okay kids, sit down and strap in because i’m about to hit you with some meta.
there’s an ancient tumblr adage that says that the greatest ships are the ones that you don’t see coming, that jump out of nowhere and slap you in the face.
my friends, i give you: Karen Page and the Punisher.
This was not a ship i was expecting, but boyyyyyy it had me at the get-go.
so let’s break down why it’s amazing.
1. It’s a classic “beauty and the beast” trope
Let’s just admit it… I’m a sucker for this, you’re a sucker for this, it’s tale as old as time and we love it (well, maybe we don’t all love it, but honestly if you don’t, why are you reading this meta anyway?).
Frank is gruff and grumbly and downright terrifying, but he’s got the sad puppy eyes and a tragic past and he gets broken and busted and he loves dogs and HOW CAN YOU NOT LOVE HIM.
And then you have Karen– flawlessly gorgeous, endlessly compassionate and utterly tenacious and THEY’RE JUST PERFECT, OKAY?!
2. The connection of the disconnected
I always love it in ships when the connection is instant… when person A looks at person B and singles them out for some reason. you see that in the hospital scene, when frank looks at karen and says “her.” he chooses to confide in her. he sees something in her that he deems worthy of his trust, having only just met her. (not to mention we got the gorgeous camerawork leading up to that moment… that long lingering shot on Frank as he zeroes in on Karen, the way Foggy’s talking just sort of seems to fade into the background. they’re building their own private space together within moments of meeting. I JUST.)
Instant connection. Instant chemistry. To quote Frank: “BANG.”
3. Reflexivity and Empathy
This is a BIG piece of why I love these two together. Karen sees herself in Frank. Obviously, she hasn’t gone around massacring people, but she does know what it’s like to be a killer. There’s a self-awareness and a sense of self-reflexivity in her desperation to prove Frank’s humanity, and on more than one occasion, I definitely found myself thinking that she could be referring not only to him, but to herself as she tries to rationalize his actions and his thought processes to other people.
Her having killed Wesley also (imho) gives her a greater capacity to empathize with Frank. She has that tendency naturally, but I think her experience with Wesley actually brought that out even more in her character.
I would LOVE to see Frank be the one she finally comes clean to about killing Wesley, but who knows…
4. The Punisher vs. The Protector
Frank Castle is a big, hostile killing machine. But he protects the hell out of Karen Page. At their first meeting, he makes a point to tell her that “you were never in any danger” from him, and that he wouldn’t have harmed her in his attempts to kill Grotto (did anyone else’s shipper-dar start pinging out of control at that point, BECAUSE MINE DID). He protects her from the Blacksmith (AND LITERALLY SHIELDS HER BODY WITH HIS TO PROTECT HER FROM GUNFIRE, AS IF WE WEREN’T IN SHIPPING HELL ALREADY JFC). They pull the hotel escape stunt together and he basically tells her “there’s no way in hell i’m letting you get attacked again” as they drive off. and yes, i know the diner was kind of a setup, but he still tries to keep her safe there, too, and you can hear the sadness/regret in his voice at the end when he tells her to call the police and to stay away from him before he leaves. and then later on at the colonel’s house, i LOVE when Karen turns on the car and the tape starts playing and she knows he’s there.
5. Frank and Matt as polar opposites
Matt doesn’t believe in killing. Frank lives by it. Matt uses fists. Frank uses guns. Matt rationalizes everything. Frank runs on pure instinct. Matt keeps secrets. Karen says it herself – Frank doesn’t lie to her.
I never felt like there was a real connection between Matt and Karen– their relationship always felt like it played on a very surface level to me, probably because Matt could never be truly open with her.
With Frank, on the other hand, it’s a complete dive into the deep end. She already comes in knowing his tragic backstory. And then he goes a step further and lays everything out for her. He shares a lot of really deep things with her… about his kids, his wife… hell, he even gives her RELATIONSHIP ADVICE when they’re sitting at the diner (SAD PUPPY-EYED VILLAINS TALKING ABOUT LOST LOVE. LEAVE ME ALONE TO DIE).
My point is: he’s real with Karen from the very beginning, in a way that Matt was never able to be.
6. Hope for Redemption
This ship is literally BURSTING with redemptive potential.
Again, a classic case of “there is good in him, I know it.” Karen clearly cares about Frank– it comes out pretty clearly in the woods when she threatens that “you’ll be dead to me” if he kills the colonel. He does, but you can see from her reaction that he’s clearly NOT dead to her.
Also, his response “I already am” speaks volumes. Frank Castle doesn’t think he’s a man worth saving. He tells Karen point-blank that he’s a monster, that he’s guilty, that she needs to get away from him. And you can see the confusion in his eyes every times she says something that indicates she believes he’s still a good person at heart… like he doesn’t trust himself to believe that anyone could think that of him.
And yet, he gets a 50/50 share in the “heroes” voiceover montage at the end. It’s clear he’s at the start of something… whether it’s a hero’s journey or not remains to be seen, BUT…
Let’s also consider the shot of him and Karen at the end of the last fight, after he pulls a total Han Solo at the Death Star and saves Daredevil with the well-timed sniper shot. It’s a CLASSIC “super-hero-and-the-girl” shot… he’s on the rooftop in the costume, she’s standing on the ground looking up at him. It’s SO VERY TELLING TO ME that that shot involved Karen and Frank, not Karen and Matt. Karen and Matt may be endgame in some far-off, distant future, but there are definitely WAY TOO MANY HINTS at a Karen x Frank arc to ignore.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go light my candles and do some ritual sacrifices to the shipping gods for this ship to become canon.