Written by Steve Lightfoot
Directed by Andy Goddard
David is now tied naked to his chair. Frank is not happy with him. There’s an alarm that’ll go off in a few minutes if David doesn’t deactivate it. He claims it’s a self-destruct. Frank doesn’t seem overly perturbed. David freaks up enough that Frank eventually drags him over to deactivate it, but he’s not happy about the gun under the desk. Frank would like answers now, instead of more runaround. He gives him a scary whispering speech about how torture is time, not pain.
David starts telling him everything. His job was to sift through the mass of nonsense coming in from Afghanistan for actionable intelligence. One piece of intelligence he got was the DVD of Ahmad Zubair’s assassination. Sarah wanted him to go through the proper channels, but David thought that could get it shut down. He wanted to be able to look his kids in the eye and tell them he did the right thing. So he sent the video to Madani. Next thing he knew, tactical guys were coming up to his car with his family in it. He ran out to keep them out of harm’s way. Wolf and his goons caught up with him and shouted loudly (and extremely falsely) for him to put down his weapon (which he did not have). Then shot him. Sara watched it happen. He survived because the bullet caught on his phone in his pocket. Afterward, they planted evidence to paint him as a traitor.
Billy Russo pays Curtis a visit. Seems he’s the money behind Curtis’s group and a soup kitchen or something. Curtis wants him to stay and talk to the group to show them someone who made it out and is doing well. Billy wants Curtis to join ANVIL. Curtis is happy being fully out.
David is still trying to convince Frank they’re on the same side. We get a flashback to Kandahar. Frank and eleven other elite guys were handpicked from all different branches of the military to be part of Operation Cerberus. They operated outside the rules, capturing, interrogating, and executing high-value targets. Schoonover and a CIA guy they nicknamed Agent Orange were in charge of it.
At group, Lewis tells them about a friendly fire incident that got painted as an enemy ambush by the press. He hated it, and he dreams about being lied about by the press like that guy. The tone-deaf old NRA guy thinks crap like that calls for taking matters into your own hands. Curtis turns that around to be about taking your future in your own hands and building your second life. When he’s not at group, he’s an insurance salesman. Lewis seems to be listening to the NRA guy more than Curtis.
The countdown is almost out again. Frank hasn’t found any explosives in the building, so he wants to know what the countdown is really about. It’s about cameras! It gets to zero, all David’s videos get broadcasted to the press. Frank lets him deactivate it again, but he’s still pissed. His family died because of the video David sent to Madani. David thinks that’s crap. They both did their jobs, and Frank’s job was the one that involved killing Ahmad Zubair. And Frank himself was the one who pulled the trigger. He and the other Cerberus guys weren’t told why, or why it was so important to get the bullet back out. One other guy in particular, Gunner, was getting increasingly uncomfortable with it.
Curtis and Billy have drinks at Frank’s grave, because it’s his birthday. Billy’s upset Frank never came to them for help after what happened to Maria and the kids. He could see Kandahar changing him, making it harder for him to go home. Curtis lets slip something that’s weird for him to know if Frank’s really dead, but plays it off.
Madani is looking at the crime scene photos of Wolf’s murder and talking to her mom. Her mom wants her to trust someone instead of trying to take on so much herself. She thinks maybe she’s afraid to let someone close because they’ll get killed like Zubair was.
Frank has the nightmare of Maria getting shot again, and this time the shooter Frank takes off his mask. David wishes him a happy birthday. He would very much like food or water or to not be tied to the chair anymore. The countdown starts again. David wants Frank’s help to protect his family. Also, the pen he’s been using to type the password has a syringe in it, which he sticks Frank with. It knocks him out.
Lewis is having nightmares when his dad comes down into his room, and he freaking shoots at him! Wow, this kid needs serious help. He’s super upset he nearly killed his dad and he runs off.
Sam goes to Madani’s office. He has Wolf’s bank records, which show $30 million in offshore accounts. Sam doesn’t appreciate her aloofness with him, since they’re the only two in the building they know aren’t dirty.
Frank wakes up. David is back in his clothes and drinking coffee. He has some for Frank. Frank is very disoriented and very surprised that David didn’t kill him. David explains that he used the same trick with patterns that Frank talked about in his scary torture speech to lull Frank into a false sense of security about the countdown. He says the guys who are after them have patterns too. Patterns they can exploit. Frank doesn’t want a partner.
More flashbacks. Frank got birthday cards from his family, including Springsteen tickets from Maria for when he went home. He teased Billy about when he was going to settle down. Billy had no plans to do so. Then Schoonover and Agent Orange briefed Frank and Billy on their next mission. Frank thought it looked like an ambush. Agent Orange was pretty confident it was good intel. Billy sided with Frank. Orange dismissed Frank’s instincts. Schoonover went with Orange’s intel, albeit reluctantly. And it cost him his arm. That was the mission Schoonover described in the trial in Daredevil S2, where Frank single-handedly saved the mission. He took a bullet while he was at it. That was the bullet that gave him the scar Donnie noticed in the first episode.
At debriefing, all the Cerberus guys were very shell-shocked, and in strutted Agent Orange, blithely asking if they killed the target. Frank was so infuriated that he punched him in the eye, ruining that eye. This whole mission was that guy’s fault. Billy pulled Frank off him and told him he requested a transfer back to Force Recon. He wanted out. He wanted out for Frank too. Frank didn’t get out, and then his family was killed in an attempt to kill him.
David wants to be the guidance system to Frank’s missile. He’s hacked every agency and he can find anything they need. One thing he found already is that Operation Cerberus wasn’t government-sanctioned. It was entirely off the books and illegal. Frank and all the other guys were tricked into becoming hitmen. Frank agrees to work with David as long as David’s cool with him killing every single guy involved in this. David agrees.
Heeeeey, so I think I finally figured it out. Someone in Cerberus sent that footage to the NSA. David found it and sent it to Madani, and that got back to Rawlins or Wolf or someone (hence the attempt to kill David). That led Rawlins and Schoonover to believe they were about to get found out and their operation ended because of a leak from the inside. Rawlins, being down an eye thanks to Frank, probably assumed the leak was Frank out of spite and wanted him dead. So now my question is: who sent the footage to the NSA in the first place? Is there someone else in Cerberus who wanted the operation exposed, or was the footage simply stolen via hacking? (I’m very happy that this rewatch is enabling me to figure out the plot, because I was so confused the first time I watched it.)
This episode is excellent because it provides a whole lot of much-needed context. We get David’s backstory and we get more of Frank’s. We see more of Frank’s friendship with Billy and we see Curtis’s friendship with Billy as well. We meet Agent Orange, Schoonover’s co-conspirator. And for all the new stuff we get in the main plot, we also get the buildup of Lewis Wilson’s side plot. Going back to the theme about all the ways war can break a man, here’s this kid. He feels betrayed by the system, but in a much less concrete way than Frank. Frank has specific, clear targets. Lewis just has general, roiling frustration and is definitely suffering from PTSD. Then there’s Billy, who claims to have gotten away mentally unscathed...
Things I Either Liked or Which Made My Heart Hurt for Frank Castle
Things I Didn’t Like
Frank always seems like a man of pure instinct to me. I have a hard time imagining him having actual thoughts with words, just gut reactions, perfect intuition about people, and an open wound left by the violent loss of his family. Oh, wow, and I just made the connection between his nightmares and the DVD of Zubair’s death. Frank now blames himself for what happened to his family, and his subconscious has made a direct line from him shooting Zubair to Maria’s death. Same outfit, same pose when he shoots, everything. Anyway, the way Frank struggles to trust David is interesting. He, who lost his family, has a hard time understanding how David could deliberately stay away from his own. He probably resents him for having successfully protected his family because he wishes more than anything that he could have done that. He super doesn’t appreciate being spied on for untold months. And this guy’s information was what likely made Schoonover decide he needed to die.
I really love how brilliant David is. Most hackers are only good at hacking, but he’s good at survival and manipulation too. (The latter being another reason Frank has a hard time trusting him.) I kinda feel like even if he had sent that footage through the proper channels, Rawlins would’ve found it and Wolf would’ve come after him anyway, so it’s better that he did the brave thing if neither option was going to end well.
Okay now I’m really curious about Billy. I’ve already seen it all, so I know he’s one of the bad guys, but I don’t know when that started. This Billy in the flashbacks does not seem dirty. He seems like he really is Frank’s best friend and hates what Cerberus is turning Frank into.
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.