The Good: Good acting, Decent pacing, Compelling character moments, Impressive direction
The Bad: Moment of predictability, Graphic violence becomes so realistic it stops being at all entertaining
The Basics: The Punisher gives the viewer two significant catharsis's in "Home," which is challenging and difficult, but still manages to be wonderful.
As The Punisher rushed toward its ending, the show created a final series of conflicts that were compelling and worked to close the book on the story of Frank Castle and David Lieberman (in case the show only got one season) and seed enough for a second season. "Home" is the penultimate episode of the first season of The Punisher and it is bold in the way it sets up both its plot and the potential for Madani to evolve into another Punisher.
"Home" picks up very shortly after "Danger Close" (reviewed here!). Castle and Lieberman, on the run from Russo and Rawlins, are forced to turn to Madani in order to try to get Sarah and Zach Lieberman back from Billy Russo. "Home" leads to another cold conflict between Frank Castle and Billy Russo and the dynamic in the episode is dramatically different from the prior episodes where Castle believed Russo was his old friend.
Frank Castle comes in to the Department Of Homeland Security. There, he makes a tape for Madani detailing Cerberus, the people involved and his involvement in the illegal CIA-run death squad. In the same building, David Lieberman tries to reassure his daughter, but Leo figures out quickly that her father and Frank are probably going to go rogue to get Sarah and Zach back safely. Madani learns, from Frank, that Frank himself was the triggerman on her partner in Kandahar's murder. Lieberman quickly locks up the computers, preventing Russo from getting access to the Micro video and the video confession Castle made for Madani. Castle orchestrates a prisoner exchange: Lieberman and Castle for Sarah and Zack Lieberman. While Frank is turned over to Russo, Lieberman appears to be killed during the exchange.
Russo interrogates Castle, desperate to find out what happens when Lieberman's computer timer reaches zero (before it happens). With less than five hours until the clock reaches zero, Russo becomes more desperate and David Lieberman is reunited with his family. When Rawlins enters the interrogation, Castle turns verbally agressive. At Homeland Security, Madani tries desperately to find out where Frank Castle has been taken, while Lieberman tries to explain the past year of his life to Sarah. With three hours on the clock, Castle makes his move and prepares to sacrifice himself in the attempt to end Rawlins and Russo.
"Home" is an episode that starts quiet and turns absolutely brutal as Rawlins tortures Frank Castle. The episode combines surreal imagery from inside Frank Castle's mind in a compelling transition that illustrates well Castle's conscious and unconscious minds. Through the use of surreal dance scenes, Jet Wilkinson smartly illustrates how a torture victim might escape into their own mind as the brutality of the experience increases. The Punisher very compellingly explores the idea that torture does not work as a means of getting reliable information and it is refreshing to see that on television today.
The set-up with David Lieberman being "killed" during the prisoner exchange is well-executed, but a fairly obvious conceit. But while that conceit is predictable, the episode does not belabor that or drag it out for especially long. Instead, Lieberman is quickly revealed to be alive and the episode refocuses on Lieberman being reunited with his family, Lieberman standing up to Madani to protect Frank Castle and Castle being tortured mercilessly. The Lieberman family reunion is a decent catharsis, which plays as one of the episode's more enjoyable moments opposite the brutality of Castle being tortured.
Russo is revealed in "Home" to be more complex than he initially appeared. While Rawlins tortures Castle, he is presented as a man whose power has gone completely gone to his head. Maniacal and twisted, Rawlins becomes obsessed with torturing Castle. Russo, on the other hand, maintains his moral core (in his own twisted way) when he makes a promise to Castle for a clean, quick death. Upset by how Rawlins will not allow him to give Castle a fast death, Russo has to make a decision about where he truly stands.
"Home" is one of Jon Bernthal's best ever performances as he embodies perfectly the exhaustion that comes with portraying torture. Bernthal plays the dance scenes beautifully, with an uncommon calm and plays the character of Frank Castle in a way that is compelling and incredibly rendered. "Home" gives Bernthal the chance to show off how deep of a performance he can give.
Ebon Moss-Bachrach plays David Lieberman magnificently with a sense of desperation at one of the episode's key moments that helps the emotional core of the piece land. Amber Rose Revah continues to embody Madani as the consummate professional and Paul Schulze is terrifying as Rawlins as the C.I.A. operative goes completely over-the-top.
"Home" might be bloody and uncomfortable, but it continues the trend of The Punisher making compelling, realistic and disturbing television.
For other Marvel Television Universe penultimate episodes, please visit my reviews of:
"A Little Song And Dance" - Agent Carter
"The Dark At The End Of The Tunnel" - Daredevil
"Bar The Big Boss" - Iron Fist
For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!
© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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