“Two Dead Men”
Written by Steve Lightfoot
Directed by Tom Shankland
Frank sits on the Staten Island ferry, remembering being on it with his kids. He goes to a diner, where the waitress calls him a hipster. He reads Karen’s article about the “murder-suicide” of those gangsters he killed and eats his breakfast. The phone in the diner rings, and somehow it’s for Frank. He does not like that. He likes even less that the guy on the phone knows his real name. This guy’s a dead man—but not how Frank thinks. He’s on the run too. This is Micro, who left the DVD at his house at the end of Daredevil S2. Frank tries to run him down, but he’s too slow. He finds a burner phone Micro left for him instead. Micro’s on the roof of the diner.
Frank has another dream of his wife getting shot. You can tell that it’s another Frank under the mask of the shooter. He watches the DVD Micro left him (for the first time?). It’s of a messed up interrogation and execution in another language. The execution of Ahmad Zubair, Madani’s partner. Masked soldiers (like how the bad Frank in the dreams is dressed) surround a Ahmad, who is strung up by his wrists, being questioned. The soldiers don’t seem to understand the language, but the DVD has subtitles, revealing that the interrogator threatened Ahmad’s family and wanted to find out how much he knew about something. Then he ordered one of the soldiers to shoot him in the head, which he did.
Micro tracks Frank across the city. He goes back to the church where Curtis does his group. Frank is freaking out at the possibility that his own actions in Kandahar led to his family’s murders. He got roped into some super messed up stuff over there and it messed him up.
Madani has seen the same video. She’s sure someone from that group in the video stole it from her and is the reason she got sent back to the U.S. She finds Wolf and persuades him to let her check out a private contractor (Billy Russo, also involved in Kandahar).
Karen Page is walking home from work when Frank, pretending to be a hobo, asks her for change to get her attention. He figured she might shoot him if he turned up at her apartment again. Bahaha. He’s proud of her still carrying her .380 in her purse and asks if they can talk. She brings him back to her apartment, which is a different, rather larger one than in Daredevil. He wants her help finding Micro, and he has a rather ingenious method of staying in touch. She can signal by putting this pot of white roses he brought her in the window, when she finds something. Karen can’t take it anymore and surprises him with a long hug.
At the Bulletin, Karen is trying to find an article about a NSA computer hacker called Micro from a year ago. Ellison knows about the article. It wasn’t published. The article didn’t have enough sources for Ellison’s liking, but then Carson Wolf showed up to quash the story. Ellison did it, but he still has the unpublished article, which he gives to Karen.
Cut to Micro in some basement, watching a mom and two kids at their house from camera feeds while trying to track Frank from his gait match program. The mom and kids are his family. He’s been pretending to be dead for a year, so he’s been missing from their lives. He very deeply hates that.
Some guys in tactical gear are making their way through a building. It’s a training exercise that Madani and Sam are doing, courtesy of Billy Russo. He’s in charge of the place, and the organization ANVIL. Madani’s subtly trying to get answers out of him when Carson Wolf shows up. He knows what she’s up to and reminds her that she’s not supposed to look into Kandahar. Billy offers to buy her a drink so they can chat off the clock, thereby circumventing those rules.
The roses are in the window. Karen and Frank meet at the waterfront. She doesn’t want to help him kill someone, but he’s only going to kill Micro if he’s dangerous. He might have important information for him about what happened to his family. She has the article and Micro’s name. David Lieberman, who, officially, has been dead for a year. She surprises him again by asking when she’ll see him again. She cares about him, which he didn’t expect after how things went in Daredevil S2.
David’s wife hits Frank with her car on the way into her driveway. He breaks a fake blood capsule in his hair—no, wait, he slices his own head with a freaking razor blade so that he’ll bleed and she’ll be freaked out over hurting some stranger. Micro is watching on his cameras, and he is horrified to see the Punisher walking into his house. He gets a gun and heads over there.
David’s wife is Sarah. She lets Frank clean up in her bathroom and gives him coffee to replace what spilled all over her car. He offers to leave in case it’s freaking her out to have a strange man in the house. David’s “death” comes up. They bond over their losses. She vacillates between being proud of David for being so brave and being furious with him. Micro is in his car outside, about to go barging in with a gun, when Frank and Sarah come out. The garage door is broken. Frank offers to fix it. She accepts.
Frank goes back to his apartment and shaves all that hipster hair and beard off. He carries a heavy garbage bag when he leaves, which throws off the gait recognition algorithms. David can’t find him.
Wolf gets back to his house. Frank is waiting for him. They fight. Frank eventually wins, and Wolf wakes up tied to a chair with his own necktie. Frank wants answers about David Lieberman, who Wolf thinks he killed. Wolf scoffs at the idea of torture getting reliable information out of him (or out of anyone, generally). Frank shoots him in the leg. Wolf claims Lieberman was killed resisting arrest, but Frank doesn’t buy it. Lieberman was a witness in something huge, so Wolf would only have killed him if he was working with Schoonover. Wolf gets free and grabs the gun. Then he pulls off Frank’s mask. He’s horrified to see Frank Castle in his house.
Wolf was definitely involved in Frank’s family’s deaths. They planned it in Afghanistan, because he would always talk about his family’s homecoming tradition. He goes to shoot Frank, but the gun is empty. Frank snaps his neck.
Madani is having drinks with Billy Russo. She wants to know about Frank Castle. Frank and Billy were best friends. Billy’s not sorry about the gangsters Frank killed, and he thinks the idea that Frank was involved in drug dealing is hilariously stupid. The conversation progresses to Billy hitting on her. It’s fairly steamy. Madani then goes to Wolf’s house. His body is where Frank left it. With wolf dead, Madani is the ranking agent.
Frank has breakfast at another diner. He gets a call on the burner from David. Now Frank is the one with leverage, so he leads David on a merry chase around town. He has Curtis helping him keep an eye out, until he’s come to so many checkpoints that he gets sloppy. Curtis talks to him next to his grave. Then he goes back to his weird basement. Frank got in his trunk while he was at the cemetery. He punches David out.
Another excellent episode. The first was largely a stand-alone that triggered Frank getting sucked into the main story, but here’s a lot more on that story. The cast expanded to include the Lieberman family, Karen, and Billy Russo. The plot is a little dense; I had a hard time following who was involved in what the first time I watched and really had to pay attention this time, even though I’ve now rewatched the entire Marvel Netflix lineup so I’d be fresh for it, but I think I’ve got things sorted out? Wolf was working with Schoonover, and they arranged the drug deal that became a shootout to hide the fact that they were trying to eliminate Frank. His family died to further obscure the real goal. They probably should’ve had a sniper posted to make sure Frank was dead, and it’s really weird that Maria, Frankie, and Lisa all got hit multiple times before Frank took the one miraculously nonfatal headshot, but I think I get what the goal was, and it’s not a huge stretch that Schoonover trying to use three unpredictable gangs to turn Frank into collateral damage didn’t quite work out. I’d still like a diagram of the shootout, though. Anyway, I liked the cat-and-mouse with Frank and David, I loved Karen’s involvement, and the showdown with Wolf was incredible. Madani’s side of things is moving slower, but it’s still good. She has to be careful how she moves because her investigation was shut down.
Things I Either Liked or Which Made My Heart Hurt for Frank Castle
Things I Didn’t Like
I love the mental image of Frank carrying a pot of roses around for hours on the narrow chance that 1) Karen won’t pull a gun on him when she sees him and 2) she’ll actually agree to help him. I also love Frank’s manners with diner waitresses and in general. He’s the gruffest gentleman ever. His interactions with Sarah are excellent. I think he went to the Liebermans’ house because he knew it would freak Micro out, but I don’t think he intended to do anything to hurt Sarah, not even emotionally. He definitely didn’t expect to bond with her over the loss of a spouse, and I think he couldn’t help offering to fix her garage because he knew he was only there in the first place to screw with Micro, which isn’t really fair to her.
Frank knows he burned the bridge with Karen when he shot Schoonover even after she begged him not to, so he doesn’t expect a warm welcome. I’m not sure she would’ve helped him if not for Matt’s recent apparent death. She’s grieving one vigilante friend she kept at arm’s length, so I don’t think she has it in her at the moment to push Frank away too, even when it turned out he came to see her for help, not just to see her.
I think it would have been very easy to screw up a character like David. He’s hiding in a basement, watching his family in their house with a bunch of cameras. That could so easily have come across as deeply creepy, but it doesn’t. They believe he’s dead, but it’s still his job to protect them, and this is the way he does it. It’s also far more painful for him to watch them than anything else. He’s stuck separate from them. Another great thing about David is that he’s a computer hacker who defies the very tired computer hacker stereotypes. He cares as deeply for his family as Frank grieves for his own.
Madani’s plan to get in a position to talk to Billy Russo is very clever. Butter Wolf up and act like she’s being proactive about her field operative status with a training exercise. Nice. But he figured her out—because he’s dirty.
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.