Punisher: Flustercluck


Frank finishes what Amy started

It’s been a busy season for the Punisher, as Frank and company have to deal with multiple threats. It’s a rough time to be anywhere near Frank Castle, and that shows from the first scene of this episode forward. About the only thing they’ve got going for them is that, at least so far, Russo and Pilgrim aren’t working together. As Amy herself says, this is a “Flustercluck.”

The episode opens with Frank getting back to the trailer. He’s worried when he sees the holes in the door, then confused on seeing Madani, Curtis, and Amy all together. Amy makes her primary allegiance known the second Frank steps in, and he tells them where he’s been. Curtis takes this in stride and asks if he knows how out of line he’s been. Frank has come to some realizations, and shares them with everyone. He very directly tells Madani he doesn’t have answers for her, but that she, and the others, need to let him be who he was meant to be. It’s a well done scene, Bernthal gives a great performance, and I thought it really worked. It also made Frank both appreciate and miss his late wife Maria even more.

Russo and Dumont continue exploring their odd relationship. He tells her a bit about what they’re up to, and Dumont cautions him both that it can’t last forever and that they need to make plans for after. The scene flips back and forth from some very intimate moments with Russo and Dumont, and Russo’s crew partying at a clubhouse they’ve set up called Valhalla. Russo talks about some of his priorities, and sets some rules for the guys. Anderson Schultz has a meeting with Pilgrim about their own problems, and decides on a new tactic. Pilgrim isn’t happy about this, but Schultz pushes him on it. Schultz is manipulative slime, but he’s good at it.

Rachel and Curtis listen in on a few of Billy’s crew, vectoring Frank in after them. They don’t get the answers they want, but they get some weapons and other intel, including a picture. Anderson Schultz goes to visit his son David, and they have a chat over working on their golf swing. David isn’t really happy with his father’s approach to pretty much anything, and wonders why his father is pushing so hard now in particular. Pilgrim visits someone from his mysterious bad old days, and spreads the word: there’s a $5 million bounty on Frank Castle and Amy. Me, if I knew who Frank was, I’d know better than to go after him, but people are stupid, greedy, and overestimate themselves. This guy sits through Pilgrim’s little talk, then makes a call after the odd man leaves.

Amy and Curtis have a very interesting conversation that might be one of my favorite scenes of the season. She asks a lot of questions about his military career, and he talks about the ideas of a young man signing up versus the reality of getting older in service. Curtis then turns the table and asks about her questionable past up until now. She reveals a surprising dream job that I certainly didn’t see coming. Curtis goes to take care of a few things, and Amy sulks a bit, then packs up and leaves. Yes, it’s a dumb decision, but in her defense, she doesn’t know about the huge bounty that’s been posted on her and Frank. Russo breaks in someplace familiar and takes back something of his.

A Punisher walks into a bar… No, he actually does, following up on the lead of the picture he captured earlier. He gets some information from her without resorting to violence at all, although he does show a grisly trophy. As he leaves, some of the local idiots decide to try for the reward. It’s an overused line, but they really don’t know who they’re dealing with. Castle handles them easily enough, then gets some information out of what passes for their leader. Madani gets home from a hard day and it gets worse. Russo is there waiting for her. She’s furious, but he really does seem to be there for answers. His frustration at not being able to remember is plain, and Ben Barnes does a great job with this scene. It’s a very odd conversation, with Russo managing to be both smug and pitiable at times. He finally leaves with a warning about following him.

Amy meets up with an old friend, Shantel. I’m not quite clear on how Amy found her, since the first thing we hear is that this isn’t Shantel’s place, it’s somewhere she’s crashing while hers is being renovated. Shantel probably thinks Amy is kidding when she says she’s staying in a trailer with killers. Amy breaks the bad news about the old gang, then says she wants to get out of town and disappear. Shantel says she knows a guy, of course, and they talk price and speed. Curtis goes back to his group, dealing with a lot of tension. The guys aren’t happy with him, but Curtis explains what he’s up to, what Russo is up to, and why they should care about stopping him. They offer some help, and he tells them all he needs is to find Russo and his crew. They agree to help, and don’t think it will be too hard.

Frank gets back home and isn’t happy to find no one there. Frank calls Curtis, who tells him about Russo’s recruiting. Frank shares the news about the bounty, and Curtis realizes how serious this is. Frank calls Amy, and tells her what’s going on, and that she’s now the most valuable thing her friend has ever seen. As Amy starts to realize the implications of this, Russo is back at Dumont’s, going over what he’s been able to piece together. Still frustrated by not being able to remember things, he complains about what Frank did to him. Dumont tries to talk him out of this plan, but Russo is determined to go after Castle and get his revenge.

Pilgrim gets news that some of his contacts have a lead for him, and he hopes this means he’ll soon be back with his family. One of Curtis’ vets finds what he’s been looking for, and manages to keep himself out of trouble. Madani’s cleaning gets interrupted when she gets a call of her own. Amy considers things and realizes she’s in trouble. Shantel leads some of the hunters to her place, but Amy has bugged out. Not quite quickly enough, though, she’s trapped on the upper floors, checking for any open doors. Frank gets there and starts working his way up and through the building. Amy gets backed into a dead end and has to try something Frank taught her. Frank catches up with her after she’s pushed into a corner, and he does something that manages to be violent and tender at the same time. Frank’s a complicated guy. They go back to Shantel’s place, Amy picks up her stuff and gets a bit of payback on the way out.

In a really unexpected development, Madani’s earlier phone call was Dumont inviting her over. It’s a tense, multi-level conversation, especially from our vantage points. Dumont puts on a good act, but is essentially pumping Madani for information. It’s fascinating to hear things spin out between them, and Madani accepts the invitation to stay a while longer. I kept wondering how Dumont knew Billy wasn’t going to be back any moment. Madani expresses a surprising jealousy, but, thinking about it, it makes sense. Pilgrim goes to his meeting, and things don’t go as expected. His past catches up with him in particularly violent fashion. I’m really wondering what the heck his actual backstory is.

Frank and Amy get back home, and she’s completely shaken by what happened. She wonders how he deals with this feeling, and hopes to never feel it again. This is a lot more Curtis’ territory than Frank’s, but he does a good job of talking her through what she’s feeling. He’s very protective of her, which is interesting to see. She has some worries that he dismisses, and she gives us the title of the episode, earning a laugh from Frank.

What I liked: it would be easy to dismiss this show as shoot ‘em up action, but it’s really very character driven. Everyone gives good performances and I’m consistently impressed with how good the writing is. Amy leaving made perfect sense, especially after her conversation with Curtis. Dumont’s game with Madani was interesting. I like Curtis refusing to play sidekick and going to get them some intel on his own. Frank handling the guys that went after him was about right, and I really liked his scene with Amy at the end of the episode.

What I didn’t: Amy was a bit too trusting, but even with her background, I guess she’s young. Pilgrim trusting the wrong people is a bit harder to explain. Madani putting her weapon down, even if she was at her place, was a weird choice when dealing with Russo and the chaos that routinely swirls around Castle.

I thought it was another impressive episode. I’ll give it a 4 out of 5.