Punisher: Gunner


Punisher goes Woody Allen?

We find Agent Madani a bit the worse for wear from the events of last episode. This one starts with her battered, bruised, and recovering, cut with a few flashbacks of the car accident (ok, it wasn’t exactly an accident) and Castle pulling her out. It’s a very nice touch that she’s so sore after the accident. Sadly, I can tell you first hand that’s a pretty accurate portrayal. But she’s doing better than the episode’s titular character, “Gunner,” by the end of things.

Back at Micro’s hub, he’s bitching at Castle for saving Madani’s life. Micro is paranoid about his secrets, and Frank’s by extension. They bicker for a while, and a lot of Micro’s anxiety comes back to his worry about his family. Castle finally leaves, not giving Micro an answer he expects about where he’s going.

After the title sequence, which Netflix didn’t let me skip for some reason, we come back to Frank getting a condensed version of a book report on Life of Pi from Leo, Micro’s daughter. She’s helping Frank as he repairs Sarah’s headlight. There’s some entertaining banter and it seems like Leo is trying to set up Frank, who they know as Pete, and Sarah. I think Leo’s really missing having a dad. The good vibes get broken up when son Zach comes home and snarks at everyone. The boy needs an attitude adjustment. This Zach is about an annoying as the one from The Strain. Things end up with Frank getting an invitation to Sunday dinner. Micro, spying via his hidden bugs, is not pleased about all this.

Sam and Director Hernandez are going over files at the office when the banged up Madani comes in. She ignores advice that she go home, and once again, as the conversation turns serious, Sam gets asked to leave the room. The man’s really not treated well in this entire series so far. After a joke about not being able to let the death of her car go unavenged, she blames herself for the team getting ambushed, and argues with Hernandez over what to do next. For whatever reason, likely her obsessive drive to keep picking at the Kandahar case, she doesn’t tell anyone about seeing Frank Castle alive and well. After ignoring a call from Russo, she sorts through some pictures and stares fixedly at one from Castle’s trial, of Karen. Why there are so many pictures from what appear to be the courtroom, I’m not sure.

Micro is once again going over the infamous interrogation video from Kandahar that set so much of the current plot in motion when Frank gets back. Frank quips about Micro’s son, and then gets annoyed when he sees what Micro’s watching. After more arguing, Micro presses Frank for info about how the video was made in the first place. Frank finally agrees that it’s worth digging into, and reveals the cameraman was Gunner Henderson. After Frank praises Gunner, Micro suggests he might know who Agent Orange is. Speaking of, the next scene shows us Agent Orange, AKA William Rawlins, giving a lecture at the CIA.

Next up, Madani has pulled in Karen for an interview. I have to admit I’m curious about this. I get that Karen is the only character that made it over to this series, but if Madani is seeking background about Castle, wouldn’t she bring in Murdock and Nelson, too? I’d kind of like an explanation about why that didn’t happen. The scene is an amusing duel between Madani and Karen. Madani finds that Karen is better informed than she’d like, and not at all rattled by Madani’s badge and title. If she only knew… After a lot of probing back and forth, Karen speaks very highly of Frank Castle, and tells Madani he’s a man best left alone. That’s for sure. After Karen leaves, Sam gets a new assignment from Madani he really doesn’t like. They argue and Madani finally tells Sam about seeing Castle. This also doesn’t sit well with Sam, and causes more friction between them. The conversation is overheard by prying ears, and that’s likely going to cause more complications.

After Micro’s surveillance picks up the flowers in the window signal, Castle goes for another meeting with Karen down by the river. She tells him about Madani, and he mentions saving her from an “upside down burning car.” Frank tells a story about one of his last interactions with his son, and why he feels driven to finish his mission. Karen, ever the compassionate one, argues for Castle to expose these people rather than martyr them, but he’s not really interested. It’s a good, emotional scene, and shows Castle’s not just some mindless killing machine, like some past versions of him have been portrayed. It also shows the two of them have very different view points.

The investigation into the gun operation goes on, as Madani and Sam both get grilled about what happened. Sam is helpful and cooperative, and Madani keeps throwing attitude. If they could get past a few issues, I think she’d get on really well with Castle. Madani chases down Sam after his session. After he does her a big favor, she rewards him by giving him more work. Part of me admires Madani, part of me is glad I don’t actually know her at times. As this happens, Orange Rawlins gets a special medal at the CIA, and we see his boss, played by the always impressive Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. Marvel really is getting some great talent in this series.

David searches for Gunner, and we see that, no matter how smart he is, David has some serious limits on his perception. They debate Gunner’s motives for going totally off-grid. Castle once again has very simple lines that are very insightful. He might not be eloquent, but he’s very good at making a point. After some argument, we get the set up for what could be a dark comedy/ road trip movie as David insists on coming along in the quest for Gunner.

The next scene is pretty much exactly that: a weird buddy/road trip. David waxes pedantic about the meaning of Cerberus, and Frank rolls his eyes. Then it devolves into low comedy about food as David reveals another hidden talent and shows he can be just as inconsiderate as Castle. It was a pretty funny scene, I’ll give them that.

Rawlins and his boss, Marion, share a drink and plans for the future. I don’t think she knows who she’s dealing with, and I really hope she finds out before too long. At the other end of the comfort scale, Castle and Micro get to Gunner’s neck of the woods, and Castle goes in, telling Micro to wait at the van. There are several scenes of Castle stalking through the woods, and Micro kicked back reading what I believe is Life of Pi, the book his daughter was recommending to Frank. Castle finally finds Gunner, and it’s not a friendly initial meeting. They compare notes, and then hear that they’ve got company. Micro hears it too, and proves he can be useful. This is probably the kind of teamwork Micro had in mind when he contacted Castle in the first place. There’s a lot of combat in the woods, and no one emerges unscathed, which is another nice realistic touch. Castle gets some information he needed, and Rawlins, sitting in his nice office observing via video, gets a nasty shock. I’m not quite sure why Rawlins dispatched a hit squad after Gunner who just happened to show up the same time Frank was there, or why they were stupid (over-confident?) enough to land their chopper so close it made that much noise. David takes some actual, physical action finally, and in a counterpoint to the disaster in the trees, the Liberman family eat dinner with an empty chair where first David, now Frank/Pete was supposed to be. Guess he forgot about his dinner date. Leo looks particularly upset and disappointed.

Russo and Madani go out on another date. They’re both having problems at work, and they’re both looking for distraction. Well, they get that. Netflix/Marvel continues it’s really odd trend of “We’re going to show you a sex scene but no nudity.” It seems like a strange way to do those scenes. I think it’d make more sense to cut them and fade to black. It’s not like we wouldn’t figure out what happened. The episode wraps with Frank giving some grudging approval to Micro.

What I liked: David’s daughter is a very likeable presence on-screen. I’m enjoying her. Madani is as ruthlessly dedicated in her own way as Castle, she just hasn’t quite gone as far outside the rules as he did. Yet. I’m still halfway expecting Russo to turn into some kind of bad guy, but I’m liking him for now. The battle in the woods was really nicely done. Good action, support from Micro, no one being untouched by it. It was a great, ugly, brawl. Marion could add an interesting new dynamic as this goes on. The food scene in the van was damned entertaining.

What I didn’t: I commented on the weird sex scene above. Zach and his attitude need to get checked. Madani is taking Sam for granted and using him badly, and I hope that doesn’t go where I think it’s going to. I don’t like what it appeared happened with Gunner at the end.

This series is continuing to impress me. I’m giving this a 4 out of 5. This may end up being my favorite of the Netflix series so far, and I’m generally not a big Punisher fan