Posted December 9, 2017 by Jasmin in Reviews

REVIEW: The Punisher Season 1 Finale – Memento Mori

Episode: S01E13 – Memento Mori
Directed By: Stephen Surjik
Streaming Available: November 17, 2017
Created By: Steve Lightfoot
Based on Characters By: Gerry Conway, John Romita, Sr., Ross Andru
Starring: Jon Bernthal, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ben Barnes, Amber Rose Revah, Paul Schulze, Jason R. Moore, Michael Nathanson, Daniel Webber, Jamie Ray Newman, Deborah Ann Woll

“Memento mori is the medieval Latin Christian theory and practice of reflection on mortality, especially as a means of considering the vanity of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits.”

The Punisher Season 1 Poster

© Marvel/Netflix

Madani completely erases the lines in this season one finale. Regardless of the acronym on a badge, government agencies are result oriented. Was the original mission accomplished? Then any fallout or collateral damage can be cleaned up after the fact. Frank Castle has, once again, carved a path of chaos through the city in order to settle a score. His quest for vengeance is Biblical in its scope and he is very nearly done.

Though Madani’s own behavior skirts the line between legal and not, she’s not a fool. There is only one kind of justice for a man like Billy, and it doesn’t involve handcuffs. It is easy to say she has forgotten where she stands by the time we get to “Memento Mori,” but she is extremely calculating. She played this whole investigation close to the chest and because of that planning, she’s still in the clear. “We haven’t done anything illegal, technically, not yet,” she says when she brings Castle to her father instead of a hospital.

There’s ice in her veins too, make no mistake. When Frank is up and ready to leave, she promises that once he walks out that door, he’s fair game. He thanks her for the warning and leaves, with the tracker he doesn’t know is in his boots.

Billy and Curtis - Memento Mori - The Punisher

© Nicole Rivelli /Netflix

Then we’re back to Curtis, the heart and conscious of this series. Billy threatens Curtis in order to get to Frank. There really is no level too low for Billy to stoop at this point. Despite his present actions, Billy still seems to genuinely care for Frank. He’s still hurt that Curtis knew Frank was alive the whole time and he didn’t. I was nervous when Lewis cornered Curtis in O’Connor’s house, but I am scared now that Billy is the one with the gun.

“Memento Mori” shines in its ability to create tension. Curtis calmly, slowly talks to Billy as Billy threatens his life. Curtis is patient and giving, but he’s still honest. Any scene that he’s been in throughout The Punisher is a treat because he is always a contrast to the character opposite him. And he got me good here because I did not expect Frank to be on the roof across the street.

The final stage is set as the season comes down to a hand-to-hand bloodbath. While The Punisher has not announced a second season, yet, they do an excellent job providing a true villain: Jigsaw. Billy’s pretty boy days are over as Frank chooses pain over death. Why kill an egomaniac when you can maim him instead? Billy’s death would have been cathartic, but knowing that he has to live with wrongs carved into his face is better than I hoped for.

Frank Castle - Memento Mori - The Punisher

© Nicole Rivelli /Netflix

The Punisher‘s first season is a fast-paced and morally questionable thrill ride. “Memento Mori” does end on a high note, but it does well to fill in gaps and tie up most of the story arcs. David is back with his family; Madani put her Kandahar ghosts to rest; and Frank can finally rest. With both the CIA and DHS (Homeland) having given him a clean slate, Frank is truly free to live a life.

And where’s the first place he goes with his new lease on life? His anchor, Curtis. He opens up and shares with the group of veterans and admits that he is scared of not knowing what comes next. “This is the first time in a long time that I don’t have a war to fight,” he tells them.

I wanted more from the ending of the season. Though I do not believe a happy ending is possible for a guy like Frank, I dare viewers to not feel some sense of relief. This series is an excellent companion piece to the other Marvel/Netflix series, and it loses nothing in its stand alone nature. The characters work well together within the frame of the story, and there’s depth to the big bads. The Punisher is the kind of series that does not have a definitive compass. Right and wrong are irrelevant because the story unfolds in such a way that it allows the viewer to choose how much of either is too much.

Frank Castle - Memento Mori - The Punisher

© Nicole Rivelli /Netflix

“Memento Mori” — a call back to David’s conversation with Frank in “Danger Close” — is a fitting title in the episode that gives birth to Jigsaw. Billy Russo was bad enough; I can’t wait to see what he’s like when hasn’t got his good looks to fall back on.

I love this little corner that The Punisher has carved out for itself within the Marvel/Netflix framework. The series epitomizes the original idea that The Defenders were “street level heroes.” I do not think Frank Castle would ever be one of the good guys in the big picture, but he’s one of the good ones in my book.

The Punisher is now avilable on Netflix.

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Jasmin loves Batman, sci-fi, and movies with lots of explosions. When she’s not writing about geektastic things, she’s probably playing video games or watching sports. Her ultimate goals include traveling the world to watch tennis and working for BioWare to revive the essence of the original Mass Effect Trilogy.