Punisher: Fight or Flight

PFOF

A spy, a psychiatrist, and a mercenary share a hospital room…

To no surprise at all, Frank managed to end up in a fair amount of trouble in the first episode of his second and final season. An unknown foe is sending skilled teams of mercenaries after a girl he met at Lola’s Roadhouse, Frank’s new friend Beth getting seriously wounded in the major fight. It would be easiest for Frank to just walk away, but he’s not good at that, and wants some payback for Beth. He also has some protective feelings in spite of himself towards Nervous Girl, who seems to be the target of the thug’s decidedly unfriendly attentions. There’s really no question which one Frank is going to do in “Fight or Flight.”

Frank, who isn’t looking too good himself after the firefight, is having some driving issues. Nervous Girl, who he’s going to help whether she wants it or not, is worried about them ending up in an accident, and they bicker back and forth for a while. Finally, he pulls into a motel in Larksville. The girl haggles with the desk clerk, who clearly cares not at all about her job, and finally gets a room and actually comes back to Frank. If she really wanted to run for it, this was probably her best shot, so at least on some level, she knows she needs the help. She even helps him once they get in the room. She really isn’t sure what to make of it when he brings her into the bathroom, and is not at all happy about being drafted to help patch him up. At least they finally exchange names, although I doubt Rachel is any more her name than Pete is his.

Rachel tries to bolt, and Frank isn’t having it. I suspect she’s not used to people not falling for her bullshit and bumping things up to the physical level. She tells some more lies, not impressing him at all. Frank takes some security precautions, which gives us a very entertaining variety of emotions across Rachel’s face, before he goes to sleep. Back in New York, Billy Russo has a series of nightmares about his big fight with Frank, waking to see Dinah standing over his bed. She’s not buying his story, and glares at him hostilely. Florina Lima joins the cast as Dr. Kirsta Dumont, becoming the latest in a growing number of actors to work for both major comic book companies. She was Maggie Sawyer on Supergirl not that long ago. Dr. Dumont doesn’t like Dinah being there, and they very politely and calmly argue. Dumont makes a suggestion that Dinah doesn’t like, and the Homeland Agent leaves, which might well have been Dumont’s intent in the first place. The beginning of their therapy session doesn’t go well when Russo asks a question and Dumont gives him an honest answer.

Beth, recovering from being shot in the fight, gets a very unwelcome visitor. The Captor, as I’m calling him until his name gets mentioned on screen, has a disturbing talk with her, demanding information about the man who brought her to the hospital. Eventually, under his threats, she gives him some information, but it won’t help him much. For a violent thug, the Captor has some very odd ideas about religion. The next morning, Frank has another chat with Rachel, who is still not helpful and doesn’t seem to care about the carnage in her wake. He points out some flaws in her story, and she spins new lies with some really naïve expectations, if she’s telling the truth. He explains that to her, and they argue over his getting involved at all. I have to hand it to Frank; I think at this point I might well walk away from Rachel. She’s clearly lying, doesn’t want the help, and is doing what she can to make things worse.

I had thought at first the doctor didn’t care for Dinah, but she’s not exactly easy on Russo, either. I think she doesn’t have a gentle setting. Russo goes through a session with her, telling her about fragments he sees, and still at least claiming he has lost his memory. He’s apparently acting very upset by not knowing anything. The Captor, now with tech help, checks the motel Frank was staying in near the roadhouse. The tech provides him with the minimal information they can get, they debate miracles, and the Captor instructs the surprised tech (who doesn’t even get a character name on IMDB) to moderate his language. The Captor is a very odd man.

Frank goes to the same clerk who Rachel argued with before, and haggles over another room. I suspect this woman both doesn’t care that much about her job, and gets some degree of enjoyment out of screwing with people. Frank then brings Rachel some food and drink, and does some very unapproved renovations. Dinah has a meal with her long-suffering boss, Rafi, and ends up walking out over the topic of conversation.

Not one to let his guard down, which is likely why he’s still alive, Frank sees the bad guys waiting in the lot. He has a talk with Rachel about guns, and makes some preparations. Marlena, the head of the henchmen, discusses their boss and decides to take unilateral action. Frank and Rachel have a different discussion about guns, and she learns a lesson. The bad guys attack, and chaos erupts. Frank pulled a clever trick that was enough to give him the edge, and even the slightest of edges is all he really needs. By the end of it, Rachel makes an unwise choice, Marlena takes a hit, Frank is victorious but not unscathed, and then everyone gets arrested. No one is really having a good night in Larksville anywhere near that motel.

It wasn’t a clean fight by any description, and the Sheriff calls in a local doctor to see Rachel, Marlena, and Frank. The doc is a bit jaded as she goes about her rounds, and Rachel spins another series of lies. I’m really getting to not like that girl. Frank stoically refuses to go to the hospital, and the doctor offers an opinion on his shooting skill. She and the sheriff have a brief chat and she leaves. She had a short few scenes and not a lot of lines, but I really kind of liked her.

The Captor gets an update from the tech, and they have some impressive connections and/or access. Dinah wakes up from a nightmare to get a phone call she doesn’t want from someone she doesn’t want to talk to. The sheriff and Frank have a conversation about charges, terminal stupidity, and what should happen next. Frank gives some advice that the sheriff seems to consider for a moment before saying he can’t follow, and Frank didn’t expect him to. As the doctor drives away, we see the sheriff’s office has some visitors in the parking lot and this probably is about to get really, really ugly.

What I liked: As always with this show, the action is realistic to a degree that would probably make some people uncomfortable. The dynamic with Dinah and Dr. Dumont is interesting. I actually feel bad for Rafi, trying to ride herd on Dinah, and the sheriff, who is about to get a big mess that’s not his fault dropped on him. Frank is a highly skilled fighter and tactician, and does what he needs to in order to shift the odds his way. I also feel bad for Beth getting that visit in her hospital room. The Captor is an interesting, if enigmatic, presence.

What I didn’t: Rachel. I just don’t like her at all. The only thing that makes her remotely sympathetic is her apparent youth (although I don’t buy she’s 16 as she claimed) and that people nastier and better-armed than she is are coming after her. Frank should have walked away, although that’s not in his nature. I’m not wild about the clerk, either.

This was another good episode, up to the usual high quality of the Netflix/Marvel shows. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5.

 

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