The Punisher Review: Episode 1.02 “Two Dead Men”

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The Punisher

Frank Castle is a bad man. If people didn’t know how The Punisher got down, they found out at the end of the first episode, “3AM.” Whereas the first episode set the stage for most of our main characters, “Two Dead Men” brings more intrigue for those aren’t familiar with the character from Marvel comics. “Two Dead Men” also picks up where Daredevil season two ends, where Frank burns his house to the ground after grabbing a disc with Micro written on it. So, let’s begin.

The Punisher

The Many Moving Parts of a Conspiracy

The one thing that separates The Punisher from other Marvel shows on Netflix is the fact that this show seems more grounded in a reality that we, the viewer, know and understand. CIA, NSA, and Homeland coverups are great television if done right and The Punisher hits all the right notes. He may be a Marvel character, but you don’t get a Marvel feel from watching this show.

Any great conspiracy starts with an unknown entity forcing the hand of our protagonist. In this case, Frank Castle is enjoying a nice breakfast at a diner, reading about his handiwork with the Gnucci’s in the paper when, all of a sudden, the payphone rings, is answered by the server, who tells Frank the call is for him. Frank protests, but she tells him that the caller described him as if he were standing right next to Frank.

Frank answers the phone call and is pressed by the figure to reveal he is, in fact, Frank Castle the dead man. To which Frank replies, “that makes two of us.” The caller tells Frank that he isn’t the only ghost in this town and makes sure that Frank got the disc he left for him in his house. Frank thinks he sees something on the roof, but only finds a flashlight pointed at a mirror holding a cell phone. There is a note inside the phone saying “don’t disappoint me.” Across the way, Frank finally notices his adversary, garbed in a hoodie and glasses to hide his appearance.

Frank goes back to his apartment and pulls the disc out. This is where we begin to see the unraveling of a massive governmental conspiracy. The video contains the torture of one Ahmad Zubair by a secret unit. Though Zubair claims to be a cop, the man interrogating him refuses to listen and appears to not care, threatening to kill his family before having one of the masked soldiers walk up and shoot him in the head. Frank quickly slams it shut and we’re given the impression that Frank may have had more of a role in this video than he wants to see right now. A quick visit to Curtis confirms that nobody has been poking around about Frank with him and he hasn’t said anything.

Agent Dinah Madani Meets Billy Russo

The Punisher

Still working the Zubair angle despite her superior, Carson Wolf, ordering her off of it. Madani has no choice but to work with the partner they gave her. Madani tells Sam Stein about the recording but claims it was stolen just before she was sent back from Afghanistan. Thinking that Castle died with Colonel Ray Schoonover, Madani pulls a fast one on Wolf to allow her to train at Anvil, a company owned by Billy Russo (Ben Barnes), who also happened to be in Frank’s unit. Her real motivation is speaking with Russo following the training and finding out what she can with regard to Afghanistan and Castle.

The Homeless Vet and the Dead NSA Agent

Disguising himself as a homeless person under a blanket, Frank purposefully puts himself in the path of Karen Page (Deborah Ann Woll). They head back to her apartment and Frank asks for her help digging into this “Micro” character. Karen agrees and begins digging. She finds a small reference to “Micro,” but the accompanying story is nowhere to be found. Her boss, Mitchell Ellison (Geoffrey Cantor), tells her a story of how he’d had a story pitched a few years back about a man named David Lieberman (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), also known as Micro.

Lieberman was an NSA agent accused of leaking top secret information. The information Karen dug up on him revealed that he was shot and killed trying to evade arrest. All of a sudden, the concept of two ghosts remaining makes a bit more sense. Though Lieberman was believed to be dead, there is an extra layer to the plot.

Ellison reveals that Carson Wolf dropped by and asked him not to run the story, which shocks and dismays Karen. Realizing he needs to make this right to Karen, he says he’s sure he has the story in his office and he will give it to Karen if she stops looking at him in disbelief. After getting the story, Karen gives the information to Frank, who has decide whether he will approach this situation as The Punisher or the man, Frank Castle.

Russo Ruse

The Punisher

Back over at Anvil, the team goes through a drill and nearly completes it. Russo steps in and assures them not to worry about one innocent target as these types of situations are never clean. This opens the door for Madani to strike up a conversation with Russo, but before she can get the goods, Wolf steps in and shuts her down once more. Not caring about Wolf’s opinion, Russo asks Madani if she’s free to talk about anything she wants off-duty and, if so, would she like to grab a drink. She agrees.

Meet the Micros

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Now knowing who Lieberman is, Frank heads over to his house and throws himself in front of Sarah Lieberman’s (Jaime Ray Newman) car causing Sarah to take him in treat his injuries. As they are hanging out, they begin to bond over the loss of family members in service of the government. What Frank doesn’t know is that Micro is watching him on his computer the whole time and heads over to his house with a gun. In the end, Micro realizes Frank is harmless to his wife and drives off.

Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

The Punisher

Back at his place, Frank ditches the hipster look and adorns a more traditional look for The Punisher. He takes off from his place with a limp, presumably to throw off Micro’s gait recognition software. Frank is going hunting tonight and his prey is the very man that stopped Micro’s article from being printed, Carson Wolf. Frank stalks his prey as he enters his empty house and knocks him unconscious.

When Wolf comes to, he is tied to a chair with Frank torturing him for information about Lieberman. Frank shoots Wolf in the leg at one point and Wolf tells him that torture isn’t going to get The Punisher anywhere. Around this time, Wolf manages to break free, fight with Frank, and takes the gun from him. While he has The Punisher right where he wants him, Wolf reveals that the Central Park Massacre was really a front to kill Frank because they thought he leaked the video to Micro. This revelation also means Wolf was in the unit. Wolf pulls the trigger but nothing happens because Castle made sure the gun was unloaded. At this point, Frank tells Wolf “it’s just you, me, and the truth now.” He then breaks his neck.

Flipping Situations on Their Head

Madani and Russo meet up in a bar and reignite their chat from earlier. Russo is well aware she is searching for specific information about the heroin smuggling out of Kandahar, but Russo refuses to believe Frank was involved. Billy opines on the Trial of the Century from Daredevil season two, but Madani gets a call interrupting their conversation. Madani heads to the crime scene, also known as Wolf’s house and Madani asks why they haven’t moved the body. Sam Stein replies that they had to wait for her because she is now the ranking agent.

Meanwhile, Frank contacts Micro, having deactivated the cell earlier, and he tells Micro that the game has changed. Micro is now the hunted and Frank gives him strict twenty minute drives to make while Curtis monitors each stop to make sure Micro is clean and alone. The final stop on Castle’s trip is the cemetery where Lieberman was “buried.” But instead of Castle showing up, it is Curtis, telling Micro that Castle isn’t interested in meeting. If he pursues the matter further, Castle will revisit Lieberman’s family and then walks off. An irate Lieberman screams at the cemetery before returning to his hideout. A frustrated Micro returns to his computers when The Punisher emerges from the trunk, walks up to Micro, and knocks him out with a punch.

One Batch, Review Batch….

This is one of my favorite episodes. While not covered in the recap, the brief scene between Frank and his son. on a boat tour of the Statue of Liberty was very authentic. His son mentions that he was proud of his dad and his dad was going back to “kill hajis,” and Frank’s reaction was raw. He grabs him by the face and yells at him to never say that again. Even though Frank has done a ton of killing, aspects of his past still haunt him.

We also see this play out as Frank has flashbacks. If you’re into foreshadowing, every time Castle imagines his wife being shot, it is a reverse image of the shooting of Ahmad Zubair, possibly foreshadowing that Frank shot Zubair or knows exactly who did. It’s definitely something I expect to see more of as Castle progresses. There’s a very clear link between what happened in Kandahar and his family’s death thanks to Wolf, so this clearly goes up the chain quite a bit.

The inclusion of Micro and his family is outstanding. Comic fans adore Micro and Marvel did a great job casting Ebon Moss-Bachrach in the role. The power dynamic between these two seems far from over and you can bet some of the best laughs will develop out of this relationship. But Frank doesn’t exactly know what Micro is, but the next episode should settle that.

Overall this was an outstanding episode. It bridged the gap between The Punisher and Daredevil season two. We now know why the Central Park Massacre took place and we know this means a lot more people are going to die. What Frank thought he had finished turns out to be so far from finished that he may not even know who is on his side. The Punisher is just getting started and it looks like Frank is going to have a literal war on his hands. 

Other Thoughts:

  • The newspaper clipping on the Gnucci’s pretty much confirms to me that they were just a one off because dealing with the NSA, CIA, Homeland, and the Gnucci’s is a bit much, even for The Punisher.
  • Frank is obviously going to torture Micro, but how long will it take Frank to realize that Micro is on his side? He truly wants to help?
  • Madani and Russo seemed to be getting a bit cozy during their chat. Who wants to bet that they find a convenient way for both of them to get something they want out of their relationship?

Stay tuned for our continuing reviews of Marvel’s The Punisher.

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