“The Dark Hearts of Men” is a messy, back-and-forth instalment of The Punisher Season 2, but it builds to an impactful climax.
This recap of The Punisher Season 2, Episode 10, “The Dark Hearts of Men”, contains spoilers. You check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Blimey, another flashback! The one that kicks off “The Dark Hearts of Men” concerns Frank and Billy enduring a Marine hazing ritual not entirely unlike the “Tunnel of Death” playground game we would always subject dorks and birthday kids to. It’s classic bonding!
Speaking of bonding, Frank and Curt are at it too, debating their opposing methods as they stakeout Billy’s hideout while he ominously surveys them from an adjacent rooftop. Frank’s reasoning is pretty clear, really: “There’s no bounty if nobody is alive to pay it.” Fair enough. He asks Curt if he has anything to say about that, which he doesn’t. “It’s all been said.” Quite right.
Twenty-four hours earlier, Madani is at Dumont’s place, guzzling wine and chatting about Billy and such things, and this is so clearly a ruse that I found myself wondering if it’s simply the fact we have knowledge that Madani doesn’t, or that Madani is really just an idiot. It’s probably the former, but that’s the disadvantage of structuring your show in quite this way; you run the risk of making your heroes look particularly dumb rather than building suspense.
Frank, back in the present day, is still a bit concerned about his similarities to Billy, which is becoming quite a reiterative arc at this point. I suppose that’s inevitably going to be a consequence of a Punisher story, but these middle episodes have been littered with debates on morality than can seem a little circular. If you’re going to play that card you need to play it with some effort and really commit to it, which doesn’t seem to be happening in “The Dark Hearts of Men”. Yet, anyway.
Then again, Frank’s doing a lot better than Pilgrim, who is taking coke bumps and patching himself up after a horrendous beating, which includes pulling teeth out of his f*****g head. This is intercut with flashbacks to him f*****g up every one of his old associates in that bar, drawing obvious parallels between him and Frank, although admittedly Frank doesn’t take liquor and cocaine when he departs a crime scene.
Back in the past, Madani finds herself yet again defending Frank, this time to Dumont, which is becoming a habit of hers. But is it because she cares about Frank or because she hates Billy? Is it a combination of the two? She manages to hit on the difference between them: Frank still believes that he’s good, that he does what he does for the right reasons. And that, according to Dumont after Madani has left and Billy has revealed himself as being privy to the conversation, is how they’re going to beat him – they’re going to take that belief away.
This revelation is deployed as a “twist” – all will become clear in a moment – right at the end of “The Dark Hearts of Men”, but it doesn’t really work as one because it was so obvious Dumont was up to something. Then again the conversation did also manage to give some insight into what attracts Dumont to therapy and, by extension, to Billy – she thinks he can be saved. So it had a purpose; if the same clutch of scenes were deployed in a slightly different episode, perhaps one that wasn’t quite so back-and-forth, it might have worked more effectively. But ultimately it did work, so what can you do?
As for how exactly it worked, we’ll discuss that in a moment. For now, spare a thought for Pilgrim, absolutely off his rocker, terrorising people in his hotel and getting sucked off by some woman while imagining his wife’s bloody, disappointed face. Needless to say, he’s having a terrible evening.
But Frank, somehow, is having a worse one. After trying to rationalise why Billy is so compelling to people – Curt compares him to the Hashashin, and believes he’s giving the disenfranchised something to be a part of – Frank heads into the hideout… and right into an ambush. It’s intentionally filmed to be disorienting and, in its way, reminiscent of a horror film; lots of flashing lights, loud noises, screaming, and men in masks. Frank gets seriously f****d up. And then, as he must, he slaughters his way out of the situation, pursuing Billy through the warehouse and firing wildly after him as he escapes. While this is going on Curtis, who is either a truly terrible shot or an expert moralistic marksman, shoots one of his attackers in the leg. As he bleeds out, Frank discovers that in his rage he has accidentally gunned down three innocent women. He is no longer good, no longer doing what he’s doing for the right reasons, and his suspicions about him becoming Billy are confirmed.
See? Told you it worked.