Monday, November 20, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Punisher' - Frank and David Try to Locate More Weapons for Their Mission in 'Resupply'

Netflix's The Punisher - Episode 1.04 "Resupply"

Madani and Sam plan a delicate operation. Curtis tries to connect with Lewis. Frank encourages Micro to get his hands dirty.

After delivering the season's best episode to date in "Kandahar," The Punisher produces an episode that mostly feels like filler. There is some significance to "Resupply" because it starts bringing several of the supporting characters together in a way that will ultimately become very important in the main narrative. But the driving focus of this episode is Frank needing to stock up on supplies as he prepares for the war that is coming with Agent Orange. That threat of this government enemy that he is facing is still shrouded in secrecy. This episode does very little to define what Orange is up to now and how Frank and David plan on dealing with that. Instead, it's an hour where Frank needs to rely on David's help in finding the weapons he'll need to fight this war. That's a little strange. Frank has never had problems with supplies in the past. He's pretty lethal without weapons. He has a natural ability to survive even during the worst situations for him. He seems indestructible even though he's just a man who is really good with a gun. But it has never been important before where Frank got his weapons. It was just acceptable that he always had an arsenal he could use when the time came for it. This episode tries to better define the logistics of that. Through David's help, he is able to hijack an illegal arms sale to stock up his supply. It just mostly feels like a stalling technique that addresses a logistical issue that no one was probably all that curious about.

Plus, this episode establishes that Frank and Sarah are going to have an ongoing dynamic. When he first made that approach to her, it was to show to David that he could infiltrate his life. It was a power move to show that he is very capable at tracking people down as well. And now, Sarah is actually reaching out to Frank. To David, it's surprising that anyone else has the number to Frank's cell phone. It was only meant as a way for the two of them to communicate with each other. Frank has corrupted that understanding. He explains that keeping in contact with Sarah is leverage against his new partner. It's a guarantee that things will continue to work out according to plan otherwise tragedy will befall Sarah and the kids. That's a dark headspace for the character. That's especially true for a character who has his moral code spelled out in this episode. He's more than comfortable killing people who are bad and corrupt. All he needs is a reason to suspect that someone is a criminal. Then, he's perfectly fine executing them. He is the Punisher after all. Sarah and the kids are just innocent bystanders to all of this. They have no idea that David is still alive and fighting to be reunited with them. David and Frank are the only ones aware of the truth. As such, every interaction Frank has with Sarah comes with a double meaning. He knows that David is watching even though David is keeping that surveillance hidden from his new partner.

It continues to show that Frank and David are still only reluctantly working together. Frank needs results as soon as possible. In the meantime, he's continuing to spend time with Sarah. He's gathering information about David. He's getting insight into the way he worked in the past. It's because of this new friendship that he learns that David has never been good at fixing things himself. He's excellent when it comes to technology. But this new mission will force him to get his hands dirty. He says that he is fine with that. But going out into the field, he needs to actually prove it. The show just gets a little too lost in the metaphor of it all. This hour is suppose to bring Frank and David together a little bit more. They are reluctant partners who are experiencing new things together. David made his pitch about being the guidance system to Frank's missile. But now, he actually has to experiencing the aftermath of launching a missile. That first comes when they just need to pick up some getaway vehicles. Frank kills a bunch of criminals simply because they are torturing a guy and have killed another. It's in seeing that that Frank has justification for killing them. And yet, he also sees no need to free this guy who has pissed himself while blindfolded in the chair. He's alive because he's fortunate enough not to see. It highlights how Frank is still motivated out of selfish interests. But again, that can only be compelling for so long.

"Resupply" attempts to intensify its main story by actually depicting the many ways this mission goes wrong for Homeland Security. Madani and Stein are the ones coordinating this takedown of weapons. It presents itself as a clear cut victory for the department. Madani is once again being shutdown in her investigation. This time Wolf's death is being bumped up to another department. It's frustrating because it presents itself as a pattern. Everything she wants to do she can't. She has to accept that. She surprisingly does that. She decides she needs to step up as station chief and get a couple of easy wins in order to prove her ability to run things the way she wants. She provides her input on this operation Stein is running. The suggestions she makes for how to improve the raid seem like they were there to throw off the plans that Frank and David are making for their own raid. But that's ultimately futile. David once again proves how technologically savvy he is. Yes, it's amusing that he jams the cops' frequency through loud music. But this episode is mostly just building to that exciting climax where Frank has stolen the truck full of weapons and is trying to drive away with Madani fast approaching. The stakes of this sequence only exists if Madani is the one behind the wheel. She's the only character of importance in that corner of the world. Her investigation has led her to Frank Castle in the past. But now, he is compromising her investigation in the present. She has no idea that he is alive. And now, she's racing against him. It all builds to that climatic moment where the two vehicles are driving straight towards each other. But Frank had already put a plan in motion to have David drive the truck straight into Madani. It's surprising. But it's still fundamentally a cheap thrill. It's more telling that Frank pulls Madani to safety. He doesn't kill her because she's done nothing wrong. But that action proves to her that he is still alive and clearly up to no good in New York once more.

Elsewhere, the show is attempting to give Lewis some more dimension as well. Lewis is the veteran plagued by issues and who isn't getting the help he needs. At first, it seemed like he was susceptible to the suggestion of a freedom rally where gun nuts are proposing taking the country back. But that doesn't seem to be the direction the show is heading in at the moment. Instead, this story is all about him recreating his service. He's producing the same circumstances to ensure that he can actually sleep at night with no problems. And yet, it also makes him seem crazy because he's digging a hole in the backyard and wanting to spend all of his time out there. When Curtis shows up, it's just to offer suggestions on how to improve the hole to adjust to New York weather. He doesn't want Lewis to drown after all. But he's also very worried about him. He understands that the transition has been hard on him. Lewis is just ready to go back to active service. He's ready to be recruited by Anvil and go back to Afghanistan. That's another new connection that is bound to mean something. Curtis is able to stop Lewis' recruitment at Anvil because Billy is a friend. And yet, Lewis seems all too aware of that. He sees a world that is conspiring against him and failing to appreciate the investment his country once made in him. He wants to serve. Service is the only way he can find peace. But he's being kept from doing that because of the troubles of his mind. He's an unstable character. This story ultimately doesn't provide more of a sense of what will happen next with Lewis. It mostly just shows him continuing to struggle in finding a place to land which could easily be manipulated in the future.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Resupply" was written by Dario Scardapane and directed by Kari Skogland.
  • Things may ultimately be developing too quickly between Frank and Sarah. She's surprisingly open about her life to a complete stranger. She hit him with her car and she was already talking about the tragic death of her husband. And now, she's completely fine with him fixing various things around the house. Plus, she complains about her children even knowing that Frank lost his.
  • There is a really fascinating conversation between Curtis and Lewis though about the difference between how they view their experiences overseas. Lewis sees it as the world giving him an opportunity to do something meaningful in his life. Curtis sees it as the reason he lost his leg. He gained nothing. He just has a new perspective now and a willingness to help fellow veterans as they come home.
  • Of course, Billy probably would have recruited Lewis too based on his performance. To Billy, Lewis is a soldier who shows a desire to be a part of the team. He is willing to encourage people and make them better. That's selfless in an inspiring way. That's suppose to then make it tragic that Curtis' input is enough to keep Lewis from doing what he wants to be doing.
  • It seems incredibly likely that Madani is going to make a miraculously fast recovery from these injuries. Characters in superhero shows tend to recover fast. The narrative demands them to be back in the action as soon as possible. Madani being forced to rest and recover could be fascinating. But it seems more likely she'll be more determined than ever now that she got a confession from Frank about killing Wolf.
  • And yet, Madani will have the daunting task of trying to get her fellow agents to believe her about Frank Castle still being alive. Sam is still her only friend and ally in the department. Even then, she doesn't always listen to what he has to say. She is still learning how to do this job effectively. And then, everything became complicated once more because Frank chose to get involved. That could make her even more of a loner and even less effective in this position. That could be interesting too.

As noted in previous reviews from this show, every episodic review was written without having seen any succeeding episodes. Similarly, it would be much appreciated if in the comments, the conversation would only revolve around the show up to this point in its run.