It’s been a long, bumpy road, but the end is finally here. Russo, armed and unstable, is one faction; the Schultzes, all their money, power, and influence, personified by the relentless John Pilgrim, are another; and Frank Castle and a small group of allies are the third. Mahoney is wandering around the edges of all this, trying to do the right thing and increasingly unsure what that is in this case. There’s enough stuff flying around that “The Whirlwind” is a great title for the finale. This being a season and series finale, there will be spoilers below. Be warned.
The episode starts just where the last one stopped. Madani has just hurled Dumont through the window, both making Dumont relive her greatest fear and nicely demonstrating the word defenestration. Russo got back from buying his girl flowers just in time to see this, and charges upstairs. For reasons unknown, Madani doesn’t call for backup. She and Russo have an ugly fight that goes from shots fired to beating on each other, until both of them end up slumped on the floor, exhausted. The Schultzes deal with aftermath of Rebecca Pilgrim’s death, taking care of the kids and cavalierly talking about the expected death of their father while doing their bidding. These two are callous and selfish to amazing levels.
Clan Schultz gets a wakeup call when Castle uses David’s phone to get in touch with them, and demand a simple trade: their son for Amy. The Shultzes, as is usual with so many used to having power, react with threats and general disbelief until Frank begins illustrating his point on David’s face. It’s a very tense video chat that no one is really happy with. The big problem with Frank’s demand is that neither the Shultzes nor Pilgrim have Amy. She’s actually stalking around his hotel with a stolen shotgun, looking for him, while he talks to his older son on the phone. Using the kids as motivation/unspoken threat, Eliza updates Pilgrim on the recent developments, and Pilgrim lies without missing a beat. He has his loyalties very clear, and knows who comes first with him.
In the wreckage of Dumont’s apartment, Madani suddenly snaps awake, scaring the hell out of the EMT that’s been working on her. Mahoney, the only cop in New York, is there, and tells her to let the tech help her. They talk over Russo apparently hiding here the whole time, and Dumont’s condition. I’m amazed she’s still alive, myself. They can’t figure out what happened to Russo, and why Madani is still alive. Mahoney gives Madani some grudging respect, and she makes a surprising comment about her badge and gun.
All this leads to some chaos at Pilgrim’s hotel. The heck with his security deposit, they’re going to need to shut the place down for remodeling. I’m not entirely clear on how Frank got here, but he’s here and finds Amy, berating her for stowing away the way she did, and telling her to stay out of the way. What follows is an epic gunfight in several different rooms, with an amazing expenditure of ammunition and property destruction. The fight ends with Pilgrim managing to capture Amy after all (girl should have run) and setting up a new, actual exchange. Frank has to fight some cops on his way out. While he does beat them, badly, it’s worth noting that he’s definitely staying within his code. It would have been faster and easier for him to kill them, and, as far as I could tell, that never crossed his mind. For those wondering about the difference between Castle and Russo, that’s about the best simple example I can think of. Russo has made his way to a shady doctor with a host of problems, and demands medical care at gunpoint. It’s an ugly scene that ends, eventually, with Russo passing out. He’s a bad guy, but you have to say he’s having a rough day.
Back at the trailer, the captive senator and the wounded corpsman have a talk. David has gotten first hand proof that his parents are not at all who he thought they were, and you can see his aguish as he tries to work all this out. He and Curtis are both caught up in something they don’t want any part of by circumstances beyond their control, and bond over this a little. Russo wakes up post-care in less than desirable circumstances and staggers off. At this point, a Cub Scout could probably take him down.
Things have shifted completely, as Frank gets back to the trailer to find Curtis and David both gone. When Pilgrim calls, they set up the exchange, Castle lying now like Pilgrim did before. Amy listens to all this and gives Pilgrim some unsolicited advice, which he listens to, but makes the whole thing into something like the old-fashioned trial by combat scenario. Amy and Pilgrim’s chat gets deep, and I actually believe him when he says he wishes he could just walk away from all this. At some kind of stadium, Mahoney has a very surprising meeting with David and Curtis. Poor Mahoney is going to need something like a month off after all this. Curtis does what he thinks is right, and David shows he’s a better person than his parents are remotely capable of. They part on decent terms. This is one of my favorite scenes in the season, if not the series, and Frank isn’t even anywhere near it.
There’s a very emotional scene as Pilgrim arrives with Amy to complete the exchange. Amy, in addition to being terrified, is clearly so very worried about Frank. It’s really touching. Frank bluffs about David, and gets Amy free after a hug and possibly good-bye kiss. For once, she listens and flees. After Frank tells the truth, there’s an amazing fight between the two men. I’m kind of surprised they both manage to stay conscious through this, especially as beat up as they were before this started. The fight ends with Frank victorious, barely, and stops with a heartfelt plea from Pilgrim. In the “no rest for the wicked” department, Curtis gets home, and gets a surprising phone call from a desperate man.
In what has to seem very familiar to her, Madani is once again at the hospital visiting a badly wounded and mentally compromised criminal. This time, it’s Dumont, and the prisoner is initially bitter about her circumstances. Dumont declares her love for Russo, and Madani just stares in disbelief for a moment. Dumont is thrilled to hear Russo is still alive, at least as far as Madani knows. The doctor is still living in a fantasy/delusional world, and Madani eventually leaves her there, under guard, completing the mirror to how Russo started the season. Russo gets a big surprise when Curtis answers his call, but isn’t alone. Russo starts some speech to Castle, who violates the villain monologue rule by shooting Russo several times. I guess that’s one way to get him to shut the hell up. Madani and Mahoney arrive, and debate what to do. Mahoney starts admitting this might be one of those gray areas he tries to avoid, and Castle vanishes in the confusion.
We get to see where he went shortly, as the Schultz parents debate what to do next. Their dinner meeting gets interrupted when Frank and Amy show up. The Shultzes are just not equipped to deal with people who can’t be scared, bought, or bribed. Eliza, braver than she is smart, tries something, and it doesn’t go well for her. Frank and Amy deliver their message to Anderson, and leave him with a stark choice. They hear the results on the way out, where Pilgrim has been reunited with his kids and gets to drive off into the sunset. Sure, that’s usually the hero’s reward, but there’s a lot of grey when you’re dealing with the Punisher.
All good things must come to an end, and so, we find Frank and Amy at the bus station. She clearly doesn’t want to leave him, and it’s a nicely done scene. Castle gives her some very heartfelt advice, as we as a few more useful things. The conversation turns to the night they met, and why he came to help her in the first place. Finally, she goes to pursue her dream, and, when she takes her one look back, Castle is already gone.
As a sort of epilogue, there’s a three month time jump. Frank is on the streets, watching someplace very intently. He gets a call, which turns out to be Madani. She’s got a new job, and is doing very well with it, and also has a place for him, if he wants it. Castle, in the end, accepts who he is, turns her down, and the last we see is an image that could be right out of the comics as he deals out justice, Punisher style. The very last thing we see, the end of the Marvel/Netfilx world, is: “In Loving Memory of Stan Lee.” I won’t try and follow that.
What I liked: Damn near everything. Jon Bernthal gives us the best version of the Punisher I’ve seen. The man’s an incredible actor with an eye for detail and does so many things right. Russo and Dumont get fitting ends, as do the Schultz parents. Amy, potentially, lives happily every after, and gets to actually go after her dream. Madani landed someplace perfect for her, and I presume Mahoney and Curtis got their lives going again. Pilgrim even got a happy ending, exceedingly rare for a foe of Frank Castle. The ending was perfect, both Punisher’s last scene and the final goodbye.
What I didn’t: The fault is quite possibly mine, but I really wasn’t clear on how Frank got to Pilgrim’s hotel. There were no connections to the other shows, aside from Karen’s one episode. I really would have loved at least a cameo of Claire Temple in one of the many hospital scenes. And, of course, with this being such a great show, I don’t want it, or this world, to end.
I’ll give the finale, season, and series a rare 5 out of 5. There’s the slimmest chance Punisher isn’t covered by the agreement that will mean such a long wait for the other Marvel/Netflix shows, and I hope that proves to be true. Until then, goodbye Punisher, and goodbye to what was a truly fantastic corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.