Film & TV

Brig’s Big Binge: The Punisher S2 E2 – Pilgrim’s progress

'Fight or Flight' might be the weakest episode of the The Punisher yet.

The Frank-Amy relationship (and things that happen in this episode) would certainly be weirder if Giorgia Whigham was really passable as a 16 year-old.

I’m not convinced she is and nor am I convinced by the dynamic between the two. Certainly, there will be more engagement with her character once more is revealed about what’s going on with Amy and how she came to cross Frank, but for now there’s just an odd incompatibility about their shared scenes.

Although Frank’s requiring of her to prise a bullet from his posterior did amount to the right sort of bonding one would expect of any new acquaintance of Frank. He’s back to ‘Pete’, while Amy is ‘Rachel’. So many forgettably mundane names flying about. ‘Rachel”s protestations over ‘Pete”s restraining of her are laughably unconvincing, but this is clearly intended. Frank’s company certainly seems preferable to her than her hunters’, and at least we do have a broiling sense of intrigue over what Amy’s done and to whom.

Russo: not enough menace. Credit: Cara Howe/Netflix

Meanwhile, Billy Russo’s mumbling away from behind that joke shop mask about skulls, glass and that he doesn’t remember anything. “Gotta build the jigsaw” (He said it! The thing he’s going to be! Isn’t that clever?), piecing together fragments of what has happened since his days in the marines with Frank. Boy, Billy, you got some catching up to do. Spoiler alert: it didn’t turn out great for you. Although Jigsaw-to-be isn’t that interesting yet. In fact, Russo’s scenes were pretty woeful. No grotesque reveal, the mask ripped off in a fit of rage. No throttling of Dr. Dumont or throwing his plastic cup of water over her. No real menace in the exchanges with Madani. Just a bit meh, really. Hopefully this character – and actor – busting with potential also bursts into depraved life soon.

From one bad guy at a hospital bed to another and this time, it’s John Pilgrim paying poorly Beth his regards. Hooray, Beth’s okay! Ish. He uses threats over Rex to get to her re: Frank/Pete, but only manages to get the name Castiglione. I’m not sure what’s less believable, that Pilgrim seems satisfied with the clearly fake name or the fact Frank’s using such a distinctive false title to cover his identity. Anyhow, the information leads Pilgrim to Frank’s Michigan motel (not the one he’s currently residing at), and tells a nerdy-looking guy to stop swearing. Really – that’s about it.

At the Ohio motel, Frank’s doing some interrogating of his own, namely, attempting to extract more information out of ‘Rachel’ about her mysterious enemies. He was in a “mellow place” before all this started, he tells her. I’m not sure Frank has the capacity to be quite that. Like Amy points out, he was itching for the chance to get involved, and here he is, holding an under-ager hostage in Room 7 of The Tides Motor Inn, Larkville. Frank has about as much success learning anything about Amy’s plight as he did staying out of hot water, then decides to smash a hole in the wall that separates rooms 7 and 24, which he has recently booked for no less than $69 of blood-soaked cash.

Like the flashes of “mellow” Frank in episode one, the 30-second scene where he pesters the motel receptionist about the room was a nice glimmer of light relief. The show suffers from taking itself too seriously at times, and any sign of the Punisher moonlighting as a normal guy with day-to-day problems is casually amusing. Sadly, I’m sure such moments will lessen as the season progresses.

‘Fight or Flight’ doesn’t teach us much more about Amy. Credit: Cara Howe/Netflix

Madani’s obsessed with Russo, as Rafi (Tony Plana) warns her over a short-lived dinner. Madani has a nightmare about Russo, proving the point.

Amy’s pursuers show up at The Tides and just like the first episode, an explosive climax ensues. Frank kills most of them, utilising that hole in the wall to lethal effect, but Marlena (Teri Reeves) survives. The local cops show, and Frank, Amy and Marlena find themselves in the local station. I’m sure that will last long, with Pilgrim and pals waiting outside.

Frank call Madani, asking for help. She declines. One suspects she could regret that, as she might be needing Frank’s help before long, with old Billy on the mend and vengeful.

‘Fight or Flight’ wasn’t a particularly strong ep, with not heaps of development for Amy or the plot, and not nearly enough threat from Pilgrim or Russo. Interestingly, Jim O’Hanlon is the only director to do more than one episode this season (one and two). Maybe regular changes at the helm will spice things up going forward.

Series: 
Episode 1: Roadhouse Blues

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