“The Punisher” thoughts, Season One, Episode Eight: “Cold Steel”

I have a lot to say about “Cold Steel,” the eighth episode of The Punisher’s first season. That’s because the episode has a lot to say itself. But (deep breath) here’s how I’m going to start: As weird as this feels to write…uh, The Punisher is an incredibly sexy show? Like, it’s sexy in the way that The Americans is sexy — a complex, uncomfortable form of sexiness that’s all the hotter and harder to shake for it.

Sometimes that speaks for itself, like in the shower scene between Dinah and Billy. (I mean, come on.) And once again, there’s careful attention paid to the eroticism of aftermath and afterglow. When Dinah gets dressed out-of-focus afterwards, then leans over to kiss Billy’s battle scar? Ooftah. And before long their intensely intimate half-naked embrace by the bedside gives way, unexpectedly, to Billy’s tale of his rotten childhood in an orphanage, where a “good Samaritan” who played with the kids broke his arm in three places after Billy fought off the man’s attempt to molest him. The man called him “pretty,” a word that clearly triggers his rage when he kills Sam Stein later in the episode, after hearing Stein call him that over a listening device. All the while, of course, Billy is running game on Dinah, making an honest confession of his troubled past as a way to better preserve his cover. From the sex to the deceit to the weaponized truth, it’s straight out of the Elizabeth and Philip Jennings playbook.

Then there’s Frank’s dangerous liaison with Sarah Lieberman, his partner Micro’s “widow.” When he arrives at her house with flowers as a pretext to check up on the malfunctioning camera feed to Micro’s headquarters, it sparks long-dormant feelings of emotional and physical closeness in Sarah. Actor Jaime Ray Newman is every bit as gorgeous as Jon BernthalBen Barnes, and Amber Ray Revah, so yeah, there’s that. But the real heat in her scene with Frank comes not from her looks, or his, but from the sense of growing desire — their inhibitions slipping away with wine, their body language slowly leaning into one another, the way the conversation dances around the issue at hand, the way her ostensibly platonic hug is an obvious pretext for her to work up the nerve to make the first move. When they finally kiss I was fanning myself, folks, not gonna lie. Wooooo, Lord.

There winds up being just as much to say about The Punisher Episode 8′s handling of abuse and trauma as there is about its handling of sex — you can see some of it above already — but sex sells so that’s what I’m using to link you to my review for Decider. As I say in the review, man, what an episode.

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