The second season of Punisher hits the rough halfway point with “One Bad Day,” which describes things for a lot of the characters. Then again, most of them have more than one. I like that the show spends so much time on the complications of what’s going on, and the toll the violence takes on most of them, Frank seemingly the exception. Everyone’s a bit lost or trying to come to grips with what’s happening, aside from the two juggernauts of Castle and Pilgrim.
A year ago or so, Madani is stuck in an interview with the Office of the Inspector General, and trying to just get it over with and back to work. Her occasional mentor, Marion James (played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) takes a break in the proceedings to make sure Madani is sticking to the official lie about the mess with Castle and Russo. James is full of praise and no doubt doing her best to flatter Madani into going along with her version of things. The interview isn’t pleasant, and Madani is bluntly truthful, looking sad when reminded about Sam Stein. When it’s over, James uses both carrot and stick on Madani to keep telling this story.
Back in the present, we pick up with the meeting between Madani, Frank, and Curtis that ended last episode. Madani is trying, and failing, to comprehend Frank’s mindset. They argue about home being different from war, and Frank has a chilling but fair rebuttal. The scene has Madani objecting to the proposed solution to the Russo problem, but Frank and Curtis being more practical. Madani isn’t happy, and has a few different flashback episodes after this. I think almost everyone on this show would benefit from some therapy.
Dumont and Russo continue their very odd bonding, and we see they are quite well matched. They talk about pain, scars, and a childhood accident Dumont suffered. In the morning, we learn that Dumont’s extremely unconventional therapy with Russo is having some results. Russo goes out again, which doesn’t please Dumont, and they argue about safety. He reflects on everything he’s lost, and wants to get some of it back. They argue more over his plans, and Dumont even braves one of her own issues to see him walk away. Madani meets with her very eager evidence tech and gets some mixed news about her project. The tech is clearly a fan of Madani. Frank and Curtis go chase down a lead, don’t find what they wanted, but do discover something about their quarry.
Russo walks his crew through their “mission,” making them train hard. He also shows that he is absolutely the one in charge. Some of his security concerns cause some problems for Jake, being more restrictive than he was hoping for. Frank and Curtis do the worst part of most investigations: a stakeout. Curtis jibes at Frank for being impatient and bored. He tells Frank he needs to change, and Frank tells him about Beth, and his shot at doing something almost normal. They talk about how everything happened that got Frank involved with Amy, and Curtis finally thinks of a lead they can follow up to try and find their missing person. Russo apparently misses it when one of his people goes for a very unauthorized midnight stroll.
Madani meets up with Marion James again, and they have a unique version of the conversation about strangers telling women to smile. This drifts into Russo, the CIA’s limitations, and the unfortunate tendencies of people you’re using to develop minds of their own. Madani asks for some advice about the ongoing Castle/Russo mess, and James makes a few observations. They also talk about the death of Madani’s grandmother and the search for a “new normal.” James ends the interview with a grim, but accurate, observation. Curtis and Frank find the man they need, and use some of Castle’s special charm on him. He’s resistant to start, and Madani shows up and is not pleased with what they’re doing. After some debate, the man eventually sees how much better of an idea it is to tell Frank what he wants to know. He spills Russo’s plan, or as much of it as he knows. Curtis tells some of the story behind Russo and Castle’s feud, which probably influenced the man to talk, although likely not as much as Castle’s sharp questions.
After getting the information they need, there’s another argument about what to do with it. Madani is all for calling Detective Mahoney and letting him deal with things, although how she thinks what they learned is going to hold up in court I have no idea. Frank eventually tells her to do what she has to, but he’s going to handle this his way. Russo’s gang talks about something they’re missing, Russo explains why there is wiggle-room in his plan, and they all take off, narrowly missing Frank and Curtis storming in. They have no idea how close they just came.
Russo’s plan isn’t complicated, but it’s good and simple. The team goes from vets with special experience to armed robbery fairly smoothly. They storm in, take charge of the scene, and Russo keeps everything cool and professional and well-moving. Right up until they meet Lilly Anne, the cashier/manager. She’s not taking any of Billy’s crap, and stands up to him in a great example of simple, everyday bravery. Russo tries to take things up a notch, and Lilly Anne calls him on it and points out a hole in his plan. Finally, their inside man is forced to act more openly than they hoped he would. It was a really good scene, and they played it very well.
Curtis and Frank race to intercept the gang, and Curtis has a lot of concerns. A firefight in an isolated warehouse is very different from a dynamic situation on a public street. Frank is just determined to get this over and done with, and isn’t interesting in playing it safe. They argue over Curtis’ role in what’s about to happen, and Frank makes a blunt, if very politically incorrect, assessment. Frank is no hopeful idealist, and makes a quick contingency plan with Curtis in case things go badly.
Frank has a good plan for getting in close to the gang, and it works initially. It turns into an ugly firefight in the street, every cops’ nightmare. Castle, when he reveals himself, does some great psychological warfare, stunning Russo. The plan was a bit better than we’d seen so far, and Russo has someone on overwatch, making things harder on Castle. It’s a very good action scene, with Russo utterly shocked and frozen, and ends the episode in the midst of action and a cliffhanger.
What I liked: It’s easy to make a show like this all about shots fired, blazing action, and big stunts and explosions. I like that they are showing the toll all this takes, especially on Madani and Curtis. Lilly Anne the manager was awesome. Russo is a master manipulator, very much in his element with swaying disillusioned vets to his side. Frank’s trick on the street at the end was really well done. Dumont is a deeply flawed individual, but she fits with Russo well.
What I didn’t: Amy was completely missing from this episode, and I’ve gone from not liking her to really noticing her absence. I don’t think leaving her on her own for this long is a good idea. I don’t care for Marion. She radiates manipulator and game player and I don’t want Madani anywhere near her. I feel bad for the men Russo is using, even though yes, they are making their own choices. It’s another example of how badly America treats its veterans, leaving them open for something like this.
It was another good episode. I’ll give this a high 3.5 out of 5.