A Punisher focused show was clamored for ever since Jon Bernthal (Daredevil, The Walking Dead) graced the screen as Frank Castle/The Punisher, a breakout character from Daredevil season two. We are able to explore the factors that turned Frank into the Punisher and what he does after wrapping up his campaign to avenge his family.
In the beginning of the first episode it is clear that Frank has gone full Punisher as he travels across the States tracking down the last of his prey. Things are dirty and bloody from the onset and we begin to understand who Frank Castle was before he first appeared in Daredevil. Frank didn’t become The Punisher the minute his family died; his transformation traces back to his time in the military. Early on he burns his Punisher vest and it appears that all of his scores are settled, but this is episode one, so this is clearly just the beginning.
Six months later, Frank has grown out his hair and is sporting a hipster beard to match. Frank is working on a construction site, where he hammers away on a wall from morning to night and prefers to eat alone and not associate with his colleagues. Who can blame him? His co-workers are a bunch of bullies who barely have the brains to hold a conversation with Frank even if he was interested in speaking with them. At work Frank’s colleagues harass him for not speaking to them and for being at work all the time. They blame him for giving them less overtime and they call him names. These fools clearly don’t know who they were messing with. The only person who seems to sense there’s more to Frank, is the new kid Donny Chavez (Lucca De Oliveira/Bull, Instinct). He tries to make friends with Frank and shares his sandwich with him after the blow-hard leader of the co-workers stomps on Frank’s lunch. When Donny opens up Frank makes it clear he’s not going to make friends with anyone, including Donny.
Frank lives a fairly solitary live and goes home to a small room with a worn-out picture of his family, a book, and clothes. One evening after work, Frank waits outside in the hallway as a group of his fellow veterans attend a meeting to discuss their troubles. Clearly this group of men and one woman are troubled and feel let down by a world that doesn’t understand what they went through while in service to their country. They have different perspectives on things, one veteran calls for vigilantism while another disagrees, and another one seems to be unsure of where he stands.
Curtis (Jason R. Moore/The Unusual, Killjoy Goes to Hell) the group leader tries to reach out to the group members and focus on a peaceful approach. After everyone but Curtis leaves the meeting, Frank and Curtis chat and Frank returns a copy of Moby Dick. Curtis and Frank are old friends and Curtis even states that he would have helped Frank avenge the deaths of his family if Frank had asked. That’s a serious level of friendship. Curtis urges Frank to live life as Peter Castiglione the name on his new passport and to stop punishing himself. Let me just say this now, not one strand on Curtis’ head must be harmed. Spoiler alert: Marvel/Netflix shows have a history of killing off loving and kind Black male characters who are not the main stars of the show. There is no need for this show to continue along that path through the character of Curtis.
We are introduced to an intelligence agent, Dinah Madani (Amber Rose Revah, Indian Summers, Emerald City) and her new partner Sam Stein (Michael Nathanson/The Knick, The Wolf of Wall Street). Dinah is just back from Kandahar and ready to investigate the murder her old partner Ahmad Zubair (Shez Sardar/How to Be a Startup in 21 Days, Elementary). She is sure Ahmad was killed in Kandahar because he knew about US soldiers who were trafficking heroin. Refreshing our memories back to Daredevil, it was Frank’s commander Schoonover (Clancy Brown/SpongeBob SquarePants/The Shawshank Redemption) who turned out to be Blacksmith, the drug dealer who was also instrumental in the killing of Frank’s family. Despite being warned off of the case by their boss Carson Wolfe (C. Thomas Howell/ E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Criminal Minds), Dinah and Sam begin to investigate the first links to Ahmad’s death, the deaths of Schoonover and Frank Castle.
Dinah, who is staying with her parents until she finds a place, has a heart to heart chat with her mother Farah (Shohreh Aghdashloo/The Expanse, Grimm). Dinah’s parents are immigrants and have made a successful life in the States. While Farah is proud of her daughter she is also scared for her child’s safety if she continues investigating Ahmad’s death.
At Frank’s workplace, the new kid, Donny is eager to get to know his co-workers and asks to join them at the bar. We find out they are pretty much the losers they appear to be. Not only does one of them owe a loan shark which he decides to pay back through a robbery, but they stick Donny with a bar tab of over $300. The next day at work, Frank is on break and he overhears the colleagues talking about the aforementioned job, a heist at the poker game of a well-known gangster. Frank is minding his own business, but one of his colleagues accuses him of being nosey. Again, these dudes really don’t have a clue about who they’re messing with. Donny reluctantly joins the crew because they are one man down due to a workplace accident. The job goes badly when a nervous Donny drops his wallet with his license on the floor as he tries to collect money he dropped. Donny isn’t about this life in the least. He should have listened to the mob boss when he advised Donny to turn around and go home.
Meanwhile Frank returns to work at night in order to exorcise the memories of his family by hammering the wall. Donny and the other three members of the heist team also return to the work site. The three guys beat up Donny and throw him in the mixer. Frank intercedes and handles all three of them with minor effort and disposes them in the mixer, but not before learning about where the botched job took place. Frank also throws a rope down to Donny. By the time Donny climbs out of the mixer, Frank is in full Punisher mode and at the site of the heist. His arrival to wreck shop, comes just in time to prevent the mobster and his cronies from paying a visit to Donny and his grandmother.
After the killings, someone watching the CCTV outside of the poker heist utilizes gait recognition software to identify Frank.
Lessons learned from Episode -1: Don’t underestimate Frank and don’t be so eager for fellowship that you join a group of losers.
The second episode begins with Frank riding on a ferry and thinking back to a previous trip with his children. His son says something disparaging about Middle Eastern people and Frank forcefully corrects him by scolding his son whilst grabbing his face. This brief flashback highlighted that Frank was a man of honor, but he was already struggling with his temper before his last tour.
In a diner after the waitress jokes with Frank about looking like a hipster, he receives a call on the the diner phone from a guy calling himself Micro (Ebon Moss-Bachrach/Girls, The Last Ship). This is the same person who identified Frank through the CCTV at the end of episode one. Apparently Micro is also the person who left Frank a DVD with the word ‘Micro’ written on it, in Daredevil. Micro’s tells Frank that Frank’s family died due to his own actions overseas.
At home, Frank can barely watch a few minutes of the DVD from Micro which shows Frank’s unit interrogating someone who is more than likely Ahmad, Dinah’s colleague. Frank visits Curtis and tells him about Micro and mentions that during his time in the military he (Frank) was a part of a special CIA group that conducted interrogations and did a number of unspeakable acts.
Dinah and her partner Sam meet to discuss their investigation. She’s still suffering from reverse culture shock and regarding folks the way one does after returning home from a stint living abroad. To Dinah, her fellow New Yorkers are sheltered inhabitants of a bubble who know nothing about the world at large. Dinah tells Sam that she’s tracked down one of Frank and Schoonver’s colleagues, Billy Russo (Ben Barnes/Westworld, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian). Dinah deftly arranges to meet Russo by maneuvering her boss Carson into allowing her and the team to receive an ops training session from Anvil, Russo’s security firm.
Frank tracks down Karen (Deborah Ann Woll/Daredevil, True Blood) and he brings her up to speed on his life since they last met. Karen being Karen, sounds hurt when she asks Frank where he’s been as if Frank can just pop up with no concern in the world. But Karen also being Karen, talks to her editor and immediately starts investigating. She finds out that Carson put the kibosh on a story about Micro. When Karen and Frank meet up again Karen warns Frank not to go full Punisher on Micro. Franks assures her that if Micro didn’t have anything to do with his family’s death, he’s safe. Micro turns out to be an analyst by the name of David Lieberman, who leaked classified information. He was officially killed as he tried to escape arrest, but he is a ghost just like Frank. Maybe it’s the energy between the two actors, because so far Karen’s time on one episode of Punisher has surpassed her storyline on both seasons of Daredevil. The interaction between Karen and Frank is much more substantive and enjoyable than her relationships with both Matt and Foggy.
We find David/Micro in his lair. He’s watching various camera feeds, one is of his family in their home. Frank goes to David/Micro’s family’s house and Frank purposefully puts himself in David/Micro’s wife, Sarah’s (Jaime Ray Newman/Bates Motel, Drop Dead Diva) path so that she hits him. David/Micro sees all of this on his cameras and is not having it and drives over to the house. While Sarah and Frank bond, Micro watches them from his car.
Dinah meets Billy Russo at the team training and proceeds to ask him questions. Billy is eager to get a Stateside contract because his current contracts are all abroad. He mildly flirts with Dinah and figures out her last name is Persian. Dinah stresses to him that she’s Persian-American, with the emphasis on American. Carson watches the pair chat and then interrupts with a warning to Dinah to not question Billy. Billy isn’t ruffled in the least, and asks Dinah out on a date.
One of the most important parts of the episode is the departing of hipster Frank. Frank shaves his hair and beard and reverts back to his clean-shaven look as he packs up the contents of his sparse rooms into a garbage bag and limps out of his building. The limp is the best way to avoid Micro’s CCTV and gait detection program.
Carson goes home to play some Old Blue Eyes and sip an adult beverage on the rocks. His house is lovely, but alas he’s confronted by Frank in a mask. It’s a great soundtrack and the house is the perfect backdrop for the fight between Frank and Carson. The two fight between the kitchen and dining room and use a toaster, candlestick, and other household items to beat each other senseless. Frank gets the better of Carson and ties him up. Eventually Carson removes his binds, grabs Frank’s gun, and removes his mask. Carson is surprised to see Frank beneath the mask, but doesn’t hesitate to explain that he knew all about Frank’s family and how to find them because he was also a part of the plan to kill Frank and his family. Micro isn’t dirty, but Carson is. When Carson attempts to kill Frank, he finds that the gun is empty. Frank overpowers Carson and subsequently kills him.
Billy’s date with Dinah, which is a mix of flirtation and interrogation, is interrupted by a call informing Dinah of Carson’s death.
Meanwhile Frank calls David/Micro and Frank dictates the terms of a face to face meeting. Frank makes David/Micro stop at various places in an exhausting scavenger hunt type game. Instead of Frank, Curtis shows up to meet David/Micro at David’s graveside. Curtis’ continuous commitment to be a good friend to Frank’s is wonderful, but it makes me concerned about what Marvel will do to Curtis. Again, I state that we need Curtis fully intact in the season finale.
After Curtis leaves David/Micro yells out to the graveyard that Frank needs him. David/Micro is not wrong; it’s obvious that these two need to work together. What is also obvious is that Frank engineered this whole meeting in order to tail David back to his lair. The episode ends with Frank knocking out his new frenemy David/Micro.
Lessons learned from Episode 2: Don’t underestimate Frank. Dinah is not the one to play with, but sometimes it’s better to be slightly more covert when investigating a case of this magnitude.
Not a binger? No problem. ProFans Ejiro and Kituria will be reviewing the first season of Punisher two episodes at a time each week.
Punisher S1E1/S1E2 Review Score
"3 AM/Two Dead Men"
The Punisher | Starring: Jon Bernthal, Amber Rose Revah, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Ben Barnes, Jaime Ray Newman, Jason R. Moore, Deborah Ann Woll, Shohreh Aghdashloo