The Punisher has done a great, and sometimes surprising, job of hitting some emotional depths. Given the general quality of the Netflix/Marvel series, that shouldn’t be that much of a shock, but then again, Punisher isn’t known for his deep range of feelings. This one does a great job of showing the consequences of what’s happened recently. “Front Towards Enemy” is a brutal episode, but anyone who knows what that phrase is from shouldn’t be surprised by that.
It opens with Madani grieving over Sam’s death last episode, which has hit her really hard. She spends several montage cuts in bed, with her mother offering both support and good advice, which the agent isn’t in any shape to really take. Madani has been asked to speak at the funeral, and she’s alternately dreading and raging about this.
Mama Madani isn’t the only one worried. Frank and David are set up on a nearby roof, observing her through Frank’s rifle scope. That’s a little extreme, but listening to their discussion, it sounds like these two have some doubt about what happened to Madani’s team. They have some quips back and forth which get interrupted by a very unexpected explosion.
After the titles, we get a grim different perspective on the blast. The ATF, the NYPD, and the New York Justice Department were all hit by the bomber. We then see Louis writing out a letter, essentially his manifesto. His stumbling reading of it shifts into it being delivered to Karen Paige, who is shocked and appalled that this anonymous bomber thinks she’ll side with him. Ellison, her editor, is stunned as well, and they debate what to do next. Meanwhile, after watching the endless re-airing of the bomb detonating at a birthday party, Frank expresses his hatred for bombs and his determination to lay low for now, with everyone on alert from the bombs.
The Homeland Assistant Director visits Madani at home, balancing between wanting her to take the time she needs and pointing out they have a crisis on their hands. It’s a very tense meeting, which Mother Madani disapproves of. Madani and the AD clash over her return and her determination to not give up on the Kandahar case.
Karen does a voiceover of her response to the bomber before going on a radio show hosted by a man named Langtree. Personally, for continuity if nothing else, I wish it had been Trish Talks from the Jessica Jones show, but you can’t have everything. Langtree, Karen, and a very anti-gun Senator Ori debate the issues until Louis calls in. Louis is not happy with Karen for not agreeing with him. The Punisher gets brought up, and, when he’s credited with 37 kills on his rampage last year, David looks at him questioningly and Frank smirks, “That they know of.” Frank works out the bomber is Louis, who he met at Curtis’ group, and persuades David to help him figure out where to find the troubled young man.
Curtis has also figured it out, and is trying to find first Louis, then O’Connor. He gets a surprise when Louis ends up being at O’Connor’s place, and more of a surprise when he sees O’Connor’s body. Things don’t go well between them, and, even for this show, it’s an ugly, brutal beating.
David and Frank debate what to do about Louis, and Frank isn’t in the mood to listen to dissenting views. As they argue, there’s all kinds of law enforcement all over Karen’s office. She’s cooperating as best she can, and then gets interrupted by Frank calling. Frank is worried about her, and they argue a bit, with Karen having to watch what she says, since there’s an FBI agent standing next to her.
Billy Russo continues to prove he’s a very complicated villain, as he goes to see Madani. He actually resists when she jumps him, and they argue about motives and experiences. He’s actually making sense and encouraging her, which is weird under the circumstances. She makes what would be a confession to him, except he already knows at least most of what she’s saying.
Frank strikes out at Louis’ father’s place, and then gets a heads up from David that’s bad news. While Frank scrambles to catch up, Senator Ori debates with his new security team, headed by, of course, Billy Russo. It’s an interesting conversation, and Russo is very well spoken and even mostly polite as he disagrees with the Senator’s views about guns. It’s a very well written scene.
Frank gets to O’Connor’s place and finds out what Louis has done with Curtis. It’s not a great situation. Louis, observing, calls the place after Frank gets in, and is impressed Frank is still alive after all. Frank makes a lot of good arguments for letting him and Curtis go, and debates Louis on several points. Frank is full of nothing but admiration for Curtis, and nothing but contempt for Louis.
Madani gets ready to go to Sam’s funeral, and has a few exchanges with her mother on the way out. Madani is planning on doing something drastic there, and her mother is a bit worried. Frank and Curtis debate how to handle their situation, with Curtis urging Frank to just leave him. Frank, of course, refuses. Frank shares with Louis how Curtis came to be injured, and we see a bit more of the reason behind the bond the two of them share. He finally persuades Louis to help him out a bit, and then makes a last minute escape as the police close in. To his credit, Frank doesn’t kill any of the police, even after they draw weapons.
Madani gets a surprise visitor as she tries to calm her nerves in a bar before the funeral. It’s a very interesting conversation in which several secrets are revealed. Madani and her visitor both get a shock when the local news suddenly comes on and plays footage proving Frank Castle is still alive. This is going to complicate things for everyone. The episode ends with repercussions from that footage affecting Frank, Karen, and Ellison among others.
What I liked: This was another good character episode for Frank. He’s willing to be smart and tactical… until Karen is threatened. He won’t give up on Curtis, and risks everything to free him. And then as he runs, he doesn’t do any of the things that would make his escape easier at the risk to cops. Madani’s grieving was well done. Karen’s rage at being invoked by Louis was very in character. The woman is as brave as any of the Netflix Defenders.
What I didn’t: Very little, really. The characters are all consistent, and the scenes, both dialogue and action, were done well. On a purely personal level, since they seemed to be doing the same kind of work for a while, I think it’d be a great tie of Curtis knew another vet named Sam Wilson, but that’s me.
I”m giving this a 4 out of 5 as events pick up momentum with the end coming closer.