The second last episode of Netflix’s The Punisher was one of the most action-packed and by far the most emotional yet. And it begins with Frank Castle at Homeland Security, of all places.
Episode 11, ‘Danger Close’, ended with Frank, David, Leo, and Dinah all together, determined to get the Lieberman family back together and take down the men responsible for not only that, but so much more. And it’s clear they’ve wasted no time in getting down to business. Dinah is filming Frank’s statement where he comes clean about everything. Kandahar, Operation Cerberus, and the death of Ahmad Zubair. In an earlier recap, I speculated that the man who actually shot Zubair was none other than Frank Castle, and it turns out that’s true. In fact, it’s something that Frank has wrestled with all these years since. And when Dinah finds out that it was him, not Russo, that killed her partner, she can’t help but feel betrayed.
As for David? He’s willing to cooperate, but only after they save his family. After all, he already gave her the video of Ahmad’s torture once, she was the one who lost it. He’ll give her everything she wants as soon as Sarah and Zach are safe, but not a minute sooner. Luckily, they have a plan.
Frank and David are waiting at the docks for Billy and his men to show up for an exchange. David and Frank will go with Billy, and in return, Sarah and Zach will be set free. David is visibly nervous but Frank just keeps telling him to stick to the plan. If they do everything exactly as they discussed, everyone will get out of this alive and well. But when the van arrives and Sarah and Zach are pushed forward, David has to hold himself back. His wife and son look at him in awe, unsure if they’re hallucinating or not. But the truly painful part comes next.
David, Frank, Sarah, and Zach all walk towards each other. And as David passes his wife and son, he briefly touches Sarah’s arm and tells her it’s going to be okay, that she just needs to keep walking. They look back at David but he just keeps looking forward. Eyes on the prize, as it were. We can see Billy from afar with a sniper rifle, smiling with that smug look on his face. That is, until Homeland comes blasting through the scene.
Dinah and her team race out of the cars and start shooting at Russo’s men. She covers Sarah and Zach and gets them safely behind one of the SUVs. Meanwhile, before Frank can do too much damage, Russo’s men knock him out and drag him into the back of the van. They try to do the same with David while Homeland keeps firing, but three of the bullets miss their mark, and instead of hitting Russo’s men, they hit David.
Sarah screams but still tries to protect her son, shielding him from the sight. Moments after they found out her husband, his father was still alive, and he’s shot down in front of them. The pain is unimaginable. And it feels too shocking, too cruel to be true.
And it is.
If you hoped that this was all part of the plan, you weren’t being delusional. It was the only way to guarantee that Billy wouldn’t get his hands on David – he’s no use to them dead. So, with a couple of handy special effects, they made it look real enough to convince everyone. As soon as they got Sarah and Zach out of there, they told them the truth. But it isn’t until they see him again with their own eyes that they truly believe it.
When David walks in the room, Sarah can’t stop smiling and crying. But then she starts hitting David over and over again in the chest, confused and angry. But she’s relived too, and as he wraps his arms around her, she calms down. Leo and Zach run over and join them, and finally, after a year of torment, the Lieberman family is back together. It’s an emotional, joyous moment, but David isn’t completely able to relish in it. Because the truth is, Frank has become more than just an ally. He’s a friend. And he allowed himself to get captured just for the chance to kill Russo and Rawlins, even though it’ll probably mean his own death as well. What David says to Madani sums it up heartbreakingly well.
“Frank is resigned to die because he’s not sure that he deserves to live.”
Dinah is angry at Frank, but she’s willing to help him if only she knew where he was being held. But the only person in that office who knows is David, and he made a promise to Frank that he’d give him time. He’d give him a chance to kill the men who took his family away from him. And he has to honor that.
Frank is being held at David’s hideout, where the computers are still rigged to a countdown. We found out earlier in the episode that the countdown simply acts as bait. The trick worked on Frank, and it’s working on Russo too. But with David out of the picture, they’re relying on Frank to give them the answers, and they’ll do anything possible to get them.
They seem to playing good cop, bad cop. But honestly, it doesn’t seem like an act. Billy promises Frank that once he has the information, he’ll give him an easy death. Quick and painless. But when he refuses to give anything up, Rawlins takes over. And he’s absolutely crazed, beating him to a pulp. At first, Frank just laughs at him while spitting out blood. But Rawlins hits harder and harder until Frank is barely conscious.
This leads to one of the saddest, most beautiful sequences of the season. When Frank is slipping out of consciousness, he sees Maria. They’re dancing together on their wedding day. Then they’re making love. And then they’re just in bed, talking. She wants him to come home, she wants him to finally be with her again. But every time he’s about to slip away with her, Rawlins or Russo snaps him back into reality, into life.
Eventually, after the blood literally won’t stop pouring out of Frank’s mouth, Billy tells him that this can all be over. He cleans him up while trying to convince him to see sense, and Frank actually agrees, sounding completely broken. He tells him he just wants it to be over. But it has to be Billy who does it, and it has to be quick. Billy promises, and I think he actually means it. Billy never wanted Frank to suffer, that was always Rawlins.
Frank tells them that there’s a code that needs to be entered and then a retina scan, and it will cancel the countdown. So they carry him over and, just like Frank did for David long ago, Billy cuts the restraints off of one of Frank’s hands. He types in the code and completes the retina scan, and true to his word, the countdown stops. But what Russo and Rawlins don’t know is that it also turned on all the cameras in the hideout, filming everything that happens from here on out. And yes, David can access it all. And yes, he shows Madani.
Rawlins is laughing at Frank, telling him he expected a lot more from him. What he wasn’t expecting was for Frank to pull a knife from under the chair and stab him with it. Frank then tackles him to the floor, biting into his neck with all his might. Billy manages to pull them apart, but Rawlins is only more crazed now.
This isn’t about killing Frank Castle to protect the government. It’s never been about that. Billy was right from the start. Rawlins wanted to kill Frank because he made him feel like a man about to die. But Billy, surprisingly, is a man of his word. He promised Frank it would be him to do it, that it would be quick, so he tells Rawlins to stop. And when Rawlins doesn’t listen, even calling him a “stupid grunt”, Billy’s face sure does change. He steps behind Frank and holds a gun to his temple, and what’s interesting is that he’s not actually threatening Frank in that moment, he’s threatening Rawlins. Because with his other hand, he places wire cutters against Frank’s restraints and makes the slightest cut. He then backs away, letting Rawlins do whatever he needs to do.
While this is happening, Frank is drifting in and out of consciousness. He’s aware that Billy cut the restraints, but Maria is still there, holding his hand and calling to him, telling him that it’s time to come home. She starts to pull him with her, but he holds back. There are tears in his eyes as he squeezes her hand.
“I am home.”
He could’ve gone. He could have let go and ended it all right there, let himself die. But in that moment, despite how hard it is, he chooses to come back. He chooses to finish what he started. Frank Castle has always been a fighter, he can’t be anything else. And he’s going to fight for his life.
He breaks free of the restraints and headbutts Rawlins, knocking him to the ground. Rawlins stabs him in the gut with a knife, but Frank doesn’t even flinch. He just kicks him to the ground, rips the knife out of his abdomen and starts stabbing Rawlins over and over again in the throat and chest. He then starts pummeling him into the ground. The camera, which is currently looking up at Frank, shakes with every punch. And all the while, Billy watches, gun in hand, leaning against the rails with that satisfied, smug smile. When Frank looks to him, he gives a slight nod. Frank then delivers a gruesome eye-gauge to Rawlins, finishing him off. Rawlins is officially dead. And it was anything but quick.
Frank rolls over onto his back, coughing and sputtering. You can hear the blood in his lungs. Billy looks at him and smiles.
“Goddamn, Frankie. I love to watch you work.”
Frank’s barely holding on, but he manages to choke out a few words to his old friend. He can’t wait to see the look on his face when he realizes he’s lost it all, everything he’s ever worked for, everything he cares about. Billy shakes his head and chuckles…until the gunfire starts.
Homeland has arrived. Dinah and her team, accompanied by David, come bursting through the doors, and before Billy can kill Frank, he’s shot in the arm. He gets away, but he’s injured. Hopefully he’ll be easy to find.
David runs to Frank and holds him, trying to wake him up. He’s breathing, but only just. Dinah called an ambulance, but David refuses.
“No hospitals or cops. This man’s dying for your justice, why don’t you give him some?”
He looks back at Frank, continuing to shake him.
“Hey, Frank! Hey, I betrayed you. Okay? Listen to me, I betrayed you. I brought them here. I brought them here, okay? Call me a piece of shit, come on! Call me an asshole! Come on! Call me a son of a bitch! Come on!”
Frank doesn’t see Maria anymore. She’s gone. There’s only darkness. And then he wakes up, still sputtering, still on the edge, but he’s alive. He mumbles and mutters, looking more terrified than ever. And only one word is discernible, the last one he says.
This episode felt different from any other. There was this melancholy, this fear, that you couldn’t help but feel as if you were there. The scenes between Frank and Maria were haunting. And the entire dynamic between Frank and Billy was unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. There’s a hatred there, but there’s also caring. Billy didn’t have anything to do with the death of Frank’s family, but he did know it was going to happen. It’s disgusting and unforgivable, but at the end of the day, they were once brothers. There was love between them, even if there isn’t now. What I’m curious to see is exactly how this relationship will end. If Frank will get the chance to finish this once and for all. With only one episode to go, the answers will come soon.
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