We’ve learned a bit more about Rachel, Billy’s background, and a bit about the relentless Pilgrim’s family life. Now, we see the story move along on both the major plots, and get a bit more insight about our major characters, as well as see a Netflix/Marvel mainstay show up again. Frank Castle isn’t much of a gambler in the traditional sense, but there’s a lot happening, and certainly plenty on the line, in the next chapter, “One-Eyed Jacks.”
Rachel starts us off showing she’s not without skills of her own. As she talks to Frank about if he’s a hitman for Homeland, the Punisher name, and what they’re going to do about the mess they’re in, she keeps running 3-Card Monte on him, and beating him. It’s kind of fun to watch Frank lose over and over while Rachel is utterly calm and collected. She offers some observations about Frank in particular, and marks who play the game in general. Rachel makes her point by beating Frank a few more times, and he offers his own counterpoint. I know it’s not going to last, but these two work really well together and play off each other very entertainingly.
Then it’s time for the only character with more appearances on Marvel/Netflix series than Claire Temple to pop up again. After he closes up his shop, Turk gets a visit from Frank, and is not happy to see him. After the usual bluster and protesting, Frank lays out what he needs and leans on Turk until he agrees to do it. Frank is after some Russians, and, of course, Turk knows them. Through Turk, Frank reaches out and makes a deal, haggling over price, leading Turk to wonder if Frank has changed. It’s an entertaining scene. Elsewhere, both Russo and Dinah deal with nightmares. Very few people on this show strike me as psychologically sound.
Russo finally fights his way awake, and gets some care from Dr. Dumont (speaking of psychologically unsound…). She has him run through a few drills to establish control of himself, and help him master the fear he’s clearly feeling. Russo wonders why she’s helping him, all things considered, and she brushes this off by saying it’s her job. No, Doc, harboring armed, dangerous, violent felons is not at all your job. We get to see that Dumont has even more issues than we thought as she and Russo get a bit closer, but in slow, believable increments. Madani gets home and talks with Frank and Rachel/Amy. It’s a great example of differing agendas not quite lining up. Amy has some very naïve views, Madani is still trying to mostly play by the rules, and Castle is the clear-eyed pragmatist. Amy takes advantage of the distraction to do some light pilfering, and then Madani stalks off, frustrated with everything.
Pilgrim makes his way home, and we get to see some of his less-than-conventional religious practices. He gets buttered up more by the powerful Schultz family, played by the immensely talented Annette O’Toole and Corbin Bernsen. Pilgrim visits with his wife, whose health is preying on the man’s mind. The Schultzes are great at manipulation, and use everything they can to get Pilgrim back out hunting for Amy and Frank, not that they have their names as yet. Pilgrim clearly has a past in New York City, and just as clearly doesn’t want to go back. With all this going on, he shifts from unstoppable Terminator to someone I actually feel bad for, at least a bit. He’s convinced he’s doing what’s right for him and his family. That’s a hell of a motivation for most people.
Frank and Amy spend very different afternoons. Amy falls back on old habits about seeing people as marks, and takes full advantage of something she acquired earlier. Frank spends his time on a rooftop watching the Russians he’s interested in, and the interview Turk has with them. I think they both enjoy their time. Dumont gets home and talks with Billy more. She brings him presents and they talk about lingering scars. She gently but firmly shakes him out of the idea that he is the only one with a bad past.
Castle gets back to Madani’s place, and Amy introduces him to some concepts he clearly doesn’t quite get. It’s fun to watch his incomprehension. They argue about what to do next, share some pizza, and agree Madani isn’t happy in general. Turk finally calls, and sets up the meet Frank wanted. After the call, Amy shows she’s got some brains under that hair of hers, and points out a few things. This leads into a discussion about tactics when dealing with traps. Pilgrim finishes up his visit with his wife, and it’s a sweet, if dark, scene. Russo gets out of the shower at Dumont’s place, overhears part of a session she’s having with a patient (so much for confidentiality there, Doc), and she does a great job of making things apply to both her patient and the eavesdropping Billy Russo.
Curtis is setting up for his group when he gets an unexpected visitor: Dinah Madani. She helps him set up, which she didn’t have to do, and they exchange lies about Castle. They talk about turning over stones, and Curtis, while agreeing to help, is adamant that his priority is the men in his group. Curtis makes an offer in passing that Madani takes him up on, and sits in on the group. She gets mocked a bit, but holds her own. She even gets one of the men who was snarky to her to back down and apologize when she shares some of what she’s been through. After the meeting, the two of them talk about war, what it does to people, and a few differences between Frank and Billy. Speaking of, Frank gets ready to go deal with the Russians while Rachel both worries about his injured hand and comments that he’s more than ready, like he’s looking for an excuse to go. I don’t think she’s wholly wrong. Amy’s a sharp kid, when she uses her brain.
While Frank does more recon, Billy goes to meet up with Jake, Dumont’s patient from earlier, in a bar. IMDB tells me it’s the same bar Ward Meechum ended up in during the second season of Iron Fist. They cautiously talk about clothes, scars, and serving. While the majority of the Russians head off for Turk’s place to lay their trap, Castle goes inside their gym/headquarters. It’s another brutal fight scene, and Castle is in fine form. Even Turk, who has seen a lot, is flinching as the fight goes on. By the end of it, Frank is battered and bloodied, but victorious. He finds out what he needed, and he and Turk part company, each just as happy to never see the other again.
Russo and Jake keep drinking, and we see some of why Russo was such a good soldier and successful with his own business. The man’s a snake, but a smart one. Russo makes a few observations, wonders about a few things, and uses a pitch guaranteed to appeal to a disaffected solider. Dumont spends the evening at home with wine and her notes, and reveals one of her own issues she’s wrestling with. Rachel interrupts her cleaning when Frank gets back, and makes some amusing observations about things going well or poorly. They have a new name to pursue, which is some degree of progress. They clear out, repeating their earlier joke about Madani never being happy. Madani gets home to a mix of developments, and Pilgrim gets the final scene, back in New York and on Castle’s trail.
What I liked: The fights, like always, are amazing to watch, and brutally realistic. The fancy moves are for Daredevil or Iron Fist, this is all about doing maximum damage to an enemy with whatever is around. Russo, while unquestionably a bad guy, is a smart one and one you can feel a bit bad for. The insight into Pilgrim made him a lot more interesting as well. I like the dynamic that’s building between Frank and Amy. Madani handled herself just right with Curtis’ group. Anette O’Toole and Corbin Bernsen are great with their slimy characters. It was fun to see Turk for what I guess is the last time.
What I didn’t: Really, not much. The chaos in this episode was fairly well under control, and it was believable they all got away with the various things they did. The fighting was inside and out of sight of the general public, if maybe longer than is likely to really happen. Frank does seem to have recovered miraculously quickly from his earlier injuries.
Punisher is, by necessity, very different from the other Netflix/Marvel shows, but it continues to impress me. I’ll give this one a 4 out of 5.