Welcome to Episode Two! The way this works, is I just watched Episode Two, and there are spoilers for Episode Two (and One) in here. Watch first, then come back and talk about it! Episode Three will be up tomorrow, and so on.
‘Two Dead Men’
As Hipster Frank entered the diner at the beginning of this episode, I considered briefly that he might get another job, and find himself in another situation in which life’s problems can be solved with violence. Walking the earth doing good, like Kaine from Kung Fu (or Bill Bixby in The Incredible Hulk). Instead, we’re building a bigger picture, moving pieces into place, introducing more characters, and saying good bye to one.
R.I.P. Carson Wolf. Far too young – I mean literally too young, did they add wrinkles to him, or did he have to keep his brow furrowed the whole time?
Forgive my indulgence for a moment, but I’m going to talk about C. Thomas Howell (Director Carson Wolf). Howell is four years older than I am, and since he used to play characters younger than his real age, he felt very much like my movie star peer in my adolescence. Particularly two movies that feel like precursors to this show – he was the quiet awkward kid who turns stone cold in Red Dawn and the victim who fights back in The Hitcher, which had a profound influence on me at 3:00 AM on a school night. Seeing him looking like an old man was unsettling, and I’m glad he at least got to go out in blaze of punching & torture glory. Sinatra, though? I get it, it was a funny song to play for the fight, but our generation would be more likely to put on either Metallica or Madonna – or The Beatles, if we’re feeling like nostalgic old men. His retro taste in tunes aside, he surprised me and seemed like he surprised Frank – for a few minutes there, I was actually thinking that this version of The Punisher could be outsmarted and outfought by another Elite Military Guy, and I was fully onboard with that decision to add a little vulnerability and humility to the big bad Punisher. But no, it’s Frank playing 3-dimensional chess, and that’s fine too.
Most of the 3-D chess is between Frank and Micro, playing their spook cat and mouse game, which has never been my favorite genre and which was adequately done here. Seeing the balance of power shift between Frank and Micro based on who is spying on whom is good, as is the very ending in which Micro is clearly having fun and Frank has a somewhat more forceful reaction. Turning Hoyle (Veteran Counselor Guy) into Frank’s accomplice seemed a little convenient and not the best use of the character – it already feels like the emotional core of last episode is getting lost in service of table setting. I did appreciate the fake out where we see Micro’s wife talking into one of Micro’s cameras directly to him like she’s in on the game, and then we get the reveal later that that’s a picture of Micro she was talking to.
Frank’s decision to take the fight to Micro’s family underlined once more that Frank is not a hero. Polite, though – I am amazed at how delighted I am every single time Frank quietly thanks someone for coffee or compliments their eggs. He’s very well-mannered, and that goes a long way.
Agent Madani is playing her own games, getting past Wolf (I am going to miss Wolf so much – that little exchange between the two of them was great, and felt like an authentic workplace interaction), meeting Handsome Merc Guy, being promoted by virtue of still being unmurdered, getting a half step closer to actually being part of the story. I may start calling her Special Agent Meanwhile.
Oh, it’s Karen! Hi, Karen! Karen Page has a major role in Netflix’s Daredevil and also appears (with Spoilery Plot Points) in The Defenders. If you have not seen any of that, don’t worry – all you need to know is that she has a complicated trust/terror/sympathy/gratitude for vigilantes and revenge killers, and she’s now the world’s greatest cub reporter – no experience, no training, no respect for journalism as a profession, her writing is terrible, but she gets results, damn it! Put her next to Frank and she’s great, the two of them have an amazing chemistry that is based not on sexual tension but on traumatic pasts and the tension each of them have between survivor instincts and recklessness. More of that, less inexplicable Ace Reporting, please.
All in all, this is the kind of episode that makes me think these series should not try to fill 13 hours. It wasn’t bad, but it mostly exists to set up the stuff that comes next.