The Punisher recap: 'Crosshairs'
We start this episode with Lewis, which means we begin in a heavy place. Having killed O’Connor, Lewis cleans himself up and heads back home. Lucky for him, it doesn’t seem like he needs to worry about anyone coming over to check on O’Connor, who really appears to have lived alone. Two quick notes about the deceased O’Connor before moving on: Congrats to Delaney Williams on becoming the latest veteran of The Wire to join the Marvel/Netflix family (even if just for a short time). Also, O’Connor’s name feels like a deliberate homage to Carroll O’Connor, who with his character Archie Bunker created the conservative, anti-government resentment template Williams was playing with.
PREVIOUSLY: The Punisher recap: ‘The Judas Goat’
When Lewis gets home (without a shirt and with a gun stuck into the back of his jeans), he runs into his dad. His dad tries again to comfort him, but unfortunately Lewis now has bigger problems than bad dreams. Overwhelmed by guilt over killing O’Connor, Lewis goes into the basement and shoves the gun in his mouth. Ultimately he takes it out, but it’s clear his life will still be full of struggle.
Later, Lewis finds his dad watching one of the all-time heroes of struggle: Muhammad Ali, during his 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” bout with George Foreman. Foreman was younger and stronger, so Ali used the “rope-a-dope,” allowing Foreman to whale on him until he ran out of steam before launching a devastating counterattack. Lewis is not sure what this has to do with him; his dad admits not knowing much about veteran PTSD, but he says that Ali reclaimed the title in Zaire because he was able to endure struggle and change his game. Lewis will need to do the same in order to navigate a post-battlefield life. In the short term, that appears to mean buying a bunch of hardware supplies and building a makeshift bomb in O’Connor’s apartment to hide the real evidence of his death. To each their own, I suppose.
Gunner Henderson may be dead, but Frank and Micro should still be able to use the information he gave them. Gunner said a certain Col. Morty Bennett would know who Agent Orange is, so Frank and Micro plan on paying him a visit. They get into a disagreement, however, about Frank’s tendency to use lethal force. Although he bristles at Micro’s caution, Frank admits that it will be hard to kill soldiers who believe they’re just serving their country, since he was in their place once. I’m glad that killing is an ongoing subject of debate in this show; I was worried Frank’s violent outlook would dominate, but instead it’s constantly being challenged by every friend and ally he encounters.
Also, Dinah realized her office was bugged, and together she and Sam removed the bug. That’s about all she has to do in this episode, though. Gee, I wonder who could have put that bug in? (Recap continues on page 2)
If your guess to that question was “Billy,” you are almost certainly correct. Now revealed as Agent Orange’s right-hand man, Billy Russo meets with his villainous superior in a fancy-schmancy CIA safe-house mansion. There, it’s implied that Billy saving Agent Orange from being killed by Frank back in Kandahar is what financed his current highbrow life of fancy suits and Anvil contracts. I mentioned in an earlier recap that much of The Punisher’s plot reminds me of real details from Jeremy Scahill’s Dirty Wars and other war-on-terror reporting. In this context, Billy is a stand-in for Erik Prince, and Anvil for Blackwater. This guy must be really charming to fool both Dinah and Frank, because he has “evil” written all over him.
Micro and Frank know that Bennett will be home that night because he always is for “entertaining,” and soon we find out just what that means. After complaining about his duties ordering around everyone at a military base, Bennett submits to his dinner companion — a dominatrix, who first makes him lick spilled wine off the floor before gagging him and spanking him. That’s about when Frank arrives.
Frank isn’t there to kill Bennett, but rather to allow Micro to remotely hack his phone. The task will take a few minutes, which is complicated by the fact that four soldiers move in immediately to attack Frank. Using both a smoke grenade and Micro’s no-killing rule, Frank produces a great new action sequence, where he pulls each soldier one by one into the smoke before hitting them over the head with a porcelain doll or otherwise making them unconscious. It doesn’t get difficult until Frank makes it to an underground escape tunnel and runs into a young soldier. At first it seems like Frank has convinced the kid to let him go, but when the kid stupidly raises his gun again, Frank shoots him. The kid’s screams echo in Frank’s mind as he makes his way back to Micro’s waiting van, where he declares that sometimes it is easier just to kill people. I like this point, which also comes across in the Lewis storyline: Often, living is a much harder struggle than killing or dying, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile.
Although Bennett survives his run-in with Frank Castle, he’s not so lucky with Billy Russo, who is quickly shaping up to be the show’s grand villain. Bennett’s phone does, however, lead Frank to the CIA safe house, where he finally gets Agent Orange in his sights. Setting up his sniper shot, Frank whispers his daughter’s favorite nursery rhyme (“one batch, two batch, penny and dime”) before firing. Unfortunately, we still have six episodes left of this show, so it can’t end that easily. Agent Orange survives, for now. Damn that bulletproof glass.