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TV Review: Marvel's The Punisher, Season 1, Episode 13 "Memento Mori"

THE PUNISHER, Season 1, Episode 13 "Memento Mori"

RECAP/REVIEW:

Last episode was a doozy, as Frank was taken by Russo's men and brought back to his hideout to be tortured by Rawlins with Russo standing by. After an exceptionally bloody torture fest, Russo ended up loosening Frank's restraints so that he could take out Rawlins, which he did in very brutal fashion. Before Russo could finish Frank off, however, Micro led Madani and her troops to the hideout, causing Russo to make a quick escape and leaving Frank bloody, beaten and finally coming to terms with the fact that he's The Punisher, not Frank Castle.

The finale opens with Frank's bloody body being brought into Madani's mom's place, obviously to see if she can treat him (as she's a doctor with, y'know, all the tools you'd have at an ER in her home). Madani's mom argues about him being there at first, but eventually relents while they treat Castle. We then cut to Russo, doing his own self care by pulling a bullet out of his arm. What a champ. He then gets dressed and opens a wall safe, grabbing stacks of cash and putting it in a bag. Russo's game is up, but we know he won't go quietly. Just then, a group of Homeland agents descend upon the place, now dark. Russo doesn't miss a beat, taking them out one-by-one and making an easy exit, while blowing the entire building up behind him. Again, what a champ.

Back at Madani's mom's place, Frank is recovering, but looking beat to shit. "Madani. Where's Russo, you get him?" Frank's first words when he awakes, so we know where his head's at. Later, Frank is getting dressed in civilian clothes, preparing to take the road to anonymous freedom. Micro gives him an envelope with a whole lot of money as a thank you for helping to save his family. "Use it. Get out of the city. Have a life. You've done enough, y'know?" he tells Frank. Frank looks up. "Gotta finish this, right?" he says, shrugging. Yeah, some money and a nice shirt aren't going to deter Frank from some vengeance. Frank turns to Madani and thanks her for saving his life. "You should take Lieberman's little gift and disappear fast." She tosses him his boots and Frank gets up to go. "If I ever see you again after you walk out of the door, all bets are off. I will take you in or I will shoot you down," she says. "Don't waste the chance I gave you." Frank puts on some shades and walks out.

Later, Madani is back at Homeland getting grilled by Rafi and Marion about Castle and what went down. They both try to corner her to tell the truth, but she knows too much at this point. She can easily bring down the CIA with it. "You have a choice. You can arrest me or you can let me do my job." But, Rafi and Marion persist in wanting to know where Castle and Lieberman are. Madani says it's probably best they don't know and Marion agrees. Rafi tells her to write up her report, but do nothing else. "She's a piece of work," Marion says. "I think I like her." Lesson learned here, if you're likable then you have a better chance of not getting arrested for breaking the shit out of the law.

We then catch up with Curtis, who we haven't seen in a while, just waking up but with a special visitor in his house; Russo. He's armed and there to chat, surely looking for Castle, but not to hurt Curtis. "I gotta few scores to settle, though," he says. He wants to know how long Curtis has known that Castle was alive. Curtis says he's known for a long while. "So, one of my friends is trying to kill me and the other one has been lying to me the whole time. Man, that shit hurts." Curtis asks if he can make some coffee and Russo obliges him. They walk to the kitchen and Curtis tells Russo that he only kept Frank's secret because he asked him to and that he would've done the same for Russo. Curtis opens the blinds to his apartment as they talk about how Russo got mixed up in all the wrong shit. "You know, you two are almost exactly alike. There's just one difference: Frank would never betray a brother." Russo isn't affected. He wants to know where Frank is. Curtis walks over and hands him a cup of coffee. Russo reaches for it, but stops, realizing he's exposed by the open windows.

And that's when the bullets fly, as sniper fire erupts through the window in a nice little slo-mo sequence. Curtis darts to the kitchen, but catches a round from Russo, who gets to cover and fires at him. We then see Frank, sniper rifle in hand, aiming at Curtis's apartment. Frank then calls Curtis's phone, asking if he's okay and then telling him to give the phone to Russo. Curtis slides him the phone. "Let's just finish it, you and me. Any way you want," Frank says, after offering to let him leave Curtis's place unharmed. Russo tells him to drop his mag and clear the rifle. Russo then stands up. "Let's meet tonight. Midnight. How 'bout by your painted ponies, Frankie? How 'bout that? Finish this where it all started." Russo then gives a patronizing salute through the window facing Frank. He then turns, tossing Curtis the phone. "Call yourself an ambulance. My word means something, too," he says before leaving. Oh, Russo, what a man of his word, eh?

Frank then goes into flashback mode and we see that Russo was much closer to him than just a teammate. He was a friend as well. We see Russo at the Merry-Go-Round, hanging with Frank, Maria and the kids, everyone happy and joking around. Russo is "Uncle Billy" and we see him goofing off with the kids, which has got to be a dagger in Frank's heart. It's a nice touch, too, as we know that Russo would eventually know about Frank's family getting killed, even if he didn't take part in it. Billy is telling a story about the origin of his name, being named after Billy The Kid, who was also an orphan that was later betrayed by his friend and killed for money and fame. Hmmmm. Meanwhile, Micro is getting reacquainted with his family, including getting some bathroom nookie with Sarah. One might say he got his happy ending.

At Central Park we see some kids working the carnival stand closing up, then getting surprised by a creepy visitor. Mr. Billy Russo, who pulls out a gun and says he needs their help. I mean, it just wouldn't be Russo if he wasn't doing something nasty, am I right? And, I guess that's part of what makes him so much fun in this show. He is an evil son of a bitch, yet so damn charming at the same time. You can't help but love to hate him and hate to love him. Back at Homeland, Madani is clacking away on her keyboard, writing her report on what went down with Castle. She suddenly gets a text with a location. It's Central Park. Exactly where Frank's family was killed and where the showdown between him and Russo is about to go down. Madani wastes no time and starts to head out.

We then see Frank, moving tactically through the trees, geared up and, yes, thankfully, rocking the skull. He moves toward the "painted ponies", which is dead silent and quiet. Until it's not. Frank is behind a tree, looking through his scope as the ride starts up. Oh, Russo, you sick, poetic bastard. It has the effect he wants and Frank immediately flashes back to his family there. We even got some shots of them having a picnic in the park, which is the standard Punisher origin from the very beginning. A nice touch to show that and pay those origin respects. Frank moves in a little closer and sees something strange. The two teenagers from before, tied up and bleeding, sitting backwards on the horses. His phone starts buzzing. He answers and hears Russo. "You out there, Frankie? Yeah. Of course you are." He tells him that the two teenagers are bleeding out. "That's two more kids that are gonna die for you." And I am so ready to see Frank lay waste to this bastard.

Frank pulls out a grenade launcher and fires off three rounds, which blow up just near Russo. It's a distraction as Frank races in to the area. Russo engages, as does Frank. And...man, Frank is hit. AGAIN. Seriously, Frank is just a bullet magnet in this show. Frank takes over and tends to his leg would, while Russo maneuvers to cover elsewhere. Meanwhile, we see Madani is in a car and on her way there. Man, oh man, is she in for a show. Frank makes a move for the ride and jumps on, Russo quickly following as they cat and mouse around it trying to shoot each other. Russo goes on a soapbox tirade, while Frank tries to get a clear shot. "Guys like us, Frank, we need this. It's all we're good for. Just a couple of assholes who thought we could have the good things in life. But, we are not good people, Frank. We never were." Frank maneuvers, firing at him. "What happens when we're dead. Nothing. Who mourns us, eh? Nobody. Me and you, Frankie? We're the same." That's enough talk. Frank and Russo fire at one another, Frank taking some hits to his body armor and Russo taking a round to the face. Aw, shit, that's one mark toward Jigsaw.

Russo is pissed now. He gets up to where he has the kids and tells Frank to come out there he can see him or he's going to kill them. He tells the kids to beg for Frank to come out and save their lives, to which they do. Frank steps out, tells him to let them go. Russo makes him drop all his weapons, to which he complies. Frank repeats to let the kids go. Russo fires at Frank's chest, knocking him back. "Attachments are a weakness Frank. I never had anybody." Frank holds strong. "You had us, Bill," he says. Russo advances, still firing. "Punisher? What a crock of shit." Russo is about to finish Frank off when Madani pops up behind him. But, she hesitates too much and Russo turns, firing at her, appearing to hit her in the head. Frank uses the moment and unleashes and what unfolds is a beautifully crafted hand-to-hand scrap that's brutal and vicious from start to finish. Honestly, it's the kind of fight finish you always hope for in a finale and it was sorely needed with this show. The tension has been building from the beginning with these two and now it's come to a head. It's a great dynamic between the two friends-turned-enemies and a nod to the build-up the show had created for them.

Eventually, Russo breaks out the knives and the blood is flowing freely. Frank is smashed against a giant mirror and the sound of him scraping against it can't help but feel foreboding. There's just no way we don't see Billy's beautiful face get mangled into, what some may call, a Jigsaw pattern of destruction. Frank grabs a shard of the mirror and stabs Russo, which stuns him deeply. Frank faces him, angry and determined. He knocks Russo back against another mirror. Grabs his head. And, holy shit, GRINDS Russo's face along the broken glass! Russo screams in pain (I mean, yeah). Frank picks up the knife and turns Russo to face the mirror, allowing him to see the absolute wreck his face is now. He puts the knife to Russo's neck and Russo tells him to do it. Begs him to do it. Frank nearly does it, but stops. "I'm not gonna let you die today. Dyin' is easy," he says, before kicking Russo headlong into the mirror. OH, did you think he was done? No, son, this here is The Punisher. Frank grabs Russo by his hair and begins smashing his face into the glass some more. "You're gonna learn about pain. You're gonna learn about loss. Every morning...I look for 'em, Bill. I look for 'em. But, then I remember. It's gonna be the same for you. When you look at your ugly, mangled face. You're gonna remember what you did. Remember, Bill. You're gonna remember me!" Frank smashes him to unconsciousness. And it's the most Punisher thing we've seen yet and deliciously so.

Frank then frees the kids that were tied up. He then goes to Madani who has a really bad head wound. He holds her in his lap, while the kids hang on nearby, basically recreating his worst moment, but this time in a more redemptive state. We then see Frank at the hospital in cuffs, Madani bandaged up and in a hospital bad. Rafi and Marion are there as well and they have Castle un-cuffed as Marion explains that they owe him. "You got a pass, Mr. Castle." Frank is surprised. "What is this a payoff, you guys just want me to keep my mouth shut?" Marion says "pretty much." Rafi explains that Frank's prints were wiped from the criminal system and can now go on living life a free man, although they have their doubts of just what he'll do with that freedom. Frank asks about Russo and Rafi says he was "under the knife" for eleven hours and should live, although it's unclear if he'll ever get back full brain function and to what degree. Madani speaks up, saying "I hope he remembers. I hope he remembers everything. So that when I stand in front of him, he knows I played my part." We then see Russo, his entire head bandaged, a horror show teased underneath. Jigsaw, ladies and gentlemen, is born.

We then see Frank dropping off Micro at his house and Micro is talking about how his moment to just be home has arrived. He's nervous. "Am I being an asshole here?" Frank agrees. "Yeah." Micro steps out. "Let's do this, buddy." Frank doesn't move. "David, I'm not coming. You know why." Micro doesn't put up a fight. He goes in side and walks back into the arms of his family. Frank, meanwhile, is seen laying out chairs at the Vet center with Curtis. He then sits down with the group and starts to talk. He laments a very common thread, which is how to live back in the world after you've been a part of war. Frank comes to a new conclusion. "For the 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'm scared."

And so ends season one of The Punisher. The show started of way too slow for me and while many seemed to enjoy that slow burn, it felt like a slog to me. However, the strength of the actors and most of the characters really elevated the show to bigger heights. While I was extremely annoyed by the walking stereotype character of Lewis and disappointed that his Vet status was used as a means to create a villain, I'm thankful that his storyline ended early so we could focus on the stronger villains of the show, which are Rawlins (Paul Schulze) and Russo (Ben Barnes). Both of these guys were terrific villains with character and purpose; they were interesting and, at the same time, evil enough that I wanted to see them "punished". Serious props go to Barnes for continuing to slay it on shows like this and Westworld. Such a great talent emerging and I really hope to see him back as an even more maniacal version of Russo with a new nickname.

Ebon Moss-Bachrach was a great Micro, adding more depth and humanity to the character than we ever got in the comics and his rapport with Frank was spot on. It took me awhile to warm up to Madani, but she eventually came through and I hope we can see her explored more in season two. As for The Punisher himself, Jon Bernthal did a stellar job, even if I still feel he was given way too much dialogue and emotion to be The Punisher we've known from the comics. Still, he's got a ferocious intensity and I'd love to see it honed into a more silent and deadly stance in the next phase of the show. The show looked great overall and really captured the feel of the comics, from the New York setting and run-down warehouse hideout. The violence, when applied, was stunningly brutal and I'm thankful they really went for it here. Hands down the most bloody and brutal live-action Marvel show to date and if there's any show that should carry that reputation in thier oeuvre it's The Punisher.

Source: JoBlo.com

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