The Punisher Season 1, Episode 10: “Virtue of the Vicious” Recap
Things are coming to a head in The Punisher. I think this show is well-paced. Netflix didn’t have any long periods of inaction, and they didn’t go crazy with unrelenting action. But this episode is action-packed.
One of Senator Ori’s Anvil guards hears a knock on his apartment door. Lewis’ voice calls, “New York Bulletin.” The guard says from the other side of the door, “I don’t need a subscription.” and incautiously walks right up to the peephole. Lewis shoots him in the face through the peephole. Ironically, Lewis’ face was also on the paper he held up to cover his face.
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Anvil is no match for Lewis
Lewis shoots the lock off the door and drags the body out of the hallway. He unzips the guard’s jacket and and starts to drag it off his body when he notices two parakeets in a large cage. He unlocks the cage door and tries to coax them out. He whistles enticingly and even puts their cage right up against the window. He stares at the birds, which don’t move an inch in response to any of this. They’re very happy in their cage. I have no doubt Lewis sees this as a metaphor for society, which he also seeks to ‘free’ against its will.
Later, Billy Russo is talking to a Brett Mahoney, an NYPD detective, in a hotel room. (Mahoney worked on The Punisher case in Daredevil.) The furniture is overturned and broken, and there’s a large bloodstain on the wall. The episode has skipped forward 6 hours, and something even worse has taken place. Russo mentions that he lost four men, but the senator is alive despite an attack by both Lewis and Frank Castle. He says that’s a win in his book.
Detective Mahoney isn’t so impressed. He’s also suspicious because of Russo’s connection to both Frank and Lewis (Russo met and refused to hire Lewis and Russo was Frank’s friend). He asks when Russo last spoke to Frank. Russo says it was two years ago. Liar. Russo walks backwards out of the room, staring at the detective. A very weird choice, but he’s a very weird man.
There’s a lot of flashbacks in this episode
Jumping back to before the carnage and destruction we just saw in the room, Senator Ori plans his speech. Russo isn’t crazy about his plans; it’ll make him harder to protect. He excuses himself to take a call from Frank. Russo is a little taken off guard on hearing Frank’s voice, but he recovers almost instantly and once again extends his offer to give Frank a new identity and take him out of the country. In reality, Russo just wants to get him to a location of his choosing where he can easily kill him. But Frank still thinks Russo is his friend.
Frank warns Russo that Lewis is coming after Ori. He asks Russo to stay out of his way; he’ll deal with Lewis. Frank hangs up the phone and walks away. He’s in a uniform of some kind, and is probably already in the building with Ori and Russo.
In the present again, Brett is questioning Senator Ori. Ori is stunned and walks around the room in a daze. He says, “All this uh… Kind of thing is new to me. I never even held a gun before today.” The detective just lets him talk.
Ori’s creatively imagined flashback
In the past again (don’t worry, it gets less confusing as it goes) Ori gives an interview to Karen. He only gets a couple sentences out before the door explodes and they both go flying. The room is filled with smoke. Lewis tosses in a teargas grenade and walks in with a gas mask on.
The guards are completely overpowered; Lewis kills them with two headshots from his silenced handgun. The Punisher walks in behind Lewis and… walks right past him. What? Ori grabs a gun and fires at Lewis, then the Punisher and escapes the room, leaving Karen in the hands of Lewis as the Punisher stands threateningly in the doorway staring after Ori.
There’s no way that happened.
Karen has a more accurate recollection of events
Karen is being interviewed by the Detective Brett now, and she bursts out laughing. “That’s what he said?” Her face is cut in several places. She’s reluctant, for some reason, to tell her version of events. The detective says Castle and Lewis seemed to be working together, and the senator’s testimony agrees with this.
Karen calls Ori “a craven political animal.” Ouch. The detective politely disbelieves her when she says The Punisher was working against Lewis, which encourages her to tell her story. Which is what Brett wanted anyway.
Karen meets Russo at the elevator, and they chat about Anvil taking her gun from her purse, but Russo promises she’ll get it back.
Lewis walks up the lobby of the hotel in his stolen Anvil uniform. He walks right past Dinah Madani, who is sitting motionless watching the elevator. Lewis heads up the stairs, shooting an unsuspecting Anvil guard in the head to get through the door at Ori’s floor. Lewis walks out the door and shoots the next guard outside Ori’s room in the head.
Lewis is really good at killing people, and his gear is at least as good as The Punisher’s
Lewis sets up three large explosive charges on the outside of the door. He’s wearing the gas mask now. He starts breathing quickly and detonates the charges, blowing the door in. He tosses the teargas grenade and kills the guards. He finds Ori on his knees behind the sofa, begging for his life. He cringes away, crawling on the floor.
Karen looks for her gun in her purse before remembering Russo took it away. Karen gives up on that and shields Ori with her body, saying “Please don’t kill him, please.” That’s a very selfless move. It didn’t look like Lewis knew she was there. She probably could have escaped.
Lewis looks at them both down the barrel of his gun. The Punisher charges into the room and leaps in front of both, taking multiple shots from Lewis in the chest. He fires back. Karen and Ori try to escape, but Lewis grabs Karen and holds her neck. Ori keeps running.
Karen becomes a hostage
Lewis tries to kill the Punisher but he’s out of ammo. He drops his gun and whips out a detonator, pulling his coat open to reveal a suicide bomb vest. An Anvil security team rushes up, but The Punisher convinces them to lower their weapons, yelling “He’s wired! Stand down!”
Lewis takes Karen into the elevator and closes the doors. The Anvil team immediately takes aim at Castle and he bolts. He does a very cool rolling move where he grabs a dead guard’s body as he rolls and then runs down the hall again, the body shielding his back and taking all their bullets as he escapes.
In the present, Dinah Madani is talking to Detective Brett. Dinah is apparently off administrative leave as of today, and Bett is curious why she’s so coincidentally on the scene of a terrorist attack so soon. Dinah’s only real answer is that Castle wasn’t trying to kill Ori. She says Ori would be dead if The Punisher was trying to kill him.
Dinah tells her boss Rafi the truth
In a flashback, Dinah walks into work and enters her office. Rafi is already there. Now that he knows Castle is alive, he seems to understand more. She tells him everything she knew about Castle and the bug in her office. She pulls it out of her bookcase to show him. It just makes him madder. She tells Rafi that William Rawlins killed Zubair, which is info she got from Micro.
Rafi gives her something back: the info and IDs of the men she and her team killed in the false tactical operation Sam was killed in. All the men who were killed were associated with Anvil. Now Dinah knows for sure Anvil’s rotten, which means she’s going to have a lot to say to Russo.
Still in the past, Lewis once again walks into the lobby of the hotel, passing Dinah who is waiting to talk to Russo. She shows Billy the info on his former men; the men who killed her team members. He says, “***, I’m sorry.” She’s disappointed and angry at his reaction. It’s clear he’s prevaricating. She says, “Fifth guy got away. The one who killed Stein. Any idea who that might be?” He puts her off, and asks to see her that night. Dinah pulls away and says no. Yeah, no kidding, Billy.
Dinah catches up to The Punisher
An alarm goes off in the hotel, and Russo runs off to find his unresponsive (dead) security team. Dinah runs up the stairs herself. She intercepts Castle as he runs down the stairs. She demands he drop his weapon. He refuses. She says they want the same thing, and demands he stand up in court and testify against Rawlins.
Frank tries to walk away and she fires, missing him by inches deliberately. He walks up the stairs and puts his forehead up to the barrel, forcing her to make a decision. He says he’s going to walk away, and pulls away. Blood flies off his head as he gets shot, but Dinah flinches too; she’s not the shooter. Castle falls down the stairs grunting, the side of his head bloody from a bullet graze.
Russo fails to kill Castle, again
Dinah looks up and sees Russo holding his gun. He can’t see Castle anymore from this angle, or I’m sure he’d be filling him with holes. Dinah tells him to stand down, but he doesn’t. He says, “This dies with him. It was war, Dinah. The only crime in a war is to lose.”
Castle mumbles “What’d you do?”
Dinah’s eyes are dark under her raised weapon. “You killed Stein.”
NYPD bursts into the stairwell from both ends, arresting Dinah and Russo at once. They corner the Punisher, but he takes out two, grabs a firehose and jumps down the stairwell screaming.
In the present again, Detective Brett Mahoney is talking to Dinah. She starts to walk out, saying “I didn’t say you could leave.”
Dinah says, “But I’m going to anyway.”
Dinah and Karen have a more honest conversation than during their first encounter
Dinah runs into Karen in the hall and takes her aside. They talked way back in “Resupply” but they both skated around what they actually meant. This time they both know Castle’s alive. Dinah says people will try to get Castle found and killed. She gives Karen her card, asking her to contact The Punisher so he doesn’t die. Karen says “He’s not who they say he is. He saved my life, again.”
Dinah: “Well, that’s something else we have in common.”
In a flashback we haven’t seen yet, Karen and Lewis are in the basement. Lewis is still holding his detonator and Karen.
The Punisher hurts his arm when the firehose reaches its limit, but he escapes from the police successfully and continues to the basement.
Hostage standoff – The Punisher has his showdown with Lewis
Karen and Lewis are talking in a kitchen in the basement. He’s holding his bomb and she tries to get him to leave without killing anyone else. The Punisher kicks the door in and Lewis grabs Karen again. The Punisher, as he did in “Front Toward Enemy“, alternates between screaming at Lewis and calmly talking him down. He says, “When we were with Curtis, you told me to pull that white wire. You did the right thing kid. You could do it again.”
Karen glances wildly at Lewis’ detonator. There is indeed a white wire leading from it. As the Punisher continues to talk, Karen feels around for the wires near her hand. She gets a grip on the black wire. The Punisher shakes his head, pretending it’s a part of the conversation with Lewis. After several tries, she takes the white wire and he nods.
Frank says, “We’re creatures of habit, Lewis.
Right? We like to do the same thing over and over and over again. It’s just like women and their ****** bags, right? I mean, look at her. After everything she’s been through, she’s still got that bag around her neck. Miss Page, I imagine you could tell me everything you have in that bag, right?”
“Yep.” Karen sticks her hand in her bag, hand closing on the handgun she scavenged from a dead security guard right before Lewis grabbed her.
“Lewis, you’re a creature of habit if I’ve ever seen one.” Frank drops the act and yells, “Do it now, Karen! Do it now!”
Karen beats Lewis, but he takes himself out in the end
She rips the white wire out, disarming the bomb. Lewis clicks the dead detonator uselessly. She pulls the trigger and shoots through her purse into Lewis’ foot. Lewis reels back, letting her go. He staggers into an industrial freezer and locks the door behind him. The Punisher slams the door ineffectively as Lewis sobs. He recites a very creepy poem his sergeant taught him as he inserts the white wire back into the detonator and blows himself up.
The Punisher pulls Karen out of the way of the metal door which blows off from the force of the blast. They’re both dazed. Castle is wavering from a piece of shrapnel in his arm.
Now it’s Karen’s turn to save The Punisher
But it’s too late to escape unseen. Detective Brett is outside with a large team of SWAT. Karen allows herself to be used as a shield do he doesn’t get arrested or shot, and they both get in the elevator. She stops the elevator between floors and he gives her the gun back. They pause for a moment and lean against each other, letting some of the adrenaline evaporate.
He jumps up and pulls himself out of the elevator. Karen watches her go.
In the present, Brett and Karen get real for a minute.
Brett: “And then he gave you the gun back?”
“Doesn’t sound like a terrorist, does he? I think you and I both know he saved lives here today.”
“You helped Castle escape. I should arrest you for that.”
Karen knows this is a bluff and laughs. “If Castle is a terrorist, then I’m just a victim.”
“You and I both know that’s not the truth.”
Karen looks satisfied they both are on the same page. “Yes, we do.”
Brett is still after Castle either way, though “Where is he?”
“Honestly, I don’t know. Do you really think Castle’s the kind of guy who walks into a building he doesn’t know how to get out of?”
The camera cuts to outside the building as The Punisher slides away from the hotel on a long, long zipline. He lands on another rooftop and limps away, free. He’s injured but he got way more out of today than his enemies.
Questions raised by this episode
I still want to know where Lewis is getting his weapons and explosives. But no one has even asked that question in the show, so I don’t know if we’ll get an answer to this question.
Who dies first: Agent Orange or Russo? And who gets to kill them? Russo has emerged over the course of the season as a villain rivalling Agent Orange in his evilness. Castle and Madani both know Russo is evil now, and they both know that Agent Orange, the head of Project Cerberus, is William Rawlins. Seems like it’ll be a race to the finish to see who can kill them first. They’ve both been betrayed recently by Russo, and both have Agent Orange to blame for the death(s) of people close to them. Obviously the Punisher is more competent alone, but Dinah Madani has the full force of Homeland behind her. That’s a significant head start.
Will Karen put The Punisher in touch with Dinah? It seems like something he wouldn’t be interested in doing, but she might not give him a choice.
What’s Russo going to do now? He’s shown his hand. He knows Castle will be after him now. I’d guess he and Agent Orange will set a trap, but I have no idea what it will be. I don’t think Russo wants to live under threat of death from the Punisher, so he’ll try to resolve this quickly.
Is Agent Orange going to try to have Russo killed? At this point, Russo’s almost more of a liability than an asset. And a shady guy like Agent Orange should have other off-the-books assets he could use against Russo.