With all of the rumors surrounding whether or not Charlie Cox’s Matt Murdock may make an appearance in the upcoming Spider-Man film, I have been spending a lot of time thinking about Netflix’s Daredevil and by extension Netflix’s The Punisher.
It has been six years since Daredevil premiered and five years since Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle first appeared in the series; three years since the finale of Daredevil and two since The Punisher ended. I wish I could honestly admit that I don’t think about these series at least once a week, but I do try to never lie. You know, like how Frank never lied to Karen Page.
Karen Page was the Heart of Netflix's Daredevil Series
Despite how this article has begun, you may be surprised to learn that this is really just a long-form ode to Deborah Ann Woll’s portrayal of Karen Page. I loved that character more than I have loved any other Marvel character, followed closely by none other than Jon Bernthal’s Frank Castle. With the steady flow of new Marvel series and characters, I find myself constantly comparing everyone to these two characters.
When Karen Page was first introduced in Daredevil, I didn’t have my expectations. I knew from the comics that she had a bleak future and I was leary of what the showrunners may have had planned for her character. But nevertheless, I came away from the first season with Karen as my favorite character. I love Matt Murdock, don’t get me wrong, but it was pretty apparent that she was made of finer stuff than he was.
For a character whose main plotlines in the comics were to be Daredevil’s girlfriend, a heroin addict, and a murder victim — Karen Page became one of the most well-developed characters in Netflix’s Marvel run.
I loved Karen Page because she wasn’t perfect. She was allowed to have moments of weakness. She was allowed to break down when the weight of her personal trauma was too heavy. She shouldered the burdens of others because she cared. She was all heart, as Frank points out at one point. She had a drive and ambition that was bigger than anyone else’s.
And with every single emotional beat that Karen went through, Woll gave 110%. I still, to this day, do not understand why people aren’t knocking down her door trying to book her in major series and films. Her ability to convey so much emotion through the simplest expressions still leaves me with chills. Hollywood, what are you doing? Hire this woman for everything.
While I loved Karen right from the start, it wasn’t until season two that I felt like the character transformed into something so much bigger than the source material. The connection shared between Karen and Frank is something that other shows should take note of. I love shipping characters and usually I’m pretty salty if they never actually kiss, but it was never something I needed for “Kastle” because Karen and Frank’s connection was so much deeper than romance. It was something profound. You can’t discuss her character’s central arc without discussing him.
It was through Frank Castle that Karen was finally able to come to terms with her own trauma. It was through Frank Castle that Karen was able to rise above her internalized fear that she was a monster because she shot the man that framed her, kidnapped her, and tried to murder her. It was through this connection that she eventually processed the grief of her past and reconciled her role in the death of her brother. She pivoted from being a victim to Nelson and Murdoch’s office manager to a New York Bulletin reporter with a taste for exposing corruption and getting justice for victims.
So much of the groundwork of her character development was laid because of her connection to Frank and so much of why Frank Castle worked so well on screen was because of how the connection humanized and grounded him.
I will forever maintain the fact that the most heinous crime committed by Netflix’s Marvel series, outside of Iron Fist, was that they underutilized Karen Page in the second and final season of The Punisher.
I still think about an interview that Jon Bernthal did with Entertainment Weekly, where he said, “I think he does [love Karen], and I wish that we could have had a little bit more time together. It’s a relationship worth exploring. I think if anybody could handle Frank, it’s Karen. He says to her, “You’ve got to stay away from me. I know for a fact now that I’m the one that brings all this darkness,” and it’s funny because I think Karen truly understands that and accepts that. She can handle it.” He gets it.
If you go through any of Bernthal and Woll’s interviews and convention panels about Frank and Karen — they get it, they really do. They speak with such passion and compassion about their characters and the unexpected connection those characters found in one another. Honestly, more series need to lean into this dynamic because two broken people finding their missing pieces in each other makes for very compelling television.
While we’re here, I also want to say that I understand why we may never see Frank Castle again now that the copyright has fallen under Disney’s shadow. The character has been misappropriated by hate groups, despite the character’s recent appearances being the antithesis of everything they stand for. But I still hold out hope that we’ll see Jon Bernthal light up the screen as Frank Castle again one day.
But Disney has no reason not to bring Karen Page — and Deborah Ann Woll — back to our screens. She is a nuanced, flawed, and relatable character that would fit into the ever-evolving Marvel Cinematic Universe. If you can bring back Matt Murdock, you can bring back Karen Page who was, undoubtedly, the heart and soul of Netflix’s Marvel run.
It also feels weirdly poignant that I find myself writing an article about Karen Page. When I first fell in love with the character, I was working in an entirely different career field and now I find myself working in entertainment journalism. Back then, I even cosplayed as Karen Page and I still geek out when I think about Deb’s response to my now-deleted tweet back in 2017. One reminder of the cosplay does remain, however. As do reminders of the two times I met Jon Bernthal at conventions.