“Virtue of the Vicious”
Written by Ken Kristensen
Directed by Jim O’Hanlon
Lewis goes to the home of an ANVIL guy and shoots him through his peephole. He starts removing his ANVIL vest, then notices the pair of budgies in a cage in the room. He tries to get them to fly out of the cage and out the window, but they just continue to snuggle against each other on their perch.
Brett Mahoney questions Billy about what happened in a hotel room (the same one where Senator Ori hired him last time, which is now covered in blood, plaster dust, and broken furniture). Brett thinks it’s a pretty big coincidence that Billy has history with both Frank Castle and Lewis Wilson. Billy doesn’t. His company lost four guys and the senator is safe, so their mission was a success.
Earlier that day, Billy reassures Senator Ori that his guys would keep him safe, and then he got a call from Frank. He wants Billy to set a trap for Lewis using the senator so that he can get him. He’s already in the hotel. Then Karen is shown up to the senator’s room to interview with Ori.
Back to Brett, he’s questioning Ori now about what happened. Ori is somewhat harrowed at having men die saving his life and having a gun pointed at him. We get to see what happened (according to Ori). He was interviewing with Karen when the door to the room blew up. Wilson came in and took out his ANVIL guards, then Frank came in to check for more ANVIL guys. Ori urged a helpless Karen to move, picked up a gun, and shot at Lewis before running for help.
Karen interrupts Brett repeating Ori’s story with derisive laughter. That’s not what happened. She asks Brett if he really believes Frank Castle would go after a senator and bomb innocent civilians. Frank is the reason she and the senator survived.
Rewind back to when Karen arrived on the senator’s floor. She briefly meets Billy. She was relieved of her .380 by the ANVIL guys in the lobby. Billy is somewhat flirtatious during their brief chat, but based on subtle expressions from her, she has him pegged as a little too charming and not to be trusted. Lewis entered through the front doors, posing as an ANVIL guy with all the dead guy’s gear, passing Madani in the lobby. He fakes out two ANVIL guards with idle conversation and shoots them in the head on his way up to Ori’s room. He sets up explosives outside the door while Karen conducts her interview with Ori in the room.
The explosion knocks Karen and Ori out of their seats. Lewis kills the two guards just like Ori said, but Ori is crawling on the floor and whimpering while Karen is the one looking for a gun. She forgets that hers is down in the lobby until she checks her purse, and then she gets between Lewis and Ori and begs Lewis not to shoot him. Frank comes running in just in time to dive in front of the several bullets Lewis fires straight at her, taking them on his Kevlar vest, which stuns him enough that his aim kinda sucks as he tries to shoot Lewis immediately after. Karen and Ori make for the door. Karen scoops a gun into her purse along the way. Ori makes it to the door and flees while Lewis catches Karen. He’s out of bullets but he’s strapped a bomb to himself, activated by a dead man’s switch. Now Frank can’t shoot him without getting Karen killed.
Lewis drags Karen out into the hall, Frank following with murder in his eyes. Three more Anvil guards come up to their floor, but there’s nothing any of them can do about Lewis. Frank swears to come for Karen (in a protective way) and Lewis (in a murder way) with a single amazing line, and then the elevator door closes behind Lewis and Karen. The ANVIL guards open fire, and Frank takes more bullets to the vest. He rolls and picks up the body of the guard Lewis killed in the hall to use as a shield while he runs all to the end of the hall and around the corner.
In the aftermath, Madani gets her turn with Brett. She doesn’t believe Frank came into the hotel to kill Ori or Karen either. Rewind to her getting her badge back from Rafi that morning. Ravi isn’t happy that she tried to set a trap for whoever was after Frank without telling him, but he grudgingly accepts this once she explains about the bug in her office and reminds him that doing things through the chain of command cost her the Kandahar video. She tells Rafi about Rawlins too, and Rafi hands her the files on the dead mercenaries from her horribly failed sting. They were all former ANVIL guys.
She goes to the hotel to confront Billy about those guys. He claims ignorance and feigns offence: men in the business rotate around between different firms a lot, and when he finds out they get up to shady crap, he makes sure not to hire them back. She isn’t entirely satisfied with his denials, but she’s not certain of anything yet. She does now suspect there’s a chance he’s the guy who got away, who killed Sam. Or at least that he’s another guy Billy knows. Alarms go off and some of the comms lines for ANVIL have no response, so he rushes off while the hotel evacuates.
Frank is sprinting down the stairs. Madani is hurrying up a different flight. She joins him in his on the same floor and tries to take him in. He will not be taken anywhere. She says enough for him to realize that David’s been talking to her, and he’s pissed about that, but it can wait. He pretty much dares her to kill him (now that he knows she knows he’s her key witness and she needs him alive), then starts heading down again when Billy emerges a couple floors up and shoots at his head, grazing the right side pretty bad, sending him toppling down a couple landings, where he’s thankfully out of sight. Madani and Billy point their guns at each other, Madani yelling for Billy to stand down while he insists he’s protecting her. She realizes that Billy is the one who killed Sam, and Frank realizes that Billy is on Team Rawlins. Before anything else can happen, policemen flood into the stairwell and grab both Billy and Madani. They try to grab Frank too, but he knocks two of them down and, picks up the end of one of those oldschool firehoses, and leaps over the banister with a battle roar under gunfire from all the remaining upright cops.
Back to Madani explaining to Brett afterward. Madani would like to know if anyone saw Frank actually kill someone in this hotel. She wants Frank to get a chance to prove he’s not a terrorist before he gets shot down. She leaves and intercepts Karen before her interview with Brett can start. She wants to know why Karen didn’t tell her Frank was alive, and she assures Karen that it’s in Frank’s best interest to come to her with his information. If Karen can help with that, she should. Karen vouches for Frank again, and Madani reveals that Frank has saved her life too.
Back to Karen as Lewis’s hostage. He drags her into the hotel’s kitchen. Frank, meanwhile, falls four floors on that firehose, still being shot at. When it goes taut, his right shoulder gets yanked violently out of joint, and then he lands heavily on his right ankle on the stairs, buckling it out from under him. He still won’t stop, even with a heavy limp and a bum arm. Lewis lets go of Karen in the kitchen, muttering lines from a Kipling poem his sergeant drilled into him while pacing twitchily, still threatening her with the bomb. Karen tries to talk him down. He’s not letting her go. She’s his leverage.
Out in the hall, there are vague noises of the two cops they passed earlier getting beat up, and then in comes Frank. Lewis grabs Karen again, threatening to let go of the switch if Frank gets any closer. Frank sees this bomb has the same wire colors as the one on Curtis, and he talks to Lewis in a way that hints to Karen how she can disarm the bomb. They very sneakily and awesomely work together until she’s ready to move, even as Lewis keeps freaking out. Karen finally gets one hand on the white wire and the other on the gun in her purse. Frank yells, and she yanks the wire and shoots Lewis in the foot. She refuses to leave Frank behind. Lewis, locked in the walk-in freezer now, reattaches the wire and blows himself up.
Frank and Karen get knocked down by the blast as they flee. They reach for each other, making sure they’re both okay, then get up. Frank’s vest is covered in bits of shrapnel and a much bigger chunk is sticking out of his already dislocated arm. (Good grief, how much more can his right arm take?) There are police outside the room. Karen gets Frank’s attention. When they come out into the hall, Frank has the gun to Karen’s chin, awkwardly angled so that the butt isn’t visible (to conceal that he ejected the magazine). Brett and all the other cops watch him drag her into the service elevator.
As soon as the door closes, Frank and Karen drop the ruse. They barely speak, just quietly deal with what just happened, that Karen is safe now, and what Frank still has to do to get out of the building through long eye contact and a gentle forehead touch. This, to me, plays as the moment where two people realize they’re in love with each other and that it’s mutual, but that they can’t do anything about it because he still needs to get out. Cut from Karen catching her breath in the elevator to her finishing her interview with Brett. She can’t tell Brett anything about where Frank went, she insists that he isn’t a terrorist, and then we see how Frank got out: by ziplining from the hotel roof to the roof of a neighboring building, one-handed.
This episode is the first time an OTP-level ship has sneaked up on me so effectively, like Frank sneaking up on that guy after hiding in a pile of leaves. It never occurred to me at all to ship Frank/Karen in Daredevil, and even Karen’s other three episodes merely made me want them to have more screentime together because their intense connection was amazing, but I didn’t think it could ever go beyond that (or that I would want it to) because of his grief for Maria. Yeah, now I write Kastle fanfiction and draw Kastle fanart and spend all of my time reading Kastle fanfiction, cooing over Kastle fanart, and sighing at Kastle fanvids. This ship is definitely not a small part of why I love this show, and this episode is the centerpiece of the ship. It’s still good for other reasons, though. Frank learns that David went behind his back AND that Billy is a traitor, Madani learns that Billy killed her partner, and I love how well these reveals are woven into what is otherwise largely a stand-alone episode. I really like the nonlinear storytelling, too, because Frank and Karen defeating Lewis with a coded conversation and then the elevator scene deserved to be the climax of the episode, but that would’ve happened around the halfway mark if things had gone in order. We can’t have that, now, can we? The senator being an unreliable narrator was also great.
Things I Either Liked or Which Made My Heart Hurt for Frank Castle
Things I Didn’t Like
If last episode was protective Frank, this is protective Frank times a thousand. He accumulates some pretty severe injuries, and none of them are enough to stop him from getting to Karen. He definitely had Punisher reasons to go after Lewis, considering what he did to Curtis and that he’s killed 14 innocent people, but this was about rescuing someone important to him so much more than it was about putting Lewis down. And even the discovery that Billy is a traitor wasn’t enough to shake him from his purpose. Karen was the first person to bring pieces of Frank Castle back from wherever they were buried underneath the Punisher’s mission. That still wasn’t enough to stop him from pulling some serious crap with her in Daredevil S2, but I think from the moment she told him she cares what happens to him earlier this season, she has been pretty much the most important person in the world to him. So much so that he didn’t even have words for it and had to just kiss her on the cheek in an attempt to convey it. Frank Castle will kill or die to protect Karen Page (and the writers of Daredevil S3 had better freaking remember it).
I have many thoughts on Karen’s characterization in this episode, and if you’re interested, they’re all in this fanfic. (Some of Frank’s too, but not quite as much.)
This episode repairs some of the damage to Madani’s credibility. Even if nothing can retroactively make her tactical plan not outrageously moronic, her conversation with Rafi did make a good case for why she’s tried to do all of this stuff without more help from her superiors, and it’s a huge relief that she finally knows Billy is a villain.
By this point, I’m quite happy to see Lewis go. He has turned away pretty much every opportunity for help getting out of his hole, all the while doggedly digging it deeper. Once it gets to the point where he’s willing to blow up innocent people for his stupid politics, the time for kid gloves is officially over, no matter how sorry I feel for him over how scarred he is by war.
1,000,000/5 (I know I said I wouldn’t, but I couldn’t help it for this one.)
The Watcher's Diary
In this blog, I'll be reviewing, analyzing, and generally fangirling over excellent television. Exhibit A: the Whedonverse.