Written by Dario Scardapane
Directed by Jet Wilkinson
We open with Frank giving video testimony of what Operation Cerberus was and who was involved, specifically incriminating Billy and Rawlins. Outside the room, David is holding Leo. She’s letting him hold her, but she’s upset and she’s worried about her mom and brother. It’s David’s turn to give testimony, but he’s not giving Madani anything until she helps him rescue his wife and son. He doesn’t believe that the system is enough anymore.
Frank explains how Cerberus missions would work. They got a name, they retrieved the guy, they interrogated the guy, they killed the guy. One of those guys being Ahmad Zubair. Madani is somewhat horrified when Frank reveals that he’s the one who shot Zubair.
Frank and David wait at a meeting site. Frank is confident that David’s trick with the computer countdown is why Rawlins isn’t having them shot and why Sarah and Zach are definitely still alive. Frank, who has a wire on him, is very insistent on David sticking to the plan, and David is very grateful for everything Frank’s doing for his family. Here comes the van with Sarah and Zach. They get out and have their hoods taken off. They see David. The bad guys strap gasoline tanks to their backs and slit them open. One wrong move and Sarah and Zach get set on fire. Billy calls Frank from his sniper nest to make that exact point.
The two pairs start walking to make the trade, Frank continuously reminding David to keep it together even as Sarah reaches for him. And then Homeland comes blaring up in multiple vehicles. Pandemonium breaks out. Gunfighting between Homeland and Billy’s men, and the guy watching Sarah and Zach drops the flare onto the gasoline trail. Frank gets grabbed and tossed in a van, and David yells and tries to halt the fire with his jacket. When some of Billy’s guys try to grab him, he gets shot, apparently by Homeland friendly fire, and Sarah watches him fall for the second time. Billy’s furious; they needed David to disable the countdown. Madani holds Sarah back from running to David while she screams. The van with Frank in it drives off.
We get some kind of flashback/hallucination sequence of Frank in his dress uniform and Maria in a wedding dress. He’s reliving their first dance at their wedding. Until Billy holds something smelly under his nose. He’s tied up in the basement. Billy isn’t too sad about Frank slaughtering all his men. Apparently it’s easy to get more. Billy wants to know what Homeland was doing at the exchange. Frank says he doesn’t know, and Billy believes him, because it makes way more sense that Frank would have wanted to personally kill Billy and Rawlins than that he made a deal with Homeland. Frank says David must’ve made a deal with them behind his back. Now, because David’s dead, that means they have to get what they need out of Frank. Frank asks if Billy had an actual hand in his family’s deaths. He wasn’t there. He knew about it, but he refused to do it himself. Which is why Frank survived. This is the worst betrayal for Frank, because his wife and kids loved Billy, and Billy still let Rawlins and Schoonover put together a plan that would get them killed alongside Frank. Billy’s attempts to intimidate Frank with the promise of death fall flat, because death is what Frank wakes up wanting most days. He promises Billy he’ll know what that’s like too, soon.
Madani unzips David’s body bag, and he gets up. He’s wearing one of those prop vests with exploding caps in them that make it look like you’re getting shot. Nice. His plan worked perfectly, but he’s worried about Sarah and Zach, who saw him apparently die. Madani already told them he was okay. Sarah is sitting with Leo and Zach when David walks in. She hits him a lot until she collapses into his hug, crying. The kids come and join the hug.
Frank scoffs at Billy for only ever caring about shallow crap. For Billy, that shallow crap is just the proof of how far he’s come. Frank tells him it means nothing because he lost his honor the second he took money from Rawlins. Billy just wants the passwords from Frank. In comes Rawlins to extract those passwords. He puts on special gloves and starts punching Frank over and over. He would probably be displeased to know that this soon sends Frank into a memory/hallucination of having sex with Maria. Also Frank loses a tooth.
David explains, somewhat incoherently, why he pretended to be dead for a year. Then they talk about Frank. David agreed to let him have a shot at Billy and Rawlins, even if it was going to be much more likely they’d kill him. Sarah is all for Frank killing all of them. Madani’s pretty sure Frank’s the one who’ll get killed. She wants the location where Billy took Frank out of David, because Frank took off that tracker they’d planned to use to follow him back to the bad guys. David doesn’t want to give Frank’s location up because he understands Frank very well. Frank isn’t sure he deserves to survive after what he did to Zubair and everything else, and he’s not sure he wants to, so he’s not concerned about an exit strategy.
Back to the fun torture scene. Billy doesn’t see the point in Frank not telling them what they need to know. There’s nobody left to protect. Frank’s already a walking dead man. Yeah, he’s still dreaming about Maria, not listening to Billy. He makes Billy promise to be the one to kill him, not Rawlins. Has to be clean. He tells him about the retinal scanner and the keystrokes. They haul him up there in his chair to do it. Billy snaps one of the zip ties. Frank does the password and scan. It opens up a computer screen, but it also turns on a camera. And frank has a knife stashed under the chair he’s in. He shanks Rawlins in the chest with it. Sadly, nonfatally. Billy pulls him off him and Rawlins kicks him in the head.
Frank is back in the dream where Maria wakes him up. Interestingly, this time, it’s devoid of all that dream haze, and when Frank moves, Maria jerks back like she’s a little afraid of him. Pretty sure that’s how it really happened, not the glowy perfect versions we saw before (well, perfect until Shooter Frank turned up and shot her in the head, obviously). He’s not super responsive, and she’s upset because less of him comes home every time. He tells her he’s done. He’s not going back to war again. She hugs him and cries.
A hacker girl is working on deleting David’s files. Her life depends on how good of a job she does. Rawlins is torturing Frank some more, just for funsies now. He’s furious at what some stupid grunt like Frank has cost him. Billy wants Rawlins to stop. The cameras are recording this. Billy wants to know what exactly Frank took from Rawlins.
David watches his family, and then he goes to Madani’s office and hops on her computer. He opens up the camera feeds on her screen. These feeds will be enough to take Rawlins and Billy down. They were a back-up in case Frank couldn’t kill them. But David can’t take it anymore. He wants them to go rescue Frank.
Rawlins wants Frank to beg for death. He’s working on breaking some ribs now. Billy pulls him off. Rawlins spouts off all the illegal crap he did for Billy and calls him a grunt. On camera! Whoops! Billy regrets pulling Frank off Rawlins back in Kandahar. He draws his gun to finish Frank off quick. Rawlins pulls his own gun on Billy. Billy discreetly cuts one of Frank’s zipties before backing off. Uh oh. Rawlins is screwed. He wants to get him an eye as payback for the one Frank punched out. Frank sees Maria again. He’s all covered in blood from the torture. This one seems like an out-of-body experience. She tells him to choose. He doesn’t want to. He can either go with her (die) or let her leave (live). Rawlins gives him adrenaline so he’ll be nice and alert for some eye-gouging. Frank pulls his hand out of Maria’s (and in real life, out of the zipties) and says he is home. Then he goes to freaking town on Rawlins while Billy watches. Yeah, have fun with that. You’re next. Frank says "I'm a reminder: all men die" as he kills Rawlins. Then he rolls over and gets to work dying himself, and he sees Maria in the reflection of Rawlins’s blood.
Frank is convulsing from all his injuries. He thinks he’s about to die, and he just wishes he could be there to see Billy’s face when he realizes what was caught on camera. Billy still doesn’t get it, but in comes Homeland. Before Billy can shoot Frank in the face, he gets shot in the gun arm. He flees. David’s there, yelling at Frank to stay alive. Out-of-body experience Frank can’t see Maria anymore, and he wakes up in real life. He can’t get any clear words out, except one. “Home.”
This episode is amazing. David’s plan to get his family back without actually handing himself over to Rawlins (can you imagine what Billy and Rawlins would’ve done to David if they’d gotten hold of him?), David’s interactions with his family, Billy turning on Rawlins (way too late, but it’s still satisfying), and Frank’s choice. It’s all fantastic, even if it’s deeply unpleasant to watch a character I love so much get beaten nearly to death.
Things I Either Liked or Which Made My Heart Hurt for Frank Castle
Things I Didn’t Like
I’ve wondered a lot about why Frank would be able to go after his family’s killers and all else involved without remorse or hesitation, and I think what he says in his video testimony kinda clears that up. He believes Operation Cerberus damned everyone involved (except maybe Gunner). And if he was already damned, then he might as well drag every last one of the bastards who took away the three closest things to heaven he was ever going to get with him on his way to hell. It also goes back to what he said to Matt about how once you’re on his side of the line, there’s no going back. Anyway, I think one big reason it’s way easier than it should be to root for Frank is all the beatings he takes. He just gets completely destroyed on a regular basis. If he could dole out all that punishment without taking any, I’d probably hate him. But this...you believe how emotionally broken he is when you watch him get so physically broken over and over again, and kinda welcome it. I think that’s what made the beating he took to save Karen the most uplifting of his beatings. Now, I’m really interested in the choice Frank made. In the memory, Maria wanted him to tell her if home was family or if home was war. He chose family, and that was the same day they all died. In the out-of-body experience, choosing family means dying, but choosing war means living. Is this still a choice about family versus war, or is it a choice about living or dying? Every time he chooses his family after they’re dead, he’s choosing death. The only thing keeping him alive since then has been war. So what’ll be left if he wins and survives the war?
David and Frank are totally bros now. David gets him and he’s loyal to him because he’s done more for his family than the justice system ever managed to do. So he’ll give Frank his shot at having revenge his way, but he won’t let Frank die for that. It’s the only way he can pay Frank back for saving them. I love how consistent David is all season about being the guy who notices and exploits patterns, but he also has patterns of his own. Namely, he fakes his death to protect his family. So he was able to come up with this brilliant plan to get himself “killed” before Rawlins could get his hands on him.
Madani comes out of this one looking pretty competent too. She listened to David and went with his plan, which worked, and she represents the system. I think the idea is that the system has failed both Frank’s family and David’s, but maybe it can change going forward.
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.