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TV Review: Marvel's The Punisher, Season 1, Episode 11 "Danger Close"

THE PUNISHER, Season 1, Episode 11 "Danger Close"

RECAP/REVIEW:

Last episode saw a lot of things come to a head and even some to a close with the events that unfolded at the hotel where Senator Ori was set to give his big speech. Crazy Lewis showed up and caused all sorts of havoc, killing a bunch of Anvil troops before taking Karen Page hostage and eventually blowing himself up when he was cornered (thanks to some coercion from ol' Frank). Meanwhile, Russo revealed his true colors to both Madani and Frank, putting him on two big shit lists. Bloody and bruised, Frank managed to escape the carnage and is sure to be on the hunt for not only Rawlins, but now his ex-best friend, Russo.

We open on the waterfront as Frank warms himself by a trash fire (hey, they're pretty calming, don't judge), while replaying the events that led him there in his head, surely concocting a masterful plan to take some lives. Meanwhile, Micro is back at base, the news playing in the background with Billy Russo talking about how Frank Castle is a "monster" selling his old pal even further down the river. Madani watches the same news report from her office, angry as hell now that she knows Russo killed her partner and is now trying to spin the whole thing in his favor. "You don't get to do this," she says after chucking her coffee mug at the TV (your tax dollars at work, folks!). "What happened to you, Frank?" Russo snarls to the camera. Frank enters the hideout and looks on, a fire raging behind those eyes. Let's hope that means he's gonna kill something and not just get his ass kicked some more.

Frank heads to the bathroom to try and do some self-aid, but his arm is too screwed up to do anything. Micro comes in to help and to catch Frank up, whose been on his own since chasing down Lewis two episodes ago. He brings up that Russo has now been outed as a bad guy and that the whole city now thinks Frank is a terrorist. He starts to tend to Frank's wounds, saying that he was originally going to be a veterinarian when he was a kid until he discovered computers. Micro says that nothing has really changed and that they're still a team. Frank thinks differently as he views Micro going to Madani as a betrayal. He tells Micro that it's all over and that everything has changed, before storming off.

Micro's family, meanwhile, are watching the news and discovering that their buddy Pete is actually Frank Castle. They're all shocked and reeling from it, unsure how to process the news. Ah, the 90210 drama. Back at Homeland Security, Billy Russo arrives to meet with Madani, sitting down to be interviewed/interrogated. Madani lays out some crime scene photos and begins. "Why am I here, Dinah?" She doesn't miss a beat. "Because you're a murderer who's gonna pay for the lives you took." Russo holds strong, though, conniving bastard that he is. Madani shuts off the camera and offers him a deal in exchange for Russo giving up everything about Cerberus, including Rawlins. Russo says he's not the guy she's looking for. Madani agrees. She's looking for Castle. "God, did you see the way he looked at you in that stairwell? He's going to kill you. And he's gonna enjoy doing it."

In the city, we see Rawlins walking with Marion James, the CIA head. They make some nice small talk before Rawlins lets her know that Frank Castle resurfacing could cause problems. He confesses that he thought Castle was dead, but now that he's not it's an issue, especially since he tried to kill him originally. Marion is pissed, as she wanted to make sure Rawlins was "clean" prior to promoting him. She doesn't feel good about taking him out. Rawlins doesn't feel bad about it. Castle, to Rawlins, is just "a weapon we no longer have any use for." And as Rawlins is talking we see Frank back at base, rockin' some spray paint and HOLY SHIT HE'S PAINTING THE DAMN SKULL! Only took eleven episodes...

Back at Homeland, Madani and Rafi are watching Russo's interrogation tape. Rafi is pissed about the whole thing. "Billy Russo killed Sam," she says. Rafi tells her to find Castle and Micro if she wants to get the whole thing moving, before he says he's going to rattle some cages of his own. Back at Micro's family's house there's a knock at the door and in walks what appears to be a cop. He asks if someone from the house called the "Castle tip line". The cop is rather suspicious and presumptuous. "How do you know Frank Castle?" he asks. Sarah is scared and defensive. She and Zach are downstairs with the cop while their daughter is upstairs. The cop says they're both coming with him and Sarah puts up a fight, eventually pulling a knife. However, it's short lived as the "cop's" partner shows up, gun drawn. They're captured.

At Micro's base, Frank surveys his newly painted armor. The Punisher is officially back. "Ah, yeah, that's very subtle. They'll never see it coming," Micro says. "I want 'em to see me," Frank says. "You know what that is, right? That's your death, not theirs." Frank doesn't disagree. "It's who I am. Who I've always been." Frank continues to pack things up, getting prepared to kick his war off again, while Micro continues to try and reason with him. "That skull? That's a Memento Mori. It's Latin for 'remember, you will die'" It's meant to show that you value life, not take it, he says. Frank ignores him, trying to leave. Micro references his family. "What about them?" He motions to the screens. Frank notices that something is off. They move to the screens and see the whole thing with the "cop" go down. The tide changes. Micro is about to run off to help. Frank stops him. "They're coming. Rawlins, Russo." Micro is frazzled. They check the video and see that his daughter escaped the house. Frank tells Micro to call her. "How can I?" he asks.

We then see his daughter, Leo, walking alone in the park. Her phone rings. It's Frank. "They took mom and Zach. I don't know what to do," she says. Frank tells her to chuck the phone and the SIM card when they get off the phone. She tells her where to go and that he'll meet her there. After he hangs up he tells Micro it's got to be him to go get her. Micro puts up a fight, but Frank isn't letting him out of it. "You're her father, right? You go to your little girl. If I don't show up at midnight you go to Madani. Only Madani." Micro wants to know what Frank is gonna do. "I'm a wait her on these assholes. When they come I'll make them tell me where Sarah is. After that, I'm gonna kill 'em all." Now, that's MY Punisher.

Sarah and Zach are then seen tied up in some warehouse, yelling and screaming. Looking on is Rawlins and Russo, discussing what their next course of action will be. "None of us are safe until he's dead," Rawlins says, then saying that Russo should go and kill both Frank and Micro at their hideout, which they were able to track via Sarah's phone. Russo ain't havin' it. "Unless you want to come with me. We can go do this together." Rawlins says that's definitely not happening. "Yeah. That's what I thought." The tension between Russo and Rawlins is bubbling. I have to wonder if one or the other aren't already planning a good double cross.

We then head back to Homeland where Marion James accompanies Rafi into the meeting room with Madani. The reveal that they know that Rawlins was part of an illegal operation in Kandahar, smuggling drugs and conducting murders without oversight. Marion is combative at first, while Madani pushes back. She jumps to Rawlins defense, but at the same time manages to keep her composure. "Marion is one of the good ones," Rafi says. "Now what?" asks Madani. "We rattled. Let's see what shakes loose."

At the hideout, we see Frank doing what we've been waiting eleven episodes to do; prepare for punishment. Frank loads mags, sharpens knives, plants weapons, plants explosives and gets ready to lay waste to some bad guys, John J. Rambo style and rockin' that muthaf*ckin' skull! It's about goddamned time! Twas the night before Punishment and all through the warehouse, not a creature was stirring except...the nameless henchmen that are about to become corpses. Frank does a few quiet kills with the knife as they men survey the place, looking for him, picking them off one by one. We see that one of the men, however, is the "cop" from before who kidnapped Sarah and Zach. He calls Russo from inside the location, telling him everything he sees, including a countdown timer and a torture video being played (the infamous execution tape). Russo asks how they found the place if Castle isn't there. The "cop" says that the phone is right there. Aw, shit. It's a trap and Russo knows it.

All hell breaks loose. Frank comes walking out of the shadows HOLDING A HEAD and tossing it at a group of the bad guys. There's a grenade taped to it and it blows, taking out a bunch of them. Let the Punishing begin (did I say "finally" already?)! Frank comes out blasting, methodically and tactically taking out guy after guy in close quarters battle. It's a beautiful sight and far too late to be seeing it for the first time, but I'll take it. Frank takes a ton of hits, the bullets sticking in his vest, but he just keeps going, as The Punisher should. He's ruthless, taking out guys execution style with his shotgun, one-by-one, before getting cornered behind some boxes. He suspects Russo may be there and yells out, "Russo! You hear me? I'm gonna watch you die!" Franks sets off an explosive and then unboxes an M249 SAW and lays waste to some more bad guys, eventually cornering the "cop" who wants to have a knife fight. Bad idea. Frank takes him down, still yelling for Russo. He starts to check bodies, looking to see if he already got him. One of them is still alive and Frank shoots him in the head, execution style. Finally. The Punisher has arrived.

Frank questions the "cop" who gives him no good information. Nothing on Russo, Sarah or Zach. "It was need-to-know. You know how it is!" Frank, emotionless and stern. "Fair enough." He shoots and kills the guy. Now, maybe all this seems like simple point-and-shoot kind of stuff, but as someone that's read The Punisher for 30 years, this is EXACTLY how he operates. Cold, calculating and methodical. No bullshit. No emotion. We needed a shit-ton more of this up this point. Frank searches the man, finding his phone. Hey, time to call my ol' pal, Billy! Billy answers the phone. Frank says the Billy he knew would've come himself. "Someday, sometime this is gonna come down to you and me. Just know that, Bill." Russo disagrees. He wants to know what's in the computers there. Frank tells him the computers have everything and if anything happens to Micro's family it all goes public. Russo says he'll exchange Sarah and Zach for Frank and Micro. "That sounds about right," Frank says. "You've got my number, Bill." Well, that should be a pleasant day, eh?

Back in the city, Marion James meets with Rawlins and lets him know that they have his name. Rawlins does what we expect; he throws Russo under the bus and explains how they can set him up to take the fall for all of this. Marion is pissed, saying it's not what they stand for. "We can give Homeland a win and keep the agency clean," he says, pushing her to follow his play. Marion agrees to "burn Russo". But, then they're done. She tells Rawlins that he will then retire or she'll sell him to Homeland, regardless of the outcome. So, pretty much Rawlins is about to go on unemployment and he's none to happy about that.

At the meet-up point, Micro is reunited with his daughter, Leo. They sit in the van, waiting for Frank, making small talk. A knock comes to the window. It's Madani. Micro rolls down the window. "What are you doing here?" he asks. "I called her." It's Frank. He steps out of the shadows, revealing himself. Frank then talks to Leo, telling her she's brave and introducing himself as Frank Castle. "He's a lot scarier than Pete." She ain't jokin'. Back at the hideout, Russo arrives, surveying the damage. He heads to the computers and sees the Kandahar execution video playing. He's frazzled. "Shit."

Without question this is the strongest episode thus far and one that tapped into exactly what we want to see from Frank Castle aka The Punisher. Now, I know that some folks enjoy the slow burn and may well feel that we don't need a shootout every episode, but there are still signature things that make The Punisher who he is and this is the first episode where I really felt it. It's not just the shootouts. You can watch those in any action movie. It's the mannerisms. The method. The anger and fury wrapped up in a blanket of death. That is The Punisher. No emotion. No fear. No remorse. No hesitation. No matter what. He is unflinching in what he does and that's what makes him more complex than you may think on the surface. So, seeing him in action, truly, is exactly what the doctor ordered, even if way too damn late. Outside of finally seeing the Skull in action, it was good to see the noose tighten around Rawlins and Russo's collective necks, which is sure to make them desperate and stupid, giving Frank just the leverage he needs to finish them off. However, I don't suspect it'll be that easy and my fingers are crossed to see Russo get his proper "Jigsaw" origin story by the end of this. We're in the home stretch with two episodes to go, so hopefully the fuse is truly lit and we can finish strong.

Extra Tidbit: Felt it worth mentioning that the production design, particularly the warehouse where Frank and Micro stay is dead on perfect. You can pick up any Punisher comic made since 1986 and this is about what it looks like each and every time. Great attention to detail there.
Source: JoBlo.com

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