Film & TV

Brig’s Big Binge: The Punisher S2 E3 – fish in a barrel

A firm return to form, for surprising reasons.

Daniel answered, “May the king live forever! My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.” – Daniel 6: 21-22

That’s more like it. ‘Trouble the Water’ was everything we’d expect of The Punisher – gritty, explosive, violent, action-packed and fun. But moreover, what really made this chapter were the minor characters: namely, the poor Larkville cops, dragged into a lethal siege by Frank and what follows him.

The episode starts in the past with new, but not necessarily minor, characters: John Pilgrim’s church congregation. He receives some sort of task, one which we can naturally assume relates to Amy – is she the “one of our own, thrown to the lions”? Perhaps. That much would be obvious.

More interesting is Pilgrim’s debt to his church. His wife, Rebecca, is suffering from ill-health but is on the mend thanks to new treatments, which seem to have to have been part the contributions of Anderson and Eliza Schultz (Corbin Bernson and Annette O’Toole) to the community and indeed the state, as referenced by Reverend Potter in his sermon.

Pilgrim also has two sons, who, along with Rebecca, Anderson promises will be cared for when he’s gone on his mission. Pilgrim is revealed to have old, possibly burnt-off tattoos that resemble neo-Nazi insignia. He tells Rebecca he’ll be gone only a “couple of days”.

Pilgrim gets a backstory. Credit: Netflix/Marvel Television

The background and context for Pilgrim wasn’t overdue, but the character is certainly richer and more naturalistically plausible for it. There’s plenty of room here for unique and interesting development, being a figure not lifted from the comics, but an entirely new creation.

Prior to episode three, it seemed this character might be, frankly, a bit dull – but now he’s an ex-Nazi family man motivated by favours owed to the rich and powerful, the layers and intrigue can start to build.

And just as both bad guys were a bit boring in episode two, both develop and engage much more in three. Russo is bored of talking about his nightmares, apparently, and snaps with Dr. Dumont. He severely assaults the cops guarding his room and forces the doc to assist in his escape.

He whips off the silly mask at last (but we don’t see what’s beneath) and runs away with a parting vow that “there’s no putting this right.” See ya soon, Billy. And thank heavens you’re all evil and threatening again. For a minute there, you were almost comically useless.

“WITH GOD, ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE” towers over Pilgrim and Lieutenant Ferrara (Michael Pemberton) in the Larkville police station with all the subtlety of a bullet in the bum.

Ferrara appears a fairly pointless presence at this point, Pilgrim’s hapless right-hand man apparently uncomfortable about the way his partner does things – glimpsing Amy in the station, menacingly reciting Old Testament scripture to Sheriff Hardin (Joe Holt), and then rounding up his disciples to shut the station’s power off and advance through the woods.

Things really get going from here, the looming siege predictable but well set up. As predicted, Madani returns Frank’s call when Russo breaks out. No answer.

Amy with the cops, who are the unlikely stars of this episode. Credit: Netflix/Marvel Television

Frank’s tied up and decides to break his silence on the real story of he and Amy to Sheriff Hardin and Deputies Ogden (Brandon Gill , Murphy (Jamie Romero) and Dobbs (Rudy Eisenzopf). It’s from this point that you start to see the whites of the cops’ eyes as it were, and they start to realise they’re going to need Frank.

Which becomes extra clear when Ogden takes a bullet and fire rains down on the station. Marlena is broken out and begs Pilgrim that she can be the one to kill Frank. He replies by killing her. Jeez.

I was thinking Teri Reeves was going to remain a fairly prominent feature for the whole season. A now mobile and uncommonly sympathetic Frank tells Ogden he was brave, further building rapport with a minor character and the audience.

The siege becomes a two-way fight when Frank then gets hold of a gun (“who gives a shit, as long as he’s on our side”) and charges into the trees, mowing down the mercenaries (of which there still seems to be an army, considering Frank seems to kill several an episode).

You don’t stand much chance when Frank gets hold of a gun. Credit: Netflix/Marvel Television

Madani then shows up in chopper to whisk Frank away to New York (where Russo is), along with Amy at the former’s insistence. Speaking of whom, she was quiet this episode, besides wanting a can of Coke – which led to a really rather lovely exchange between her and Ogden, the $5 returned to him.

Which leads onto my re-emphasis that it was those incidental figures of Hardin, Ogden, Murphy and Dobbs that made the narrative arc of ‘Trouble the Water’. Sure, it’s great to have heaps of action and Pilgrim and Russo emerging as proper adversaries with depth and threat.

But bringing in and skilfully developing a sizeable supporting cast in under an hour was well done, and there was a real sense of satisfaction as the credits rolled.

Credit to director Jeremy Webb and writer Ken Kristensen.

Series:
Episode 1: Roadhouse Blues
Episode 2: Fight or Flight

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