There were many reasons why Billy Russo’s betrayal was so painful, but chief among them was his knowledge of the plan to assassinate Frank’s family. And this was only made worse in the season finale of The Punisher, ‘Memento Mori’, at the discovery that Billy was not only family to Frank, he was family to Maria and the kids, too.
Episode 13 shows Frank, Maria, and the kids at the carousel, and while they watch their daughter, Lisa, on the painted ponies, they talk about how soon enough she’ll be too old to do stuff like this. A voice from behind them shouts:
“Yo! Come get it while it’s hot!”
Frank and Maria turn around and we see Billy with their son, Frank Jr. They’re playfully pushing each other as they find a table to sit at. He jests with Frank Jr. that his father has no creativity when it comes to names, and when Frank, Maria, and Lisa join them, Frank Jr asks if they heard Uncle Billy.
“It’s impossible not to hear your Uncle Billy, bud. He talks very loud and very often.”
They all laugh while Billy tells the story of who he was named after, Billy the Kid. How they both were orphans, they both grew up in New York, and how no one could catch him. Frank Jr is hanging onto every word that Billy says, and it’s in this moment that we see it, more clearly than ever. Frank Jr admires his Uncle Bill. Billy really was part of the family. He was anything but an outsider looking in.
Curiously enough, the conversation turns to betrayal when Frank Jr asks what happened to Billy the Kid. And, as we know, he was betrayed for money and fame. Frank describes it as the worst thing that can happen to someone. And I have to say…Billy’s one good actor, because he doesn’t even flinch. And that’s what is most shocking about this scene. It’s adorable, lighthearted, something we want to see more of. But so much of it as an act. Maybe Billy really did care about those kids. But he didn’t care about them enough to stop their murder.
The flashback ends with Lisa pointing out that if Billy was an orphan, there was no way he could know if he was named after Billy the Kid. Billy looks at her and tells her she’s way too smart to be her dad’s kid. Maria gets up and kisses Bill on the cheek, telling him he’ll always be part of this family.
Frank runs through this memory over and over again in his mind, and I think he’s searching for some kind of sign. Some giveaway that Billy knew. But it wasn’t there. Billy Russo was so intriguing as a villain because you wanted to root for him. So, even when he showed his true colors, you couldn’t just hate him. You couldn’t just be angry. You were hurt, too. But now that Billy has been replaced with his alter-ego, things may be a little different next time around.
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