Netflix brings out the plot twists in this episode! The Punisher is shaping up to be a really good superhero show.


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Frank has Micro zip tied to an office chair, clothes off, and splashes him with cold water. Micro talks very quickly and shakily, trying to convince Frank no torture or intimidation is needed to get to the truth. Frank stabs a can of food with a large bowie knife starts eating.


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This will remind all of us of when the show Lost was on


An alarm goes off and a 3-minute countdown starts on Micro’s computer. He explains that unless he unlocks it with a retinal scan, the whole hideout will explode. Frank doesn’t believe him, and continues eating.

Micro frantically begins hopping the rolling chair he’s tied to over to the computer once the countdown hits 1 minute. Frank is frustrated that he has no option but to believe Micro at this point; it means he loses power in the interrogation if his survival depends on Micro. But he helps drag Micro the rest of the way over and cuts one hand free. Micro disarms the explosive but says he can’t disable the function permanently from the keyboard. Frank is even more annoyed, and ties him up again.

Micro asks for pants. Not an unreasonable request, but Frank hits him in the face. He tells Micro some creepy things about torture in a low voice, and what makes a person go crazy. Micro starts talking, which he was probably ready to do before any of this happened anyway.



Micro’s origin story


Micro (just David back then) was an NSA analyst, analyzing Afghanistan intel. Those in Afghanistan went around gathering ‘intelligence,’ which was just paying locals to tell stories. These stories were basically all fake. It was David’s job to assess whether the ‘intelligence’ gathered was was actionable, and he always gave the same answer: no. Until one day, he actually got some useful intel.

In a flashback, David and his wife Sarah talk about him going outside the chain of command and “do the right thing.” Sarah doesn’t want to risk it, but supports his decision to do what he thinks is right. David, alone now, opens the video of Ahmad Zubair’s interrogation and execution at the hands of US soldiers. He sends it to Dinah anonymously.

David is sitting in traffic, playing a guessing game with his wife and kids. He glances in the rear and sees a tactical team getting out of an SUV behind them. David has nowhere to go, and jumps out of the car to escape, saying goodbye to his wife and children.



David dies


David gets cornered on the edge of New York harbor by Carson Wolf. Carson yells that David has a weapon, which he clearly doesn’t; both his hands are in the air, very empty. Carson yells at him some more and David gets on his knees. His wife Sarah followed, and is intercepted by an agent. Wolf just shoots him with no provocation in front of his wife, and he falls backwards into the water and disappears.

Micro tells Frank in the present that his cellphone stopped the bullet enough that it didn’t kill him. Very lucky.

Billy Russo comes to see Curtis, and drops off a check. Apparently Russo is the one who pays the bills for the veteran center and support group that Curtis runs. Curtis is very appreciative and thanks him profusely for the financial support. Russo tries to recruit him into Anvil, which is weird, but Curtis is gently adamant in his refusal.



Meet Agent Orange


Castle is still interrogating David Lieberman, aka Micro. When he sees Micro falling asleep, he gets up and throws another bucket of cold water on him. Frank tells Micro there’s no way he survived on his own, and that he knows Micro has a benefactor who will be coming soon. Micro denies this completely and says he survived because he is “good at this stuff.” Frank walks with his heavy stride over to the sink and fills the bucket with water again, his face like a rock.

In a flashback, Schoonover and a CIA agent called Agent Orange speak to a group of Special Ops soldiers, including Castle and Russo. Their mission is to capture, interrogate and kill high-value targets. When Orange asks if they have a problem with that, Castle responds, “Not if Congress doesn’t.”

Castle plays the guitar and Russo reads a book: The Picture of Dorian Gray. A strange soldier on Castle’s team quotes Scripture in an ominous way, sounding like he is using it to justify a vendetta against those different than himself. Not a good sign.




Micro lied about the explosives


Back in the present, Micro and Frank are busy yelling at each other. Micro reveals that there are no explosives, but rather a security camera watching and recording what happens in the hideout. If Micro fails to disarm it, the computer sends the footage to media outlets everywhere. Then everyone would know Castle is alive. Micro demands he be released.

Frank grabs him by the throat and threatens to kill him, but Micro is undisturbed. He says he knows Castle won’t kill him because Castle “is a good man.” Castle doesn’t agree.

In a flashback to Ahmad Zubair’s interrogation, Agent Orange is torturing him and speaking to him solely in Pashto. Zubair is smart, however, and realizes the masked soldiers can’t understand him, and don’t know he’s a police officer. He begins to beg for his life in English, but Agent Orange shuts him up and has him shot by Castle.



Russo seems to suspect Castle’s alive


Curtis and Russo are at Frank’s grave, drinking to his memory, though Curtis knows very well he’s alive. Russo gets emotional about Castle, and Curtis accidentally shares something Castle said recently. He tries to cover it up, but Russo seems suspicious.

Frank has the dream again where his wife gets shot by the masked soldier, but this time the dream continues, and the soldier pulls off the mask to reveal Frank himself.

Frank wakes up, still with Micro. Micro wishes him a happy birthday. Frank seems to have forgotten; no big surprise there. The alarm goes off again, and Frank, distracted by the idle talk about birthdays and their families, misses a beat. Micro uses a pen to tap in some of the characters of the password before scanning his retina, as he did when unlocking the computer before. Frank doesn’t notice when he doesn’t drop the pen this time. Instead Micro extends a needle from the tip and injects Frank with something which almost instantly knocks him out. Micro apologizes as Castle blacks out.

One of the vets from the support group, Lewis, is suffering from severe PTSD, and reflexively shoots at his father as he enters the house. He misses his father’s head by inches. His father isn’t angry at all, only sorry for his son, but Lewis is angry at himself and leaves.



Frank finally starts to trust Micro


Sam Stein brings Dinah information on Carson Wolf’s bank accounts, totaling $30 million in all, with no idea where it came from. Dinah asks Sam to keep it between them, and Sam is mad she demands his loyalty because she won’t act like his friend. That’s what it sounded like to me, anyway. Sam is a whiny guy. Dinah asks him to wait, and he stops storming out of the room like a prima donna.

Frank wakes up, bleary and disoriented on a bed. Micro has set a gun by his bed, and Frank rolls off the bed and holds the gun on Micro, who finally, thankfully, has put a robe on. (This is the longest I’ve seen a character be naked in a TV episode.) He asks why Micro didn’t kill him, which Micro laughs at. Micro says he turned off the alarm and the codes. Frank finally starts to believe Micro that he’s not evil or traitorous. Micro suggests they partner up, and Castle starts to listen.



Flashback to the last time Castle had a partner


In a flashback, Agent Orange and Major Schoonover instruct Castle and Russo on their new target. The squad has been on mission for a year, and both Russo and Castle are just under a month away from going home. Castle listens to the briefing from his superiors and says it’s a trap. Russo feels the same way. Castle warns that men will die if they go on this mission. Schoonover orders them to prep their teams regardless.

It was a trap. Schoonover breathes and twitches, injured and bleeding on the ground. Their teams are pinned down. Castle knows someone has to clear the enemy from their superior position and goes on a rampage. He fights his way to and through the enemy, stalks through their fortification, slaughtering enemies on all sides of him as they come.

He finally gets shot in the right shoulder, and falls to the floor. He staggers to his feet, but when three more men come at once he beats them to death, not even slowed down by the bullet in his shoulder. His face is covered in blood.

The injured soldiers, including Castle and Russo, are being treated in a tent. Their ears are filled with a ringing sound. They’re all more or less in shock. Agent Orange walks in, unperturbed by all the blood. He asks over and over if they got the target. When Castle finally hears him, he jumps up and punches him in the eye with crushing force. Agent Orange falls down, not looking too healthy.

Russo stops Castle from killing Orange. Russo tells Frank he’s leaving the squad and recommends Frank come with him.



Switching into Punisher mode


Back in the present, Frank and Micro are still talking about a partnership. Well, Micro is talking. A lot. And Frank is listening for once. Micro points out that he beat Frank, and he’s just one spook. The government has hundreds or thousands. Micro says, “I mean, I thought I needed you, but you need me just as bad.”

Frank says nothing.

Micro says he spent the last months hacking into every government agency he could possibly need intel on. He proposes he direct The Punisher’s previously undirected actions. He’s a powerful force, but without focus. Micro says, “Without me, you’re just a blunt instrument.”

He shows Castle that the heroin Schoonover was running as The Blacksmith was just to finance another, unknown operation, and that Operation Cerberus never existed. Castle was just a hitman for Schoonover, Agent Orange and whoever they worked for.

The Punisher accepts Micro’s offer.

Castle: “One condition.”

Micro: “Yeah, name it.”

“They die.”


“Every single one of ‘em. No trials. No b******. They die.”

“Yeah, I can live with that.”


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Questions raised by this episode


Why is Billy Russo trying to recruit Curtis? Russo is single-handedly donating the money necessary to support the veteran center that Curtis runs. If he cares that much about vets, then why in the world would he sabotage his own charity by removing its key member? Even if Russo is evil, what purpose would it serve to destroy or corrupt Curtis?


How deep is the conspiracy? When it stopped at Schoonover, it was easy to understand and get a grip on. Schoonover was motivated by money. That’s an easy motivation to grasp. There aren’t so many moving parts. Now it involves a multi-agency collaboration on a conspiracy.


What is the conspiracy? We thought it was about money, but it’s not. The money is the means to an end, and we don’t know what that end is. True to form, Netflix has used the first three episodes to dismantle any confidence on our part that we knew what was going on, which I like. These Netflix series really keep me on my toes.


Where is the plot line with the PTSD victim from the support group going? Are they just showing the real effects of PTSD? That would be a worthwhile goal in itself, but I think it’s going to be more than that.




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