The Punisher Season 1, Episode 1: “3AM” recap

by | Nov 22, 2017

A recap of where Netflix left The Punisher in Daredevil, because they don’t give you one.

This series begins with no introduction. Netflix apparently wants you to watch Daredevil before binge watching The Punisher. This is the same universe as in the series Daredevil, where Frank Castle (played by Jon Bernthal) was introduced. In that show, Frank kills his way through various criminal lowlifes to find the truth (he thought) about his family’s massacre: They were killed in the crossfire of a drug deal between rival gangs gone bad when Col Ray Schoonover, a drug lord known as “The Blacksmith” didn’t show up.

Castle killed Schoonover, the man who trained him, stole his armory and left to finish the job of killing everyone associated in any way with the murder of his family. That’s where this show begins.

 

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The Punisher has a punishing montage

 

Frank Castle shows his daughter how to play the guitar in a fuzzy flashback. The camera cuts to Frank in a dark, almost prison-like room. He is playing the guitar, then it cuts again, and he’s sitting, hands empty but in a position as if he were playing.

Frank is now in a van chasing two men on motorcycles. They shoot at each other, and Frank hits the lead motorcyclist, bringing both down. Frank passes the wreckage and spins the truck around, saying, “one batch, two batch, penny and dime” ominously. He crushes the motorcyclist as he crawls away. Frank drives away.

A taxi drops off a cartel member (as a passing non-character casually mentions) in Juarez, Mexico. The cartel member goes inside a building and stands in front of a lit window. Frank targets him through a sniper scope. Frank fires, and long, silent seconds pass with nothing. Suddenly the wall behind the cartel guy is spattered with blood, and he drops like a rock. The camera zooms out a long, long way, and the subtitles read, “El Paso, Texas.” International vigilantism! Haven’t seen that before.

We see another drug courier or cartel member in a bathroom stall, talking on a cell phone. He’s so dead there’s no reason for the show to even properly introduce who he is. The Punisher walks in as he talks on the phone and kills him. That’s a high bodycount in the first 5 minutes. Frank burns his Punisher outfit and walks away.

 

 

Castle punishes walls instead of criminals

 

6 months later, Frank smashes a reinforced concrete wall with a sledgehammer. The reason I can tell it’s reinforced concrete is he smashes straight through it. The other demolition workers call him, in quick succession, “gimp,” “Castaglione,” (Pete Castaglione is his name now, apparently) and “retard.” Someone throws a small rock at his head. He pauses but goes back to smashing.

Once everyone has left, he sits down and eats lunch without them. He goes back to smashing walls, alone, until late at night. He is fighting off memories of his children, and screams with each swing of the hammer. Finally done, he releases the hammer and goes home. He reads Moby Dick and falls asleep, dreaming of his family. He wakes up, thinking his wife is alive and with him.

Back at work, another demolition worker antagonizes him, angry that Frank is taking all the work. He says, “You don’t want me for an enemy,” kicks over Frank’s lunchbox and steps on his sandwich. Frank represses the urge to smash him into a puddle with the hammer he still holds.

 

 

Frank’s demolition coping mechanism isn’t cutting it

 

The young, new guy at work (Donny) finds Frank sitting up on the roof and offers him half his sandwich. Frank accepts it and they chat a little. Frank reveals he was in the Marines, and Donny says his dad was a Marine, but both his father and his mother are long dead. Frank remembers his own loss, which is clearly never far from his mind, and tells Donny he doesn’t want a friend. He leaves.

Frank (sort of) goes to a support group for veterans. He doesn’t go in and says nothing, but he lingers hesitantly in the doorway of the room. After all the veterans leave, Frank walks in and greets the leader of the group by name: Curt. They exchange a friendly greeting and Frank gives back Moby Dick, the book he was reading last night. Curt asks what Frank would need to be happy. Frank laughs, “Happy is a kick in the ***** waiting to happen.”

Curtis won’t have it. He says Frank Castle is dead, but Pete Castaglione, his new identity, is alive. Curt apparently knows about Frank’s murder vigilante spree killings from 6 months ago and does not mind. But Curt does point out that since Frank killed everyone who had anything to do with Maria and the kids is dead, “the only person you’re punishing is yourself.”

 

 

Meet Dinah Madani, ICE agent

 

A woman drives up to a building and is stopped by a security team. She shows her ID, which reads, “MADANI, Dinah,” in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), a Homeland Security Investigations agent. She and her new partner (Sam Stein) have a stilted conversation, saying he is her new partner and the old one (Ahmad Zubair) was dragged from his home and murdered.

This episode is pure plot exposition. It’s not boring, but it’s a little hard to get through. They’re packing a lot of information in here.

Dinah plots points on a map of Kandahar, Afghanistan where her partner died. Her superior (Wolf) enters and nixes her investigation into her partner’s death, which was related to US soldiers smuggling heroin. She doesn’t care much about making Wolf mad, so she and her partner get right into it. She does care about Frank Castle, The Punisher, even though Sam tells her he’s dead.

 

 

Donny needs some cash

 

Donny went to a bar with the jerks who made fun of Frank earlier in the episode. Everyone gets drunk, he pays for everyone’s drinks. The next day one of them, Paulie, proposes he and Lenny rob high stakes poker game. Frank overhears the conversation but doesn’t say a word. They threaten him but he leaves, still without talking.

His new friend/not friend, Donny, is recruited to help rob the poker game without being given any details. He needs money after spending so much on everyone’s drinks last night. Frank hears this also, but simply walks by.

Dinah is in a high rise with her mother, Farah, drinking wine and talking about her dead partner. Farah tries to discourage her investigation into Ahmad’s death.

Donny and his pals rob the poker game, shoveling handfuls of money into a bag. As he does his driver’s license falls out and everyone pauses to read his name on it. One of the mobsters says, “You really screwed this up, Donald.” They all run out of the room. The mobsters will be able to track them all down now by their association with Donald.

 

 

Frank has a strange recurring nightmare

 

Frank, sleeping, dreams of his wife, a memory or dream we saw the beginning of earlier in the episode. It continues this time, and she gets up to make breakfast. A masked soldier in full gear walks up silently, inside their home, and shoots his wife in the head right in front of him. Frank wakes up screaming and goes to work at the demolition site to keep his demons at bay. What’s strange is, this isn’t how his wife died.

But Frank’s insomnia is good news for Donny. The other thieves have decided that he has to disappear because of his screwup during the robbery. So they decide the best way to make him disappear is to throw him in a cement mixer and fill it with concrete. Frank catches them at it and demands they turn it off. They attack, and Frank finally uses the sledgehammer we’ve seen him gripping all episode.

 

 

It’s punishing time

 

He quickly and brutally puts the hammer to work, crushing bones and disabling bodyparts. He smashes one with a heavy, two-handed strike to the back as he crawls away, crippling or him. He smashes another in the head and he falls into the cement mixer. Donny screams as the body falls in with him.

Paulie shoots at Frank, with remarkably good aim for someone who’s been hit with a sledgehammer. But close doesn’t count. He runs out of ammo, and Frank takes a gun from the still-crawling Lenny (crushing his hand casually in the process) and blows Paulie’s brains out as he was about to drive away. He tortures Lenny slightly for the location of the robbery before smashing his head in with the hammer.

Throwing all the bodies into the mixer, Frank also throws Donny a rope to climb out. He leaves the bag full of money with the words on it, “LEAVE TOWN.” Donny didn’t see Frank during any of this.

Frank drives to the location Lenny gave him. The mobsters from the poker game have a ton of guns laid out on the table, preparing to go after Donny. The lights flicker out, and guns start blazing, strobing in the darkness. Finally the mafia boss turns the lights back on, and looks unbelievingly at all his dead men before Frank appears behind him, grabs his hand and shoots him in the face with his own gun. Frank leaves.

But he’s caught on a security camera. It can’t see his face, but an unknown man in an unknown place runs a program which analyzes his gait. He says, his face way too close to his computer screen, “Ah. Welcome back, Frank.”

 

Questions raised by this episode

 

This is the same universe and Punisher that we saw in the Daredevil Netflix series, so I’m a little confused. We already know how Frank’s wife and children died. They were killed outside when caught in the crossfire of a botched gang meeting, not in their family home. The dream seems important and doesn’t connect with reality at all as we were shown it in the Daredevil series. Something else is going on.

Why did Frank stop killing criminals? I get that he killed everyone even remotely connected to his family’s death, but I’m surprised he stopped there. It would be easy for him to adopt a new cause (for example, executing vengeance for someone else’s family or child). I expect it will happen soon, but I’m surprised he ever stopped.

 

 

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