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The Punisher: Front Toward Enemy

Review by An Honest Fangirl

"Sic temper tyrannis."

I'm trying to think of how to describe this episode, and I just keep coming back to one word: "Wow."

Oh, Lewis, what have you done? I'm kind of in an uncomfortable place when it comes to this particular storyline. I find myself sympathizing with Lewis. We've been watching him for roughly nine hours now. It's not like this is just some random character who popped up in order to stretch this show for 13 episodes. It's someone that we know and that I, personally, care about. But at the same time, what he's doing is horrific. As someone who lives in the United States, there were times where this episode mimicked past events in the news a little too close for comfort.

The dynamic between Frank and Lewis was fascinating. On the surface, they're doing the exact same thing. They're both using violence to attack the institutions that have deeply wronged them. Most people on the show, Lewis and the general public included, don't see beyond that. Lewis believed with absolute certainty that Karen and Frank would be on his side, and they both made clear that they were not.

Karen and Frank understand that Frank has a sense of honor, a code. Frank very concisely explains the difference to Lewis in terms of their weapons of choice. Lewis hides behind bombs that target the guilty and innocent indiscriminately. Frank faces his enemy head on. His killings are close and personal, and very specifically targeted. They're applications of violence are about as opposite as you can get.

I was really worried about Curtis this episode. I knew the moment that he confronted Lewis that that was going to be a fight that he was going to lose. Even still, it was tough to watch Lewis beating Curtis with his own leg. It was one of the few times where I actually had to look away from the screen over the course of the series. The conversations between Curtis and Frank were also very emotionally fraught. There was just so much history that was existing there, both textually and subtextually.

Shall we talk about Karen and Frank? Let's talk about Karen and Frank. This was a very good episode for Karen/Frank shippers. (Do they have a ship name yet?) If a bad guy wants to live, they should not target Miss Page. The very idea of Lewis hurting her was more than enough to send Frank on a warpath. Micro's reaction to that was very interesting. He couldn't see Karen as someone who is as important to Frank as Sarah is to him.

To be fair to Frank, Karen certainly didn't help his blood pressure. I loved all of the little comments that Frank made while listening to her radio interview. The interview as a whole was a joy. Senator Ori was just completely outclassed. Karen has been through too much to lose to some slimy, hypocritical Senator.

The one thing about this episode that is stopping me from giving it a perfect rating is Madani. It often feels like she is part of a completely different show. A very good show, yes, but not The Punisher. It took her until the very end of episode nine in order to a) meet Micro and b) learn Rawlins' identity. I don't know. Maybe I just expected her to be better integrated into the series by now. As it stands, she's off on her own island, especially now that Sam is dead.

I actually have a lot of issues with how The Punisher has handled Madani, but that's a rant to save for later episodes.

Random Thoughts

Frank carries around a lot of guilt with him. We knew that already, but this episode only added more to the pile. He's the reason why Curtis lost his leg, all because he couldn't shoot a pregnant woman.

The world knows that Frank is alive. It had to happen at some point.

I think that it's fun that our two Big Bads have the same initials: William "Bill" Rawlins and Billy Russo.

Does Billy care about Madani? I just can't get a read on him. There were some really interesting choices made in regards to what parts of Billy were in shadow during what times. We couldn't see his face when he told her to blame the enemy for Sam's death.

I'm assuming that Lewis will go after Senator Ori and Karen next episode. If I was a betting fangirl, I'd say that Ori will die, and Karen will be in mortal danger only to be saved at the last minute by Frank.

Senator Ori and Karen's conversation about gun control reminded me of my absolute favorite scenes from Daredevil season one involving Karen, a bag guy, and a gun.


Senator Ori: Frank Castle decided that he knew better than the law and was tried for killing 37 people.
Micro: 37?
Frank: That they know about.

Micro: What's the deal with you two?
Frank: The deal is just that nobody goes after her, alright? Not on my watch.

Frank: There's nothing in this world I hate as much as a goddamn bomb.

What do we think? 3.5 out of 4 white wires?
An Honest Fangirl loves superheroes, science fiction, fantasy, and really bad horror movies. 


  1. Enjoyed your review, Fangirl, and I agree.

    This series has really surprised me by taking on the bigger questions, particularly about vigilantism. What is the difference between what Frank did and what Lewis did? There really is a difference, too. And I liked that David is coming over to Frank's side of this whole thing. I also liked that at this point in the story, David's approval means something to Frank. And that Frank won by being nonviolent this time. He refused to leave Curtis and managed to free him by talking Lewis down.

    Curtis is an extremely likable character that you can tell has a target painted on his back. I was totally bummed, thinking he was going to get killed, but then relieved.

    It took me awhile to like Madani. I like her now, because she's hating herself. Madani is absolutely devastated and understandably so. Nothing can bring Sam back or erase this mistake.

  2. Does it concern anyone else that this episode seemed to have a pretty firmly anti gun control stance? When they announced they were postponing Punisher's release because of the Vegas shooting I felt that was a stupid move, because it's not like Punisher is in favor of gun violence. When told well, Frank Castle is a cautionary tale about gun violence. This episode didn't do them any favors though and it just left an extremely bad taste in my mouth. Senators who are in favor of gun laws shouldn't be demonized like here. All this episode did was make me hate Karen a little bit.

  3. Anonymous, I kept thinking about the Vegas shooting as I was watching this episode. I was debating about whether or not I wanted to discuss it in the actual review, but ultimately decided against it. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not all that well educated about gun control laws, so I can't really speak with any authority here about specifics.

    However, I'm not sure if the episode was firmly anti-gun control. Senator Ori was portrayed as a bit of a buffoon, yes. (And next episode doesn't do him any favors either.) However, as the radio host pointed out, Lewis wasn't about guns. He was using bombs to perpetuate his violence. I personally saw this episode as very carefully trying to strike a middle ground without coming down on one side or another. Whether or not they succeeded and by what metric we want to mark that success may be a different discussion.

    I hope any of what I said above made sense.

  4. It's hard, because on an issue like gun control there is very little in the way of middle ground. The United States has more mass shootings than every other civilized country in the world *combined*, and the number keeps going up. And it's not because we simply have more mentally ill people here (sarcasm intended).

    This isn't a diss on you as a reviewer, please understand, I love your Lucifer coverage. I'm just saying that a show like this, with all it represents and portrays, shouldn't be allowed to take the easy way out by striking a middle ground. All it does is send all the wrong messages to the wrong kind of people. I felt the same way when Arrow chickened out of making a firm anti-gun stance in their mass shooting-centric episode last season. I just wish someone would actually have the guts to say what needed to be said and not worry about alienating 'certain demographics'.

  5. Good point about how they made the anti-gun guy such a wuss. That irritated me, too. Although it's sort of understandable when you consider which anti-hero this series is about.

  6. I think Billie mostly came to Madani to grill her about her knowledge. Did Sam tell her who killed him before he died or not. After she yelled at him: "You weren't there" I think I saw a sign of relief on his face. But that's my interpretation.

  7. I sometimes have thought that Karen's decision to provoke Lewis by calling him a coward and writing that op-ed was about seeking an adrenaline high to keep her mind off the pain of losing Matt during The Defenders.

  8. Loved this review. Felt like you were reading my mind. I also had to look away from the screen.

  9. I personally saw this episode as very carefully trying to strike a middle ground without coming down on one side or another.

    Yes, totally agree with you, Fangirl. I love the middle ground, but I was annoyed that this episode couldn't make up its mind. The writers built this entire arc around Lewis, and it seemed like they wanted to raise awareness of gun control, but then backpedaled by shoving into this episode a dumb anti-gun Senator. Maybe they figured the show would have lots of viewers who are Republican and decided they didn't want to alienate them? Geez, the Senator couldn't even come up with decent arguments.

    Otherwise, this was a terrific episode. I don't feel like Madani is part of a different show, but I agree that it's taken her long enough to learn something relevant, and I wish she had had more of an agency, instead of Micro handing the intel to her. I'm very curious to see what happens next, though. This episode did a marvelous job of mixing the different sides of the story and setting up the final episodes. I'm excited.


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