy Russo, she’s still the fucking boss. Did we hit our f-bomb quota with that sentence?
K: Fuck it if we did. Madani fucking rocks.
G: Yes, thank you.
7. Karen Page
R: Karen Page is like if Nancy Drew lived in New York City, had absolutely zero chill, a thirst for justice, carried a gun, and had big ole heart-eyes for Frank Castle (for which the feeling is clearly mutual.) I ship Karen with happiness above all else. But I also ship the holy heck out of her and Frank.
G: I rely on #Kastle scenes to clear my acne.
K: She hardly did much on this show really. She was only here to serve as a romantic interest and to give a connection to the rest of the television universe because apparently, Rosario Dawson was busy or something.
G: OMG, we ended up inviting a closeted Karen hater to the party.
T: I don’t care what Matt Murphy thinks, Karen Page is the most likable and important character in the Netflix Marvel shows and doesn’t deserve to eventually die from getting hit in the chest with one of Daredevil’s Billy clubs. (Spoiler for an almost 20-year comic. Whoops.)
6. Zach Lieberman
R: I will never forgive Zach for bringing that knife to school with him. I don’t care how scared you are. Not cool, my dude.
G: Zach is a little b*tch, but he’ll definitely outgrow it.
T: The amount of therapy this kid is going to need is almost justified for completely snitching on his entire family.
K: Sold out his family and lashes out to them because of his anger issues. We don’t care if you’re having a bad time Zach, that doesn’t mean you can be a jerk.
5. David “Micro” Leiberman
R: David Leiberman is my new favorite fictional Sad Dad.
G: I came here to cry over Frank Castle, and I left crying about a tech whiz who didn’t think it smart to tell his wife he didn’t actually die when he got shot in front of her very eyes.
T: Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s ability to play one of my least favorite characters in Girls to one of my most favorite characters in The Punisher without changing his character is astounding.
K: I thought he was going to be unnecessary comic relief but eventually became the best character in the show. His story arc, development, humor, intelligence, and everything else about him make him extremely interesting and lovable.
4. Sarah Lieberman
G: Sarah Lieberman deserves all the rosé she wants.
R: If you blame Sarah Lieberman for kissing Frank Castle after she spent a year mourning her husband’s death as well as trying to raise their two young children then A) we can’t be friends anymore, and B) clearly you haven’t taken a good look at Frank Castle. It’s not cheating if you think your partner is dead when he’s really spent the better part of a year pretending to be dead while hiding out in a warehouse/sewer-turned-man cave situation.
K: A tad overexposed for the sake of creating a love triangle we did not need.
T: I’d probably kiss Frank, too.
3. Curtis Hoyle
K: He serves as a moral compass in this morally ambiguous show as well as functioning as a symbol of hope for self-improvement. His failings and imperfections only improve him as a character and ultimately make him more endearing.
R: Curtis Hoyle was only ever trying his best and anyone who thinks differently is wrong.
G: You know what happens to good people? They get beat up with their own prosthetic leg. And this, children, is why we believe in Frank Castle.
T: I was too distracted trying to see which leg was the prosthetic one to really care about Curtis.
2. Sam Stein
R: Samwise Gamgee. Samwell Tarly. Sam Stein. If being a nerd for 20 + years has taught me anything, it’s that you should always trust a Sam.
K: Excellent sidekick with a touching early death. It stills bother me that they made him die in Madani’s arms without letting him say anything useful.
G: Sam’s “I knew it was the pretty boy” face right before dying was the most relatable moment of 2017.
T: Sam has the best bleed-out face I’ve seen in a long time.
1. Leo Lieberman
R: Leo Lieberman isn’t the hero I was expecting from The Punisher but she’s sure as heck the hero that it deserves.
K: Simply wonderful.
G: Really gave that girl from Taken a run for her money. When we’re done with The Punisher, I’m here for Leo’s spin-off show.
T: I want a spin-off where she becomes the next Punisher just like Greg Rucka’s tenure on the book. Highly recommend that run, by the way.