Punisher is almost through his first season, and things are really picking up steam. “Home,” works on several levels, which is something they’ve excelled at with many of their episode titles. It starts off with Frank on video being interviewed by Madani. She tries to stick to the professional format, but, well, it’s Frank. He does spell out a lot of facts involving the conspiracy she’s been investigating from Kandahar, which is a big win for her.
In a different room, David is continuing his very tense reunion with Leo, who is worried about Sarah and Zach still being missing. Leo is a touching mixture of scared little girl and wise beyond her years, which doesn’t really make her the easiest young woman to handle. She’s also worried about David and “Pete” going away again, and doesn’t really buy into his reassurances.
A bit later, it’s David’s turn to be on camera, and he’s actually less cooperative than Frank, which is amazing. He has different priorities than Madani, and he’s very up front and clear about this. David lays out his concerns, and some of what he’s done, as well as his differing viewpoint from Madani. After this, Madani talks to Frank again, and gets a very unwelcome, unpleasant surprise.
Once again at the docks, because apparently most tense and/or shady scenes happen here, Frank and David are waiting for their part in the prisoner exchange that’s supposed to free Sarah and Zach. David is on the verge of panic, and Frank is in the weird spot of reassuring David; not exactly Frank’s strong suit. The opposition arrives, and a very stunned Zach recognizes David. The bad guys have taken some unusual, but effective, precautions to keep control of their hostages. Russo calls Frank, and they debate over how things will proceed. As the exchange is almost complete, Homeland rolls in and rattles Russo. Things don’t go quite as planned from there.
Frank, in the clutches of the bad guys, starts having multiple flashbacks throughout the episode. They involve him and his wife Maria. They range from very sexual to comforting to a bit grim. When he’s not revisiting his wife, Frank is in a very unpleasant present, at the not-so-tender non-existent mercies of Rawlins, while Russo looks on. They are desperate to figure out what David has on the computers, and apparently David is just as good with computers as Frank is with killing. While the scenes are ugly and brutal, it’s almost funny when you consider they’re trying to get computer information out of Frank Castle of all people. The assorted scenes of Rawlings working on Frank are some of the most brutal of the series. Rawlings and Russo both keep telling Frank variations of “You don’t get to win.” I don’t think they truly realize who they’re dealing with.
Madani is less than pleased as parts of the deal she worked out with Frank fall apart. While Sarah and her kids are having an emotionally difficult time, Madani fumes at Frank not sticking to plan (shocking as that is). She did pull off part of the plan flawlessly.
Russo or Rawlins, we never find out which, have brought in their own computer expert, and she’s getting nowhere. David did an amazing job on his machines. Russo calls Frank a loser, and Frank returns that Russo has lost his honor. There’s some mutual incomprehension there. As Rawlins reveals just what a sadistic bully he is, even Russo starts looking disgusted.
While Madani learns a little more about what’s actually going on, Russo spends some time cleaning up Frank. I’m not sure if it’s good cop/bad cop or if it’s more of Russo being so conflicted in all this. I believe he really does care about Madani, even as he’s working against her and even killed her partner. I think some of that same conflict is going on in Russo with regards to Frank. Frank finally agrees to do what they want with the computers, and tells them what he needs to do. Just as we saw before, it needs a retinal scan and password, as demonstrated when David was in a similar, if less bloody, situation. Russo tells Frank they already took the gun David kept hidden under the keyboard. Well, they were overconfident. They got the gun, but missed something important, and Frank gets a small measure of revenge against Rawlins. This is also when we see one of the first hints that things weren’t all golden and perfect with Frank and Maria in another flashback.
The tech starts working on the now opened computers, and becomes a big fan of David’s work. They let her go after various threats. Rawlins isn’t content with beating on Frank, but also lectures him in a very self-righteous, smug, and incredibly annoying way. As Rawlins babbles on, even Russo starts questioning him. Madani finds out some of what David and Frank set up before the exchange, and it’s going to help Madani’s case, although possibly not do much good for Frank himself. Frank was as thorough as he was fatalistic about his chances.
Rawlins is seriously out of control as he rants at Frank while beating on him. Russo finally confronts Rawlins over some of his actions, and then makes a decision. Rawlins spends an utterly terrified few minutes learning he’s not at all what he liked to think he was. Flashbacks and the present mingle closely as there are a lot of sudden developments and reversals in the last few moments of the episode. I’m pretty sure I know what the final episode will be about, and it should be a really impressive showdown.
What I liked: Frank is committed to the point of being well past sanity. We’ve known this, but it really shines out here. Russo, for all that he’s slime (and he is), has some layers and nuance to him. Rawlins, like most bullies, is a coward and that comes across here, too. I like the plan that slowly emerges, and that even probably going to his death, Frank set up a contingency to take out his enemies one way or another, and used his potential failure as bait. The scenes back at Madani’s offices were well done, both with Madani and everything Sarah went through.
What I didn’t: I suppose you could argue the hidden thing Frank found should have been taken care of by the bad guys, but Rawlins is ridiculously overconfident and I could see that filtering down to his men. Aside from that… really not much.
This was a great, if brutal, episode and a fine lead-in to the finale. I’ll give it a 4.5 out of 5. I’m looking forward to the conclusion.