You want unapologetic, visceral violence? You’ve got it. You want a hard hitting, emotionally moving story development? You’ve got it? You want the best episode of Daredevil ever made? Well, You’ve got that too. Penny and Dime marks the highest point this series has ever reached and it was truly something special to behold.
From the outset the dynamic switches from previous episodes as Punisher finds himself going from being the hunter to the hunted. He is sought by a vicious Irish crime boss, Finn Cooley, who uses the same kind of fear and ultraviolence that has become Punisher’s signature to flush him out. Fans haven’t gotten to see what Frank Castle would do when he found himself on the back foot until now and he did not disappoint. Even when the walls are closing in around him he remains cocksure and in control. His icy resolve does not waver and this is yet further testament to how loyal the writers are being to these characters.
Punisher allows himself to be captured, though he makes sure to take a fair few mobsters down before that happens, and is subjected to brutal torture at the hands of Finn. What’s interesting about Finn is that he is hunting Frank not for revenge for his son who Frank killed, but for his money that Frank stole. It marks the first time this season that there has been an out and out villain with no redeeming characteristics and it was a necessary step in order to give fans the emotional connection to Frank that was required for his final scene to have so much impact.
Torture seems to be nothing new to Punisher as he takes a drill through his foot without letting it break him. By now his strength of character has been well established but what further endeared him to audiences is how he reacted when his dog was threatened. That genuinely seemed to bother him and it once again speaks to the complex psychology of this character. He is not totally devoid of empathy and it is this human aspect to him that allows fans to support such a thoroughly unrepentant individual.
Daredevil manages to come to Punisher’s rescue just in time, although the latter does take a bullet in the escape, and the two seem to strike up a begrudging, and highly unlikely, friendship. Or perhaps alliance would be a better word as they are unlikely to be exchanging numbers and grabbing a pint together any time soon. All of this makes for an exciting action set piece, perhaps not as good as last episode’s hallway battle but then this one did feature Finn’s face being blown off by a shotgun so it had that going in its favor. What will live on in the hearts and minds of fans though is not the intense rescue but rather the heartbreaking moments that came after.
In a great deal of pain, Punisher slumps against a tombstone as Daredevil rests beside him. Possibly due to the loss of blood, sensing that the end was near, or just because of his new kinship with ‘Red’, he opened up and completed the origin story that was started last episode. In what has to be considered one of the finest written and acted moments in Daredevil, and possibly all of TV history, Punisher laid bare the circumstances of his transformation from Frank Castle to the man he had become.
Jon Bernthal deserves all the praise in the world as he managed to bring a soft, emotional side to Punisher whilst never once sacrificing the core of the character. He told a tale of returning home from war a changed man, but a man who still loved his daughter and his family more than life itself. He made it clear that he was once a man with hopes and dreams and love in his life, a man who found pleasure in simply reading his daughter her favourite childhood book ‘One Batch, Two Batch, Penny and Dime’. Then he told of how it was cruelly ripped away from him, how he held his daughter’s lifeless body and stared at where her face used to be. After hearing this it is no wonder that he became the man he did, the justification he clearly felt in his actions becomes abundantly clear and understandable to the audience too. Really, this scene does what should be impossible and makes you feel sorry for The Punisher. If you managed to keep a dry eye during this scene then congratulations, because you are in the vast minority.
All of this coincided with Karen locating Frank’s families former home, left untouched since their murders. There she got a complete picture of the man for herself as she saw his love for his children. The striking normalcy of the home he once inhabited created a jarring juxtaposition to the tiny flat he had taken up residence in once his mission began.
There were individual character progressions for the rest of the cast too, Grotto’s funeral having a large impact on Matt, Foggy, and Karen, but the focus of this episode and this review had to be on Punisher as his arc was wrapped up for now. It is highly likely that he will pop back up at some point down the line but for the moment he has been given the best sendoff possible and it gave fans the best episode possible. Now that Elektra is on the scene things look set to take a brand new turn and you should be excited for that. For now, just bask in the glory of Penny and Dime.
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