WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Marvel’s The Punisher, available now on Netflix.
It’s only fitting that Frank Castle’s crusade should presumably end where it began, on a carousel in Manhattan’s Central Park. Given how often Marvel’s The Punisher flashed back to that incongruous setting of joy and horror throughout its first season, there was really no other place for the showdown between Castle (Jon Bernthal) and his best friend turned greatest enemy Billy Russo (Ben Barnes).
With CIA veteran William Rawlins (Paul Schulze), the architect of the conspiracy that resulted in the deaths of Castle’s wife and kids, now dead at The Punisher’s hands and Barnes left ruined and pursued by authorities, he’s determined to settle a few scores. After all, he has little to lose — or so it would seem.
Following a tense standoff with Castle, with their mutual friend Curtis Hoyle (Jason R. Moore) caught in the middle, Russo calls for a midnight meeting, “by your painted ponies,” to bring their bloody conflict to an end. “How do you feel about that?” he asks. “Finish this where it all started.” Although Russo (or “Uncle Billy,” as Castle’s children called him) didn’t have a hand in the murders of Maria and the two kids, he clearly chooses the location for its poetry, and the trauma.
Bloodshed on the Carousel
The showdown on the moving carousel, witnessed by a pair of concession-stand employees taken hostage and wounded by Russo, owes much to the climax of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1951 thriller Strangers on a Train, in which the protagonist and antagonist finally confront each other on a merry-go-round, not-so-coincidentally near the scene of the crime that sets the plot in motion. Although the firefight between Castle and Russo begins nearby, it quickly moves onto the carousel where, like in Hitchcock’s classic, the scene becomes more and more manic, as gunfire, the cries of the hostages, the ride’s moving parts and the increasingly disturbing carnival music whirl together.
The mirrored scenic panels at the carousel’s center are a bit like Chekhov’s gun: Once they appear on screen, we just know they’ll come into play in the fight, both because of Russo’s vanity and because of his comic book origin, which is far different from that detailed on the Netflix drama. In the comics, he’s a hit man known for his good looks who’s hired by the mob to kill anyone who might know about the botched gangland execution that resulted in the deaths of Castle’s family. He succeeds in killing everyone but Castle, who knocks Russo through a glass pane, leaving his face horribly disfigured. He adopts the nickname Jigsaw, and continues as The Punisher’s archenemy.
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