The Punisher: Roadhouse Blues

What an interesting bipolar premiere.

Half of it was a lovely, well-acted glimpse into Frank Castle as a calm, protective, somewhat normal and even romantic traveling man. The second half was a violent return to "an asshole who couldn't stay out of trouble."

I thought Jon Bernthal came off as incredibly attractive in the first half. He radiated adorable-ness and was so sympathetic, with his hard life fully reflected in his face ("rough road") as he was learning to take life one beer at a time. Yes, they gave us the cliché pick-up where Frank rescued Beth the beautiful bartender from the asshole who was hitting on her, but I liked it. Frank even chose not to hit on Beth himself because she'd just been hassled. It was Beth who came on to Frank. Lovely performances by Jon Bernthal and Alexa Davalos.

It was so easy to see Frank having a future with Beth. She was just lovely. A woman who seemed to be concealing her real self behind her long brown hair, Beth taught music and tended bar to make ends meet while raising her hockey-loving little boy Rex alone – remember Frank teaching his daughter to play the guitar in season one? The romantic interlude was fragmented, pretty bits of sex, nothing uncomfortably prolonged. The best part of it was Beth asking Frank about his scars. Frank even told Beth about losing his family without getting into the painful details, suggesting that he really was healed enough to start moving on and living his life. It was so nice that two hours out of town, Frank decided to turn around and come back for Beth.

Which is where the damsel in distress came back in. We never did learn her name, although I'm guessing we will. Frank bumped into her twice before he realized that she was in trouble when the bad guys (or actually, mostly bad women) followed her into the ladies room. I don't have a lot of patience for extended fight scenes but this one, the bathroom followed by the barroom, was well choreographed and far from boring. I was most struck (pun intended) by Frank taking his opponents' head in his hand and slamming them into – well, pretty much everything. Frank was simply incapable of walking away when he saw a young woman in danger. He had to intervene. Guess he's a dog off his leash now.


The episode began in media res with a bloody Frank and the damsel in his van running away from the bad guys, so I spent most of the episode thinking that Beth had died. I was glad that they didn't fridge her; Frank did get her to the emergency room. It's interesting that we were also misdirected with the damsel, thinking that she had picked the lock to Frank's motel room and that he was about to catch her in it. I also liked that the third time the damsel had the opportunity, she was smart enough not to run away from Frank.

(Not that running away from Frank Castle is a bad thing. If I weren't in trouble, I'd run to the other side of the country to get away from Frank. But if I were in trouble, I'd glue myself to his side.)

There was set-up for not one but two villains. The first was the Russian with all the thugs who was after the damsel for some unexplained photographs, which he seems to have gotten from her laptop. We didn't get much about him except that he was giving orders to the local cops, and he had everyone else she was working with killed, which is why the damsel was in distress in the first place.

And of course, there was Billy Russo, still in a coma in the hospital. That was a fascinating, hideous mask he was wearing, but who would put something like that on his face? Was it Madani, who now seems to have a problem with alcohol? Billy woke from his coma after Madani left his room, unless he had been awake already. I liked that shot of his eyes opening behind that mask. I wonder how many episodes until we see his naked face?

Bits:

— How many people died in that bar? I was sorry to see Ringo the bouncer go. That's a lot of death for the cops to cover up.

— The Russian picked up Frank's wedding ring engraved with "To Maria from Frank."

— The damsel called her contact, the guy tied to the chair, from a pay phone that had a skull decal on it.

— I don't usually rave about the music in an episode, but it was terrific, and not just because practically every lyric could have been about Frank Castle. The artist was singer/songwriter Shooter Jennings. His name was on the cheap marquee outside of Lola's Roadhouse.

— Janis Joplin's classic "Me and Bobby McGee" was playing during the barfight. Another good musical choice.

Quotes:

Beth: "You got the 'man of mystery' thing down, I'll give you that."

Female thug: (to Frank) "Dumbass. You're so far over your head you can't even see the light."

Frank: "There's more of them out there."
Damsel in distress: "And what? You're just some Good Samaritan who couldn't stand by?"
Frank: "I'm just an asshole who couldn't stay out of trouble, that's all."

Damsel in distress: "Will there be more of them?"
Frank: "I hope so."
That's too bad. I was halfway hoping that maybe Frank was ready for a little peace in his life, even if it would make for a boring second season.

This premiere was terrific, and I can't wait to see the rest of the season. Three out of four skull decals,

Billie
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Billie Doux loves good television and spends way too much time writing about it.

5 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Programming note: the Agents of Doux will be reviewing this season in rotation. We hope to post a review every other day and finish in two weeks.

Patryk said...

Glad to have the Punisher back, but I'm sad that it's gonnna be 100% cancelled no matter how good it will be, just like the rest of the Marvel shows on Netflix.

An Honest Fangirl said...

It is very weird to watch this show basically knowing that it'll be canceled. A shame too. I wonder if it has to do with the Disney service that is starting up soon?

Anyways, I really enjoyed this one. I absolutely adore Beth and I really hope that we see more of her. She's 100 times more appealing to me than our Damsel. She and Frank just clicked and fit really well together.

I think I already dislike what they're doing with Madani, which is probably a personal record considering how little she was on screen. Did we really have to go down the drunk, disillusioned, completely cynical route with her? Literally every cop character that gets betrayed goes down that route. (Or at least it feels like it.)

Also, I can never, ever remember his name, but I always like the actor for the Russian with all the thugs. I'm always happy to see him get work.

An Honest Fangirl said...

Also, forgot to mention. But there is a very different voice for Frank (or Pete, I guess) and for the Punisher side of him. It's a small thing, but I appreciate it.

Lamounier said...

A bipolar premiere, indeed. Terrific review, Billie.

I really enjoyed the tone of this episode and the way Frank and Beth's connection escalated. Sometimes that's just what happens, it only takes a couple of hours and you find yourself powerfully connected with someone else. Great writing and acting there.

When I recognized Alexa Davalos, I immediately figured the bartender was going to be a love interest, and then, like you, Billie, I feared Beth was going to be fridged. But I also expected the show to be smart enough not to go down that route. And, yay, it didn't. At least not so far.

Damsel in distress: "Will there be more of them?"
Frank: "I hope so."

That's a very interesting bit of dialogue. I believe Frank still wants to live his life peacefully, it's just that they poked the bear and he is pure instinct now, and his instinct is to protect and kill. Maybe that will be his journey this season (I haven't seen anything past the first episode): his willingness to have a little peace versus his instincts when trouble hits the door.

I enjoyed the fight scene, particularly that women were involved. Usually minions are all men. But, poor, poor Ringo.

Now, how can young lady in distress be so dumb? She set a trap for herself and then left the bag behind. God... I'm hoping that the bag was a distraction, that whatever is important she still has with her.

I think I already dislike what they're doing with Madani, which is probably a personal record considering how little she was on screen.

I so agree with you, Fangirl. Such a cliche.