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TV Review: Marvel's The Punisher, Season 1, Episode 9 "Front Toward Enemy"

THE PUNISHER, Season 1, Episode 9 "Front Towards Enemy"

RECAP/REVIEW:

Last episode saw Madani's "bug hunt" operation go South with Russo showed up and ended up killing her partner, Sam, while Frank and Micro bonded and argued over using Madani to help take down Rawlins. This episode opens with Madani in bed, grief stricken over Sam's death. Her mother tends to her and Madani laments about how she can't stop replaying the events and blaming herself. Meanwhile, little does she know that Frank and Micro are on a rooftop scoping her out, trying to get a bead on how best to approach her (okay, and MAYBE trying to see her in the shower. Just sayin'.), as Frank agreed to do so last episode. Micro gets up to take a leak and as he does and explosion goes off below, sending a cloud of dust into the air. Now what??

We then cut to some video from inside an ATF office where employees are celebrating a birthday party when an explosion goes off inside. We then go to a news report where it's reported that some people were killed in the blast. And then we go to Lewis, our stereotypical Vet nutjob, babbling to himself and just being crazy and I'm already annoyed as shit that they took the story in this direction. He writes some crackhead letter about how the U.S. Government is the enemy and "want to take away our guns and freedom" and how he's acting in "our defense and liberty". Dude, I could not eye roll hard enough. You have an opportunity to show that not every combat Vet is some stupid ass stereotype (which they aren't), but instead this show is just embracing it, making Lewis into a terrorist, while every other Vet is a psycho murderer who kills for vengeance or money. Meanwhile, this combat Vet is sitting at a computer writing about it.

So, Lewis sends his letter to none other than Karen Page (Oh, NOW she comes back to the show!), thinking that she'd relate to his plight as she "supported" The Punisher before. She reads his full letter, which reads like a cut-paste of ultra right-wing crazy. Karen meets with her editor and fights to be the one to publish the letter, while he says they should contact the F.B.I. Meanwhile, back at Micro's place, Frank is a little peeved. "There's nothing I hate in this world more than a goddamned bomb," he says, watching the video of the bombing. "New York doesn't forget. Whoever this is, they're in for a world of shit." Frank wants to do something, but Micro of course is still obsessed over getting Madani onboard. Ah, the struggle continues.

Speaking of which, Rafi comes over to visit Madani and offers for her to take as much recovery time as she needs, but that she left the office unprepared for the current bombing situation, as well as filing false reports about the operation that went South. Madani talks about how difficult it is to process Sam's death. Rafi is concerned that Madani is still chasing the Ahmad Zubair video (she is) and tells her he can't help her if she doesn't tell him the truth. Madani is, of course, not giving an inch. It's a comic, I get it, but I'm pretty sure she'd be fired as hell at this point. Or, at least suspended and under investigation, especially with so many dead agents around her terribly-laid plans.

Back at Micro's, Frank is reading Karen's story that published the letter from the bomber (crazy Lewis), where she pretty much calls the bomber a terrorist and all-around piece of shit. Frank is worried for Karen's safety as she's basically going after him in the piece. At that moment, it turns out that Karen is appearing on an obnoxious radio show to discuss her reasons for publishing the letter, flanked with Senator Stan Ori, a proponent of tougher gun-control laws. Karen and Ori go back and forth on your standard 2A talking points on the for/against side, as Frank and Micro listen in from their home base. Before they can get too far, however, their show is interrupted from a call from the actual bomber aka Crazy Lewis.

Lewis gets on the line and asks Karen why she said the things she did about him. He spouts a bunch of rhetoric that just doesn't seem to fit his plight. He mentions jobs being shipped overseas and a bunch of other "conservative" styled right wing balderdash and I can't help but feel we're either being trolled or if the writers are legitimately trying to paint a realistic portrait of this type of mindset. Maybe you're sick of me typing the word "stereotype" but holy shit is this storyline swimming in it. Unless this plays out in some unexpected way, I'm already dreading every future scene I have to watch with Lewis. Stepping off soap box. Karen tries to bring Lewis back to Earth, but he's too far in his own orbit to come down. "Sic Semper Tyrannis" (Thus always to tyrants) Lewis says before hanging up. Frank recognizes this immediately as Lewis and tells Micro to track him, although more to protect Karen than to stop a crazed bomber. Micro is hesitant, but agrees to help. "What's the deal with you two?" he asks.

And this sets Frank off. We know he's got a soft spot for Daredevil's main squeeze, but man has he got it bad. "The deal is that nobody goes after her, not on my watch," he says. He goes on to say that Karen is like family to him, breathing heavily and kicking and smacking things. It's all very Jon Bernthal rather than Frank Castle, who simply doesn't lose his shit like that in the comics. Again, the cold, calculating and ALWAYS under control warrior. But, hey, Bernthal is making it his own and the intensity serves him well. I know some may think it's necessary to show his emotions more in the TV format, but I'd argue that I'd like to see more restraint. So, there's that. We then catch up with Curtis, who is calling Lewis, saying he heard him on the radio and is looking for him. He heads to O'Connor's place (the faux Vietnam Vet that Lewis killed a few episodes back) and knocks on the door. He opens the mail slot and smells something awful, prompting him to kick in the door.

He finds O'Connor all right, dead and wrapped up in a shower curtain, along with Lewis' bomb-making materials laying out on a nearby table. Then, in pops Lewis (I guess he likes hanging out with the stench of rotting corpses?), acting like he's high on something. Curtis keeps it cool, saying "You know I can't leave here without you" and Lewis pulls a gun on him. Curtis grabs it and they do a little fight dance. Curtis has the upper hand for a while, but squirrely ol' Lewis is a sneaky one. He grabs Curtis' fake leg and beats him with it, knocking him out cold.

Back at the hideout, Micro locates Lewis and gives Frank the address. Frank grabs a gun and heads out, although Micro pleads with him to just call in an anonymous tip. But, Frank wants to handle this one. Frank then gives Karen a call, warning her about Lewis. Karen asks if he knows who the bomber is. Frank doesn't answer, but she tells him if he knows to tell her so she call tell the F.B.I. "Faster my way," says Frank. Karen tears into him, saying not to do what he's gonna do and say it's for her. Whatevs. Frankie does what Frankie want.

We then see Madani and Russo meeting up at her place, where she immediately tries to jump his bones. Russo stops her. "Sex isn't going to make your problems go away." Speak for yourself, Russo, am I right? Madani says "Maybe I just wanted to feel something good." (Guess she's never heard of ice cream). Russo lectures her about how many funerals he's been to, trying to talk her off the ledge for some reason (ironically enough since he put her there). He then goes in for a dig that's fitting for his evil ass. "Maybe Stein screwed up. I mean, how'd he manage to get himself stabbed when he was the one with the gun?" Cold, Billy. Ice cold. And yet, he continues to try to talk her back to work. It's kind of perplexing, really, as she's nothing but a thorn in his side, professionally, so it must be a question of him having actual feelings for her, crazy and evil as he is.

Frank is camped out in front of Lewis' house when Micro gives him a call, saying he traced his cell phone to O'Connor's and that Curtis's phone is also traced to there. Frank speeds into action to get there. Across town in a ritzy hotel, Senator Ori is busy politicin' to raise money for victim's of Lewis' bombing and is plannng a big fund raising event there. He's pulled away to meet with a security consultant, one Billy Russo. "A friend in a high place told me you're the best." Billy doesn't miss a beat. "You're friend is right." Ori asks Russo's opinion about the bomber and then informs Russo that he's a "prominent voice in the anti-gun movement" and that someone trying to attack him getting shot in the head wouldn't look good. Russo doesn't play his game. "These principals of yours...are they worth dying for?" Ori hires him. It's an interesting take on discussing guns and gun violence in the show, weaving in politics now to the debate. Thankfully, it's not a one-sided debate, which would be kind of moot considering this IS The Punisher we're watching (although STILL no skull, people).

Frank arrives at O'Connor's, kicking in the door and clearing the house, finding Curtis tied up and rigged to blow with a claymore mine and a bunch of wires. He wakes Curtis up and they survey the situation. Frank, unfortunately, is not a bomb squad expert and doesn't know how to disarm the claymore. Then, Curtis' phone starts ringing. It's Lewis, who is positioned in an overwatch position with his M4. "You're supposed to be dead," he says. Lewis tried to enlist Frank to his said by saying they're doing the same thing by taking matters into their own hands. Frank stays on target, trying to get Curtis free. "You fought your war and now I'm fighting mine." Frank doesn't take the comparison well. "You are nothing like me. The people I went after, I stood in front of 'em. I looked 'em in the eye before I put 'em down. Not you." Lewis yanks out his earpiece. The big mean man hurt his little stereotypical brain.

At Madani's place, she's getting dressed and talking to her mom, saying that she's going to go to Sam's funeral and tell the whole truth there, saying it will be the end of her career and that at least it will force everyone to take action. He mother advises her to really think about that, surmising that perhaps she wants to burn all her bridges so that she can never return. Deeeep.

Back at O'Connor's Frank and Curtis try to figure out how to disarm the claymore still. Curtis decides to take that time to whine about getting his ass beat by Lewis, saying he'd rather have died at the last bomb than be strapped to the chair with the claymore. Lewis calls Frank again, saying he called the cops. He says he's not Frank's enemy and that they should be working together. Frank plays ball, obviously trying to get Curtis free. He tells Lewis about how Curtis lost his leg in an attempt to gain some sympathy for him. He tells Lewis that a pregnant woman was walking towards Curtis overseas while he was working on saving a kid after an IED blast. Frank says he froze, seeing a pregnant woman who reminded him of his wife and she blew herself up, taking out the kid Curtis was trying to save and taking his leg as well. It's a new layer to Curtis and Frank and ties directly into their current dilemma.

Lewis goes on another tirade about politicians and journalists being the enemy. Frank says he's staying put and he's gonna cut a wire, asking which one it should be. Lewis finally relents, telling him to try the white wire. He does, saving Curtis' life just as the cops come roaring up. Frank gets out quickly, but the cops see him anyway and give chase. Dang it, he can't catch a break! He gives chase for a whole, before coming face-to-face with a squad car and two cops. He grabs a piece of concrete and chucks it at one cop and bashes the other one with the door before stealing the car and making a getaway. Atta boy, Frankie!

We're then in a bar with Madani, catching a stiff one before heading to Sam's funeral. Then, a scruffy looking nerd sits down with a gun. "Who are you?" Madani asks. "Call me Micro." Madani knows right away. "You're the one that sent me the video." Madani is combative, but Micro is clear that he's hoping she's "not one of them" and wants to work with her. "I can give you the names of everyone involved in Kandahar." And it's Christmas morning for Madani. He name drops Rawlins and now you know shit's about to get real. Actually, scratch that, as it gets even more real when the news is suddenly reporting that Frank Castle is alive after being spotted on the dash-cam of the cop car he stole. Frank walks back into the hideout and sees the news for himself. The game is up.

So, not a bad episode, but I'm still not feeling the heat like I should, especially nine episodes deep. Still no skull, still light on action and way too many side stories that eat up unnecessary time. As a combat Vet I absolutely loathe Lewis' story. It's swimming in stereotype and it's kind of insulting, really. I can see how it wouldn't be a problem for most, but for me it's an eye-roll. I do like Curtis, however, and he's easily a more interesting character than most of the others that have gotten a shit ton more screentime. Madani has grown on me as well, but I still feel like she hasn't found her footing or really emerged. She's got a little time to do so, but not much. It was good to see Frank engage in a tiny bit of action here, but man, it's like trying to find water in the desert at this point. Karen popping back in at this point seems fitting given the narrative and I like that Frank is so protective of her. It works and it's never revealed that it's for romantic reasons. Frank is kind of like a schoolboy in that sense. He'd do anything to protect his schoolyard crush, but he'd never tell her how he really feels. I'm not quite sure where it's all headed, but hopefully there's a goddamn skull on Frank's chest soon and some action worthy of the name The Punisher. At this point, I'm just hoping for a strong finish in the home stretch.

Source: JoBlo.com

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