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The Punisher: Trouble the Water

"He that sows the wind shall reap the whirlwind."

Frank Castle is a killer. That's what he does best, that's how he is perceived and probably how he perceives himself. This could have changed after he avenged the death of his wife and kids and decided to take a new direction in life. A clean slate. Maybe being a killer didn't define him after all. The second the circumstances asked for the Punisher, though, there he was again. But Frank Castle is also a hero. He has a good heart and does all he can to protect the innocent; his victims are the bad guys and he makes the world a better place every time he takes one down. But can a man with such brutal and animalistic methods ever be seen as a hero of the people?

One of the reasons I enjoyed "Trouble the Water" so much was that it portrayed Frank as a hero and gave him recognition for it. At the beginning of the episode, Sheriff Hardin is trying to put the pieces together and can't trust Frank, but as the hour unfolds and Frank displays his honor and battlefield capability, the Sheriff changes his mind.

Throughout the first half of the episode, nearly every choice the Sheriff made drove me nuts. Surely, he couldn't trust the three people he had in custody, but whatever Frank, Rachel and Marlena were involved with was clearly much bigger than what that small precinct was capable of handling. Hardin's obstinacy nearly got everyone killed. I honestly thought the situation was going to end with a huge blood bath and I was happy that was not the case. Well, not for the good guys, anyway. In the end, Hardin knew the only reason he and his team made out alive was Frank. When he thanked Castle for all he did, that was a rare validation for Castle and a well earned one.

The battle in the precinct was really well constructed. From the moment the power went down and communications were off, the episode delivered one great scene after another. Facing a nearly certain death sentence, Hardin and his deputies discussed the possibility of giving the prisoners away. That was realistic and I liked how no one was portrayed as selfish for considering that option. They just wanted to make it out alive and be reasonable about their odds, and Frank was literally asking to be sent outside. It took a gun-wounded Deputy Ogden to close the case and have them decide to take the more noble path. Seriously, Hardin had a good group of people with him.

Another moment of worth was the conversation between Hardin and Pilgrim. In last episode's review, Shari said "I am curious to see how someone who detests profanity, technology, and apparently casual sex is not averse to hiring assassins, buying off the police, or committing murder." Well, now we have an explanation for that. Upon identifying the Sheriff as a man of faith, Pilgrim suggests that he shouldn't waste his time protecting "godless people." And that's how usually these fanatic types justify the violence they perpetrate, isn't it? As long as the target are sinners, people who profess other faiths or "godless people," not only is it not a problem to take them out, it might as well be God's work. It's despicable, really, but it's a twisted moral that makes sense to religious extremists.

The opening scene of "Trouble the Water" took us a little inside Pilgrim's world. We learned that his wife, Rebecca, is ill, they have two kids and he was commissioned by an influential religious couple, Anderson and Eliza Schultz – hello, Martha Kent – to retrieve the photos Rachel is carrying around. The way Eliza walked with Pilgrim's children as she said she'd take care of them gave me the impression that Pilgrim didn't have the option of turning the mission down. Not that I think it matters to him, choice or no choice, he'd probably see it as God's will and go for it anyway.

Anderson said that one member of their group had been thrown in the Lion's Den. But we don't know what that means exactly, do we? The longer Rachel takes to explain what is going on, the more I resent her. On an intellectual level, I dislike this choice of hers because it's mostly a stalling technique to stretch this particular plot. But even accepting that this is how the writers chose to render the tale, I just find Rachel to be incredibly selfish. She is not evil, she even shows some sympathy for the people hurt in the crossfire, but she clearly doesn't care enough. There were bodies dropping dead left and right, and even before the possibility of more people getting killed trying to protect her, she still wasn't willing to give these people the grace of knowing what they were about to die for. On the other hand, I liked that she helped Frank get out of the handcuffs. Sure, she knew her survival chances would greatly improve, but I still enjoyed their silent understanding.

Elsewhere, Billy Russo is out and I honestly didn't think it would happen this soon. Who is right about him, Madani or Dumont? Billy is dangerous, full memories or not, so Madani has a point there, but is he faking it or is he truly damaged and traumatized? I'm not sure Madani is convinced it's all an act, I believe she is desperate to be on top of things for once, to be one step ahead, so she needs to commit to her theory. It's desperation, not professionalism, that is driving her every action right now, and she will be no match against Russo in this state. At least she was smart enough to take his diary and go get Frank. And what an entrance, indeed, with perfect timing. Now she saved Frank's life too and they can both help each other.

Bits and Pieces

- Title musings: "Trouble the Water," as explained in the episode, comes from the Bible and refers to a pool whose water was troubled by an angel and the first person to get into it would then be healed. John 5 narrates an occasion in which Jesus healed a man who never had anyone to put him into the moving water. The expression gained a new meaning with the song "Wade in the Water," sang by the choir in the beginning of the episode. The song says "God is going to trouble the water," a reference to when the Red Sea, parted to let the Hebrews pass, closes leading to the deaths of every men of Pharaoh's army. It's safe to say that Frank was the one who troubled the water this time, killing every men of Pilgrim's army.

- Where is Micro? I miss Micro.

- Deputy Murphy took a while to get out of the nothing-ever-happens-here mode. I loved her nonchalant attitude.

- Josh Stewart is doing good work as John Pilgrim, but Pilgrim's perpetual dead gaze kind of drives me nuts.

- So, Rachel's real name isn't Rachel, but I decided to call her Rachel in this review for the practical reason of still not knowing her real name. Some of her aliases are Susan, Peggy and Stephanie, and one of those could turn out to be her actual name.

- I liked that Rachel returned Ogden his five dollars.

- Anderson and Eliza Schultz sponsor Rebecca's medical treatment.

- Pilgrim has three faded tattoos, at least. One is some type of cross symbol, another one looked like a skull, and on his back the wings of an angel.

- I had the impression that the writers were setting up a possible partnership between Marlena and Frank. I was sad to see her go, but maybe she isn't really gone and now has a motive to switch sides?

- How did Frank leave the precinct without being seen by that army of killers?

- Russo with that mask, walking quickly holding a woman close to him, and no one thought something suspicious was going on? Really?


Eliza: "If we serve faithfully, we will reap rewards."

Frank: "How's the leg?"
Marlena: "Next time, I'll hit more than your hand."
Inmate: "You two married? Sure sound married."

Sheriff Hardin: "I ain't buying this Pollyanna routine."

Sheriff Hardin: "Delayed gratification's good. It built the middle class."

Frank: "If you run, you can't see what's coming up from behind you."

I liked this episode a lot. Carefully constructed, climatic and with a wonderful payoff. Three and a half out of four Bible quotes.


  1. I miss Micro a bit too, though part of me hopes he never gets dragged back into Frank’s world again since he got his happy ending back in S1.

    I’m a little surprised seeing everyone not take so kindly to Rachel. This was the point in the series where she began to grow on me, and plus I find her and Frank’s dynamic a little hilarious now that Frank’s essentially having to play the role of a part-time babysitter.

  2. This was probably my favorite episode so far. I was very surprised when everyone made it out alive, but pleased. I thought for sure Ogden was a goner, and I really liked him. Good for him for standing upper his morals, even in the face of very likely death.

    My only thing was that I couldn't help but laugh at Frank simply defeating the army one after another. I always forget that this is technically a superhero/comic book show.


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