The Punisher finale recap: 'Memento Mori'
Frank and Billy meet to settle scores, once and for all
And so we’ve come to the end. Lewis Wilson is dead, his desperate cry for help still woefully unheard by society. William “Agent Orange” Rawlins is dead too, having paid for destroying countless lives (both Afghan and American) with the most gruesome eye-popping demise this side of Game of Thrones. All that’s left are Frank Castle and Billy Russo, and the great unsettled score between them.
PREVIOUSLY: The Punisher recap: ‘Home’
Frank, for one, is not doing terribly well, having spent almost everything he had finishing off Rawlins. Micro and Dinah bring him, hilariously, to Dinah’s parents’ house, where her surgeon father is able to save the Punisher from certain death without alerting the authorities. Billy is doing better, although he still suffers from thinking he’s way cooler than he actually is. See: Him walking away from that explosion behind him and thinking it was badass rather than pathetically cliché.
Once they’re both back on their feet, Frank and Billy immediately set about finding each other. They converge on their last mutual connection, Curtis, who absolutely does not deserve any of this s—. Billy gets there first, and though he likes to think he’s in the right, he immediately reveals what a monster he is by threatening to shoot his old friend in his one remaining good leg until he reveals Frank’s location (Billy also says that killing Afghans isn’t really a crime because they do it to each other anyway, earning him Bonus Monster Points). It wouldn’t take much; a second too early, Billy realizes that Curtis opened the curtains on his kitchen windows so Frank could fire at him with his sniper rifle on the opposite roof. Billy dodges, unfortunately, and once again has himself a hostage (he’s good at that). So he and Frank agree to meet later that day at midnight, at the Central Park merry-go-round where the Castle family died.
Having risked her skin saving Frank like she did, Dinah is now writing up her report. But in the middle of it she’s struck by something. Whether it’s a determination to get back at Billy for killing Sam and tricking her, or to help Frank settle things, or what, she suddenly takes off, much to her superiors’ chagrin.
At least Micro’s having a good time! He has sex with his wife for the first time in ages, and eventually gets to move back into their house to live happily ever after. I never watched Girls, but I was pretty impressed by Ebon Moss-Bachrach on this show. He did well at both nerdy eccentricity and anguished worry. Sam Stein didn’t stick around long enough to make an impact and Dinah Madani had her character arc constantly undercut by the show, but Micro was definitely a great addition to the Marvel/Netflix universe. (Recap continues on page 2)
As promised, both Frank and Billy arrive at midnight at the merry-go-round, armed to the teeth. Unfortunately Billy, being the coward he is, has once again taken hostages. Two random youths are bound and gagged to the ride. This despicable tactic does have the intended effect; both their screams and the bright lights disorient Frank, who keeps getting flashbacks to the worst day of his life even as he’s trying to find Billy weaving in between the colorful horses.
After some exchange of machine gun fire, both combatants are disarmed of their primary weapons. So then Billy plays his hostage card, threatening to kill the kids unless Frank emerges and disarms himself. For all his huff and gruff, Frank still retains his humanity underneath and allows Billy to shoot him at point-blank range. That’s when Dinah shows up, but I have some bad news if you thought she was going to get some well-earned revenge on the man who seduced her and killed her partner. Billy immediately turns around and shoots Dinah in the head before she even gets to do anything. Man, what a useless character she has been.
But, just like how in Dragon Ball Z Vegeta was able to fatally distract Cell at the exact right moment to let Gohan finish him off, Dinah’s intervention allows Frank to tackle Billy. And as we saw last episode with Rawlins, nobody can match Frank for savagery at close range. Billy’s fatal mistake is knocking Frank into one of the merry-go-round’s mirrors. Frank proceeds to grab a glass shard and gut his old friend with it, before dragging his face along the jagged mirror. If you’ve been as infuriated with Billy’s smug condescension for this entire show as I have, then you probably found his anguished screams pretty satisfying. But despite Frank’s repeated promise that he was going to “watch you die,” he ultimately forgoes killing Billy. Instead, he hopes that Billy’s injuries will remind him, to quote Batman at the end of The Dark Knight Returns, “of the one man who beat you.” Frank leaves his old friend Billy Russo with the jagged face that will eventually earn him his well-known Marvel moniker: Jigsaw.
Dinah survives her headshot wound and convinces her government bosses to let Frank off easy. And now the Punisher faces his hardest task yet: figuring out how to make a life after war, and learning how to deal with “the silence when the gunfire ends.”
Final notes: It’s a pretty good ending! Taking stock of things here at the end, I really like a lot of what The Punisher did. It tackled real issues in the war on terror head on and did not shy away from hard truths about veteran problems and domestic terrorism. But like all these dang Marvel Netflix shows, it suffered from having too many episodes; Netflix really should confine more of its shows to the eight- or nine-episode order that works so well for Stranger Things. Even at 10 or 11 episodes, The Punisher could have told a much more streamlined and powerful story without wasting time on filler. Alas.
Thanks again for reading along with me and my co-recapper Chancellor Agard on this latest Marvel/Netflix ride. See you next time.
Marvel's The Punisher