The standalone Marvel-Netflix Punisher show has finally dropped, and once again we’re doing daily write ups of every episode, highlighting the influences, in-jokes, reference points and Easter eggs we spotted, as well as a few thoughts on the show itself.
As usual feel free to discuss whether you’re watching along or you’ve seen it all, but please don’t spoil future episodes for anyone in the comments.
This review contains spoilers.
1.10 Virtue Of The Vicious
Another great episode from the people at Marvel-Netflix! What are the odds? There’s a very real danger The Punisher will end up being the most well-written and thematically complete Netflix show full stop, and I say that as someone who is getting absolutely nothing in the way of geeky thrills from it. The lack of Easter Eggs isn’t so much a problem as it is the show’s ethos: everything important about this show is contained within it.
Admittedly, this episode’s Rashomon-style look at an encounter with The Punisher is a good way to break the format and give us, for the second time in a row, a fairly self-contained encounter that spins out nicely in terms of the plot. I loved that aspect of it. I also enjoyed the story with Lewis coming to a head, although I’m not quite sure what we’re supposed to take from this story of soldier with PTSD doesn’t get the help he needs, goes crazy and ultimately kills himself. Is he a cautionary tale? Evidence that some people just don’t have what it takes? Or is he proof that Frank is just a much hardier soul? Maybe it’ll be thrown into relief by future events, but broadly, I just found this all quite depressing.
The character moments made the episode really worth it, though, particularly between Karen and Frank. Her letting him take her hostage was a fun little beat, but that moment in the lift where they look at each other, both wanting to stay together but knowing they can’t? The most emotionally brutal moment of the series so far. Matt who?
All that said, I’m not sure things were made any better by the multiple perspectives approach. It was fun seeing Mahoney try to piece things together, but it wasn’t quite piecemeal enough for us to do the same. There was no puzzle to solve for the viewer other than “what happened to Frank?” to which we get a fun but not exactly surprising answer, and the alternate versions of events were subtle to the point of being unnoticeable. Has it all been worth putting the Micro/Rawlins plots essentially on hold for two episodes? I’m not so sure.
There was some great action in this episode, though – Frank couldn’t exactly kill the law-enforcement guys coming after him, and Lewis’ dead man’s switch made him a non-target too. Instead, Karen – poor old hostage-for-hire Karen – managed to use her own smarts to give Frank the opening we knew he needed. And then Lewis took care of himself in the aforementioned depressing manner. It kind of feels like that final scene needed Curtis there to give Lewis’ arc some weight. As it is, Frank just ushered another crook towards the grave using whatever tools he had at his disposal. It’s just in this case, it was words.
I think we can characterise this as a good episode that comes at a less good time than it should have. The show is clearly not into the ethical debate it was having in the previous episode, but less that we got – as predicted – more time for the characters. I’ll still never quite buy Karen as a pro-gun person but that’s probably the Brit in me talking which refuses to believe any rational person could be. Certainly, it fits the character as established and they’ve done plenty (in this series and previous ones) to make a potentially unsympathetic position work.
As for references – that’s Brett Mahoney, the cop Daredevil handed Frank to when he originally stopped him. Mahoney also appeared in Jessica Jones as well as a bunch of Daredevil episodes (He’s the guy who asks Foggy to stop buying his mother cigars). He’s been around in the Netflix MCU since Day 1 (that is, Daredevil 1.01). I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned before, but he IS from the comics: he first appeared in Marvel Comics Presents #1 (2007) where he was partnered with Stacy Dolan, childhood friend of Danny Ketch (aka the best Ghost Rider).