Martin Carr reviews the fourth episode of Daredevil season 2…
After the moral debate over violence, blackmailing government officials and defusing of an ER knife fight we come to ‘Penny and Dime’. For anyone expecting the pace to slow down you’re in for a rude awakening.
Following on from the death of Grotto and subsequent funeral, certain files concerning codename Punisher have shed light on Frank Castle. A so-called vigilante with cold-blooded, high body count credentials and just one of several who choose to follow the Daredevil route to justice. Karen carries on the less than legal investigation and the mob opens up a world of pain on our boy.
Now if John Bernthal owns any episode that would be ‘Penny and Dime’. After the epiphany which happened audience wise during ‘New York’s Finest’, it became apparent that Castle is thinking clearly. Admittedly the rationale was a touch off kilter and that lack of Catholic faith leaves no room for redemption, but his methods are clear-cut and beyond doubt. But what ultimately makes Matt Murdock more intriguing is that struggle which he experiences minute to minute. Even though both men are doing what they believe to be right, Castle and Murdock remain flip sides of the same coin. More than once Murdock is told that Daredevil is the wrong approach and without him this Punisher would not exist. Yet despite the allegations and overwhelming evidence he remains in denial. An accusation which could never be levelled at Castle which helped Bernthal steal every scene out from under our ‘hero’ in episode three.
There are moments in ‘Penny and Dime’ which drift towards pathos involving nothing more than a park bench and carousel, in which Castle’s humanity floors you. Now I never saw the Thomas Jane interpretation with John Travolta on bad guy duties, but I doubt he matched Bernthal for emotional breadth without dialogue. It is here where you sense Castle can be redeemed if someone somewhere cuts him a break. But ultimately that sentimentality brings back memories of pain and anger in a vicious cycle, which means true peace is unobtainable. Because his killings have impact and the premeditated method means a lot of people are out for blood.
Many actors could have pulled off one half of the Punisher equation, but less are capable of delivering on both. Having empathy for someone who enters into a one man killing spree is hard, but somehow alongside Cox, Bernthal has made an intelligent, highly motivated, irrational man likeable. This Punisher is this way because of Bernthal. In another example of superiority Daredevil has upped the ante and reminded us that heroes come in more than one colour. Let’s be honest sometimes we like them in shades of grey.