Hello, and welcome back to my look at the first Marvel/Netflix spin-off, The Punisher, which continues the blood-soaked and bullet-riddled journey of the Jon Bernthal-played title character who was introduced back in DaredevilSeason 2. With this installment, it's time to go out guns blazing because we're tackling the season's final episodes: Episode 11: “Danger Close”; Episode 12: “Home”; and Episode 13: “Memento Mori.” I'll offer up my perspective as a comic book journalist and a longtime Marvel Comics fan on what I thought went right with the episodes and talk about what the end means for the series, its characters, and the future of The Punisher.
So let's begin, but be careful of any broken mirrors! The glass could cut you up something fierce!
At the end of my previous installment of this feature, I asked for two things from these final episodes of The Punisher—and much to my delight, I got both! Plus, there was some great acting and a few pretty poignant moments. Was it a flawless finish? No. Admittedly, there were a few things that bothered me, but I'd say it was pretty damn close.
Let's start with the return of the Punisher's chest emblem. I definitely think they waited too long to bring it back, but when Frank finally stepped out of the shadows with the iconic Punisher skull on his chest, it was so badass. I also enjoyed the fact that they made it practical by turning it into an armored vest. You see it stop a number of bullets that could have been aimed at Frank's head.
The other payoff moment I was longing for was the inevitable scarring of Billy Russo leading to his transformation into the villain known as Jigsaw. Ben Barnes was so good at being creepy and awful that I audibly cheered when Frank slid his face across the broken carousel mirror. In the comics, Russo's transformation into Jigsaw resulted from a head-first trip through a plate-glass window. Here, we get a much more violent and viscerally satisfying origin for Jigsaw—which felt especially deserved after seeing how badly Russo betrayed everyone who cared about him.
But it wasn't just the violence that moved me in these episodes. I was very pleased when the Lieberman family got back together. I was anxious about how that storyline was going to end because, in the comics, both Micro’s family and Micro meet tragic and untimely fates. But the most powerful bit in these final three episodes was seeing the fantastic friendship that developed between two damaged guys: Micro and Frank. Their journey as friends really gave the show the heart it needed. I even teared up in Episode 11 when Micro finds a tortured and bloodied Frank, starts to cry, and says, “My friend is dying.”
These episodes also further cemented the great friendship between Frank and Curtis—but that was evident from the beginning of the series. And to be honest, I'm still not sure how I feel about that final scene where Frank finally decides to speak at Curtis's group. The scene itself was done nicely and did help further illustrate some of the problems returning war veterans face, but it just didn't fit with my sense of who Frank is as a character.
To me, the Punisher is a character who should always be at war. He's like a shark; he can't stop moving. And in this series, Frank found something he was good at: getting justice for people who can't. So the happy ending with him trying to talk through his feelings just didn't work for me and felt unnecessary. We already got one happy ending with the Lieberman family back together.
The other slight problem I had with these episodes was the fact that they had Madani show up to Frank and Billy's final showdown only to get shot in the head. She had been through so much, and I think she deserved the chance to kick a little ass and get a little payback from Russo. To have Russo shoot her in the head feels like she was kind of casually dismissed from the end showdown. I would have rather she not shown up at all than just be shot down.
Madani, of course, lives, but it's not clear if we'll see her again. However, it is clear that this won't be the last we see of Jon Bernthal's Punisher. Sure they may have intimated that Frank is in a much better headspace in the first season’s final episode, but I’m eager to see what they do with the character in the second season of The Punisher, which has just been announced. Though, I hope the Punisher shows up again before his own second season. There's a much more natural and organic fit for his return: the third season of Daredevil.
It seems pretty clear that Wilson Fisk is going to be the big bad of Daredevil Season 3, which means Karen Page is going to be in his crosshairs at some point. Since this season of The Punisher firmly established that Frank isn't going to let anyone harm Karen, wouldn't it be great if that brought Frank Castle off the bench and back into his war on crime fulltime? If that's the case, I really hope they keep Bernthal's appearance in the show under wraps at all costs because it would make for a heck of a reveal in an episode.
It might be nice to see Micro in future Punisher episodes, but I'm not sure I want to see him back assisting Frank fulltime and endangering his family. It's an unnecessary risk because the Punisher has a few computer hackers who assist him in the comics. The most interesting one to bring into the series would have to be the adolescent computer-genius son of Billy Russo, Henry.
Introduced in 2009 by writer Rick Remender and artist Jerome Opena, Henry was a computer hacker who rebelled against his dad by aiding his archenemy. It would make sense that Barnes’s philandering MCU version of Russo might have fathered an illegitimate child, and giving Russo a kid would add some new facets to the character and his rivalry with Frank.
That's just one of many possible things to do in future seasons of the Punisher. I personally can't wait to see the character again because this first season was pretty amazing. I'd rank it right up with the first season of Jessica Jones, which is my favorite of the Marvel Netflix shows so far.
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