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TV Review: Marvel's The Punisher, Season 1, Ep. 10 "Virtue of the Vicious"

THE PUNISHER, Season 1, Episode 10 "Virtue of the Vicious"

RECAP/REVIEW:

Last episode saw a lot of things get put into play, taking us into the home stretch of the Freshman season of The Punisher; Crazy Lewis beat up Curtis and strapped a bomb to his chest (which Frank disarmed), Russo took a security gig for Senator Ori, Madani decided that she was going to tell the truth to everyone and sacrifice her, but then met Micro in a bar and he had something better to offer. And the biggest shake up was Castle being outed as still being alive, his face broadcast all over the news. That's a good amount of shit to deal with, I'd say.

Episode 10 picks up with Crazy Lewis breaking into a man's apartment, killing him and then taking his clothes (presumably to break into somewhere he's not supposed to be). Lewis sees that the man has two caged birds and opens a window in an attempt to "free" them. The birds won't go, as they've been inside a cage their whole life. Oooooooh, the metaphorrrrr. I get it. No one listens to Lewis. Not even birds. He's crazy. We then cut to Russo, sitting in a hotel room, talking to a cop about Lewis. The room is upturned and destroyed, blood on the wall. The cop says that Lewis breached Russo's security and calls his organization into question in terms of being effective. Russo reminds him that Senator Ori is alive, although four of his men were killed protecting him. Russo gets up to leave, but the cop asks him one last question: "When was the last time you saw Frank Castle?"

Russo stops. Tells the cop he thought he was dead up until today. "This look like the work fo a dead man to you?" Russo shrugs and leaves. We then cut back to six hours earlier as Russo talks with Senator Ori about his security set-up for his fundraising event. Ori, of course is giving guff about his image, while Russo is trying to keep him safe. Russo suddenly gets a call. It's Castle. He walks out of the room to take the call. Frank knows that Russo is protecting Ori and warns him that Lewis has "no intention" of letting him give his speech. Russo offers to get Frank out of the city again, but Frank isn't biting. He has another plan. He tells Russo to get Ori out of there without letting anyone know and he'll spring Lewis with the intention of taking him out. Russo isn't onboard. "You're here," he says. "Just keep your men out of may way," replies Frank, who we see is in a maintenance uniform in  the lower levels. We then see Karen Page exit the elevator where Russo is. He goes and introduces himself. Aw, shit.

Flash forward to six hours later where the cop is in the Senator's room, continuing his interrogation, this time with Senator Ori. Ori walks the cop through the room and asks him to walk him through what happened. "Those men died saving my life," he says. "I never even held a gun before today..." Ori is obviously shook, saying the events have made him "reassess". He talks with the Cop about how fast it all happened. We then flashback to what happened in the hotel room; Ori is sitting, talking with Karen Page in an interview about how he wants to regulate guns when the entrance doors explode, sending them to the ground. Tear gas fills the room. Lewis steps in with a gas mask, taking out two of the Anvil guards. Frank is right behind, closing in. Ori is scrambling and picks up one of the downed Anvil guard's guns and fires at Lewis as he makes a run for it. Frank fires at Ori, not knowing who he is (maybe?) and then comes face to face with Lewis, holding Karen at gunpoint. Baaaaaad move, Lewis.

We then flash forward to Karen, cut up and laughing. She's now being interrogated about the events that transpired and she calls bullshit on Ori going for help, as he was just trying to save his own hide. She says that Frank is not a terrorist and that he was there to protect her and stop Lewis, while the cops seem to believe that Castle and Lewis were working together. Karen scoffs at this. "Frank Castle is not a terrorist." The cop tosses down the newspaper. "Even your own paper says different." Karen disagrees. "Shooting a senator over a political opinion. Does that really sound like Frank Castle to you?" The cop seems to think that Castle is just crazy and that his motives don't have to be rational.

We then cut back to Russo and Karen meeting by the elevator, having an ironic conversation about how Page has a concel/carry permit and is packing heat, while Russo is a military contractor protecting an anti-gun Senator. Yeah, that's about the lay of the land. Meanwhile, Lewis, dressed in Anvil garb, is seen moving up the stairwell after passing Madani in the lobby and Russo on his way down. He gets by undetected, shooting another Anvil guard on the way up. Lewis is then back on Ori's floor and we see him preparing to move in on Ori (as we witnessed earlier. Yes, the back and forth is a little jarring). Meanwhile, Ori and Karen are debating guns and gun laws. Lewis, meanwhile, takes out another guard, fidgets with something in the elevator, then preps his bomb and his gas mask to move in on Ori. 

The explosion blows the doors open, same as before, as Lewis moves in and takes out the two guards. However, the events unfold a little differently than before as we're now seeing Karen's perspective. Ori is cornered by Lewis, gun to the head, as he begs for his life. Karen looks to grab her gun, but of course it's gone, having been confiscated by Russo. She gets in front of Ori, telling Lewis not to shoot him. Before anything else can happen, Frank is in the room and he leaps in front of Karen. Lewis fires at him, hitting him in the chest multiple times. Karen and Ori try to scramble away, but Lewis grabs Karen, taking her hostage. Frank gets to his feet, gun at the ready. Lewis yells out that he has a "dead man switch" and reveals he's strapped with explosives. Oh, Lewis. You big, moronic shithead of a stereotype. Bad move, all around. Lewis backs out of the room, Frank following carefully. "You don't need her, kid."

Lewis moves toward the elevators, but is flanked by three more Anvil guards. Frank yells out that Lewis has a bomb and tells them not to shoot. Reluctantly, they put their weapons down as Crazy Lewis gets in the elevator and the door closes. This prompts the Anvil guys to pick up their guns and fire at a new target: Castle. Frank runs, taking a few rounds in the back, while grapping a corpse off the ground to use as a shield. Now, THAT'S some Punisher shit right there. We're then taken forward again (I know, I'm getting tired, too) and this time it's Madani in the room with the cop, surveying the damage. The cop wants to know exactly what Madani was doing their in the first place, as she had no business there. Madani says she "came to talk to a guy" which is obviously Russo. We then jump back (just stick with me, people!) and see her getting off the elevator back at her office. She goes in to see Rafi, who slides her badge back to her. He asks her if she thinks Castle being alive vindicates her. Madani then confesses that she knew Frank was alive and reveals that her office is bugged. "Show's over" she says, before yanking it out. She confesses her whole plan to draw out the bad guys and tells Rafi that the man in charge of all of it was Rawlins. Rafi reveals that all the men killed on the opposing side of her raid were ex-Special Forces. That's a pretty good indicator for her to go see Russo, I'd say.

We then jump to Madani in the hotel lobby, Lewis passing her, then Russo approaching to talk with her. He says it's good to see her back at work. Madani says she wants to talk to Russo about the men that killed her men. She says they all worked for him. Russo says he's sorry, but that they hadn't worked with him in a long time. He's busted as hell and tap-dancing his way out of it. Madani gives him the look. Russo gets angry and asks if she really thinks he could be a part of the operation. She says that a fifth guy got away. She wants to know if he knows who it was. Russo says he'll look around. She changes the subject, bringing up that the papers are saying that Castle is a terrorist and that he's supposed to be coming after Ori. "You ready to put Castle down?" Russo puts it bluntly. "I think that if you beat a dog long enough it goes crazy. Doesn't matter how good it was before, after that happens the dog that you knew is never coming back." Russo then gets a radio call after he hears alarms go off. He takes off abruptly. But, you don't think Madani is just gonna take off and mind her own business do you? Of course nooooot.

In the staircase, Frank is making his way down quickly, trying to evade the Anvil guys and, surely, attempting to go save Karen from Crazy Lewis. Madani, meanwhile, is making her way UP the staircase, so yeah, nothing bad could come of this. Except it down. Madani catches up to Castle and draws her weapon, telling him to drop his weapon. Frank stops. "This isn't on me, Madani," he says. She says she believes him, but that ain't good enough. She still wants to take him in (duh). "It's not gonna happen. You're just gonna have to let this go." Madani persists. Frank turns, walks directly to her gun and tells her he's going to walk down those steps. She finally relents, but out of nowhere Frank is hit anyway, the bullet grazing his head and knocking him back. The shot came from above. Madani looks up. It's Russo. She yells at him to stand down. Russo says that Frank was going to shoot her. She orders him back, saying she'll charge him with obstruction. But this is Billy's chance. He tells her to walk away and that there's no need for her to get hurt. "It was war, Dinah. And the only crime in war is to lose." He lays out his cards. "You killed Stein," she says under her breath. Before he can answer or even put on a bit, shit-eating grin, the cops are in the staircase, grabbing Russo, Madani and cornering Castle. But, Frank ain't going quietly. Not while Daredevil's girlfriend is in trouble. He smacks them around and then grabs a firehose before "Die-Harding" down the middle of the staircase. Yippie-Ki-Yay, Castle.

We jump forward again, back to Madani and the cop. "You want to tell me why you and Russo were pointing your guns at each other instead of Castle?" Madani says she had it under control and that Russo was trying to kill her prisoner. The cop seems to believe that Castle killed all of Russo's men, along with Lewis, but Madani asks him if he has any kind of proof of that. He doesn't, but he questions why he's so hellbent on believing that. She then leaves the room and goes to find Karen Page, pulling her away. She tries to reason with her to let her know where Castle is, saying she wants to help him as he's got some really bad guys on his trail.

Aaaand, we're back in the past with Crazy Lewis and Karen Page on the bottom floor, hiding out in the kitchen, Lewis freaking out and not knowing what to do. He starts to tell war stories, of course, as is his way. He may as well get his own supervillain name; Mr. Crazy War Vet Stereotype Man! Give him a cape, bayonet and a claymore and call it good! Ugh. This guy. Anyway, before Lewis can ramble on anymore, a battered Castle busts in, confronting Lewis, who grabs his hostage again. "The whole world thinks we did this together, kid." He tries to screw with Lewis' head, saying that they should end the whole thing together and let Karen go. He mentions how Lewis told him to pull the white wire with Curtis earlier, an indication for Karen to do the same, as we see the same white wire running along Lewis' arm. They get on the subject of Lewis' father and how he'll be affected by everything Lewis has done today. It's a good tactic and appeals to the one person Lewis seems to care about. This gives just the distraction they need for Frank to signal to Karen to yank the right wire, while somehow making the gun in her purse go off and hit Lewis in the foot. Castle tackles (no, seriously) Karen out of the way and shoves Lewis in a freezer and locks him in.

Karen pleads for him to go, while Lewis cries and babbles. Frank stands in front of him from outside, facing him. Lewis reattaches the wire to the fuse. Castle, in the most Punisher thing he's done so far this season, encourages it. "That's it, kid. You can do it." Lewis readies to kill himself, repeating, "Go like a Soldier," and lets the stick drop, blowing himself up and knocking Frank and Karen back. And so ends our time with Lewis, a character that just annoyed the hell out of me on so many levels. It's not that he couldn't have become a bad guy, it's just that he did so in a way that was so completely underdeveloped, unmotivated and unrealistic. Thankfully, we got a Punisher-style moment out of his death, so I give props there.

Frank starts to exit, when Karen calls out to him. The cops are in the hallway, armed to the teeth and ready to take him down. We next see Castle and Karen in the hallway and now Karen is HIS "prisoner". He gets to the elevator and both he and Karen get on, the door closing. As they ride up, exhausted and beaten down, the two share a very emotional moment. It's a kind of do-we-or-don't-we kind of thing, where you expect a kiss (despite both of them being covered in blood), but instead they lock heads and lean into one another, an understanding of sorts happening. It's as if they're saying "in another life" to one another and it's probably the most genuine moment yet. I wasn't crazy about this would-be romance when it began in Daredevil season 2, but now I can say it feels like one of the more real pieces of character dynamics in the whole of Netflix's Marvel shows. Karen tells Frank to go, making him climb up top the elevator all by himself (what, no boost? Dude has a dislocated shoulder at the least!). We're then back at the present with Karen and the cop talking. The cop accuses her of helping Castle escape. He asks her where he is. "Honestly, I don't know. Do you really think Castle is the kind of guy who walks into a building he doesn't know how to get out of?" We then see Frank, ziplining out of the building to another. Well, I guess that answers that.

The strongest episode yet in the season with a lot of things coming to a head (or a close altogether). Russo's true colors were revealed to Madani, Senator Ori figures out that, hey, maybe guns ain't so bad, Karen gets beat up, blown up and almost makes out in an elevator, Frank kills no one (although he does encourage a suicide) and we finally see the end of Crazy Lewis, a babbling Vet stereotype that added nothing to the storyline whatsoever. Seriously, why did we need him? Ben Barnes' Russo and Rawlins are evil enough as it is, did we really need to smear the PTSD-laden cracked out Vet cliche across ten episodes? I'm just thankful we don't have to deal with him anymore and can get down to business with the REAL bad guys (i.e. ones that don't feel contrived to feel "timely"). Although it was a bit unnecessary, I dug the flashback/forward aspect and the fact that, y'know, there was some action. Still, it's pretty Punisher-lite in terms of what we should be seeing with this character and my hope is that in the last three episodes we see him really cut loose. Thus far, we may as well call Castle The PunishED, as he's pretty much gotten the shit kicked out of him to this point.

Source: JoBlo.com

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