“The Punisher” Season 1 Finale Recap: Memento Mori

Before we begin, I’d like to say one thing. This finale was nothing short of a masterpiece. Shocking, heartbreaking, and joyous all at once, Season 1 of The Punisher ended on a high note, and I’d be extremely disappointed and surprised if it doesn’t get renewed for a second season.

The final and thirteenth episode of the season, titled ‘Memento Mori’ (remember death/remember you will die), begins with Dinah and David carrying Frank, bloodied and battered beyond belief, from the scene of the crime. They need to take him to someone who can heal his injuries, someone they trust. And so, against all odds, it’s Dinah that offers her family’s apartment. Her father is a Doctor. And though her mother strongly advises against it, recognizing who it is that they just dragged into their home, her father doesn’t even hesitate in helping. Frank’s dying, and if he can save him, he will.

It’s touch and go at first, but they brought him in just in time. And though he feels as terrible as he looks, Frank wakes up. He’s going to be okay. As a thank you for everything he’s done, David’s gotten him enough cash to get him out of New York and start his life over again. And Dinah suggests he takes it. She helped him escape and get back on his feet, but after he leaves the apartment, it’s over. If she sees him, she will take him in or shoot him down. Frank hears her loud and clear, but he has business in the city to take care of first. Billy Russo’s still out there, and his reckoning has come.

Billy Russo Blows Up Anvil The Punisher
Credit: Netflix

Speaking of Russo, he went back to Anvil headquarters to fix himself up (meaning pull the bullet out of his arm). He grabs a few weapons and a lot of cash, but before he leaves, he hears footsteps. Agents have come for him, but he takes them out with ease. He makes is way through the building, killing every officer he sees without hesitation and once he leaves the building, he sets off an explosion, destroying all evidence. I gotta admit, he may be a terrible human being, but he’s a total bad-ass.

Leaving Anvil in his past, the next stop he makes is Curtis’ apartment. And let’s just say the conversation is less than friendly. You see, Billy feels he’s been betrayed by both Curtis and Frank. They lied to him about Frank being dead. And while it’s more than a little ironic that Billy Russo is feeling betrayed, it’s also kind of fair. But compared to what he did to Frank, it really isn’t.

But though they’re enemies now, they weren’t always. And that bond still remains to some extent. Billy knows Frank, and so it’s only when Curtis holds out the cup of coffee, but doesn’t hand it to him (making Billy come to him) that he realizes Frank is watching. He drops the coffee cup and dives to the ground. As the mug shatters on the floor, Billy pulls out his gun and shoots Curtis in the shoulder, and he’s bleeding badly.

Billy, now hiding under the window, pulls out his knife and raises it just slightly above himself. The shot comes in the blink of an eye, hitting its target exactly. Billy sighs exasperatedly. This was not how he expected this to go.

Frank Castle The Punisher Finale.jpg
Credit: Netflix

But Frank isn’t intent on ending things right now. No, I think this was just a way to get to Billy. And when he calls Billy, he promises that he’ll let him walk out of the building. They can finish this anyway Billy wants, at any time and place, he just wants this over. So Billy chooses the park, right by the carousel his family used to visit. The place he lost his family forever. It’s cruel, even for Russo, but Frank agrees. Billy walks away and hands Curtis the phone, telling him to call an ambulance. Curtis was never Billy’s target, just a means to an end.

Before the showdown at midnight takes place, we meet up with David and the whole Lieberman family. They’re currently residing in a safe house, and there’s some very palpable tension between David and Sarah. He knows there’s going to be an adjustment period, but they just need to give it time. Things will be okay again. But he doesn’t blame Sarah for feeling hesitant. She thought her husband was dead, after all, and it turns out he’s alive and working with a man everyone is calling a psychopathic terrorist, but he actually was a friend to her and her kids and saved their lives. It’s a lot to go through, especially in only a few days. But despite the confusion, elation doesn’t even begin to describe how she feels now that David’s back. While the kids are playing cards, she pulls David into the bathroom claiming to need to have a serious talk. Instead? They have sex! And it’s actually really sweet because there’s so much intimacy there, it really feels like they’re picking up where they left off. The tension, as it turns out, may have just been sexual! Who knew?

Meanwhile, at Homeland, Dinah isn’t exactly being praised for losing Frank Castle. But Agent Madani is more than capable of taking care of herself and has no objection to politely threatening the Deputy Director, especially when Marion suggests that Dinah helped Frank escape (even though she did).

Agent Dinah Madani
Credit: Netflix

“Did I? We all need to be wary of accusations without proof. Like, say, someone accusing a decorated CIA official of running an illegal heroin operation and assassination program. Or that government departments colluded to keep it quiet.”

Dinah tells them that they’re more than welcome to arrest her, or they can let her do her job. Besides, having Castle and Russo locked up and sharing their story would only be bad for them. And though they hate to admit it, she’s right. So they let her go, tell her to write up the file for the operation and nothing else. But when Dinah receives an alert that tells her Frank is at the park where his family died…well, she can guess what’s about to happen. And so, directly disobeying orders, she leaves and goes after him.

As cruel as choosing this place was, it was extremely strategic on Billy’s part. He knows exactly what kind of flashbacks will haunt Frank here. He knows it will give him the upper hand, and it’s worse than we ever thought. You see, Frank and Billy weren’t just friends, they weren’t just brothers. Billy knew Maria. He knew the kids. Frank’s son and daughter called him Uncle Billy and everything, and yet he still let the assassination go ahead. Frank can’t get these images, along with memories of their death, out of his head.

As soon as Frank gets close, Billy turns on the lights and gets the carousel going. Frank sees that two teenagers, employees of the park, are tied to two of the ponies, gagged and bleeding. Billy calls Frank just to tell him that they will die, and Frank will have the deaths of two more kids on his conscience. Frank comes charging in, and the shootout begins.

Frank gets hit in the thigh before he makes it onto the carousel, but he quickly ties it off. He’s limping, but let’s be honest, he’s more than used to taking a couple bullets. The flashbacks get a lot worse for Frank when he hits the carousel, but he’s able to calm himself down and focus, and he doesn’t miss his shot. As soon as he gets clear sight of Billy, he shoots, hitting him square in the cheek. Billy screams in agony. This is the first time his face has ever gotten marked up, but it won’t be the last.

Billy Russo vs Frank Castle.jpg
Credit: Netflix

To be completely honest, I don’t think Billy’s just screaming in pain. He’s screaming in anger. To be fair, he is gorgeous, so I understand why getting shot in the face would piss him off. Also…just getting shot in the face in general doesn’t seem great? He lets his anger fuel him by threatening the kids. If Frank doesn’t step out where he can see him, he’ll kill them both. And Frank, true to character, does as Billy asks.

Once he tosses away his gun as well as his knife, Billy starts shooting. But slowly. He wants to relish this. Most of the bullets hit the vest, enough to cause some pain and knock Frank down, but keep him fully aware and listening to him. He tells Frank that he never had anyone, he never had a family. He never belonged. But Frank tells him that’s not true, Billy always had a place with them. And that only makes him angrier. He’s about to deliver the final shot when he looks behind him only to see Dinah standing there, gun raised. But he shoots first, hitting her right in the head. And that’s all that Frank needs. The anger is clear in his battle cry as he tackles Billy to the ground. And honestly, I’ve never seen such an intense battle as this one.

Frank knocks the gun out of Billy’s hand, and I have never seen someone able to take on The Punisher in hand to hand combat like this. Oh, Billy gets hit. A lot. But so does Frank. And Billy just keeps getting up. It’s incredible to watch because you have these two strong, incredibly powerful soldiers who keep going no matter their injuries. Just when you think they’re down for the count, they get back up and they come up swinging. It’s so beautifully choreographed, you can’t look away, even at its most gory moments.

Billy starts to gain the upper hand as soon as he pulls his knife, slicing Frank over and over again and eventually slamming him into the mirror. But that was his fatal mistake. Frank grabs one of the shards and jabs it into Billy’s gut. And this is where it gets really gruesome.

Frank Castle v Billy Russo The Punisher
Credit: Netflix

To Billy’s credit, he rips the shard out and keeps trying to stab Frank, but he’s too slow at this point. Frank easily knocks him into the mirror, cracking it just enough. He then grabs Billy’s head, presses his cheek against the cracked mirror, and slides him all the way down to the bottom. Billy’s howling in pain the entire time, and you can literally hear the shards tearing into his skin and shredding it to bits. It’s horrific, gory, and…yeah, a little satisfying. We get a look at his face afterwards…and, well…it’s really not pretty.

This was one of many reasons that Ben Barnes was the perfect casting choice. Not only is his acting phenomenal, but you’re literally talking about someone with model-quality looks. To go from looking like that and be able to get so many places with just a smile and some charm, to this…it’s unthinkable for Billy Russo. So much so that he begs Frank to kill him once he gets a look at himself. But Frank refuses. Death is easy. It’s living everyday knowing what you lost, that’s what’s hard. And that’s what he does. Every day he wakes up and he sees his kids like they’re still there. And now Billy will have the same reminder every time he looks in a mirror.

He slams his face into the mirror a couple more times, making it even more mangled, before leaving him be. He’s unconscious, but alive. Barely. He cuts the kids loose and goes to Dinah who, against all odds, is still alive. He holds her head, applying pressure to the wound while the kids sit next to him, thanking him for saving them. We hear sirens getting louder and louder. And then we jump to three days later.

Dinah is alive. This woman is a bad-ass if I ever saw one. She took a bullet to the head and survived. A moment of appreciation for Dinah Madani. She’s visited by Marion and Rafi, who bring Frank in to see her as well. He’s happy to see her alive, but what happens next is incredibly unexpected. On Dinah’s insistence, and for his silence, they’re giving Frank a pass. They’ve wiped his prints from the system and given him a new identity. Frank, now officially going as Pete, has his freedom. And it’s all thanks to Dinah.

Ben Barnes Jigsaw
Credit: Netflix

As for Billy? They had him under the knife for eleven hours, but he made it. He’s alive, but there’s no telling what level of brain function he has. If he’ll remember everything or nothing at all. And this was the perfect introduction to Billy Russo’s alter-ego, Jigsaw. And yes, Jigsaw, like many comic villains, is deranged. And after taking a look at his face, there’s no wonder where he got his name from. If The Punisher is renewed for Season 2, Jigsaw will definitely be one of the main threats.

David and Frank are still somewhat in contact, though Frank’s keeping a distance from his family, for now, at least. It’s for their own safety. He was able to reunite the Lieberman family, that’s what matters. And as for Frank? He goes to his oldest friend, Curtis, and has officially joined his support group. It’s come perfectly full-circle. And he’s admitting that he doesn’t know what to do now.

Frank Castle Three Days Later
Credit: Netflix

“If you’re gonna look at yourself, really look in the mirror, you gotta…you gotta admit who you are. But not just to yourself, you gotta admit it to everybody else. First time, as long as I can remember, I don’t have a war to fight. And I guess, if I’m gonna be honest, I just…I’m scared.”

Fade to credits.

This finale tied together the season so perfectly, in so many ways. Frank’s admittance of fear is not only brave, it shows how far he’s come. In the first episode, he refused to show any emotion but anger. And now, he has a chance at a new life. It won’t be easy, but it’s possible. Of course with Jigsaw on the rise, there’s no question that Frank will have a new war to fight soon enough.

As always, feel free to geek out (or cry) with me in the comments. For more news on The Punisher and all episode recaps, visit our official Punisher Page here! Stay tuned for a season review and more, coming soon.

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