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.
1.2 Two Dead Men
The first episode of The Punisher was quite a slow burner, relying largely on the delayed gratification of knowing that soon – very soon – Frank Castle was going to turn back into the Punisher. Episode 2 isn’t a lot quicker, but it’s also a lot less interior: the flashback PTSD is gone and in its place, we have some plot wheels turning. And the return of an old friend.
What I liked about this episode (besides Frank shaving off his awful beard) was the Frank Vs. Micro game of chess. Frank starts off freaked out that Micro’s onto him, genuinely concerned about what’s going on. Micro, by comparison, is in a position of complete power over him. By the end of the episode, that’s flipped over thanks to nothing more than Frank’s keen strategic mind and determination, and that’s exactly the sort of thing I want to see out of a Punisher depiction. He’s not just a murderer with unlimited firepower at his disposal: he’s an ultra-competent thinker who can get one step ahead of anyone.
That doesn’t bode well for the Homeland Security agents pursuing his case, of course, and the death of their superior office in this episode came a lot quicker than I was expecting. I found it surprising, in fact, that of all Marvel’s output it takes a show about a psychotic murderer to make the point that torture doesn’t necessarily get you where you want to go. Guess no-one told Matt Murdock.
Speaking of Daredevil – the inevitable Karen Page appearance also came earlier than I expected. Seeing the pairing of her and Frank on screen together reminded me just how good their chemistry is, and I sort of hope this isn’t a one-off appearance. There’s a lot of character tension that could be mined, but it’s the spark between the actors that you can’t get elsewhere. Then again, I’m generally a lot more forgiving of Karen Page than most so it’s possible not everyone will agree.
The other thing I liked about this episode was how (broadly) self-contained it was. Marvel Netflix shows (hell, a lot of serials) often turn into 13-part movies with no real delineation of the tone and story. You can definitively say “this is the episode where Frank and Micro are tracking one another down” and the guest cast from the previous episode gets almost entirely replaced with a new one. Although admittedly, maybe that’s because most of those guys ended up dead.
I do question whether tying everything back to Frank’s family is the best idea, because at some point you have to break with that otherwise he’s just not the Punisher. We already saw his origin story in Daredevil S2, I don’t necessarily need everything he does to be as single-minded as “these guys were involved, so they get to die.” I’d be just as happy to see him pursuing the death of the crooked and corrupt so no-one else goes through what he did.
Anyway. A good episode, despite those very minor reservations. After the last couple of Netflix shows I’m cautiously optimistic – most of them hit the skids quite badly in the middle, but I think The Punisher is probably simple and grounded enough to stay its course. Fingers crossed, anyway.
Of course, Karen Page is back. First appeared in Daredevil #1 (1974) and in the MCU, as played by Deborah Ann Woll, in Daredevil 1.01. Former legal secretary to Matt Murdock, she became a reporter at the New York Bulletin (first appearance: Marvels: Eye of the Camera #1 ) and remains there now. Her boss, Mitchell Ellison, first appeared in Daredevil 1.03 working with Ben Urich.
Micro, aka David Lieberman, first appeared in The Punisher Vol. 2 #4 (1987) and in those comics was a hacker rather than a wikileaker. Also his name was “microchip” because back in those days microchips were still considered super cool tech. It’d basically be like if a modern character was called “Qbit” or “LiveStream” or something. The character’s backstory has completely been reworked, however – the comics version was a former black hat hacker who teamed up with the Punisher after the Kingpin killed his nephew. Weirdly, the MCU version was previously referenced in Agents Of SHIELD 2.07 as a member of the Rising Tide hacking group. That’s not been brought up here, but nothing contradicts it either.
And just for reference, Anvil isn’t a reference to a pre-existing company in the comics or MCU, but Michael Russo IS a comics character. Although at this point anything I say about him will be a spoiler so y’know. We’ll get to it when we’re ready…
Read James’ review of the previous episode, 3AM, here.