WOW. I honestly debated just writing this entire Daredevil review about nothing else but the Punisher’s monologue scene in the cemetery, but I wanted to walk everyone through what I consider to be the greatest piece of television that Marvel Studios has ever produced. Let’s get cracking! The episode begins with the Irish mafia burying their dead, having an “Irish wake” for them. Here, we’re introduced to the father of one of Frank’s victims in the form of Finn. Finn happens to be the leader of the mob; he’s vicious and absolutely insane, as he proceeds to drive an icepick through the brain of one of his underlings during the proceedings. It’s a fantastic way to establish the villain of the episode, even if we don’t see him for very long, considering he is a Punisher villain (and we all know what happens to them). What follows is a wave of carnage as “Kitchen Irish” look for Punisher and the money he stole from them, brutally interrogating anyone who may have crossed his path. They manage to stumble upon Frank’s HQ, as the Punisher watches from the distance.
Meanwhile, Matt, Foggy, and Karen attend the funeral for Grotto, and they are the only attendees. While this shows the audience just how much of a monster/tragedy Grotto was in the fact that he had no one mourning him outside of people he had just met, it also reintroduces Father Lantom to Matt’s life. There are truly some great reasons behind why superheroes do what they do. Maybe their uncle was murdered due to their own negligence, maybe their parents were shot in an alley during their childhood, or maybe they’re just dealing with insurmountable guilt as a Catholic. The latter applies here for Matt Murdock as Daredevil, feeling that he’s never quite doing enough, even when he’s giving 110%. It makes for an interesting wrinkle on his nightly heroics in that he’ll never quite think he’s making a difference, and that stems from his religion. After a prep talk from the Father, Matt goes on his merry way and attempts to once again follow the trail of Frank Castle before Karen finds herself in too deep.
Punisher joins the episode again, watching a carousel and recollecting his past until he’s set upon by the Irish mob. Taking out four of their men, he’s injected with tranquilizer and then tased, and dragged back to an underground hideaway to be horrifically tortured with the help of a power drill. The charm of the Punisher, in a sense, is his preparedness for any situation and even when everything is going to hell, you still have this feeling that Frank Castle still has everything well in hand, even when his literal foot is being ripped apart. It’s only until Frank’s newly adopted dog is put into jeopardy that Frank lets them know exactly where their money is: inside a van over pounds of TNT. The van blows up and Frank manages to escape using a razor blade that he had previously forced under his skin in just such an occasion. Ouch.
Daredevil really is reminiscent of Batman in a lot of ways in this episode, darting in the darkness, taking out guards, and disappearing whenever finishing a conversation with the police. The two characters are pretty similar when all is said and done, but the series allows for Daredevil to spread his wings and let loose with some action-packed scenes, with this episode being no different. Entering the Punisher’s room, immediately following Frank viciously and methodically killing everyone else in the vicinity, the two fight the remaining mobsters. During the fight sequence, Murdock is fighting the mooks while also attempting to make sure the Punisher doesn’t kill them at the same time. Its simply a delight to watch and the chemistry that Charlie Cox and Jon Bernthal share here can’t be denied as Punisher rips into Daredevil for being “too soft.”
It’s after this fight scene that we’re presented with the best scene of the series: the Punisher’s monologue in the cemetery. Can we just give Jon Bernthal the Emmy right now to save time? Pouring his guts out to Daredevil, Frank recollects his time in the Middle East and the horrors of war, stating how much more terrifying it is to come back home following it. The true tragedy of the Punisher isn’t the loss of his family; it’s that Frank Castle may have truly died during the war, leaving only the Punisher even before the events in the park. His normalcy and reintegration into society is a few steps away yet forever out of reach, as Frank Castle gives a heart-wrenching monologue about how tired he was following the war, and his daughter being the main thing “holding him up.” What’s made even more tragic is Frank finally recalling the way his daughter died, him holding her in his arms, “meat spilling out from the hole where her face used to be.” It hits as hard as any scene I’ve seen on television in years, and everyone working on the show should be applauded for bringing this together.
With the Punisher brought into custody, Matt and the rest of the “avocado crew” head to Josie’s to celebrate their victory. Here, Matt and Karen finally show their feelings for one another in a mesmerizing scene in the rain. The chemistry between the pair really works here, and it’s made all the sweeter when Murdock returns to his apartment only to be greeted by Elektra! Matt’s one-time girlfriend/sometimes ninja assassin has entered the series, and things will never be the same.
This episode is a sight to behold, and Bernthal’s performance is a tour de force. It’s one of the best television episodes I’ve had the privilege of reviewing, and I hope that we can have Bernthal’s Punisher be a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe for years to come.
Rating: ★★★★★ Excellent
The Collider Offices of Nelson and Murdock
– This totally felt like it should have been the season finale, and we’re only four episodes in!
– Can I take a moment to just point out how much I love the theme for the Punisher? It just nails Frank Castle, creating a sense of ominous dread whenever its played.
– Punisher sneaking the razor blade under his skin is straight out of Garth Ennis’ Punisher Max series.
– Melvin reveals that he’s wearing a bulletproof vest underneath his shirt that looks exactly like his costume in the comics when he’s hitting the streets as “Gladiator”
– Finn Cooley is one of the main villains in the Punisher Max comic series that loses his face in an explosion earlier in his life. Surely the Punisher blasting away his face with a shotgun was a nod to this.
– Finn: “Two cents to his name.”
– Foggy: “It’s our best bet at career suicide…or just getting shot!”
– Finn: “Generosity is my defining trait.”
– Finn: “The Irish may not have invented revenge, but we sure as hell perfected it!”
– Punisher: “Altar boy.”
– Daredevil: “Don’t get all sweet on me now Frank.”
– Punisher: “Think I’m done.”