Friday, November 17, 2017

A Long Way To Go For The Inevitable, "Two Dead Men" Continues The Punisher!

The Good: Decent acting, Excellent direction, Decent thematic truth
The Bad: Very slow plot, Very light on character development
The Basics: "Two Dead Men" slows down The Punisher until it gets to the pretty obvious endpoint.

One of the issues with making a truly great pilot episode for a television series is that one is saddled with the responsibility of following it up. "Two Dead Men" is the second episode of The Punisher and it is very tied with the second season of Daredevil. In addition to exploring the MICRO disc, "Two Dead Men" gives decent time to Karen Page and her editor at the New York Bulletin.

"Two Dead Men" picks up the morning after "3 AM" (reviewed here!) and it continues the tone of the pilot episode remarkably well. "Two Dead Men" established a concrete plot for the first season of The Punisher as the content of the MICRO disc that was shown in one of Frank Castle's final scenes in Daredevil Season 2 that Castle extracted from his old house.

Arriving at a diner away from the borough where he killed the Italian mobsters, Frank Castle sits down to eggs when he gets a call on the restaurant's phone. The man who left the MICRO CD at Castle's home is the man contacting him and he encourages Frank to finally watch the content of the disc, which included an interrogation that ends in murder. Castle turns to Curtis Hoyle for help. When Hoyle is unable to help, Castle reaches out to Karn Page and gives her all the information that he has on Micro.

In his secluded location, David Lieberman (Micro) monitors his family. Carson Wolf accepts Madani's proposal to visit Anvil for a teambuilding exercise. Her partner, Sam, does fairly well in the simulation, but after debriefing him the head of Anvil, Billy Russo, strikes up a conversation with Madani. Page meets with Castle and informs him that she can confirm some of his story. Page gives Castle Lieberman's name and sets him on his quest to find Micro. Castle finds Lieberman's house and manages to get inside by letting Sarah hit him with her car. Because he is monitoring the house, David Lieberman becomes aware of Castle in his residence and watches the time Castle spends with his wife. Castle breaks into Wolf's home and interrogates him about Lieberman.

"Two Dead Men" is very much entwined with Daredevil. The loose ends surrounding Karen Page and Frank Castle's relationship is addressed and the idea that Madani can identify Frank Castle from the footage she saw in the past is an intriguing one. "Two Dead Men" helps to establish the idea that there are many people in the Marvel Cinematic Universe who are supposed to be dead, but are not - that Frank Castle is not the only one. Billy Russo instantly seems like a secondary antagonist - he is too smooth and refined, like many of the Marvel Cinematic Universe villains - and if the Daredevil allusions hold, the most solid clue is in the name of his company. Frank Castle's corrupt Commanding Officer went by the codename "Blacksmith," so the moment "Anvil" enters the narrative, viewers are hard-pressed not to think that he is related to that outfit.

The traditional appearance of Frank Castle is restored in "Two Dead Men," which helps to differentiate Castle from Lieberman. Having been sporting a bushy beard and mustache, Castle had effectively created his Pete alias and it was only through gait analysis that Lieberman found him initially. By the climax of "Two Dead Men," though, Castle is feeling unafraid of wearing his old face and that is an interesting (albeit obvious) character transition.

"Two Dead Men" is a slow episode of The Punisher; it is not bad, but it works to establish David Lieberman as Frank Castle's equal in staying out of sight. The inevitable meeting between Castle and Lieberman is put temporarily on hold when Madani manages to interrogate Russo. Russo claims to have known Frank Castle, but given how every other member of the Blacksmith's squad went bad, it is hard to believe that he is as squeaky clean as he initially appears.

Lieberman and Castle are established as the core of The Punisher and the episode's climax goes a long way to illustrating just how Frank Castle has managed to stay alive since he went dark at the end of Daredevil. "Two Dead Men" is a drawn out march to an obvious and necessary conclusion and Tom Shankland directs the episode with a level of artistry and style that is almost enough to make the viewer overlook that very little actually happens in the episode.

For other works with Jon Bernthal, please visit my reviews of:
Baby Driver
The Accountant
Daredevil - Season 2
Grudge Match
The Walking Dead - Season 2
The Walking Dead - Season 1
Date Night


For other television season and episode reviews, please visit my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2017 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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