After a season spent uncovering the seedy secrets of the Punisher's past, the final episode of the first season of The Punisher opens the door for one of the hero's most infamous villains to take center stage in the future of the franchise. The epic final battle actually didn't come down to the Punisher versus the his former Operation Cerberus commander William Rawlins after all, but rather Frank Castle facing off against his former best friend Billy Russo. And the gory ending to that finale fight scene serves as Billy Russo's origin story as Jigsaw, the Punisher's arch-nemesis from the Marvel comic books. I know, right? You just can't trust anyone in these Marvel shows.Spoiler alert: This post will contain spoilers from throughout the first season of The Punisher. Don't read on until you've finished the Season 1 finale.
Though Billy Russo starts out as Frank Castle's best buddy during their time in Afghanistan, it becomes apparent as The Punisher continues that their friendship is definitely over. Russo had actually been working with the corrupt CIA chief William Rawlins all along, getting in bed with the evil agent to make enough money to fund his private security firm Anvil. When Castle was getting close to exposing Rawlins and Operation Cerberus, Russo worked against his former friend to help Rawlins take The Punisher out. Of course, that didn't work out, and Castle managed to kill Rawlins in the penultimate episode of the season, which left the finale for Billy Russo to step up to the plate as the real main villain.
With the advantage of being close with Frank Castle for long enough to know how to make him tick, Russo makes Castle meet him for a final showdown at the Central Park carousel, the spot Castle most associates with his dead wife and children. After a creepy gunfight between horse figurines on the carousel, the Punisher gets the best of Billy Russo, but contrary to his usual "kill everything" ethos, he decides to let Russo live. But not until he mangles his face beyond recognition. This scene was particularly gruesome, as we see Castle smashing Russo's face into a mirror on the carousel repeatedly, and even dragging it along the broken glass to further disfigure him. Castle says he is letting Russo live so that he will have to see his horrific new face each day and remember all the bad things he's done.
The punishment is particularly brutal for Russo given how much he relied on his good looks up until this point. He was able to spark a romantic relationship with Homeland Security agent Dinah Madani thanks to his looks, which helped him get privileged information about Frank Castle. Madani's partner Sam Stein would constantly comment on how "pretty" Russo was, to further drive the point home.
The broken glass scene very closely mirrors (no pun intended) Jigsaw's origin in the Marvel comic books. The Punisher also decides to let Billy Russo live after he attempts to kill him in the comic series, but smashes his face through a glass pane in order to ruin his formerly good looks. After that, Jigsaw went on to become the Punisher's arch nemesis. Although he didn't develop any superpowers, Jigsaw trained to become as strong as the Punisher, but best excelled when it came to strategy, often throwing the Punisher for a loop with his deviously clever plans.
From that final scene in The Punisher, it seems pretty clear that if there's going to be a second season, the new big bad will be Jigsaw. Or hey, maybe he'll make his big debut in another season of The Defenders. We'll have to wait and see.