Serious plot developments and an absolutely tremendous performance from Jon Bernthal elevate “The Abyss” into one of the season’s finest hours.
This recap of The Punisher Season 2, Episode 11, “The Abyss”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
“The Abyss” opens with Frank Castle in an ambulance all kinds of ****** up. He’s having delirious flashbacks to the three innocent women he just gunned down as Mahoney ferries him to the hospital, under arrest. The paramedics are scrambling to save his life, but remember the most important thing: The cuffs need to be left on.
Curtis isn’t faring well either. He returns to the trailer where Amy is waiting, but while she’s showing genuine concern about Frank, he’s close to a breakdown over having killed someone. Pilgrim, too, is still suffering, and to make matters worse his wife has died during his drug binge, but Eliza Schultz (Annette O’Toole), the matriarch, is keeping it from him.
Hey, look, it’s Karen Page! She manages to hustle her way in to see Frank by bamboozling the copper at the door with legalese, and waits at his bedside while he sleeps. Now is a pretty good time to note that Deborah Ann Woll doesn’t get nearly enough credit for her role in these shows. Between her episode in Daredevil Season 3 and her stellar performance here in this episode, she’s such a reliable presence that her simply being present for “The Abyss” truly elevates it. While Frank stews in his guilt and self-loathing, she knows, deep down, that things might not be as they seem.
But how to prove it? That’ll require the help of Agent Madani, who already thinks the crime scene is fishy and is incredibly perplexed when Billy knows just when to call to taunt Frank. Something’s up, and just as her and Karen begin to properly realise it, Billy explains to Dumont that he is still unsatisfied with the outcome, laying out on the table the bullets he used to kill those three girls just so Dumont has a sense of how complicit she is in their deaths.
Eventually Amy arrives disguised as a nurse (the cop on guard duty is having a mare! He’s also another grown man who clearly wants to **** Giorgia Whigham. Make a note.). With everyone present realising that something’s amiss, Karen and Madani head to the morgue to enlist Karen’s creepy friend Ed in giving them access to the bodies of the girls. A quick examination proves that they were killed at close range, and not by Frank, although the information comes with a price to be paid by Karen – more on that hysterical note in a moment.
Frank’s monologue about his family in “The Abyss” is absolutely ******* spectacular; a truly award-worthy performance from Jon Bernthal in which he determines that, even by his own moral code, he is a monster deserving of death. Honestly, it’s a sublime piece of writing and acting and it is imperative that nobody else plays this part ever again – Frank Castle, like Wolverine, has become so inextricably bound to a single actor that I’d rather not see that character again than see anyone else play the role.
Anyway, Eliza finally tells Pilgrim about his wife’s death, and while he is clearly becoming disillusioned by his work for the Schultzes – “But he never did anything to me,” in reference to Frank – Eliza manages to sway him by referencing the biblical sacrifices of Abraham. Anyone unfamiliar with the Binding of Isaac should probably know that the sacrifice of children factors heavily into the story of Abraham, which makes the point quite clear. If Pilgrim doesn’t finish his mission, his sons – who are being cared for by the Schultzes – might pay a price on his behalf.
Dumont also opens up to Billy about her past. Her father was a Vietnam vet who struggled to return to civilian life. Threatened by Dumont’s mother with divorce and thus the loss of his child, he decided that if he couldn’t have her nobody else could either, and jumped out of a window with her in his arms. That… explains a lot, I guess. He needed someone to save him and he didn’t have anyone; hence her career, and her belief that everyone can be redeemed.
At the hospital, a cop blags his way into Frank’s room in an attempt to collect the bounty, but he’s thwarted by Amy and then by Madani and Karen. Before Amy intervened, Frank willingly offered his arm to the would-be assassin’s lethal injection, accepting of his fate, believing he deserves it. But not for long! Madani and Karen inform that he didn’t – couldn’t have – killed those girls, at which point he asks for his cuffs to be taken off. It’s time to escape!
And the escape is lovely, really. It includes a moving farewell to Karen, who will probably never appear again since all these shows have been cancelled, and also a really funny gag which sees Karen now barefoot and weirdo Ed strutting around in her heels. Madani helps Frank escape just as Pilgrim arrives at the hospital, but Mahoney, wise to the tricks, manages to catch them outside. He bundles Frank in an ambulance, under arrest yet again, and sets off into the next episode at high speed. We’re approaching the end, folks. Anything could happen.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.