The Big Picture

Karen Page and Frank Castle’s unique relationship surpriseed fans throughout Netflix’s
The potential romantic angle of Frank and Karen’s relationship was explored in
The Punisher
and reflects a departure from comic canon.

‘s willingness to diverge from comics led to positive fan responses through character-driven storytelling.

Marvel fans were treated to a flurry of set pictures from Daredevil: Born Again the other day, which showed Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle/the Punisher back in costume and reunited with Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock/Daredevil. Bernthal followed this up by posting his own behind-the-scenes photo of himself, Cox, and fellow co-star Deborah Ann Woll. Fans were especially excited to see Bernthal reunited with Woll given the surprising relationship that developed between his character and hers in the original Daredevil series, which moved away from established comic book canon by having the usually disparate characters develop a complex relationship.


A blind lawyer by day, vigilante by night. Matt Murdock fights the crime of New York as Daredevil.

Who Are Frank Castle and Karen Page in Marvel Comics?

Created by Stan Lee and Bill Everett, Karen Page first appeared in Daredevil #1 in 1964. She was Matt’s secretary and original love interest but was written out of the series after learning his secret identity, after which she moved to California to be an actress. Created by Gerry Conway, John Romita Sr., and Ross Andru, Frank Castle first appeared in The Amazing Spider-Man #129 in 1974. Frank Miller incorporated Frank into his first, famed run on Daredevil in the 1980s, with the two crime fighters clashing over Frank’s use of lethal force, but Karen was still absent from the title. She received her controversial reintroduction during Miller’s second run, most of which consisted of the iconic Born Again storyline from which the upcoming TV show gets its name, but Frank was not included in any of these stories. Although later Daredevil writers, such as Ann Nocenti, made use of both characters, Karen and Frank still rarely had anything to do with one another and the main version of the former was killed off in the 1999 story Guardian Devil.

Frank and Karen Developed an Unexpected Connection in Netflix’s ‘Daredevil’

In the TV series, this couldn’t be farther from the truth, with Karen being the most crucial supporting character in Frank’s story, even more so than Matt himself. Although in their first encounter, Frank shoots at a witness Karen is protecting for Matt’s law firm, terrifying her, she begins to have sympathy for him even before fully meeting him. While investigating corruption in the District Attorney’s office that has developed a feud with the firm, she learns about the murder of Frank’s family, which is being covered up, and she even breaks into his vacant house to learn more, seeing the children’s toys and other abandoned possessions that point towards the happy family Frank had before the tragedy.

It is Karen who initially pushes for Matt and his law partner Foggy Nelson (Elden Henson) to represent Frank after his arrest. Frank is a characteristically difficult client, and initially only agrees to speak to Karen about his defense strategy in exchange for her continued help investigating the conspiracy that led to his family’s deaths. But during these sessions, the pair develop an unusual, strong connection that viewers didn’t see coming. Eventually, Frank breaks out of prison and the conspiracy threatens Karen, after which they go on the run together to continue working to unravel it.

Since the first season, it is frequently hinted that Woll’s Karen experienced substance abuse issues earlier than her comic book counterpart does, before she ever moves to New York and meets Matt and Foggy. The third season revealed her history in full, including the fact that most of her neighbors, and even her father, blame her for her brother, Kevin’s (Jake DiFalco) death, which happened after the latter got into an altercation with Karen’s ex-boyfriend, with whom she sold and did drugs. Karen still feels guilty about her brother’s death and this is confirmed by the time of Frank’s appearances in Season 2. It is clear that her dark past influences both her intense desire to seek the truth (in Frank’s case and others) and her dynamic with Frank.

Karen initially seems to view Frank as a kindred spirit, mostly because of her guilt over both Kevin’s death and that of criminal James Wesley (Toby Leonard Moore), whom she killed in self-defense in Season 1. Her frustrations with the legal system become so pronounced that she at one point expresses approval for Frank’s lethal brand of vigilante justice, disturbing Matt, in one of many confrontations that leads to the collapse of Karen’s burgeoning romance with the lawyer. She begins to see the error in her thought process, however, when Frank uses her as bait to lure out enemy operatives and then violently kills them while Karen cowers in the next room. At the end of the season, when Frank has captured Ray Schoonover (Clancy Brown), his former commanding officer, who was a leading figure in the conspiracy, Karen pleads with him to expose Schoonover’s illegal actions rather than kill him, saying, “You do this, and I am done. That’s it, you’re dead to me, do you hear me?” Frank replies that, “I’m already dead,” and kills Schoonover anyway.

Frank and Karen Might Be More Than Friends

Image via Netflix

Although this scene suggested the pair’s friendship would end, they ultimately reunited in Bernthal’s spin-off series The Punisher. Shortly before the series premiere in 2017 showrunner Steve Lightfoot explained that Karen was not been included in the original plans for the spin-off but that after seeing Bernthal and Woll’s shared scenes, he requested the character be written in. Despite the tense nature of their final meeting in Daredevil and her continued disapproval of his tactics, Karen is a source of warmth for the series, and is happy to see Frank in their first scene back together, possibly because, after the events of The Defenders, she was in mourning for Matt, who was presumed dead.

The Punisher continued to develop the most surprising aspect of Frank and Karen’s relationship, which is its quasi-romantic element. Although they met when Karen was beginning to date Matt, and the idea of Frank being in any present-day romances always seems unlikely given his continued grief over the loss of his wife, as the characters spend more time together, it becomes clear their friendship isn’t purely platonic. Much of Daredevil Season 2’s narrative revolves around Matt becoming increasingly obsessed with his superhero activities and neglectful of the rest of his life. As he continues to miss important legal work and other obligations to Foggy and Karen, secretly spending his time fighting crime with anti-hero ex-girlfriend Elektra Natchios (Élodie Yung), Karen begins to see Frank as more trustworthy, and this generates even more affection for him.


‘The Punisher’s Jon Bernthal Thinks There’s a “Little Bit of Frank Castle in Everybody”

“I think there’s a reason why that character has resonated as deeply and strongly as he has.”

‘Daredevil’ Was Willing To Move Away From the Comics

Image via Netflix

While the idea of a romance between the Punisher and Daredevil’s secretary sounds ridiculous on paper, both series maintain their maturity by having Frank be aware that it’s not a healthy dynamic for Karen. Karen’s feelings for him become most explicit in her single episode appearance in The Punisher Season 2, in which she tells him, “You cannot keep loving people in your dreams,” and suggests that he could, “love someone else, instead of another war.” Frank remains adamant that she should stay away from him as he does not want to stop killing and that continuing to associate with him will corrupt her and/or ruin her life. He also repeats earlier advice he had given her to work on repairing her relationship with Matt because, despite the other man’s flaws, “He’s good,” while Frank recognizes that he himself isn’t.

This relationship isn’t the only major difference between the original Daredevil TV series and the comics. Other big changes include the series’ choices to kill off reporter Ben Urich (Vondie Curtis-Hall), one of the longest-running supporting figures in the comics, and to give a more detailed, sympathetic backstory to Ben Poindexter (Wilson Bethel), the man who would become the supervillain Bullseye, among others. The Karen and Frank relationship is a good example of why the series was able to make these changes while still earning positive responses from fans. Although it results in changes to the plot, the relationship is born out of the creators’ thorough understanding of the characters.

Modifying the dark period in Karen’s history to be more acceptable to modern television audiences resulted in her character having an even more tragic family history than Matt himself, so she is intuitively the protagonist who would develop the closest connection to Frank. This connection, in turn, is one of the key aspects that makes Bernthal’s version of the Punisher more believably human than lesser iterations, given how he longs for human connection following the loss of his family, even while realizing that his need to avenge them makes him a destructive influence on the other people whose lives he touches. To achieve similar levels of success and quality, Daredevil: Born Again would do well to make similarly bold, but carefully handled changes to the source material’s plots to highlight its core themes in new ways.

Daredevil is available to stream on Disney+ in the U.S.

Watch Now

“}]] The bond between these two characters is unlikely but also beloved by fans.  Read More