His name is Frank, by the way. Frank Castle. “Penny and Dime” sees the Punisher’s identity finally come together for our heroes, as his actions from the season premiere catch up with him. United under bossman Finn, the Irish mob is hunting for the man who wiped out a room full of their men — and it’s a personal vendetta, because Finn’s son was one of those victims. The mob is rather effective, too, quickly finding the Punisher’s hideout and discovering his obsession with a certain Central Park carousel.
Meanwhile, Nelson and Murdock are also on their way to finding out who the Punisher is, thanks to Karen’s pressure on assistant D.A. Blake Tower. He gives her the information his boss, District Attorney Reyes, wasn’t telling anyone she had. It isn’t much, though, mostly just an X-ray depicting a skull with a bullet hole and the name of the man who examined it.
From there, “Penny and Dime” is about the hunt for Frank Castle. Karen Page runs off on her own and figures out where he lives, with some help from the medical examiner who took that X-ray and saw Frank inexplicably refuse to die, despite that bullet to the head. She breaks into his abandoned family home at night, discovering his home life, the wife and daughter he loved and lost, his service record, and evidence of the decent man he used to be.
At the same time, the Irish find Frank at the carousel where his family was killed, and take him hostage (not before he kills a bunch of them, though). Daredevil takes a little longer to figure out where Frank is — he has to ask his favorite cop, Sgt. Brett Mahoney, for a lead — and then learns of the shootout at the carousel. Once there, he finds one mobster left alive, who spills the details about where the mob is hiding out.
Frank is being tortured by Finn and his goons, enduring a lot of punches and a power drill through his foot. Why such gruesome torture? Well, in addition to killing a bunch of Irish thugs, Frank happens to have a lot of their money, and Finn wants it back before he kills him. This, however, gives Daredevil enough time to find them and fight his way in. (The way this sequence is shot, with Daredevil silhouetted in a dimly lit tunnel, quickly and efficiently taking goons out, is DELIGHTFUL.)
The distraction afforded by Daredevil allows Frank to spring his own escape plan — a razor blade he had hidden in his forearm (ugh) that he uses to cut himself free and take out the men in the room. Even Finn. Daredevil then finds Frank, who is in pretty bad shape and can’t make it out on his own. The two of them work together to take out the heavily armed mobsters as they rush into the room. This leads to one of my favorite comic-book tropes: when the hero who doesn’t kill fights bad guys while also working to stop the antihero who does kill from finishing off the baddies they subdue. Also, Frank calls Daredevil an “altar boy.”
After the fight, the two of them make their way to a nearby cemetery, where Frank can go no further, so they decide to have a bit of male bonding.
Throughout the series, Frank has been saying a nursery rhyme before he kills people: One batch, two batch, penny and dime. While Karen searches Frank’s house, we learn he got it from a children’s book in his daughter’s room. In the graveyard, we find out why it means so much to him: His daughter wanted him to read that book to her when he got back from his tour of duty, except he didn’t because he was exhausted. He promised to read it to her the next night — only he never got to, because she was murdered the next day.
I’ve been waiting a few episodes to bring it up, but it’s time to talk about Jon Bernthal’s performance as Frank Castle. Isn’t he pretty great? Bernthal doesn’t exhibit tremendous range — he’s mostly playing angry/determined/nihilistic/deranged — but he is committed. That’s why scenes like this one, in which he’s basically just growling through intense mangst, still work. Bernthal sells the Punisher as a weary, broken soldier, working through pain in the only way he knows how.
The heart-to-heart between Red (heh) and Frank is cut short by the arrival of Sgt. Mahoney, who wants to bring in Daredevil as well as the Punisher. Daredevil convinces the officer that taking him in will compromise the Punisher’s arrest — the world needs to see that the system works, that the cops can take down the Punisher without another vigilante’s help. (It’s shaky logic at best, but whatever.) He’s not acting entirely out of altruism, though — Daredevil knows Mahoney will probably get a promotion, and a detective on his team is better than a sergeant.
And so, the first arc of Daredevil’s second season comes to a close with Foggy, Karen, and Matt relaxing at Josie’s over beers. The romance between Karen and Matt finally comes to fruition on the way home, as Karen walks Matt to his apartment in the rain. It’s a really lovely scene: Matt senses a single raindrop fall down her arm, then traces its path back upward with the back of his hand. The two kiss and he asks her out to dinner the next day; she accepts and catches a cab home.
There are dark, weighty themes being contemplated this season. This episode raises difficult questions about guilt and violence and the limits of one man’s crusade. But still, if only for a moment, Matt is happy.
And then he finds a woman named Elektra waiting in his apartment and we know it definitely won’t last.
Devil in the Details:
Daredevil’s new lid. The costume we’ve seen is essentially the one Melvin Potter made at the end of the first season, which is kind of a bummer. That thing needed a bit of work. The bullet Punisher fired at Daredevil’s head in the premiere, however, gives Matt a reason to get a new one. I suppose it looks better, but it’s still not great — it’s entirely red, and doesn’t cover his ears. He also gets new gloves, but that detail isn’t nearly as noticeable.
Matt Murdock, patron saint of Catholic guilt. Foggy, Karen, and Matt are the only ones who attend Grotto’s funeral service, performed by Father Lantom. They talk about Matt being plagued by guilt, even though he’s doing everything he can. Lantom reassures him he’s doing plenty, but guilt can be a nasty reminder that there’s still so much more to do. It’s a bit confusing, but in Daredevil’s world the point of being a devout Catholic is to never be sure about anything.
One Batch, Two Batch. I’m pretty sure it’s not a real book.