The Punisher is a well-put-together show about not-well-put-together people. The dichotomy between Frank Castle and David Lieberman is a perfect example of the distinctly different approaches that characters take on this show, Castle being hot-headed and head-on, and Lieberman taking a slower, “smarter” approach. But due to some big revelation, big actions are taken by the characters in this episode, which represents a major turning point.
“Everything’s changed,” Castle tells Lieberman in the bathroom scene, a dialogue exchange that nearly leads to their professional falling out. And he’s right: no more dramatic irony, with all of the characters now aware of their true motivations and alignments. Billy Russo has now been outed as Frank Castle’s true enemy (in a highly convoluted stairway scene in the previous episode), not only to him, but also to agent Dinah Madani.
“We gotta be smart here, all right? You gotta be smart,” Lieberman tells Castle as he stitches up his head. But even though Lieberman and Madani are two characters who try to exercise that professionalism throughout the show, emotion always gets in the way and leads to bold (and often irrational) decisions. Madani makes a bone-headed move to try to interrogate Russo (the murderer of her partner) on the record, with the hopes of shaking him up a little bit (this ends up having the reverse effect). And meanwhile, the kidnapping of Micro’s wife and son add another emotional element to the whole ordeal. Despite Micro’s hiding for the past year, Castle (quickly?) convinces him that it has to be him to retrieve his escaped daughter.
Rawlins (Agent Orange) is another calm and collected player in this game, but Russo even points out to him that this is “getting out of hand,” with the killing DHS agents and now the kidnapping of women and children. Paul Schulze has done a fine job giving a chilling performance, while also allowing emotion seep through from his sometime irrational actions. Still, he manages to keep control of the situation with Marion James of the CIA—but we await to see how his plan will fall apart in the near-future. Agent Orange is on some thin ice.
It all culminates in the most Punisher-esque action sequence in the entirety of the show so far. Frank Castle finally re-dons the skull, and takes down these Anvil nitwits in typical brutal fashion. But seriously, do all stock characters (good and bad) have to be this incompetent? While the skills displayed by characters like Frank Castle are indeed impressive, a lot of it seems to be dependent on their comically clueless opponents. I swear, one of these soldiers was just looking blankly at Frank before getting blasted away.
But damn, severed heads with grenades strapped to them, graphic close-ups of faces getting shotgunned off, guts spilling from bodies, and totally badass and cold executions—this sequences has it all. I’ve been waiting for ages for Jon Bernthal to be angrily bellowing while unloading automatic weapons, and this episode delivered. I just wish it didn’t take eleven out of thirteen episodes to get there.
With Castle, Lieberman and Madani finally teaming up at the end, I look forward to seeing some significant movement in these last two episodes. Emotions are at their highest, so I expect plenty of irrationality to follow.
4 Shotgun Blasts to the Face Out of 5. It first comes across as a talky transition episode to get us ready for finale craziness, but an impressive action sequence at the end keeps our attention.
- Not that I disliked the Lewis Wilson plot thread or anything, but the show is a lot more watchable with that out of the way now.
- Here’s an irrational thought I had while watching: during the second meeting between Rawlins and James, I kept expecting him to push her off the bridge they were standing on. I think I’ve seen too much House of Cards nonsense.
- The camera kept focusing on this one opposing fighter avoiding death from Frank, but it seemed utterly pointless as they were all doomed anyway.
- Probably best for Micro to not reveal that he has hidden cameras all over their house, but I have to wonder how that will come back in the future.
Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on episode 12, “Home.”