The Punisher proves to be both a challenge and a complement to Daredevil.
DaredevilCast: Charlie Cox, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson, Jon Bernthal, Elodie Yung, Stephen Rider, Rosario Dawson, Vincent D'Onofrio
Subtitle: Season 2, Episode 4 - "Penny and Dime"
"Penny and Dime" reminds us all of why we loved Daredevil in the first place, revealing a brilliant darkness not seen since season one. Delivering a monologue dripped in pathos, The Punisher (Jon Bernthal) has single-handedly elevated the show's sophomore season from mediocre to phenomenal. Of course, going on a rampage of revenge is certainly not a new or unique concept in storytelling, but Jon Bernthal’s performance of an emotional and largely uninterrupted tribute to his daughter was simply stunning.
What wasn't entirely convincing was why he decided to stop fighting. Was it due to exhaustion? Was it Finn (Tony Curran) threatening to kill his dog (and thank god they didn't kill the dog)? Or was it mere acceptance that he would never be able to right the wrongs of the past? It’s unclear if Frank saw the rationale behind Daredevil’s "no killing" policy, or if he feels just as bloodthirsty as ever. When he said that he was past saving, did he just mean physically, or spiritually? That journey is something I feel is owed to his character.
Although the wrapping up of The Punisher's story seems abrupt, I get the feeling that we’re not entirely finished with him just yet. There is still the mystery of the "suits" to solve -- the men who wanted The Punisher to be taken off life support, and who for some reason continue to monitor his old house. We also still don’t know the story behind the bullet in his skull, or how he survived. Karen (Deborah Ann Woll) may be onto something when she said Reyes (Michelle Hurd) is covering something up. It's possible that Reyes knows who shot Frank and his family, and sent the suits hide the tracks. Or perhaps it has something to do with Frank’s miraculous recovery from death. In any case, hopefully Frank will come back into play later on, not only to complete his mission of justice, but because Daredevil and Punisher made a fantastic team.
It's actually a bit of a shame that the Punisher has been more interesting than the show’s titular hero this season. Charlie Cox does a wonderful job in portraying the guilt-ridden Catholic who wants to do what’s necessary to clean up the streets, but nothing in his backstory has been so moving as the pure grief and rage that so clearly fuels Frank Castle.
Daredevil does have his moments though, especially when he’s speaking with his Catholic priest mentor, Father Lantom (Peter McRobbie). I really enjoyed their conversations last season, and am glad that he’s still a recurring character. In this episode, Father Lantom gave a unique eulogy for Grotto, who used to come to the church hoping for redemption.
But, the priest says, redemption never came. His eulogy was really directed towards Matt, who came to the funeral because of, what else, guilt. Lantom reassures him that guilt can be a good thing, a reassurance that his work isn’t yet finished. It’s a nuanced conversation about forgiveness and redemption, but there’s only so many times Matt can mope around feeling guilty before it becomes tedious. We haven’t reached that point just yet, but because guilt is such a huge part of Matt's character, it needs to be handled deftly and sparingly in order to make an impact.
Another important issue this episode tackled was the role of the police in Hell's Kitchen. Sargent Brett (Royce Johnson) admonishes Daredevil (and vigilantes like him) for being the problem, telling him that the cops aren’t able to do their jobs and are instead chasing around the vigilantes, cleaning up their mess. To be fair, according to last season, much of the police force were revealed to be corrupt, so Daredevil really couldn’t trust them to do their jobs.
Presumably, that's all changed now, and Daredevil’s existence is just proving to be a hindrance. In the end, Daredevil recognizes the validity of Brett's complaint and tells Brett to take the credit for arresting The Punisher. Matt portends that the people must believe that it's the system that works, not vigilante justice. It's an important message to be sure, but the scene loses some of its emotional punch in its own self-importance.
The moment would have carried much more weight if we haven’t seen it done ten times better in Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece, The Dark Knight, where Batman (Christian Bale) holds up Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart) as the hero Gotham needs (but not the one it deserves). Perhaps it's not an entirely fair comparison, as the movie devoted its entirety to this battle between the system and vigilantes. But Daredevil is certainly leaning towards this central message, and as a television show it should have the advantage to really develop and explore this theme in depth. Unfortunately, it looks like the show is not entirely up to the task.
Finally, Matt and Karen's (Deborah Ann Woll) flirtatious relationship finally blossomed into a full-blown romance. Their walk in the rain was actually incredibly sweet, only to be ruined minutes later by a ridiculously chemistry-free kiss. The slow-motion raindrop and Karen’s exaggerated breathing were all just so over-the-top it took me right out of the scene. I mean, I know that Matt has enhanced hearing and that’s why her breath seemed so loud, but even still, Karen’s chest was heaving in and out so violently I thought she was going to pass out. In any case, the blissful first stages of dating will surely be interrupted by the arrival of Matt’s former flame, Elektra (Elodie Yung).
How awesome was the team-up between Daredevil and Punisher? Their playful banter ("No killing!" "Altar boy.") was so fun to watch as they beat their way to freedom.
The gore and graphic violence really upped its game this episode. But while I cringed as Finn drilled into Frank's foot, I had to actually look away from the screen when they were threatening to kill the dog.
Speaking of the torture scene, how badass was Frank Castle? "Do I look nervous to you?" Damn.