Well, that was a weirdly tidy way to wrap up the season, wasn’t it? The Punisher is a very eventful show, but despite a satisfying climactic showdown, I ended up scratching my head and saying, “Really? That’s how we’re ending this?” But let’s get to that later. We have to watch Frank Castle in extreme pain—again.
It’s probably from all of those Claire Temple/Daredevil scenes of years past, but Frank being treated on in a clandestine manner by Madani’s father felt like going through the motions. And right after that, we get an attempted “badass” scene with a Billy Russo on the run, offing completely incompetent agents in a comically easy manner, then having his own “cool guy walking away from an explosion” moment that fails to not look cliched at all.
But hey, whatever. This season finale is about the cat-and-mouse game between Castle and Russo, and for the most part, it delivers. Both always think they’re three steps ahead of the other, with a quite tense (but again, not too original) stand-off in Curtis’s house. It’s a bit hard to watch—not that the sequence is bad or anything, but seeing these former friends who used to have so much respect for each other go at each other’s throats could be an emotional painful thing.
But not too much, though. See, I don’t really know why Billy Russo was able to go through betraying Castle so easily. This episode and the previous one probably provided opportunities to flesh that out, and the writers certainly have the ability to handle that. Ben Barnes as Russo has had a pretty decent presence throughout the entire season, charming, charismatic, if a bit unsettling in the beginning, to downright cold, creepy and frightening as we learn more about him (jeez, remember that scene with his mother?).
We interrupt the episode for a flashback at the carousel, where we see an instance of Russo (“Uncle Billy”) being as close to the Castle family as we were told. I’ve written this about Inhumans before, but just because “showing is better than telling” doesn’t mean you have to have a pointless scene showing something we’ve already been told. Because at this very late point, I still don’t buy that Russo was complicit in the deaths of the Castle family because of money, or a clean slate, or what have you. He’s willing to do all of this bad shit, and for what?
But I digress. I’ve been waiting all season to see Russo’s pretty face (I swear, every episode with him has had a character mention how ridiculously handsome he is, just to telegraph this) smashed up. We return to the carousel for our final showdown, just for Billy to add some psychological elements to this battle. By capturing two poor youths and tying them up, the sequence attempts to add a little urgency. It’s tense, bloody, and satisfying, especially if the show has succeeded in making you hate this guy.
But then a challenger approaches with Madani—how she still has her job despite all of her defiance against her superiors is beyond me. And it turns out that she doesn’t really have a role in the fight, other than to momentarily distract Russo for Frank to deliver the final blows. And with no real build-up to this decision, Frank decides to let his former friend live.
Look, I get why this would come up in a show like Daredevil, where there is this moral dilemma of whether it is necessary to kill or not, but a luxury of having the freaking Punisher as your protagonist is that we get to completely skip over that. Weren’t Frank and Micro gung-ho about murdering everyone from the beginning?
I think about the episode “Memento Mori,” “remember you will die.” I guess eventually, his sparing of Russo makes sense (not just as someone familiar with the comics and knows that Billy Russo is Jigsaw, his arch-nemesis), as he wants a fate worse than death for Russo. “When you look at your ugly, mangled face, you’re gonna remember what you did.” If only we truly understand why he did it.
So now Frank has a clean slate from the government, despite everything crazy he’s done during and before this series. Madani is fine and still at her job, and Micro is a-okay with his family now, with no repercussions (thus far) about his basically spying on them. When Frank left Micro with his family and declined to join them, I initially thought that meant that he would go back to his lone vigilante ways (this show has had a lack of Frank taking on common criminals)… but instead, he goes to group therapy.
I must say again, I felt this was strange and maybe even out-of-character. And would society even let a controversial figure such as the Punisher back into society? These characters have talked about what Castle’s life would be post-Punisher, so his ending monologue did tie a neat little bow to everything—but in a show about extreme violence, morally grey areas and harsh realities, I question if it should have been that neat at all.
3.5 Glass Shards in the Face Out of 5. While the much-anticipated final confrontation was ultimately satisfying, the coda of the show’s first season was a real head-scratcher. It may be nice to see Frank Castle finally get some peace, but will it last? And does he deserve it?
- In case you didn’t know, Micro misses sex.
- Now that Frank has avenged his dead family (twice), I really hope we get to see some proper punishing. I’m tired of military conspiracies now.
- So, the next date between those two amusement park employees should be interesting.
- I completely understand the desire to keep this show separate from the kung-fu Defenders silliness, but the lack of any references to that, S.H.I.E.L.D. or any of the movies is sure to bother long time MCU fans.
We’re done here. Now go re-watch that Infinity War trailer, why don’t ya?
Though in the meanwhile, I’m very curious to hear readers’ thoughts on where a season 2 would take us—sound off in the comments below.