Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Ease Into Inevitable Bloodbath: "Danger Close" On The Punisher.

The Good: Well-directed, Good performances, Moments of character development
The Bad: Simple plot, Erratic pacing
The Basics: The Punisher begins to accelerate toward the season's conclusion as "Danger Close" raises the stakes and the body count.

As the first season of The Punisher rushed toward its conclusion, the fans had a reasonable question of "how can they possibly sustain this?!" After all, by "Danger Close," Frank Castle is publicly exposed, he knows his old friend is his enemy and one of the primary villains of the season is already dead. It seems like there is very little left for the season to do, save help Madani get justice for Stein's death and for Frank Castle to actually take out Rawlins.

"Danger Close" follows on the heels of the perfect episode "Virtue Of The Vicious" (reviewed here!) and it refocuses the show on David Lieberman, who was absent from the prior episode. Lieberman renews his partnership with Castle, though Castle continues to feel betrayed by the fact that Lieberman met with Madani without him.

Frank Castle sits alone with the homeless people near burn barrels by the river, while Russo wages a public relations campaign against him and Madani. As Russo publicly turns on Castle, The Punisher - still wounded - makes it back to Lieberman's hideout. After Castle removes the shrapnel from his arm, Lieberman volunteers to stitch him up. At the Lieberman house, Sarah recognizes Frank Castle on her television as the man she knew as Pete. Russo meets with Madani and interrogates him. Russo stonewalls, while Rawlins reaches out to James for authorization to access surveillance that will allow him to find Castle and send Russo after him.

While Castle remakes his Punisher armor, Sarah and Zach are taken by people outfitted as New York City Police Officers. Castle notices damage in the Lieberman house and he becomes determined to save Sarah and Zach, while sending David to find and rescue Leo. Madani and Hernandez call James in while Russo rebels against Rawlins's authority. Using Rawlins's intelligence and access, Russo's mercenaries storm Lieberman's hideout only to find The Punisher waiting for them!

Ebon Moss-Bachrach continues to be the very human heart in The Punisher as Lieberman. Moss-Bachrach speaks in compassionate tones, softly and in a way that is clearly empathetic in every encounter Lieberman has with Castle. Lieberman does all he can to show Castle an uncommon level of support and remind him of the fact that they are on the same side. From almost the first moments of The Punisher, Lieberman has been one of the grounding, most relatable characters on the show and he continues that in "Danger Close." During one of the episode's key moments, Moss-Bachrach and Ripley Sobo manage to perfectly embody a deep relationship, which is impressive given how little time they have spent together on-screen.

Lieberman and Castle are easily one of the best pairings in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Their relationship is not only symbiotic, it is synergistic. Lieberman provides Castle with his needed tactical knowledge; Lieberman comes in "Danger Close" to entirely rely upon Castle for his ability to do what he cannot. Lieberman is smart and protective, but he needs Castle's ability to act with brutal efficiency. Lieberman takes a more active role in recovering his daughter, Leo, when Leo manages to flee in advance of her mother's capture.

The primary adversary in "Danger Close" continues to be William Rawlins and just as the plot moves toward a potential Punisher bloodbath, various elements begin turning on Rawlins. Rawlins justifies all of his past actions to Marion James and he manages to sound credible. Rawlins has done terrible things throughout The Punisher and in "Danger Close" it becomes evident just how deep a game he has been playing. Rawlins has no real allegiance to anyone or even any institutions; he claims to want to protect the United States, but he shows no real belief in any of the ideals of the nation. The ease with which he moves to throw Russo under the bus is terrifying and characterizes him perfectly.

"Danger Close" is one of the more graphically violent episodes of The Punisher, living up to what one expects from the source material. The raid on Lieberman's facility is intense, well-directed and increasingly bloody. The fact that "Danger Close" precedes the major bloodbath with a far smaller and incredibly intense attack on Sarah Lieberman helps to build a tension in the episode. The tension in "Danger Close" builds and plays out well without going for the cheap reversal.

While the acting and moments of character in "Danger Close" are quite good, the plot is simplistic and the pacing is disproportionately slow compared to the abrupt speed and unrelenting tension that consumes the final third of the episode. The result is that "Danger Close" ends up as more of an average hour than an exceptional one.


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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