Just like Frank Castle himself, Season 1 of The Punisher has come and gone in the blink of an eye, and in its midst it has left a bunch of spoiler filled details that I couldn’t mention in my NON-SPOILER REVIEW. I will go through a few of them here so if you have not yet caught up with all 13 episodes of The Punisher do so and then don’t forget to come right back here.
Firstly I want to go into the action set-pieces a little more and highlight and expand on what I mentioned in my non-spoiler review, that each of these action scenes feels fresh and different in tone to the previous one. I mentioned the action sequence at the end of episode 3 which is a flashback to Castle’s mission in Afghanistan where he single handedly takes out an entire house of men but the camera is locked onto Castle the entire time. Much of the bloody violence is happening off screen but just seeing the expressions on Castle’s face as he carves through this place with ease makes for a mesmerising sequence. Then you have the action sequence in the woods in episode 5 which integrates the use of drone footage and body cam footage to make it feel very rough, and having Gunner Henderson join the fight with Frank brings a dynamic we don’t get in any other sequence. Episode 7 houses another unique action sequence in which Castle manages to survive an ambush from Billy Russo and his team in a room shrouded in smoke AND without killing a single person. It was odd seeing Castle have to navigate his way out of a dangerous situation without the help of his guns but he handles himself well nonetheless.
Lastly I want to highlight the big shootout that happens in episode 11 where Billy summons an army of his men to take down Frank, but unfortunately for them The Punisher emerged once again and he shredded every one of them. This sequence really was the season’s BIG violence filled shootout and it pays off fantastically. The choreography in this entire 8 minute sequence is brilliant and as Frank moves through the warehouse utilising a variety of weapons including a head grenade I could not take my eyes off the screen. The last two episodes also include two majorly brutal and intense sequences that are so good I will go into them separately.
The penultimate episode in every show should be the biggest episode of the season, bigger than the premier and bigger than the finale. This is where a series should house some of the most impressive or shocking content depending on the genre. With The Punisher, this penultimate episode is handled brilliantly with the subject of this episode being predominantly the brutal interrogation scene where Rawlins is beating every ounce of life out of Frank Castle and he’s taking every hit like a fucking machine. This entire sequence from the first time Rawlins’ fist meets Frank’s face to the moment Rawlins cops the Oberyn Martell treatment is quite possibly the most brutal sequence I have ever seen in a TV show, and definitely in a Marvel show. This sequence has you feeling a whole range of emotions as you see Castle turned into a bloody mess, we see what is essentially his wife calling him home as he nears death, and then we get some satisfaction in the end as with the help of Billy, Frank breaks free and puts an end to Rawlins’ corruption in the bloodiest way possible.
Moving into the last episode I was wondering what was going to happen that would be able to fill the 50 minute runtime, sure Billy has gotten away but Billy vs Frank can’t sustain an entire episode can it? Well, it can. This finale is a great culmination of everything regarding the feud between Frank and Billy that has been boiling up to this point rapidly in the latter half of the season. The first major confrontation of the episode occurs in Curtis’ apartment where Billy thinks he has the upper hand on his old friend and tries to extract information about Frank’s whereabouts. But then it all turns to shit for Billy when he almost gets his head blown off by Castle who was waiting for Curtis to get him in the line of fire. This was a cool scene as it’s essentially a standoff with Curtis at the bottom, Billy in the middle, and Frank pretty much on top, and seeing these three former friends in this predicament, knowing what we know from the rest of the season made for a pretty tense moment. Then we go to the carousel where we finally get the Frank and Billy showdown which is satisfying as fuck. I didn’t think Frank was going to die but they did not make it easy for him and he only just comes out on top. When Frank was grinding Billy’s face against the sheet of broken glass, essentially giving birth to Jigsaw, it was one of the most brutally satisfying things I’d ever seen.
Next up I want to mention Lewis Walcott and his story arc throughout the season which on its own I think is great, it deals with PTSD and how it breaks this guy down to the point of becoming a terrorist, but in the context of the entire show and tying it into the main story it was only there to deliver one or two obstacles for Frank. I really did enjoy following this character throughout the early parts of the season, he has some good interactions with Curtis and a compelling relationship with his father which offers some damn well executed emotional moments. But the way his story all plays out doesn’t really connect to Frank’s journey in the way I thought it would. So Lewis goes down this path which results in him taking action against those trying to change the gun laws in the form of homemade bombs. His journey has him crossing paths with Frank twice, once when Frank arrives to save Curtis from being killed (which results in the world finding out Frank is alive), and once when Frank arrives to stop Karen Page from being killed. These two instances do feel more like coincidences as Lewis wasn’t really planning on confronting the Punisher in these moments as he just shows up suddenly. So the integration of this side plot wasn’t fantastic but Daniel Webber plays the role fantastically. It’s very obvious someone saw 11.22.63 (2016) and cast Webber in this role because he essentially plays the same character in that show where he portrays Lee Harvey Oswald.
In what is a surprise to no-one who saw Daredevil Season 2, Karen Page has a limited but integral role in this season as she is able to highlight a side of Frank that still cares, and proves he isn’t entirely a killing machine. Her presence here is great and Deborah Ann Woll plays the role incredibly well, she has built this character up over the years to be a strong female protagonist and you really feel she can handle her own in some situations. We get to see that in this series where (with a bit of guidance from Frank) she is able to break free from Lewis’ grasp, disable the bomb detonator, and ultimately save herself and Frank. Her relationship with Frank is a definite high point of the series, it’s true that she doesn’t always agree with Frank’s methods of dealing with things but they still share a special bond that I don’t see being broken anytime soon.
Dinah Madani and her newly appointed partner Sam Stein have their own very interesting arc throughout the season that sees them crossing paths with Frank Castle and also Billy Russo in some great sequences. The investigative side of some tv series’ can easily be the most uneventful but Madani definitely isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty as she goes after Castle and later Billy even if it’s not the safest approach. Madani grew into a very strong female character who going forward looks as though she may be Frank’s saving grace in the department. Yes he is still a wanted man and yes Madani has stated she will bring him in if she crosses paths with him but I can see her cutting him some slack and maybe helping him out on occasion…… in lesser of two evils scenarios. Sam Stein is a character who I thought I wasn’t really going to care much for as he comes into the series early on cracking jokes, and it looked like he was going to be the wiseass of the season. And he kinda was, but he also said some pretty intelligent stuff here and there and did one semi-heroic thing that got him brutally killed by none other than Billy Russo. In that moment I realised that I was going to miss his input and seeing his dynamic with Madani in the series. And it was clear from Madani’s reaction that over time she came around to having Stein on her team and they formed a bond that was great while it lasted.
Speaking of Billy Russo lets look at how this season of The Punisher approached having a villain as it was done in a way that is unlike any of the other shows. In Daredevil you had Wilson Fisk, Jessica Jones had Kilgrave, Luke Cage had Cottonmouth/Diamonback, all of these series had a clear cut villain from the outset, someone who had an arc and we followed throughout the season. Here however for the first six episodes of the season we don’t really follow a villain’s story arc (that we know of), the villain is more of an organisation and yes Rawlins is at the helm of that whole thing but we don’t really focus on him in a way that gives us insight to him as a character. This approach is great because it leaves more time for developing the rest of the characters and establishing relationships that would otherwise be not featured as much if a villain was part of the focus. There are scenes focusing on Billy early on and you could easily suspect he was going to turn out to be the main villain, but the scenes he was in were establishing his relationship with Frank, with Curtis, with Madani, and getting to know him as a person before a villain. Then we have the big reveal in at the end of episode 6 where it turns out Billy has been working with Rawlins the whole time and it works because they already established Billy before being ‘the villain’.
And then when Billy is revealed to be going down the route of being Jigsaw he is a well executed villain. This is due to being introduced to him as a friend of Frank and the on and off partner of Madani, and then finding out he’s actually fucking them both over just makes you love to hate him. He is a very despicable person and that is hammered home with each passing scene of his and amplified when he kills Stein with his hidden blade. Actually lets talk about that hidden blade for a second…. are they trying to establish that this is in the same universe as Assassin’s Creed, and that Billy is actually a Templar?… OR are they trying to connect Billy aka Jigsaw to Jigsaw from the Saw franchise where he too uses a hidden blade as his weapon of choice in the first film. What’s that? None of the above? Oh well, it’s all wishful thinking.
David Lieberman aka Micro plays a major role in the series as Frank’s sidekick of sorts and right from the get-go he is an entertaining character with an intriguing backstory and watching his relationship with Frank develop over time makes for a number of great emotional but also humorous sequences. Lieberman becomes an integral part of Frank’s squad very quickly and it’s clear Frank wouldn’t have been able to accomplish half of what he did this season without Lieberman’s help. All of the stuff with Frank visiting Lieberman’s family to mess with him started off as a really funny back and forth game between the two of them but actually became pretty meaningful once you understood the situation he’s in and Frank started to bond with the kids….. and the wife. And when we get to the end of the season and we think we are about to get the big family reunion with David and his family the writers try to pull on those heart strings by momentarily killing David. That scene broke me, we’d gotten so attached to David over the season and Ebon Moss-Bachrach’s performance was so fantastic that seeing him go so close to meeting his family again was crushing. But then they delivered in the end and gave us the reunion we had been waiting for and it was a great moment to see him get his life back and now his son can stop being a little shit.
So last but not least I just want to highlight the hilarious cameo that Turk made early in the season still up to his corrupt behaviour despite being caught a number of times. I would absolutely love it if Turk appears just once in every season of every Marvel Netflix show getting caught doing corrupt shit and then being knocked out, that is my dream for the universe going forward. And that’s all the spoiler filled moments I wanted to get out without going on for too long, so now we wait for the next season of the next Marvel show in 2018.