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TV Review: Marvel's The Punisher, Season 1, Episode 2

11.21.2017

Season 1, Episode 2: "TWO DEAD MEN"

RECAP/REVIEW:

The second episode begins with a flashback scene of Frank and his kids on a ferry to Staten Island. Frank is telling riddles (is that his thing?). His daughter asks why he has to go away to fight and his son says he has to go away to “kill lots of haji’s” which is certainly a term American Soldiers used for locals overseas, but it feels a little forced here. Frank is angry that his son says that and tells him never to say that again, then hugging him. It’s awkward and meant to show Frank’s torment over his war scars.

Cut back to today and Frank, bearded and scruffy, hits a local diner where he gets a call on the pay phone from Micro (aka David Lieberman), who asks if Frank ever got the disc he left him at his house. Micro says “You need to really know why you can’t kill me. Then we can meet.” Frank exits the diner only to see a flash of light on a rooftop. He chases it down only to find a phone that says “Don’t disappoint me, Frank” and looks across to see Micro on top of the diner, mimicking him to call. “Shit” says Castle. Micro, in this series, is quite a bit different than the pudgy, glasses-wearing hacker of the comics, instead replaced with a scrawny guy with wild hair.

We then see Frank awaken to a flashback of him with his wife in bed, only to have a man that looks like him in military outfit enter the room and shoot her. Again, another hint at Frank's guilt over his family's death. He then awakens suddenly and pops in the disc that Micro gave him, which is video of an interrogation of a Russian-speaking man, surrounded by Soldier. At one point, the leader tells one of the soldier to kill the man and he does. Frank tosses the computer in frustration.

Frank then goes to visit his veteran friend Kurt. Frank is freaked out and says that Micro is after him. He goes on to say that Micro is implying that Frank’s family was killed because of something he did in Kandahar. He’s rattled and confesses to Kurt that his unit worked with the CIA and did some things they regretted. It's well in line with the tortured past of Frank's wartime activities from the comics, albeit those were from Vietnam. Frank was always compromised in some way while at war, but always fought his way out of it, doing the right thing, even if leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Kurt says, “Frank you didn’t kill your family.”

“What if I did?”

We then go back to Madani, the female agent trying to track Castle down, and her partner. She confesses that she’s seen the same video that Micro sent to Frank, but it was stolen in Kandahar, so she no longer has it. She then says that she’s tracked down a guy that worked with Castle; Billy Russo (aka, the man who would be Jigsaw in the comics). She asks "Old Man Pony Boy" Carson Wolf (the great C. Thomas Howell, everyone!) if she can get some extra training, which happens to be at the same facility where Russo now works as a government contractor. He approves.

Frank is then seen later begging as a homeless man when Karen Page walks by. Frank asks for change and she gives it up. She then brings him back to her apartment when he asks if they can talk. She offers him a drink and Frank agrees. “You look well. Very Hipster.” (I guess having a beard is hipster?). She asks where he’s been and he tells her he had business to finish. He asks her if she’s said anything about him being alive to anyone. She says no and he asks for her help in finding Micro. She asks how to contact him and he gives her flowers. “I’m old fashioned that way.” Saying she could put them in the window if she gets any info. He starts to go and she hugs him, rather dramatically. There’s definitely some sexual tension there. Daredevil is gonna be pissed.

Back at Karen’s office, she asks her editor if he had any info about a hacker and he spills the beans that he had an article on an NSA hacker named Micro that never ran after an agent named Carson Wolf told them not to. Ahhh, Pony Boy. We then see Micro in his hidden warehouse headquarters where he is watching his wife, son and daughter on hidden cameras in their house. Apparently, they believe he’s dead and are just going about their business as he watches the monitors in longing pain. At one point, Micro’s wife looks directly into one of the cameras like she knows it’s there. Does she, though?

We cut to the tactical training contractors place called Anvil, where Madani is going through some room clearing operations. We meet Billy Russo, who steps out in a nice suit and they chat a bit. Russo offers to take her for a drink so they can talk some more.

We then see Frank meet Karen on the waterfront where she tells him she has info that could lead to Micro, but she’s concerned in giving it to Frank as she doesn’t want to be a part of anyone being killed. She gives him the unpublished story and says that the kicker is that it’s reported that Micro was killed. Frank then says that Micro is “scaring the shit out of me” which is very Un-Punisher-like. I don't think those words have ever been written to come out of Frank's mouth in the history of the comics. Karen then asks when she’ll see him again and Frank plays it aloof. It’s obvious a relationship is being brewed here. Maybe she has a thing for broken-down vigilantes.

We then see Micro’s wife driving home and she hits a bearded guy on the sidewalk as she pulls into the driveway. It’s Frank. Hell of a way to insert yourself into a situation, Castle. Meanwhile, Micro is watching on his monitors and starts to freak out quite a bit. He grabs a gun and jumps in his car and starts to drive off. He texts Castle on the drop phone he gave him. Meanwhile, Frank cleans up and has a short chat with Sarah, who informs him that Micro passed away a year ago. Frank confesses that he also lost his own family and they chat about loss and how it’s affected them. They both share a similar kind of pain. I only hope we don't have to rivisit this over and over again.

Micro, meanwhile, is parked outside the house and continues to call the drop phone, trying to raise Frank. He starts to get out when he sees Frank and Sarah emerge. Sarah tries to close the garage door, but it’s broken. Frank volunteers to fix it. Sarah thanks him and he goes to take a look. Micro heads back to base to watch them from afar on the monitors.

We then cut to Frank back at home. He has shaved off the “hipster” beard and given himself a high and tight again, looking like he’s ready to get back to Punishing business. We cut to Carson Wolf’s house, where he walks in, plays Sinatra and pours himself a drink. Of course. But, he’s got other things on his agenda tonight; a visit from Frank Castle. They have a nice little kitchen brawl, where they both take some good licks, with Frank finally getting the upper hand and knocking Wolf out. It’s a pretty brutal and bloody brawl and it was good to see Pony Boy get an action scene like that.

Castle then ties Wolf up and attempts to interrogate him about Micro. Wolf plays dumb and Frank starts with the pain, eventually shooting him in the leg to get info. Castle then brings up Schoonover and heroin from Kandahar and suddenly Wolf breaks free, grabbing a gun. He has Frank on his knees. “You don’t know how to die, do you?” Wolf leans back. “Tonight’s the night you’re gonna die, Frank.” Wolf then lays out that his group always planned to set-up Frank and kill him and his family at his “picnic in the park”. Wolf pulls he trigger, but the gun is empty. Frank attacks and snaps Wolf’s neck “Just you, me and the truth now.”

We then see Russo and Madani at a bar trading war stories. Madani keeps pressing to find out what unit Russo was with in Afghanistan. She then rattles it off and Russo confesses that it’s true. Madani says, “You served with Frank Castle.” Russo leans in. “Frank Castle was my best buddy,” and proceeds to talk about how most of his kills came from an operation with Castle. Madani wants to know if Frank was compromised and was involved with drugs in Afghanistan. Russo is adamant that Frank wasn’t that kind of guy. Madani then gets a text and heads off, showing up at Wolf’s place where they have discovered his body. Madani surveys the scene and is informed that she’s now the ranking agent.

We then see Frank eating breakfast at another diner and gets a call from Micro where they go tit for tat on their cat and mouse game. Micro asks why Frank went to his house. Frank calls him an asshole and says he put his family in danger. Micro says he’s trying to make it right. Frank then tells Micro that he’s calling the shots after confessing to killing Wolf, who had ultimately set up Micro to begin with. He leads Micro on a wild goose chase around the city, ending at a cemetary (at Micro’s grave, no less) where Kurt is there to meet with Micro. Kurt tells Micro that it’s over and that Frank is in the wind. Micro is pissed and scared. He yells out for Castle. “You need me!” he says, before giving up and heading back to his warehouse.

There, after he parks and gets out, we see the trunk pop open. Out steps Frank and he’s not looking too happy. Micro actually laughs, before Frank punches him out cold. Time to get on an even playing field.

The episode gets a lot right about the character of Castle, but the vulnerability aspect is played up a bit too much, mostly in terms of him being scared. Frank Castle doesn't get scared. Ever. That's one of the key things about his character. He does not falter on that. Still, Bernthal does a good job of playing the hardened and tormented soul that is Frank Castle and I'm eager to see him go FULL Punisher again. It's a slow burn, but this is only episode 2. The supporting characters are...fine. Micro is the most engaging thus far, but we'll see how that holds up. Madani is hinging on annoying, but she's got some grit. I'm hoping to see Ben Barnes' Russo actually become Jigsaw, even if he's not the mobster version from the comics. Here's to hoping. The Punisher is a smart character. Always has been and I'm glad to see that the showrunners have given him that persona. He's not just a skull and guns. He's a calculating and complex character and I'm hoping to see that consistency throughout. I can't say anyone has emerged as a particularly intriguing character other than Castle, which is a shame, but again, we're only two episodes in. Hopefully the pace picks up.

 

Source: JoBlo.com

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