by Josie Kafka
The first time I watched this episode, I didn’t care for it. I like it more now, but I’m not sure I love this season as much as I did the first one.
Why not? I suppose it comes down to a lack of nuance. This season’s baddies have been abstract concepts visually articulated through stereotypes: A few guys on meathooks make up the Cartel. (Well, that’s what everyone calls them. And each time they do, I ask myself “Which cartel?”) The Dogs of Hell were all surly, hairy bikers. The Irish drink Jameson all the time, usually while talking about being Irish. I miss Vladimir, the snarky Russian from last season, and Madame Gao, who deserves her own spinoff. Foggy misses them too: he complains that he “get[s] all the bad guys confused these days.”
Except for the Punisher. I really like the Punisher. Jon Bernthal is basically blowing me away. I didn’t love him in The Walking Dead and couldn’t make it through Mob City, but now I’m a convert. Between last week’s Daredevil vs. Punisher rooftop interrogation and this week’s Irish vs. Punisher torture scene, Frank Castle is exactly the type of broody moodiness I expect from a violent antagonist/antihero who kills people but won’t let any harm come to a dog.
The backstory surrounding the Punisher is a bit less to my liking. Don’t get me wrong: I love Karen’s investigator mode; she’s turned into Kalinda from The Good Wife. The scene of Frank’s house was heartbreaking. His civilian life looks so full, so lovely. And it all disintegrated, leaving behind nothing more than a man with a will to do violence. (Foreshadowing question: will the same thing happen to Matt someday as he tries to build a full life for himself, too?)
But the “It goes all the way to the top!” conspiracy surrounding Frank’s backstory results in a bit more exposition than I would prefer. The info-dumps, like the characterization, feels like it could be handled more gracefully. Last season had plenty of scenes of two people talking, but those conversations were complicated, emotional, and thematically resonant. This season’s conversations feel like an echo of past greatness.
Having said that, Sergeant Brett got some great lines tonight that boiled down to this season’s theme: thanks to Daredevil’s vigilantism, any random guy with a dark past and a scowl can play judge, jury, and executioner. Thanks to Daredevil’s attempts to make the world a better place, the world has become a darker one.
The final conversation between Daredevil and the Punisher was the most interesting. Or maybe I should say the conversation between Daredevil and Frank, since the Punisher persona receded once they escaped the Irish. Frank is defined mostly by what he no longer has: the family that meant everything, the daughter he can’t read a bedtime rhyme to, the meaning he lacks.
His monologue in the graveyard was mostly about coming home (for just a day? Or what felt like just a day?) from deployment with barely enough time to realize the beauty of what he was coming home to. And then it was gone. To be that vulnerable, to have everything taken away, and then to get caught up in a conspiracy—it’s not a justification for the Punisher’s actions, but it’s a darn good set of reasons.
Pairing those revelations—of Frank's past and all that he has lost—with Matt really starting to flirt with Karen and finding Elektra in his apartment…well, as Foggy pointed out, happiness isn't always a good thing for a Catholic boy. Especially not one with a dark past and a scowl.
• Father Lantom: “Nothing shines up a halo faster than death.”
• Rory the Irishman: “The Irish may not have invented revenge, but we sure as hell took some time perfecting it.” I wonder if Irish gangsters really spend all their time talking about being Irish like they do in movies and TV shows.
• Frank: “I kept thinking God was gonna pull the rug out from under us. That’s his kind of funny, you know.”
• I know who Melvin Potter’s Betsy is in the comics. But I sort of want her existence in this show to be a surprise. Like, she’s a teddy bear. Or a sparrow that helps Potter get dressed in the morning.
• I think this episode is the first mention of the official name of the Hell’s Kitchen Irish gangsters: the “Kitchen Irish.” The first time I heard it, I thought it was one of those outmoded insults, like “lace-curtain Irish” or “shanty Irish.” Guess not!
• What happened to the dog?!
Three out of four Kitchen Irish.
Josie Kafka reviews The Vampire Diaries, Game of Thrones, and various other things that take her fancy. She is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)