Over the past few episodes of Netflix’s The Punisher, the Lieberman household has slowly but surely been descending into chaos. Between Leo being an extreme overachiever, Zach going through extreme anger issues, and Sarah unsure of how to keep her family together, the Liebermans have had a rough go of things lately. And for the majority of Episode 8, aptly titled ‘Cold Steel’, things only got worse.
Episode 7 ended with Frank finding Rawlins, AKA Agent Orange, and attempting to assassinate him. And though the attempt was unsuccessful (thanks to bulletproof glass), Frank was able to capture the image on his scope. David got straight to work and it took him surprisingly little time to find out exactly who Orange is. So, now they know the truth. And it makes perfect sense. Only someone this high up, someone with this much power could orchestrate something like Kandahar.
It’s at this moment that David realizes how much danger he might’ve just put them in. They could have had people on the servers waiting for David to appear. They could be tracking them as they speak! And when he looks at his screens and finds all of the feeds to his house down, he spirals into a full blown panic attack. He doesn’t ask Frank, he orders him to go check on his family. And though very, very few people tell Frank what to do, he goes without hesitation. He’s grown to care about these kids, and honestly, I think he’s grown to care about David.
Frank comes to the house armed with flowers. If there isn’t anything wrong, he’s going to need an excuse for coming there! And I don’t think ‘your dead husband sent me to check up on you,’ would fly all that well.
Luckily, the flowers do end up coming in handy. Frank runs into Sarah at the side of the house while she’s taking out the trash, and after accepting the flowers, she invites him inside. She’s flattered. It’s there that Frank sees the modem unplugged, explaining David’s loss of feed. After Sarah pours them each a glass of rosé, she tells Frank that she unplugged it as punishment. After hitting his sister and stealing a skateboard, Sarah had to punish Zach in some way. But she ended up caving, letting him go out with his friends. She just couldn’t stand the thought of hearing him complain the whole time about not having internet. She needed a moment of quiet, but now that she has it, part of her misses the noise, the complaining. If anyone understands this, it’s Frank.
While they continue drinking, Frank plugs the modem back in. He tells Sarah he’s just saving her the trouble, but in reality it’s for David. He needs to know that everything is okay. And like clockwork, Sarah switches the topic of conversation to her husband. She says one of the things she misses most is that once every week, David would take her keys and just be gone for about 20 minutes. He was gassing up her car because he knew she hated doing it. It was familiar and easy, it always had been. How does she move on from that? She sees couples walking down the street and she wonders if she’ll ever have that again. Does that mean she’s a bad person? Does it mean that she’s moved on? Frank tells her she needs to stop being so hard on herself. This guilt isn’t doing anyone any good, and she has nothing to feel guilty for. She needs to just allow herself to feel what she feels. There’s nothing wrong with that.
Frank makes an excellent point, but in the moment, it ends up not being the best thing to say. After he declines her offer to stay for supper and instead just takes something to go, she leans in and gives him a hug. But then she tilts her head up and starts to kiss him. Frank’s confused, but it’s a few seconds before both of them realize exactly what happened. Sarah apologizes, shaking her head and blaming it on the wine. Frank tells her he’s flattered, but it’s just…their relationship isn’t like that. And she knows that, she doesn’t want it to be anything different. While she cares for him, and while there was definitely a tangible lead-up to this moment, I think it is more platonic than not.
But the real question is if David will believe that. When Frank gets home, he sees that David’s been drinking. A lot. And he has his screens frozen on the image of Frank and Sarah kissing. But despite the whole being drunk aspect, David’s dealing with this a lot better than I thought he would. He doesn’t blame either of them, he actually gets it. It just sucks.
Over the course of the night they both continue to drink, sharing stories of how they met the loves of their life. Frank met Maria in a park on a sunny day. He was strumming his guitar underneath a tree, “like a derelict”, as Frank describes it. And while he was struggling along, he looked up and saw her.
“She smiled at me…oh man, I was done. She had me.”
It was only a matter of time before we received another Frank Castle monologue on love, and I have to say that it was worth the wait. It’s clear in the way he talks about Maria that she was the only one for him. She was his true love. And even David can see that.
The next morning, Frank gets a worrying call from Sarah. She’s audibly shaken, talking about how she thinks Zach is in trouble, that he might try to hurt someone soon. Frank heads out to the Lieberman residence with no hesitation, and what he discovers is extremely troubling. Sarah found a knife, and a large one at that, in Zach’s bag. Frank tells Sarah to bring him down and suggests that she go for a walk around the neighborhood while he talks to him.
The understanding is written on her face. She knows that whatever Frank intends to do, it’ll scare Zach. And maybe it’ll shake him out of whatever he’s going through. If anyone can scare him straight, it’s Frank Castle. It’s clear that Sarah doesn’t know if this is the right decision, but at the same time, she trusts him to do what’s necessary, whatever that may be.
Zach’s pretty distant at the beginning of the talk, before Frank pulls the knife out. He says it was a good choice of weapon. That knife is actually a marine’s best friend. See, with a gun, you can get lucky. The bullet can miss. But with a knife, you can drive it right through a person’s skin, you can gut him. Kill him. Zach is definitely paying attention at this point. And then Frank grabs him by the neck and holds the knife against his throat. “You feel tough now? Huh?” But what happens next is heartbreaking. Zach begs him to ‘do it’.
Frank’s expression changes instantly. That roughness is gone, and all that’s left is concern and fear.
“I got that knife because I was scared! I don’t even have any more friends! I just wanted…it feels bad. All the time. Maybe I wanted them to feel bad, just once!”
Zach begins to sob and Frank holds onto him, clutching him to his chest and telling him it’s okay, that he’s sorry. Zach continues to sob into Frank’s shoulder as David watches, heartbroken and torn. He wants to be there for his son, but he can’t be.
To say this scene was intense is an understatement. But as horrible and heartbreaking as it was to watch, Zach needed a man that he could cry in front of, a man that could comfort him. He needed to reach that breaking point. Was this the right way to go about it? Well…no. But Zach needed Frank, he needed some sort of a father figure. And it looks like Frank may continue to be one for him. Near the end of the episode, we see them actually throwing a football back and forth in the street. Frank even calls Zach ‘my man’, which is pretty much the cutest thing that’s happened in this show. And there have been a lot of adorable moments.
This moment is nearly ruined when David shows up, barely hiding himself behind a hedge. Luckily Frank catches him in time. David tries to convince Frank that Zach needs his father, that he needs to be there for him, but Frank snaps him back into reality. If Zach sees David, they’ll kill him. Rawlins and his team, they will kill his son without hesitation. He needs to get away before that happens and at this point, Frank is willing to do whatever it takes to get him out of there. Earlier in the episode, David suggests that they go to Madani and tell her everything. She’s on their side, after all! She doesn’t want Frank Castle, she wants the men behind Kandahar. And since David is the one who leaked the video and Frank is an eye-witness, they could work together to take down Rawlins. Frank is adamantly against this plan but in the moment, he agrees. It’s what will get David to leave, and for right now, that’s enough. But who knows what will happen when he returns?
The Punisher is unlike any of the other Marvel/Netflix shows. It’s even darker, and that has a lot to do with the fact that it’s more grounded in reality. This isn’t about heightened abilities or evil, mythical organizations. This is about people, people who have both good and bad in them. And it proves to us that not everything is black and white.
For more on what happened in ‘Cold Steel’, specifically regarding that gut-wrenching death, check out our other recap.
The Punisher Is Currently Streaming On Netflix.