Punisher: Two Dead Men


Castle catches up with a friend

Frank Castle’s story continues in Punisher’s second episode, “Two Dead Men.” In another flashback, he’s riding the ferry with his kids, telling them stories. He quotes the nursery rhyme about, “One bright day in the middle of the night, Two dead men got up to fight,” which is one possible source of the title of the episode. Lisa, his daughter, is excited to see the Statue of Liberty coming into view, while Frank, Jr., seems to have hit teenage boy sulky. Eventually, the scene fades, showing the present Frank on the ferry, watching a different father and daughter.

He goes to a diner to eat, and the waitress amusingly describes him as a hipster, which he so isn’t. Before Frank even gets his breakfast, he gets a phone call on the diner’s phone, surprising both Frank and the waitress. It’s not a great idea to startle someone who goes by Punisher. It’s the mysterious man known as Micro, and they do a lot of verbal fencing and threatening. Frank tries to figure out where Micro is and catch him, but Micro has evaded him, leaving behind a cell phone and a note, miming “Call me” in the distance as he slips away.

After the title sequence, Frank has the same recurring dream/flashback of what I believe is his final morning with his wife Maria. He wakes up, and uses his computer to view the disc Micro left for him back during Daredevil. It shows an interrogation that goes badly, ending in an execution. It seems to be Zubair, the man Agent Dinah Madani is trying to avenge in the other major plot currently running.

Frank goes to visit Curt, his friend at the Veterans’ Group. Frank tells him someone knows he’s alive, and he’s worried about it. Frank wants to know if Curt accidentally mentioned something to anyone, which Curt denies. He shares some of his worries with Curt, who tries to reassure him. Castle talks a bit about some of what happened over in Afghanistan, then leaves.

Agents Sam and Dinah share cynical views on people recovering from 9/11 so quickly. They are definitely a jaded pair. Dinah talks about some video from Kandahar, and it sounds like it might be the same one Castle just looked at. She mentions that she doesn’t know for sure who was in the video, but both Schoonover and Castle were on the team involved. Dinah, showing she’s fairly clever, then catches Agent Wolf at the end of a meeting and suggests some team-building/training exercises she can go to locally to fit in better. Wolf seems interested, and possibly pleased she’s becoming more a team player.

Running out of options, Frank reaches out to one of his only other surviving friends: Karen Page of Daredevil fame. After fooling her with his initial approach, the two of them go back to her place and talk. She’s been worried about him, and he talks about finishing some business. She, too, calls his bearded look “hipster.” After making sure she, too, didn’t let something slip about him being alive, he asks for her help tracking down the elusive “Micro.” Punisher has many skills, but detective isn’t really one of them.

Karen digs into this assignment, going back to the Bulletin, the Netflix substitution for the Daily Bugle, Marvel’s usual New York newspaper whose rights are tied up with the Spider-Man package over at Sony. She runs into her editor, Ellison, who isn’t happy to hear what she’s looking into, but finally, reluctantly, helps. Interestingly, this story ties back to Special Agent In Charge Carson Wolf. The man seems to have his fingers in all manner of murky pies.

While Castle has flashbacks of his family, it appears that Micro is a step up from that. He has his former home wired for video and sound, and spies on his wife and kids. It’s not entirely clear if the wife, Sarah, knows about this or not. It’s very obvious that Micro misses his family.

Madani and her team run through the tactical exercise, and Sam shows he’s not exactly combat proficient. He does ok, just not fantastically. Billy Russo, who owns the training facility, tries to make Sam feel better and chats with Madani. When she starts dropping a few hints about Kandahar, Agent Wolf pops up out of nowhere to warn her off. Russo suggests the way around that is to talk off duty, which seems to please both of them.

After Karen leaves the signal she and Frank agreed on, they meet on some benches by the water, in the scene that was released earliest about the Punisher’s season. She tells him about Carson Wolf, and an NSA agent who leaked stories and then was apparently killed. The dead NSA man was David Liberman, who of course we recognize as Micro. Karen worries about Frank, and he says she shouldn’t expect to see him again.

Out in the suburbs, Castle arranges to “accidentally” meet Sarah Liberman. It’s a really painful introduction, but Castle is nothing if not committed. Micro sees this via his video links and freaks out. Castle learns a bit about Sarah and David both, and shares some insights with her about being the survivor of a loved one. Castle plays this really smoothly, showing he’s more than just a guy with a gun. Or a whole arsenal.

Returning to his apartment, Frank shaves and cuts his hair, going back to the look he is more used to. He slips out, changing a few things to throw off Micro’s various surveillance tools. Since it’s the only other clue he has, Frank’s next stop is Agent Wolf’s home. If I wasn’t suspicious of Wolf before, I certainly am after seeing his place. The man seems to be living beyond the means of even a senior Federal agent. Castle breaks in and it’s a really brutal, ugly fight. Wolf, whatever else he is, isn’t just a desk jockey. But, it’s his show, so Frank eventually wins and pumps the man for info about Liberman. Frank not only gets a bit more info, but finds out some surprising things about another link between him and Wolf. True to his usual style, Wolf isn’t doing too well by the time Castle’s done with him. It does seem to suggest that, if they don’t try and kill each other, Castle and Madani should more or less be on the same side.

Speaking of, Madani and Russo have what seems like a decent date. They seem well suited to each other, although I don’t know how much either of them are playing a role. She does ask Russo a few questions about Castle, and Russo is fine with the Punisher’s crusade. The date gets cut short when Madani gets called to a crime scene that we’re already familiar with.

Castle is at a different diner, toying with the phone Micro gave him. One thing about Castle I really like; he’s unfailingly polite to his various waitresses. Finally, Castle calls Micro, and they argue about Agent Wolf and Frank’s visit to Micro’s home. Punisher runs Micro all over the place via cell phone, demanding he be at such and such a place by a certain time. Finally, with help from Curt, Castle delivers a message to Micro. The episode ends with Micro going back to his little base of operations and getting a big surprise. Castle and Micro’s shared history is another likely source of the episode title.

What I liked: Micro is very good at what he does, but so is Frank, and Karen. It was nice to see Karen again, and I’m glad she’s helping our hero. I see what Micro is trying to do, but he really doesn’t quite know who he’s dealing with, despite all his information. Madani is fun to watch work, and I like her approach. It speaks well of Castle both that he knows enough to know he needs help, and that he is kind to the waitresses. It elevates him from just a badass jerk with a gun. His mission to Wolf’s place was done well, tactically and fighting choreography-wise. Castle and Curt’s work to deal with Micro was nicely done, as was Castle’s trip to the Liberman home.

What I didn’t: It’s really coincidental that Wolf spills info that ties to something else about Castle’s background. I’m not sure how much I like that coincidence, but I’ll reserve judgement for now until I learn more about the story. I also don’t like that, aside from Karen and Ellison, Punisher is so isolated from the rest of the Netflix/Marvel world, but I get why.

I thought this was well written, acted, directed, and staged. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5.