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TV Review: Marvel's The Punisher, Season 1, Episode 5 "Gunner"

THE PUNISHER, Season 1, Episode 5 "Gunner"

RECAP/REVIEW:

Last episode ended with Frank and Micro heisting a truckload of guns from under Agent Madani's nose, while she gave chase, ending in her getting her car flipped and dragged from the wreckage by Castle. This episode opens with Madani, bruised and bandaged waking up in the hospital. She stares out the window and winces in pain and anger because...well, she's a badass, duh. That's what badasses do. They stew and stare out the window angrily. We then cut Frank and Micro's hideout where Frank his hanging weapons up on a rack, making it look like a page ripped from the comics (nice touch). Micro is nagging Frank about pulling Madani from the wreckage (although I can't fathom why Micro would have a problem with that) and Frank accusses Micro of, you guessed it...nagging. Frank leaves to go see Micro's wife to fulfill the promise of fixing her headlight. That's not code for anything. That's what he's actually doing. This is hardcore stuff.

So, Frank heads over to Sarah's and fixes the headlight, talking about "Life of Pi" with her daughter as he does (I can't make the connection. I leave it to you). Micro's son shows up and he's a mouthy little cuss and Frank dishes it back a bit. Meanwhile, Sarah invites Frank to dinner on Sunday as Micro watches on with his surveillance cameras, looking on longingly. Frank doesn't seem to have an ulterior motive with Sarah, but it's still a little grinding. I know that the relationship of Micro's family to Frank (and Micro for that matter) is to up the stakes, but it feels like it's just taking away from time spent on a more interesting story.

Madani, meanwhile meets with Rafi and Sam, discussing the failed operation that left her injured. Then, with a straight face, Madani says, as they're looking at pics of her destroyed Mustang. "You know I loved that car. My Dad gave it to me as a 21st birthday present. Someone killed it. I can't let that lie." So, apparently, she's trying to sell that her dedication is about...the car? I laughed out loud at that one. Madani pleads her case for wanting to be back at work, while Rafi tells her that she's being regarded as a badass for her little car crash stunt. Just what she wants, I'm sure. Rafi tells her to tell him anything she may know, but Madani is playing the Punisher info close to the chest, especially since everyone thinks he's dead.

Back at Frank & Micro's headquarters, Micro is watching the execution video when Frank arrives back. Micro brings up how someone recorded the video and they must've wanted someone to find out. Castle says it was "Gunner", a Bible-thumper guy that he worked with there. Micro poses that Gunner may be the key to finding out where the other bad guys are, including ol Rawlins. From there we cut to that milky-eyes son-of-a-bitch as he gives a rousing we're-protecting-the-sheep kind of speech to new CIA recruits. Paul Schulze is great as Rawlins, even if he looks vastly different from his comic counterpart. He's perfectly hateable and that bodes well when you need good villains for a show like this.

Madani then meets with Karen Page. it's unclear why Page is there, but it seems that Madani wants to find out how much she knows while urging her not to print anything until the full information is out there. Off the record, she tells Karen that Wolf was dirty. Then, the tables turn as Madani begins to basically interrogate Karen. She gets out of her chair, sitting on the table next to her. She quizes Karen on her connection for Frank (based on the events from Daredevil season 2). "Is that why I'm here? Talk about old cases and a dead man?" Madani asks Karen if Frank ever talked about his time in Afghanistan. Page asks her what happened at the docks, but Madani is giving nothing. Madani asks what sort of man Frank was. "Decent. Honest. He had a code and a sense of honor." It's actually one of the more true statements about Frank Castle as a character, particularly from the comics. He may also be a murderer, but he's also those other things.

Sam and Madani are later seen in her office, trying to track down names involved in the case. Sam is vehement against Madani's course of action, forcing her to tell him that Frank is alive and he was the one who stole the guns. Sam isn't so much shocked as angry and tells Madani that he doesn't plan on keeping it quiet if he's asked. We then see Rawlins in his office, wearing headphones and playing back their exact conversation. Madani is compromised. Or, well, her office is bugged. Same thing.

Meanwhile, Frank meets with Karen on the waterfront, where she tells him she met with Madani. Frank tells her that he pulled her out of the wreckage, so she certainly knows that he's alive. Frank lets her know that he's working with Micro as well and then goes into a story about his son, Frank Jr. He talks about going home and seeing that Frank Jr. painted a Marine on the wall. Frank dragged him outside and asked him what he was thinking. "Marines scare off bad guys, daddy. When you're not here, it's my job to protect our girls." Frank then says that it was him being with his family that got them killed. "I need to find these bastards that took them from me, Karen. I got kill 'em." Karen is crying and says that all she can see is endliess loneliness in Frank. Frank says he's not lonely and asks her what she thinks he should do instead of killing them. Karen, of course, thinks he should take a journalistic approach and expose them. Frank knows better, though. These are the men that make the news. Killing them is the only way and Frank doesn't want to endanger her. They have a kind of sad longing going on between them, an "almost kiss" just hovering in the air. If they weren't so emotional, surely they'd seal the deal, but instead Franks storms off.

Meanwhile, Madani and Sam sit in on an inquiry about the failed mission at the docks. When questioned if they have any leads, Sam keeps Madani's secret about Castle. Afterwards, they ride in the elevator and Madani is smiling that Sam showed his loyalty. She says that they will work to find Franks's former comrades in order to track him down. Sam gives her a week that he'll keep the secret, but that's it.

Back at Micro and Frank's headquarters where Frank is preparing to head out and go see Gunner. Micro insists on coming along and they roll out into the woods. Micro hands over a tuna packet to Frank, then pulls out a giant sub sandwich. It's a funny moment as Frank asks why he didn't bring him one. Micro and Frank continue to be the stars of the show and play well off each other. It's a fun relationship to watch unfold. We then cut back to Rawlins coming in to meet with the CIA Deputy Director, Marion James, played by the awesome Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. James offers Rawlins her job as she'll be moving up, but wants to make sure there are no skeletons in his closet that she should be aware of. Rawlins, who has a graveyard in his closet, says he has none. No way that could go wrong, eh?

Out in the woods, Frank is walking cautiously and approaches a cabin. He yells out for Gunner, again wary and slowly. He knows Gunner is dangerous. I mean, he lives in a cabin in the woods. Before Frank can even knock on the door, though, he gets hit in the shoulder with an arrow. Frank is hurt and bleeding. He takes cover behind a tree as Gunner steps out in his realtree and face camo with a compound bow pointed at him. Frank tells him all he wants is names and finally convinces Gunner to ease up. "Sorry I shot ya," he says. "Yeah brother, me too." Frank asks Gunner who "Agent Orange" is (it's Rawlins, kids) and asks why Gunner filmed the execution of Ahmad Zubair. Gunner tells him a story about how he saw Col. Schoonover loading drugs into a dead soldiers body overseas and that convinced him to expose them. Before they can get any further they hear helicopters. Micro gets on the horn and tells Frank they've got company.

About eight soldiers are then on the ground, chasing down Frank and Gunner. Then, we see Rawlins, watching their body cams from the comfort of his office. Between Gunner's booby traps and Frank going First Blood, they start to dispatch the soldiers one-by-one. Micro sends out a drone to overwatch. The scene toggles between standard shooting and FPS view, which is a little jarring and not as cool as they may have thought, but that's just nitpicking. Still, it makes the sequence feel like a YouTube Nerf War than a badass shootout. Both Gunner and Frank are hit at some point and hiding out behind a tree. Micro gets on the radio and starts guiding Frank on approaching soldiers. Frank gets to the last guy and just before he finishes him, looks into his bodycam: "Whoever you are, I'm comin' for you." And that's the end of Rawlin's YouTube video time.

We then cut back to Micro's family, sitting at the table, waiting on ol' Frank to show up after he accepted their invite for Sunday dinner. Little do they know he's shot with bullets and arrows and trying to survive a night in the woods. Maybe they'll save him a plate and leave it in the (wait for it)...micro. I'm here for the rest of the episodes, folks.

Frank and Gunner lay in the forest, panting and bleeding. Gunner is bad and on the way out. He tells Frank to promise to bury him. Frank gets up to go find help, but he's not exactly in great shape, either. The scene is at night, which is kind of jarring because the battle with the soldiers ended in daytime. It's hard to believe the Micro would take this long to find them while he's got his drones and shit out there. Anyway. Frank falls flat. Donezo.

Madani and Russo are then seen at a bar, drinking it up. They both confess to having a bad day and Madani asks what they can do about that. Cut to someone's room where they're making out hardcore. Russo takes off Madani's top where she's wearing a bandage bra. Russo asks what happened. Madani isn't there to talk though and before you know it she's bare-ass straddling him and we get an M-Rated Sex scene. Not quite Jessica Jones break-the-headboard kind, but definitely not Agents of SHIELD style. It's interesting how Madani is being built in this show. It's like they took all the tropes fo a male character and just made him female.

Micro finally locates Frank and drags him back fo the van. He's out cold and hurt bad, but still alive. Frank manages a small smile of appreciation. "Might be hope for you yet, spook." And thus wraps up episode five. Still no skull on his chest, but at least Frank dispatches some adversaries in this one, even if it's a bunch of CIA troops in the woods. There's still far too much time spent on ancillary characters, although I do have a fondness to the almost-romance of Frank and Karen. Plus, it's kind of fun to have Frank moving in on Daredevil's lady. Rawlins is a fun bad guy and manages to be both menacing and conniving in that government bad guy way. I'm still waiting on Russo to show his true colors and although it's unclear if he'll go full Jigsaw here, I'm definitely invested. Ben Barnes has a great intensity about him and my hope is to see him give us a nother good villain turn. Marvel typically struggles with the villain problem, but I will say that the Netflix shows have actually done quite well in giving us adversaries we can both learn about and, more importantly, hate. Rawlins is easy in that category, whereas Russo is a guy you almost want to be good, but know it can't stay that way. All said, it's another slow burn episode overall and the pace hasnt really picked up in a way that's gotten my attention. Ah, well. Eight more to go. My feeling is that, even if this show pulls out a big win, it will still suffer from being 3-4 episodes too long. We'll see.

Source: JoBlo.com

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