Episode 3, titled ‘Kandahar’, was by far the goriest, most emotional episode yet. We got a glimpse into the horrors that Frank faced side-by-side with Billy Russo. We got a better idea of exactly what kind of man Billy Russo is today. And we discovered the truth of David’s past. So many crucial discoveries were made in this episode, so let’s take a look at what we learned.
David Really Was Trying To Do The Right Thing
You can never be too sure, especially with new characters, if they’re good people or if they’re simply just pretending. But as it turns out, David Lieberman actually was trying to serve the greater good before he got shot. David was the one who found the video of Ahmad being tortured. And in that moment, he had a choice to make. Turn it over to his superiors and run the risk of having the video and the truth covered up, or sending it to Dinah. And though both he and Sarah knew the potential and probable consequences of sending that video, David felt he had to. He and Sarah have worked hard to raise their children as good people, teaching them to always do the right thing. How could he continue to preach that if he didn’t live up to it himself?
So, he creates an account under the name Micro and sends the video off. But the next day, when they’re driving the kids to school and are stuck in a traffic jam, David turns around and sees Carson making his way towards the car with a SWAT team behind him. He kisses Sarah one last time and tells all of them to stay in the car no matter what happens. He says it over and over again until seconds later, he’s gone.
He ducks into the park and after failing to get lost in the crowd, runs up the steps to a pier. That’s where they corner him. He puts his hands above his head and pleads with them that this is all a mistake. And then Carson shouts at the SWAT team, “He has a weapon!” Sarah runs to the pier to try and stop them, but then some of guns turn on her and David begs even harder. That’s when Carson shoots David in the chest, forcing him to topple backwards into the river. Everyone thought the shot had killed him, but what they didn’t know was that David’s phone was in the chest pocket of his shirt and took the brunt of it. David survived, but he knew that he had to stay off the grid. He had to stay dead in order to protect his family.
David shares all of this with Frank while being tied to a chair, completely naked. And yes, by looking at the situation, it definitely looks like Frank has all of the control. But thanks to a specific code and retina scan needed to keep footage of the building from going directly to media sources, David is able to keep some of the power. And later in the episode he gets his chance to use it to his advantage. While Frank is tying him back up, David takes a syringe and shoves it into Frank’s arm. Whatever was in it was incredibly powerful, it knocks him out almost immediately.
When Frank wakes up, he wonders why he’s still alive. But David explains yet again that he never wanted him dead. He wanted to work together to bring down the people that tore apart both of their families. The men who forced Frank’s unit to commit off-the-book horrors back in the war. Frank may a force to be reckoned with, but David is the one who can find who they’re looking for. And so Frank agrees on one condition. Not one of them is left alive. David’s response is simple. “I can live with that.”
Meanwhile, Billy And Curtis Reunite
This episode gave us a much deeper insight into Billy Russo, and honestly, I’m here for him. He stops by to visit Curtis after the support group finishes, and it’s clear right off the bat that they’re old friends. Billy gives him a check and we find out that he does this often. His money is the reason the support group exists. Curtis invites him to come to a few meetings, but Billy says it wouldn’t feel right.
“I’d feel guilty that I got out in time. These guys…they’ve got problems that I don’t. And I’m way too selfish to do what you do.”
Curtis points out that the money he gives is anything but selfish, but Billy just shrugs. Money wasn’t the only reason Billy came. As it turns out, it’s Frank’s birthday. And that’s always a hard day. Billy and Curtis head to the cemetery to visit Frank’s gravestone and Billy admits he misses him. A lot. But he’s frustrated and confused, too.
“I wish he’d…why didn’t he come to us, man? After Maria and the kids? Why didn’t he come to us? He didn’t have to be alone. We could’ve helped him….I could see it…even before what happened.”
Billy doesn’t just miss Frank, he feels responsible for his death. For everything that happened. He feels guilty for not doing more. But there wasn’t a lot that he could’ve done. As Curtis tells him, Frank wasn’t looking for help. He was looking for justice, for revenge. He wanted everyone who played a hand in his family’s murder dead, and he’d do anything to see that happen.
Anger is a normal part of grief, but Frank’s anger was always something more than that. And this episode, we find out exactly what happened when he served in the war. What exactly his unit was forced to do, and how it changed him.
“They Call Us The American Taliban”
The operation was called Cerberus. And each member of the unit was hand-picked for a specific reason. Frank Castle and Billy Russo were team leaders and the unit’s moral was strong. It wasn’t the people in the unit that was the problem. It was the people behind it, and what they were asking for. Cerberus was about taking care of problems swiftly and secretively. They did anything and everything they had to in order to get the information they needed, and then they buried the evidence. Though Frank and Billy didn’t know for sure at the time, Cerberus was indeed off-the-books. At the end of the day, they were soldiers being used as hit-men. And that came with a price.
In Season 2 of Daredevil, we hear a story from Schoonover where Frank warns the unit that they’re heading into a trap, but no one listens. And when it turns out to be an ambush that no one thinks they’ll get out of, it’s Frank that fights his way out and saves their lives. We finally got to see it for ourselves in this episode and the result is…harrowing, to say the least.
It’s an absolute bloodbath, and so much of it is caused by Frank himself. I think it’s that moment when the Punisher is born, he just didn’t realize it at the time. It’s incredibly heartbreaking to watch, because there’s this understanding that this person isn’t Frank, it’s what they turned him into. And in the war, the things he did made him a hero. Back in New York, it makes him a serial killer. Whether what he does is right or wrong, there’s injustice in the system. It never did right by Frank Castle.
It’s at the end of that specific mission that Billy tells Frank he’s getting out, that they both need to get out. This isn’t what they signed up for, and Frank needs to look at himself and ask if this is what he wants the rest of his life to be. As we know, they both are able to leave. But for Frank it was too late. The damage had already been done.
Billy Russo feels guilty and responsible for everything that happened to Frank, but it’s unclear whether Frank holds him accountable as well. He hasn’t told Billy he’s alive, but is that because he doesn’t want to see him, or because he wants to protect him? Hopefully answers will come in the next few episodes, but one thing is certain. If ‘Kandahar’ was any indication of the episodes to come, The Punisher will be one of the best series on Netflix. It’s horrifying and heartbreaking, but it’s incredibly real, honest. It’s grounded, and it feels like so much more than just a superhero show. That tone, I think, won’t be going away any time soon.
The Punisher Is Currently Streaming On Netflix.