“The Punisher” thoughts, Season One, Episode Six: “The Judas Goat”

Frankly depicted basic-cable-explicit sex scenes have been a staple of the Marvel/Netflix shows since Jessica Jones, but I’ll admit to being shocked that this one got through. Aside from nudity on Dinah’s part (you see Billy’s butt later in the scene), there’s basically nothing left to the imagination here, from the movement of their bodies while they have sex and as they de-couple to Russo’s audible post-coital pee in the adjoining bathroom. I appreciate the candor, and the fact that the sex is the start, not the point, of the scene, which is really about the two characters arguing about trust. Sex frequently isn’t the point, but a way for people to get to, or away from, the point. I wish more shows saw it that way.

As for the trust issue, Billy is a pretty convincing liar on that front, waxing outraged that Dinah is investigating his late friend Frank Castle when he knows all along the guy’s alive and is trying to help his master Agent Orange bring him down. As he broaches the topic of Frank first with Dinah, then with his and Frank’s mutual friend Curtis, and finally with Frank himself — who comes out of hiding to meet him — I was actually becoming convinced that I’d read the guy wrong, that he wasn’t an obvious heel turn waiting to happen. That speaks to the strength of the writing and Ben Barnes’s performance (he does a lot with just his eyes and the timbre of his voice) at least as much as to my gullibility, I like to think.

But more so than on many other series, this double-cross makes thematic sense. So much of The Punisher is about catastrophic disillusionment — with the military, the country, life itself. It all feels like one big web of trauma connecting everyone in ways great and small. The episode begins, for example, with Frank’s most horrifying nightmare yet, in which both his family and Micro’s throw a welcome-home dinner party for him, only for masked special-forces goons to burst in, blow David’s brains out, then open fire on the children at point-blank range. Actor Jon Bernthal’s raw terror during this scene, in which he also dreams he’s tied immobile to a chair and can only watch, is reminiscent of Marilyn Burns’s tormented “final girl” Sally Hardesty in The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, which is a high compliment indeed coming from me. And it drives home the emerging idea that Frank resents David not for leaving his family, but for saving them, when he himself could not.

I reviewed episode 6 of The Punisher for Decider. These three grafs only partially demonstrate the range of the show. How about that?

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