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TV Review: Marvel's The Punisher, Season 1, Episode 12 "Home"

THE PUNISHER, Season 1, Episode 12 "Home"

RECAP/REVIEW:

Last episode saw a lot of things finally came to a head, leading us to a finale that will hopefully leave us both satisfied and hungry for more. Frank FINALLY put on the skull and killed some bad guys in true-to-form Punisher style, while Micro's wife and son were captured by Russo and Rawlins to use as leverage to snag Castle. Castle agreed to a "meet" for an exchange, but he also stacked the deck a bit by calling Madani and agreeing to help her (to help him to that end) and move forward with cleaning house with the Cerberus crew.

Episode 12 opens with Frank being interrogated by Madani, going over the events in Kandahar that she so desperately is seeking to uncover (we never quite get WHY she's so obsessed with this case; it's just an obsession we're supposed to buy, I guess). Frank names all the people he needs to on tape, including Rawlins and Russo, which pretty much buries him. Micro, meanwhile, who reunited with his daughter last episode, faces the music with her tough questions as to why he disappeared and how they had all been dealing with his "death". Micro says he's going to make it all okay. He sits down in front of the camera for Madani and lets her know right off the bat that he's not going to just give her everything she wants without a guarantee that he gets his wife and daughter back. Only then will he answer questions. He assures Madani that he wants the same things she does. She makes the mistake of asking what that is.

He explains how she wants evidence of what happened (the video that he already sent her, which she lost) and justice for it. "'Cause you haven't figured out that there is no such thing yet." Madani probes. "You don't believe in justice?" Micro says he did and that she was it (the system), but he's learned different. "Well, I believe the only way to get these assholes is to become like them." Back to Frank and Madani is asking about Zubair and what happened and how it all happened. Frank explains to her that they were basically a kill squad. She asks if Russo was the one who killed Zubair. Frank is quick to answer. "No, he did not. I did." Madani is stunned. "Like I said," says Frank, "it damned us all." 

We then cut to, guess where, the docks (always the docks!) where Frank and Micro are standing by, obviously waiting for the whole drop exchange with Russo to get Micro's family back. "I'm not gonna let anything happen to your wife and son," Frank says. Micro tells him that what he's doing for his family is not something he'll forget. A red van then pulls up and stops, pulling our Sarah and Zach, revealing them to Micro and Frank. They're unharmed, but have gas cans tied to their backs. Ruh-roh! Zach sees Micro. "Mom, it's dad!" and just to let them know they're serious, they poke holes in the gas cans and light a flare. Russo then calls Frank to walk them through the next steps. He tells them to start walking and they do. Sarah and Zach are in shock to see their dad, alive and walking toward them. Frank keeps reminding Micro to keep it together and stick to the plan. Sarah grabs at Micro as he passes and he tells her to keep walking.

Just as they pass, Madani and her crew roll up, firing and taking on the bad guys. All hell breaks loose. One of them lights the trail of gasoline, but Micro takes off his jacket and stomps it out. Frank is quickly knocked out and taken. Madani snags Sarah and Zach and gets them to safety. Russo, meanwhile is in an overwatch with a sniper rifle, telling his guys that he needs both Frank and Micro. As they grab Micro and start to pull him away, Madani's people end up shooting him and he falls to the ground, apparently dead. Russo, pissed, shoots out the tires of Madani's vehicles to make a clean exit.

Cut to black and we then open on Frank in a darkened room, in his Marine dress blues and having a little dance with his dead wife, Maria. It's obviously a dream sequence and Frank is awakened from it quickly. He's strapped to a chair back at the old hideout, Russo in front of him. "Welcome back," he says. "Nice place you got here." Frank smiles. "Looks better since I redecorated with your guys." Russo is unaffected. He wants information from Frank. Frank has nothing for him. "What do you think, Bill? You think I wanted you and Rawlins under arrest? Locked up? Nah. No way. I'm gonna kill you, Bill. I'm gonna watch you die." Russo laughs. "You are a trip, you know that?" Russo gets in his face. "You don't get to win, Frank. It's over. You've got one choice left and that's how to die and that's all I can give you, man." Russo wants to get in the computers. Frank tells him to ask Micro, but Russo tells him Micro is dead, saying it was Homeland that got him and that it was unavoidable. Frank asks if his wife and kids deaths were unavoidable, too.

"Did you pull the trigger on my wife? On my son? On my baby girl?" Russo stews on this, then sits down in front of him. "No," he says. He had nothing to do with it. "But you knew about it, didn't you Bill?" Russo doesn't even try to deny it. "Yeah, I knew." Frank tears up, angry and hurt. "She loved you," he says. Russo gets in his face again. "Look at me, Frank. I did not want this." Well, I'm afraid you got it now, ol' Billy. Something tells me that admitting you knew about Castle's family being killed proooobably isn't gonna win you any favor with the man. "I'm gonna kill you," Frank reiterates. Russo reiterates that all Frank gets to do now is decide how he dies. Frank is unmoved. "Shut up, Bill. Worse things than dying, Bill. I wake up most mornings and I want it, I hope for it. You don't know shit about that, but you will. You will." Castle then tells Russo to go ahead and shoot him, but he knows he can't, as he still needs to get in the computers, which are currently running the countdown.

Back at Homeland, we see a man emerge from a body bag. It's Micro! "Was the body bag really necessary?" he asks, sitting up and getting out. He's amped up and tells Madani he needs to see his family. Sarah comes at him fast, hysterical, hitting him and repeating "We saw you die!" Micro lets her do her thing for a bit before calming her down. The kids quickly move in and it's a group family hug, a year in the making. Back at the hideout, Frank and Russo do the tough guy back-and-forth. Russo wants the passwords, but Frank isn't budging. Just then, Rawlins walks in, promising that things will get worse. He walks up, putting on his rubber gloves that we saw him wear in the Zubair video. "You gonna do somethin' with those?" Rawlins smiles, before pounding into Frank, bloodying him up real good. "You hit like a bitch, Rawlins!" Frank takes every hit and just looks back for more. He's giving Rawlins no satisfaction. Making him work. Meanwhile, Frank retreats into a sex fantasy with Maria, while taking the punishment. Interesting tactic. I'll have to try that next time I'm kidnaped and tortured.

Back at Homeland, Micro is trying to explain to Sarah why he faked his own death for a year and just what the hell is going on now. She seems to understand and then asks about Frank (damn, girl, got your "dead" husband back and you're already asking about your side man?). She's concerned about what will happen to him by the men that took him. Micro says he doesn't know, but Frank may kill them first. "I hope he does it. Those men, they deserve to go to Hell and I hope he sends them there." Madani bursts in and says that he's most likely being tortured and there isn't anything they can really do about it since they don't know where he is as his tracker "fell off" when he got taken. She's pissed. Micro assures her that she's got all she wants and that he's going to honor Frank's wishes. "Frank is resigned to die because he's not sure he deserves to live."

Back at the hideout, Frank is a pile of blood, but still conscious. Billy sits next to him, wiping the blood off, much like he was with Madani before. Russo is playing with his mind. "There's nobody left. They're dead. They're all dead because of you," he says. "It's time to put it down. You're a revenant, walking around completely unaware that you're already dead." Russo keeps pressing. Frank, meanwhile keeps changing back to the porno channel of him and Maria. Suddenly, he comes to, though. "Bill. I'm ready Bill. It's gotta be you. It's gotta be clean," he says to Russo. Russo says he promises it will be. Frank puts on his best pathetic act. He tells them that there's a retinal scan and right hand scan. Russo wheels him over to the computer, cuts his right arm free. "Just so you know, we found the gun you had under there." Frank doesn't care. He types in the code and does the scan. We see the camera mounted on the wall go live. "That's it. It's done," Frank says, as his hand reaches under the chair and grabs a hidden knife. Rawlins walks up, smug as hell. "You know, I'm actually a little disappointed in you, Castle.." Aaaand, a knife to the chest and a bite to the neck later and Russo is bashing Frank in the head to stop him, while Rawlins kicks him back into dreamland.

We then jump into Frank's dream with Maria. She's waking him up and it's like he's reliving a morning back from war. "This is the hardest part," Maria says. "You're back, but you're not really here. More and more of you stays there. Where's home, Frank? Is it here or is it there? I wanna hear you say it." Frank says it's here, but Maria isn't convinced. "I don't know that." They talk about going to the park later and then Frank tells her that he's not going back and that he wants to stay home. They kiss and then we drift back to reality as Russo's hacker is erasing Micro's files while Rawlins beats on Frank in the other room. "You're nothing but a grunt," Rawlins says. "You do not get to take me down. You are gonna beg to me." Russo steps in, telling Rawlins that's enough and that he'll be the one to put Frank down. Rawlins ain't havin' it. "No, he's taken things from me. For that he does not die easy." Rawlins doesn't care about his promise to Castle. 

Back at Homeland, Micro breaks protocol and decides to tell Madani how to find Frank. He gets on her computer and starts tapping away, eventually opening up the live camera feed at the hideout. They see Rawlins and Russo torturing Frank. Micro begs for her to go and get him before it gets worse. Meanwhile, Rawlins continues to hammer into Frank. Finally, Russo pulls him off and shoves him away. He tells Rawlins that he would've been clean out of Afghanistan if he hadn't pulled him back in. Rawlins calls his bullshit. "Who killed Homeland agents? Not me," he says, before telling Russo that he's just a "stupid grunt" like Castle. Oops. Probably not a good idea to do that. Russo pulls his pistol and gets behind Frank, putting it to his head. Rawlins draws his own and tells Russo to step away. He does, but not before clipping Frank's restraints. Aw, shit.

Frank then starts toggling between reality and his dreams. Maria appears to him. "It's time, Frank," she says. "You have to choose." Frank is bloody and beaten. "Don't make me do that," he says. She reaches out. "Come home, Frank." Rawlins then walks up with an adrenaline shot (is he stupid?) and Frank is suddenly very alert and awake. Rawlins approaches with a blade. "It was always gonna come down to you and me, Frank. Time for quid pro quo." Back in the dream state, Maria persists for him to "come home". She reaches out her hand and Frank takes it. She smiles, but Frank hesitates. Rawlins moves in to cut Frank's eye. "You're a dead man," he says, "your heart just doesn't know it yet." Frank breaks the straps and in his dream his hand breaks free of Maria. "I am home," he says, finally revealing the truth about who he is. The Punisher.

Rawlins reels back to stab Frank's eye. Frank blocks and knocks him back, standing up, now free. Rawlins stabs him in the side, but Frank is undeterred. He choke slams Rawlins and gets on top of him, stabbing him repeatedly and violently before punching the shit out of him. Then, to finish it all off, he reaches up and gouges Rawlins eyes out. Punishment indeed, Mr. Castle. Well done. This has to be the most violent death of any Marvel Netflix show. It's as if Scorsese stepped in to direct this part. Russo, meanwhile, simply watches, his face contorted in a sick kind of angry pleasure at watching Frank dispatch Rawlins. "God damn, Frankie. I love to watch you work." Frank lays on the floor, barely eking out words. "Bill, I wish I could see your face when you realize that you're done. You lost everything, everything you give a shit about is gone." Russo is confused. Then he hears the doors burst open. "Homeland security!" Russo tries to take Frank out, but gets hit in the arm, before retreating. Micro and Madani storm in with the agents. Micro yells at Frank to stay with him. Frank is wide-eyed, in massive pain and in his dream he sees that Maria is now gone. He's now truly home.

This was a fast and furious episode, not to mention brutal as hell. It's well in line with the Frank Castle we've seen in the comics as well as the level of violence often portrayed there. Mad props to Paul Schulze, who did a bang-up job as Rawlins. I hated the shit out of him and he was pretty creepy/scary to boot, which made him one hell of a nasty villain. And he sure didn't go out easy, as Frank took a lot of punishment to finally be able to dish it out, which he never would've gotten if Russo hadn't allowed it. One thing that the Netflix Marvel shows continue to do that the movies rarely get right is created these really layered villains. Maybe it's the extra runtime, but ultimately we really get into their heads and their stories, so it's never just a cackling asshole trying to take over the world, but a truly sick, twisted, evil and even sympathetic (to a point) baddie. Ben Barnes' Russo has been a highlight to this series and even though it would be easy to kill him off, I'd really love to see them take the arc they've been teasing and shift him to Jigsaw. What a great exploration that would be with Barnes in the role. Bernthal is pretty masterful at being the angry and raw version of Castle and I've grown to liking him more and more. If anything, they just need to cut out his excessive dialogue, but he's otherwise slaying the role. This episode also gave us a really great look into Frank's mindset as he comes to grips with who he really is and I appreciated the time spent there to let that develop. One episode to go and I'm looking forward to seeing the inevitable Frank vs. Russo showdown.

Source: JoBlo.com

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