Previously on The Punisher
Frank makes a damning confession. A shootout leaves Sarah wondering what to believe. Rawlins goes in for the kill, once and for all. As the authorities close in, an exhausted but unbroken Frank vows to put an end to the war that has consumed his life. – Netflix
When this show first dropped, Project Fandom’s founder Nina posted something on Facebook like Where is beat a motherfucker with another motherfucker, Frank Castle? (I am paraphrasing, here.) And I agreed with her; when we are introduced to him in his self-titled series, he is a Grizzly Adams-looking construction worker for the first two episodes. Then slowly, as his anger bubbled to the surface, my blood lust for Punisher is quenched in spades. Who knew there were some many creative ways to fuck your enemies all the way up? Then episode 10 happens, and Lewis, who was the embodiment of the worst type of angry millennial-patriot, kills himself and it isn’t completely satisfying. My heart ached a little for someone so broken by an institution they trusted. Trained to live for the kill. He and Frank aren’t much different in this moment except Frank is understandably fueled by vengeance.
The curtain has parted and the faces of Frank’s real enemies have been revealed. He makes a deal with Medani to exchange Micro and himself for Micro’s family. The exchange goes awry and Micro is shot, while Frank is successfully kidnapped by Mike’s team. They almost had me. ALMOST. I clutched my chest and my eyes welled up when I saw Micro hit the ground. The screams, (the wife’s screams), the tears, the despair. They had me until my internet started cutting out and I had to restart the scene. Then I saw the shots which hit Micro came from DHS — 3 well-placed shots to the chest. Too perfect. A set up? Yes. Is he dead? No, but Mike believes he is and that’s what matters. Micro’s reunion with his wife feels bittersweet. I wasn’t confident it would come to a positive conclusion, but it does. He testifies before a panel and is free to return home and continue his life.
Frank is where he wants to be. He wants the opportunity to kill Rawlins and the chance to kill Mike. He also knows what lies ahead, he knows how his enemies operate and first he has to endure the torture he has inflicted on others. During a series of severe beating Frank drifts in an out of consciousness, he thinks of intimate moments with his wife and children and what home meant to him. Was home with them or was it “there” Kandahar? After being beaten enough to be convincingly weakened by his tormentors. He overtakes Rawlins, murdering him and Russo catches a bullet from DHS.
The final faceoff between Russo isn’t clean, it’s not covert or quiet. It’s filled will anger betrayal and bullets which devolves into the 3rd most brutal hand to hand combat scene in the series. It also doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. A shoot out on a carousel is impractical and while I am thankful the carny hostages were not injured, they should have been killed after the first bullets started to fly. Russo seeks absolution in the form of death and Frank will not grant him this favor, he wants him to feel and remember the hurt and pain he has caused. Frank makes sure Russo keeps a permanent reminder of this night, leaving him bloody and disfigured while he is resigned to being taken into custody by and injured and angrier more bitter version of Medani and the DHS. The government has the decency to scrub Frank’s record so he can live out in the open as Pete Castiglione. Pete joins Curtis and some fellow vets and tries to sort out his new life. Curtis assures him that he is in a safe space, but how is this a safe space? Frank Castle’s face has been blasted all across New York; he remains a fugitive.
In many shows derived from comics, the villains are clear even if their motives are not. They are despised for a reason and usually with no redeeming qualities. They start and end as a villain. You rarely see the evolution of the hero’s foe. He is just present and menacing. Usually the villain is human. Daredevil and now The Punisher have done an exceptional job of turning this villain trope on its ear. The villains have been more interesting than the hero and they are fully flushed out characters. While Russo may ultimately be the villain in title, his position was forged by his government made him who he is. The military harnessed and encouraged a destructive narcissistic personality and used it to their advantage. I don’t ever feel sorry for Russo because he had a choice. He chose cash and perceived power. He made this choice over his honor, loyalty, comradery and lost it all. Frank lost his family, his life, and his home. He had nothing to lose in pursuit of his enemies, it was already gone. Once you’ve avenged the death of your family where do you go from there? Frank Castle will not and cannot stay in hiding as Pete for long. A new or old enemy will arise and The Punisher will be forced out of retirement.
The Punisher is the first of the Netflix Marvel shows to excel at providing a thematically consistent and mostly well-paced season. There were a couple episodes that could have been combined into 1 making this a 10-episode season and it would have been all the more enjoyable. Netflix renewed for a second season. I have very simple requests: more FrankCro – (Frank and Micro’s ship name), a nice time jump, a small explanation as to how Frank Castle is managing to hide in plain sight, Curtis and more Punisher. That’s not too much to ask.
The Punisher S1E12/S1E13 Review Score
The Punisher | Starring: Jon Bernthal, Amber Rose Revah, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ben Barnes, Jaime Ray Newman, Jason R. Moore, Deborah Ann Woll, Shohreh Aghdashloo