Karen writes a profile on the now deceased Frank “The Punisher” Castle, and Elektra reflects on her past, while fighting for her future.
After a boat explodes with a large shipment of heroin, along with the Blacksmith, his men, and Frank Castle, the NYPD spend the morning pulling bodies and whatever evidence they can out of the Hudson River. With Frank and the Blacksmith dead, Karen sees no point in continuing her investigation into the Castle family murders, but Ellis has other ideas. He convinces Karen that stories don’t just disappear, they merely change. Instead of an expose about the D. A.’s cover up of the Central Park shootings, Karen decides to write the story of the true Frank Castle, the face of the Punisher that New York never saw; veteran, and grieving husband and father.
To get more insight into Frank, she visits the rural home of Col. Ray Schoonover, Frank’s commanding officer in Kabul, and the only character witness who was willing to speak on Frank’s behalf in the trial. After a brief interview with Col. Schoonover, Karen recognizes a face in one of the Colonel’s photographs of him and Frank, as one of the Blacksmith’s men who attacked the boat the night before. Schoonover’s mask is revealed as the Blacksmith, and he takes Karen at gunpoint. Taking Karen’s car to drive into the middle of the woods, Schoonover lectures Karen on loyalty, and the neglect veterans face once they return from overseas. But his monologuing is cut short when Frank crashes a truck into the side of their car. Recognizing men he served with at the docks, Frank survived the explosion made his way to Schoonover’s home, finding him with Karen. After crashing into them, he drags Schoonover away to finish what he started, despite the pleas from Karen to not prove everyone right that he’s a murdering monster. Frank accepts his fate, sending Karen away and finally putting an end to the Blacksmith.
After an attempt on Elektra’s life by one of Stick’s men, the Chaste, Elektra is on the war path to kill her former mentor. Warned by one of Stick’s men before succumbing to his injuries inflicted by Elektra, Matt intervenes before she can strike the killing blow. He begs Elektra to spare Stick, to prove that she’s better than Stick believes her to be, just a ruthless killer. The Hand enters into the fight and while Matt and Elektra fight them off, they disappear, taking Stick hostage. Matt intends to rescue Stick and splits off from Elektra, who only seeks to kill him. Following old subway lines, Matt comes across another Hand hideout and Stick being tortured. Despite his enduring pain, Matt’s one time mentor pushes through it while whispering advice to Matt as he fights off Hand soldiers, and finally reaching Stick just as Elektra arrives.
Her vengeance must wait as they are surrounded by Hand forces, led by Nobu. Instead of ordering the attack, he lays down his weapon to his true leader, the Hand’s greatest living weapon, the fabled Black Sky; Elektra. As Nobu explains who she is, Elektra’s past begins to make sense to her. As a child she was trained by Stick, but hated by everyone else, called a “thing” and “it,” thought to be too dangerous to be allowed to live. Stick opposed his colleagues and saved Elektra, hiding her under an adoption to a Grecian ambassador. Her life makes sense now, always feeling out of control in her desire to kill. Matt stands against her with Stick, opposing the Hand, and after a hint from Elektra, they make their escape, Elektra grabbing Stick and getting away, leaving Matt to once again face Nobu.
“The Dark at the End of the Tunnel” is split into two different narratives that have been in place from the beginning of this season. The Punisher’s plot comes to head as he finally kills the man responsible for the massacre that killed his family, a man he once respected who used the contacts made in the Middle East to supply heroin to the streets of New York. Separately, the Daredevil’s plot and fight against the Hand, a story that has been slowly building since the first season, comes to a shocking revelation that Elektra is this “Black Sky” that Stick and the Chaste have feared, going as far as killing a young boy in the first season to prevent whatever disaster was to come with it. But, while they are two different stories, they join in theme of a character meeting their destiny, and either accepting it or denying it. Frank, killing Col. Schoonover, embraces society’s view of him as a killer, as the Punisher. While Elektra, helped by Matt, denies the destiny put before her as the Black Sky and leader of the Hand.
One small note; this episode also brings up a real issue, something these street level Marvel shows have done very well so far. The first season of Daredevil uncovers the true nature of corruption and wealth inequality. Jessica Jones focuses on the abused and overcoming their abusers. Now, with the Punisher’s story just about complete, we’re faced with the ugly face of the way veterans are treated on their return from serving their country. Sent to hostile territories to kill in the name of democracy, on their return they are conveniently forgotten. While Frank and Schoonover’s own actions deserve to be judged, it’s the neglect of veterans that push them to making such decisions as running heroin, as trying to survive in a country that doesn’t care for those who put their lives on the line to defend us.