Written by Felicia D. Henderson
Directed by Antonio Campos
Billy gets all dressed up (in his normal suit) and visits his mother in the hospital. At first it only seems mildly strange, but it gets increasingly horrifying as it becomes clear that he’s keeping her paralyzed to be his audience for villainous rants. I think the implication is that she was a drug-addicted prostitute, and she definitely didn’t want him as a baby. He grew up in group homes. He sort of thinks it was a gift, because having nothing made him strong.
David has found Rawlins. William “Bill” Rawlins III. Director of Covert Operations for the CIA. He’s blue blood from Virginia. David is suddenly worried that he will have brought the CIA down on them just by pulling up the guy’s file. Frank thinks that can’t be true, or they’d be on them already or there would at least be chatter. Except that then the feed goes out at David’s house. He flips out and makes Frank go make sure his family is okay.
After some shower sex, Billy and Madani talk about their scars. (And I guess I was wrong about Frank shooting him in the arm last time.) One of his scars is from a pedophile who tried to molest him when he was at the group home, and he hit him with a stickball bat, so the guy broke his arm and screwed up his shoulder pretty bad.
Frank heads over to the Liebermans’ with flowers so it doesn’t look weird that he’s lurking about. Turns out nothing’s wrong; Sarah just turned the wifi off to punish Zach. She invites Frank to have a drink with her. They end up going through quite a lot of rosé. He doesn't seem to realize how charming he’s being. Back at the basement, David made a sandwich that he’s not eating, waiting anxiously for an update.
Madani and Sam have a conversation about an arms deal Frank Castle is about to do to get ammo, which is fake, so they can lure out whoever bugged the office.
Frank plugs the router back in, and David is starting to lose it when the feeds go back on. Now he gets to watch Sarah kiss Frank after they talk about whether or not people who lose spouses move on or not. Frank shuts that down and it’s very uncomfortable, and he lets her blame the rosé. By the time Frank gets back to the basement with the enchiladas Sarah gave him, David is pretty deep in a bottle of...whiskey? I don’t know anything about alcohol. Let’s go with that.
Rawlins meets Billy at a dock. Theirs is a grudging partnership. Rawlins wants to move on what he heard from the bug. (Wow, how’d he get so high up in the CIA if he’s so bad from telling traps apart from legit intel?) All the guys Frank and Gunner killed in the woods in Kentucky were ANVIL, so if Rawlins wants to try killing Frank at this alleged arms deal, he doesn’t get to use current ANVIL guys. Rawlins will pay whatever outside contractors cost, and he’ll get Billy the tactical plan as soon as Homeland files it. At Homeland, Madani briefs her team on a different tactical plan than the one filed online.
David’s messing with the guitar again. Frank tells him how he met Maria, playing his guitar under a tree when she came up to request he play something different. He told her a request was gonna cost her. Haha, aww. David tells him how he and Sarah got their start. They were in the same History of the French Novel class, and he worked up the nerve to talk to her at a costume party, they went back to her place and talked and ate toast all night until he finally kissed her, and that was it. Then the conversation gets less adorable when drunk David gets all weird because he’s jealous and tries to passive-aggressively get Frank to back off of Sarah by telling him how well-endowed he is.
Drunk David suddenly snaps out of his weirdness when he realizes that they don’t need to hide from Madani. They need to go to her and tell her everything so that she can arrest Rawlins. Frank reminds him the deal was Rawlins dies. David tries to call Madani and Frank has to slap the phone out of his hand. David takes a swing, which Frank ducks, and then Frank pops him in the face. He was so drunk there probably wasn’t much left to do to knock him out, but it does, and Frank dumps him on his cot.
Billy meets with some former employees and hires them for Rawlins’ hit on Frank. Back at the basement, Frank wakes David up with loud noises. He made him some fermented rice stuff. Sarah calls. David’s still sulking. Frank tells him he asked Maria to marry him the day she told him she was pregnant (three months after they met), and he never looked back. He doesn’t want Sarah. Sarah leaves a message that she’s really worried that Zach might be planning to hurt someone.
He heads over to their house. Sarah shows him the rather impressive knife she found in Zach’s backpack. Frank offers to talk to him. She leaves them alone. Frank proceeds to do the gnarliest tough love fathering I have ever seen. Basically scares all the tough guy attitude out of him by showing him a level of tough guy he never knew existed. Zach admits he got the knife because he’s scared and lonely with no friends, and then he cries while Frank hugs him.
Billy and his four mercs move in to the site of the alleged arms deal. Madani’s team jumps out to arrest them. It does not work. A very intense firefight ensues. Both teams are wiped out, down to Sam and Madani on one side and Billy on the other. Billy stabs Sam to death as soon as Sam pulls his mask off, pretty much as foreshadowed by Frank’s speech about a KA-BAR versus a gun at close range. Madani finds Sam dying. He can’t even speak, so he can’t tell her who killed him.
Frank is now playing catch with Zach on the street in front of the house. David is right around the corner. Frank chases him off before Zach can see him, with promises that they can go to Madani so long as he doesn’t blow his cover and get his kid killed.
Madani is shivering in the bath, still covered in Sam’s blood, and freaking Billy is there helping her clean up.
It’s very unsettling how this episode is bookended with scenes of Billy taking care of women in ways with extremely disturbing undertones. First, his mother, whom he has imprisoned at this facility and keeps docile with drugs. Then Madani, whom he’s been using and lying to since they met, cleaning her up after spilling the blood she’s now covered in. In between those scenes is a lot of stuff about which I have mixed feelings. There are probably a lot of Punisher fans who get impatient with all the stuff about Frank and David’s family, but I am all about that crap. I love it. I love Frank having an opportunity to be fatherly, and I love the extremely unorthodox way he goes about it. I love Frank and David swapping stories about their wives. I love drunk, jealous David and Frank having zero patience for him. Everything about their side of the story is great. It’s the trap Madani and Sam set up that gives me trouble. Her plan seemed very bad. Why was her entire team lined up facing the same direction? Her plan to bust the Greek arms deal seemed much better laid out than this. They should’ve had snipers in different locations and guys hiding with cover against various walls. They should’ve successfully captured a couple of the mercs, while Billy still escaped after killing Sam. Having the only two operations she’s been in charge of that we’ve seen so far fail this badly makes her seem extremely unfit for her job.
Things I Either Liked or Which Made My Heart Hurt for Frank Castle
Things I Didn’t Like
I love how oblivious Frank is that he’s being super charming to Sarah, and the effect it’s having on her. I love when he bops David over the head to knock him out when he’s being drunk and angry, and that he does agree to go to Madani if it’ll stop David taking crazy risks like coming right up to his house without hiding his face. He’s become this family’s very scary guardian angel, and it’s wonderful. I think it's extremely important for Frank to see a mom and her kids with the father figure missing, to get close enough to them to see exactly how they're hurting. He has convinced himself that Maria, Frankie, and Lisa would've been better off without him and that he got them killed, but watching the heart-wrenching struggles of Sarah, Zach, and Leo proves that there is no "better" when it comes to missing family members. I don’t know how much I believe what Frank said about the kind of kid he was. Did he go through a phase where he was an angry kid who wanted to hurt people? I’d buy that. I wouldn’t buy him as a straight-up hooligan. His code and gruff politeness seem way too entrenched for that. There's a really interesting parallel between Frank and Zach. Zach "feels bad all the time" and he wanted to make the kids being mean to him feel bad. That's like the schoolyard version of Frank's revenge. I don't think Frank expected to identify so strongly with Zach, even though he started out with that comparison about how he acted as a kid. I think he was absolutely gutted at the thought that this eleven-year-old boy feels something even close to as bad as how he's felt since losing his family. They both bury their pain under darker things like violence and lashing out, and he doesn't want Zach to have to go through that.
David’s position is so rough. The only way he can protect his family is by letting them believe he’s dead. They’re safe, but they’re emotionally gutted, which isn’t something he can do anything about. How much can a good father take of watching his kids falling apart and his wife struggling to deal with it when she's falling apart too?
Wow, for a guy who preens as much as Billy does, he super hates being called pretty. Is that all from that creeper when he was a kid? Seems excessive to stab Sam so violently for it, but he went cold on Madani when she called him pretty too, and I think Frank made a similar comment in those flashbacks when he threw the football at Billy’s face.
This episode is where I seriously start to question Madani’s competence. Someone whose operations go horribly wrong as often as hers do should not be as adamant about doing things her way as she is. Is this going to turn out to be what it takes to get her to start doing things by the book? Because if not, it’s looking like she needs to be fired.
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.