Punisher: Trouble the Water

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Seriously, Castle, how am I supposed to write this report? 

 

At the end of last episode, you pretty much knew what was coming for episode three. The Captor, whose name seems to be John Pilgrim according to IMDB, has a large force of men surrounding the sheriff’s office where Frank and Rachel are. We already know this is a dedicated band of hired killers. What I’m really wondering at this point is what the hell Rachel has/stole. What is worth the expense of all these men, and the potential exposure of the raids at the roadhouse, motel, and now a sheriff’s office? When we get this reveal, it better be worth it. “Trouble the Water” works well as the title for this episode, and it’s more of Frank doing what he does best, and following his code.

The episode actually opens with some background on Pilgrim. We see enough to get the feel that his community is rural, poor, plagued by health problems, and has some kind of connection to something a lot larger. I’m going to guess Appalachia, maybe a former mining town, but that’s a working theory. We also see some of Pilgrim’s family life. In the present, as we saw at the end of last episode, Pilgrim is in the parking lot of the sheriff’s office, watching the doctor leave. It’s an interesting note that he doesn’t take her hostage. Maybe he respects healers? He’s definitely a bad guy, but does have some kind of code for himself.

Inside the sheriff’s office, things aren’t going smoothly for anyone. Frank is in the cells in back, where they clearly don’t follow procedure (a new arrest with serious charges allowed to keep his boots and laces? Never happen), and Marlena snarks at him. Out on the main floor, Rachel is humoring Deputy Ogden as he talks about proper procedure. She does her best to scam him for a Coke, and does manage to get some money out of him after some fast talking. Sheriff Hardin comes in, less than amused, and rattles off Rachel’s impressive list of aliases. The girl’s been busy. She tries to stick by her lies until the sheriff threatens her with something questionable, but allowable. Reluctantly, Rachel tells some measure of truth about Marlena and Frank’s respective roles. The truth does sound a bit unbelievable, I’ll grant that. She sums it up with telling them that both Frank and Marlena are both crazy and she’s just in the way. She’s not entirely wrong there.

Hardin goes in back and rattles off an impressive resume for Marlena and her less fortunate associates from the motel. He’s clearly at a loss when it comes to “Pete’s” record. Despite the obvious skill and training he shows, courtesy of last season’s deal with Homeland, Pete’s prints aren’t on file anywhere, including the various military databases. Marlena makes some threats, and Frank gives an ominous warning. Hardin, so far, seems untroubled.

Back in New York City, Dr. Dumont is working with Billy Russo, who is clearly not the most cooperative patient. They talk about sleep and nightmares, and the importance of him facing his. Russo is boiling over at this point, and makes enough noise to attract the guards outside the door. To her credit, the doctor waves them off and tries to keep the session on track. It’s debatable who started what happens next, but Russo decisively finishes it, dropping both guards in seconds, and finally making Dr. Dumont look worried. Russo stages an escape, leaving the doctor behind. Back in the holding cells (here’s another pro-tip, you don’t let suspects on the same case chat this much by putting them in cells next to each other), Marlena and Frank have a conversation about why he’s actually there, and she seems to be coming to believe his story.

Out front, the sheriff gets a visit from Pilgrim and his pet lieutenant, who tries to spin a story to take Frank, Marlena, and Rachel into his custody. The sheriff stands his ground, insisting on going by the book, and probably not feeling like cooperating with pushy folks from out of town. The sheriff makes a few observations about Lt. Ferrara, and then gets an odd spiel about oaths from Pilgrim, who has been hanging back quietly until now. Pilgrim ignores a question about who he is, but his calm demeanor and general oddness spook Deputy Dobbs, playing the role of cowardly fat man. There are several stereotypes in this episode, with Ogden as the eager rookie, Hardin the experienced commander, and Murphy, who seems to agree with whichever way the wind is blowing and have few guiding principles. Pilgrim goes outside, tells the Lieutenant to go (which he does at a run), and waves to his men. Landlines, cell phones, and radios go down, the power goes out, and we’re set for a condensed version of Assault on Precinct 13. Marlena and Frank trade comments while Hardin starts breaking out the heavier weapons and Rachel starts getting nervous. This scene ends with an idea of what the sheriff and company are up against, and it doesn’t look great.

Back in New York, Madani follows up on Russo’s escape. Even with this violent outburst, Dr. Dumont is still defending Russo, explaining away his actions. Madani doesn’t agree, but their debate gets interrupted when Madani gets told she has no jurisdiction in the NYPD’s crime scene, courtesy of Detective Brett Mahoney, usually a part of the Daredevil supporting cast. Madani goes, but takes something with her to further her own investigation. The one she’s not supposed to be pursuing that’s going to piss off everyone involved.

At the sheriff’s office, we meet the newest stereotype to join the story, the harmless and humorless local arrestee, in this case Bruce Ogden. Refreshments are apparently on several minds, as Bruce asks for Frank’s sandwich if he’s leaving, and Rachel demonstrates how to steal from a vending machine, earning some grudging admiration from Deputy Ogden. Frank gets brought out to the main room, and the sheriff asks him what’s going on. Frank demonstrates some keen observational and deductive skills, putting together the situation. Hardin presses for details on what’s happening and what they’re facing, and Frank gives a decent summation of the last two episodes, minus the personal details. Hardin asks a few questions and figures out some things Frank isn’t telling. There’s a lot of debate about what to do, and eager Ogden volunteers for something dangerous. Hardin and Frank exchange comments on who is actually in charge, and Dobbs expresses some doubts about Ogden’s abilities, while noticeably not volunteering himself. Ogden makes his attempt, it goes badly, and shows the remaining doubters what they’re up against.

Hardin gets his man back inside, and has a parley with Pilgrim. Pilgrim offers terms that aren’t wholly unreasonable, all things considered. Hardin, of course, refuses. Inside, Ogden bleeds, Dobbs is useless, and Rachel actually steps up and helps, although she has an ulterior motive. The preparations also indicate the deputies don’t each have their own body armor, which isn’t happening at any law enforcement agency in modern America. Rachel and Frank wordlessly conspire, Dobbs makes cowardly suggestions that Murphy agrees with, and Frank makes Hardin the best offer he’s going to get tonight. Frank makes a few accurate observations that tick off the other deputies, while Marlena plays head games with the comic relief prisoner in back.

The attack starts in earnest, and Frank offers more advice. The sheriff hasn’t adjusted to the new rules yet, and dismisses Frank’s concerns until they prove correct. Getting free, Frank grabs a weapon and helps drive off the attackers in back, although they get away with Marlena. Dobbs is utterly useless, and Frank and Hardin have an exchange in the silence after the bad guys retreat that shows Hardin a lot about what kind of man Frank is. Hardin tells Murphy Frank is on their side now, which doesn’t sit well with her. Bleeding and likely fighting off shock, Ogden shames his fellow deputies into doing their jobs. The comic relief prisoner reveals his connection to the sheriff’s office, and offers to help. Outside, Marlena outlines a plan, and Pilgrim shows what kind of boss he is while the troops look on. Me, at that point, I’d be leaving.

Eager Ogden isn’t taking care of himself, and Frank offers some advice and a very high compliment. They’d be more impressed if they knew who Frank was. Frank outlines for Hardin what’s going to happen next, and there’s a grim logic to it. Hardin objects that Frank isn’t up for what he’s suggesting, but then, the sheriff doesn’t know the Punisher. The bad guys make their next assault, and Frank stops it cold in a very demoralizing fashion. There’s a bit of a glitch here, as I have no idea how Frank got out of the surrounded building, but he did, and he goes into the woods, hunting. That’s the last thing you want, Frank Castle coming after you in the dark in the woods.

Castle stalks through the trees, and is his usual brutally efficient self. The nameless minions fare about as well as you’d expect. Pilgrim almost manages to nail Frank, but there’s a last minute arrival of the cavalry, in the form of Madani in a helicopter. How she got from New York to Ohio to a helicopter to the sheriff’s office this fast, I’m not sure. But she drives off Pilgrim, and helps clear various obstacles from Frank’s path. In the aftermath, Hardin makes a big offer to Frank, who refuses, but with thanks. Ogden is getting needed medical attention, Frank makes a few demands, and Madani, Castle, and Rachel are off for New York, no doubt to hunt down Russo and be surprised at the reach of Pilgrim and whoever/whatever he’s working for. Dobbs makes a comparison of what just happened to an old Western, which isn’t that far off the mark.

What I liked: it was a good action episode. Frank is in a league far different from those around him, and it shows, but Hardin and Ogden did all right for themselves. Rachel was actually useful and helpful. I guess all you need to do is make her fear for her life. Hardin is a good man who was in way over his head, but rolled with it as best he could. I actually believe Pilgrim would have honored the deals he offered. It was good to see Mahoney pop up, more of the effortless connections between the various shows.

What I didn’t: There were several procedural errors here that didn’t affect the story one way or the other, they were just wrong. How did Frank get out of a surrounded building that only had two points of exit? How’d Madani get from New York to Larksville that fast? If she’s off on her own, how did she commandeer that many resources? Dobbs was a caricature, rather than a character.

Despite a few flaws, it was a good episode. I’ll give it a high 3 out of 5. On to New York!

 

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