And now we’re really into it, with ‘The Punisher’ getting into some serious action, and really delving into some more thoughtful philosophical quandaries concerning gun-control, vigilante justice, and Frank’s ethical and moral code. These four episodes I think have the most story and action packed in, which is good as the show ramps up for the ending, and helps offset some of the slower episodes earlier in the season.

The main story that takes up the episodes 9 and 10 is how Frank deals with Lewis, who has become a mass-bomber with a manifesto, striking out at government targets to protest government control over things like gun-control, following many of the ideas that O’Connell had been speaking of before. He thinks he is styling himself after Frank Castle in standing up for what he feels is right and even approaches Karen Page for support. He is furious when she denounces him publicly for hurting innocent lives in his quest, something she knows Frank Castle would never have done. Frank overhears Karen’s statements and knows she has made herself a target for the bomber, though he does not figure out it is Lewis until the young man himself calls into the show Karen is on and ends his rant with the phrase “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” something that both Frank and Curtis recognize as a favorite phrase of Lewis from the group sessions. Curtis gets to Lewis first but cannot talk him down, and after a quick fight, Lewis bests the older vet by taking advantage of Lewis’ leg implant handicap and literally beating his old counselor with it. By the time Frank catches up, Curtis is strapped to a bomb while Lewis is nearby watching from a sniper scope, waiting for the cops to arrive so he can get them all with the bomb. He calls Frank and says they should be on the same side, and after a heated discussion where Frank tells him repeatedly that they are not the same, Frank manages to convince Lewis to help him disarm the bomb, saving Curtis. Unfortunately, the cops are still on the way, and arrive just as Frank is leaving, resulting in a chase that Frank eventually gets away from, but not before his face is spotted by a dashboard camera, and plastered all over the news. His secret is out now. The world knows The Punisher is alive.

Lewis’s next target is US Senator Ori, one of the biggest names pushing for gun control laws, who is all too aware that Lewis is targeting him, and has hired ANVIL and Ben Russo personally for protection. Meanwhile, after pulling herself back together and leaning a little heavily on Russo for support, Dinah manages to recover from the death of Stein and get back to her life in time for an unplanned meeting with Micro, who takes matters into his own hands and tries to set up an alliance with her without consulting Frank directly. With new vigor, she jumps back into her work and learns that all of the men who attacked her and Stein at one point worked for ANVIL, making her suddenly very suspicious of her boyfriend, who she had grown a little too close too lately. So she heads out to meet up with Billy at the hotel where Senator Ori is staying, at the same time that Karen Page is headed over there for an interview with Ori. Karen and Ori’s “interview” seems more like a heated discussion about guns, as Karen believes people should have the right to carry (as she does), and Ori seems oddly closed-minded about the issue.

Their talk is interrupted by Lewis blasting through the hotel wall, having infiltrated the building using an ANVIL disguise he stole from an ANVIL guard he killed earlier in the episode. He tries to kill both Karen and Ori, but Frank shows up just in time and saves the pair (though Ori later refuses to remember the part about Frank being a hero). Lewis takes Karen hostage, escaping down the elevator and leaving Frank alone with the remaining ANVIL guards who start shooting at him once Lewis is gone (clearly on Russo’s orders). Frank escapes down the stairwell. Billy, after a quick, tense meeting with Dinah where he denies having anything to do with the attack in question, realizes something is wrong upstairs and heads up, followed by Dinah, who manages to find Frank on the stairs, holding him at gunpoint and demanding he be her witness against Rawlings, revealing her meeting with Micro.

Their talk is cut short when Russo enters the stairs and shoots at Frank, grazing his head (revealing to Frank that he is an enemy now), and then the NYPD bursts in, arresting both Russo and Dinah who at that point are pointing their guns at each other. Frank makes his escape down the stairs using a fire hose as a rope and ends up in the hotel kitchen, where Lewis is holding Karen hostage. He tries to talk Lewis down but the man is not budging this time, but in doing so Frank manages to reveal to Karen how to disarm the bomb Lewis has around his chest, which she does right before reaching into her purse and shooting Lewis in the foot with her gun (though I personally thought her gun had been taken by ANVIL when she got to the building, which is either a plot hole or a deleted scene). It ends with Lewis locked in the freezer as he sets off his final bomb, with Frank and Karen taking cover in the kitchen as the troubled guy kills himself. 

As more NYPD officers swarm in, Karen lets Frank use her as a hostage to escape, and Frank flees the building using a zip-line he had set up earlier, while the rest of the characters are interrogated for their actions during that day by Detective Brett Mahoney (who you might remember from ‘Daredevil’), the interrogations being the framing device the episode uses to tell the episode’s story (meaning this was mostly a weird, non-chronological flashback episode, but I was mostly ok with it).

Following those traumatic events, Micro and Frank get into an argument about Micro going to Dinah, with Micro saying it is time to end the war. As they are about to part ways, they realize that Micro’s family has been attacked thanks to the video feeds from David’s home, with only his daughter escaping Russo’s men, who have kidnapped the wife and son. Instantly the two are a team once more, as they prepare their plan. Frank knows they will now be able to track him to Micro’s lair using the wife’s cell-phone, so he stays behind to set up traps and plan an attack on Russo and his men, while Micro heads out to retrieve his daughter and get to an appointed meet-up area. Micro’s reunion with his daughter is bittersweet considering the circumstances, but still a very nice scene, and well-acted, finally seeing that family start to come back together.

As for Frank, after laying his traps he recreates his Punisher costume, spray painting the famous skull on a vest. His assault on Russo’s men is vicious and brutal, leaving all of them dead, but sadly, no Russo. Russo had opted not to go, fearing Frank, and knowing that Rawlings also wasn’t going, as clearly the older man was still afraid of the man who ruined his eye. Little did Russo know that Rawlings was also making plans to throw Russo under the bus, making him the scapegoat for everything that happened so the CIA did not go after Rawlings, or lose face with all the Frank Castle business.  In the end, Frank meets up with Micro and his daughter, and brings along Dinah, saying it is time they all work together, and they form a plan to get David’s wife and son back.

The plan involved a computer left running in Micro’s lair, which Rawling and Russo are all too aware of, that only Micro can shut down, which supposedly will send out everything Micro has on Russo and Rawlings if he himself is not there to shut it down before the countdown ends, meaning Russo and Rawlings wants Micro, and of course Frank back, those being their biggest loose ends. So a hostage trade is negotiated, with Frank and David sacrificing themselves so Micro’s family to be set free. They all meet on the waterfront and everything seems to be going to plan until Dinah shows up with Homeland Security Agents, and a firefight ensues. Frank is knocked out and taken hostage as planned, but Micro is shot in the back by friendly fire, and Russo and his men are forced to flee with only one of their prizes. Of course, we later find out that Dinah and David faked the shooting so David could stay free with his family, and Frank went along with it so he could be alone with Rawlings and Russo, his sacrifice allowing Micro to reclaim the family that Frank never could. 

Of course, Dinah had planned for Frank to take a tracking device back with him so she could follow, but Frank disconnects that in the faint chance that he could free himself and kill Rawlings and Russo Punisher style without Dinah’s interference. All of which leads to a pretty intense interrogation and beating of Frank by Rawlings, who lets out most of his frustrations and rage on Frank now that the man is tied down and unable to defend himself, something that is hard for Billy to watch, even if he himself is a villain. Billy eventually turns on Rawlings when the man talks down to him and makes it clear that Russo is just another expendable tool to him, so Billy loosens Frank’s bonds just enough for Frank to escape, which happens after Rawlings gives Frank a shot of adrenaline to keep him awake/alive while Rawlings gets ready to deliver the killing blows to the Punisher.

Of course, throughout all of this Frank is plagued by visions of his wife Maria, beckoning him to “come home,” the symbolism clearly being that should Frank choose to die that day, he would be able to reunite with his family. But Frank is still Frank, and of course he chooses to live and exact his revenge. He breaks free, GRUESOMELY kills Rawlings, and collapses on the ground next to him, close to death. As Billy approaches to deliver a mercy shot, Dinah and Micro come in with HLS agents. David finally gives in and told the agent where his old lair was, which was the only reasonable place they would have taken Frank, especially if they were still trying to shut down his computer. A shot from Dinah to Russo’s arm is enough to make the man flee the scene, but HLS agents are unable to catch him. As for Frank, he is taken out of the place by Micro and Dinah, though Micro insists on not getting an ambulance or going to the hospital, as that would mean police, and he wants Frank to be free when he recovers, which Dinah reluctantly allows.

Definitely the most exciting and engrossing of all the episodes so far, and continues the trend of many of the Marvel/ Netflix shows of the penultimate episode feeling like the finale, making me wonder what is left to do in episode 13 (although I already know, Frank has to go after Billy). Loved the return of the Punisher costume, and that the showrunners were not afraid to really go dark and a little gross with the realism of the beatings and interrogation Frank went through, to really show the results of the violence, and the pain this man endures to get the justice he believes in. Cannot wait to see him take on Billy at last in the finale! See you back here then!