‘Virtue Of The Vicious’ was without a doubt one of the most beautifully-crafted episodes of Netflix’s The Punisher yet. Episode 10 puts all of our key characters into the same building, and what ensues is chaotic, climatic, and downright brilliant. The use of time jumps helped to piece together this intricate chapter to great success. There were a lot of massive moments in this episode, so let’s recap.
The episode begins with Lewis walking down an unfamiliar hallway and knocking on one of the doors, claiming to be the Bulletin. When the man in the apartment, who happens to work for Anvil, looks through the peephole, Lewis shoots him right between the eyes. He breaks in and steals the man’s clothes. Disguising himself as Anvil security, he sneaks into a lavish hotel with little issue. Luckily, Frank Castle knows exactly what he’s up to.
At that same hotel, Senator Ori, who we met in ‘Front Toward Enemy’, is set to have an interview with Karen Page. Lewis knows Ori will be there and plans to take him out. Oh, and since Anvil is acting as Ori’s personal security at the moment, Billy Russo is also in the hotel. And it’s actually Billy that Frank calls, warning him that Lewis is going to come after Ori. And Billy actually seems genuinely happy to hear from Frank. This guy knows how to put an act, I’m telling you. But as soon as he finds out that Frank is planning to deal with Lewis himself and is actually in the hotel, Billy’s face starts to crack. He asks Frank where he is, says that they can do it together, but Frank just tells him to make sure his team stays out of his way.
Billy’s not happy about this, but he’s able to collect himself easily as Karen steps out of the elevator, interview ready. Billy cracks a joke about how she, someone who owns a gun, is interviewing the Senator against guns. She comes back with the irony that the Senator against guns hired a private military company as security. It’s such an odd interaction to watch because they are literally on opposite sides, what with Billy trying to kill Frank and Karen definitely probably loving Frank, but neither of them know it. So the friendly conversation is literally just that.
After Karen enters the Senator’s room, things start to go sideways. While she interviews Ori, Lewis enters the hotel and makes his way up the back staircase, taking out every Anvil guard he encounters. When he makes it to the Senator’s floor, he places explosives on the door.
While this is happening, Billy Russo makes his way down to the lobby to see Dinah. He thinks this is going to be a friendly conversation, that she’s just dropping by. What he doesn’t know is that this morning she went back to work and received files on all the men they killed on their last operation. The operation that Sam died during. And when reading the files, there was one thing that each person had in common: they all were affiliated with Anvil.
Dinah shows him the files, not outwardly accusing, but the implication is certainly there. He tells her that they worked for him, among many other companies, years ago. She asked him if he knew who the fifth man might be, the one who got away, the one who killed Sam. He tells her he’ll look into it for her, but his face is already starting to crack. The worry in his eyes is evident, and Dinah sees it too. She doesn’t know what it means, but she knows something’s going on. And that’s when the hotel alarm goes off. Lewis set off the explosives.
Lewis has a few minutes before Anvil officers arrive, and he takes full advantage of them. He sets off tear gas and comes in (masked, of course), gun pointed at Ori. Ori keeps backing up, crawling on the floor begging him not to kill him. Lewis is about to shoot when Karen crawls in front of him with her hands out. “Please don’t shoot him,” she repeats over and over again. But Lewis doesn’t seem to be in a listening mood. Luckily, that’s when Frank Castle comes in.
He silently runs into the room, jumps over a table, and dives in front of both the Senator and Karen. He’s wearing a bulletproof vest, so fatal damage is avoided, but one of the bullets hits him in the arm. The Senator and Karen make a run for it and while the Senator gets away, Lewis grabs Karen and uses her as a shield. She tries to struggle free until Lewis unzips his jacket, revealing a bomb strapped to his chest, and it’s a dead man’s switch. Frank doesn’t even hesitate in lowering his gun. Lewis backs out into the hallway, still holding Karen, and Frank follows with his hands behind his head. Anvil security arrives, but Karen shouts at them to stay back. Once they see the bomb, they follow Frank in raising their hands. Lewis makes it into the elevator with Karen and Frank says only one thing.
“I will come for you.”
There’s a threat in his voice, but also a longing. He’s speaking to both Lewis and Karen, and Karen knows it. She nods as the elevator door shuts. The moment it does, the Anvil officers start shooting at Frank. He takes a couple hits but is able to grab one of the men that Lewis killed and use him as a human shield. He makes it into the back staircase injured, but determined. He’s not letting Karen die. But unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), Frank isn’t alone in the staircase. About halfway down, he’s greeted by none other than Dinah Madani.
Dinah has her gun pointed at him, but they both know she won’t shoot. As she tells him, they want the same things. They’re on the same side. But Frank doesn’t have time to come quietly right now, not while Karen’s in danger. He tells her that he’s going to walk down those stairs, and that she’ll do whatever she has to do. And that’s when a shot comes out of nowhere, hitting Frank in the head.
This was a moment of both absolute terror and confusion. At first it looked like the shot hit Frank directly in the eye, but it grazed his temple. Painful, and he’ll definitely need medical attention, but he’s not incapacitated yet. It takes more than that to take Frank Castle down. But when Dinah looks up, she sees that it’s Billy Russo himself who fired the shot. Dinah tells him to lower his gun, that she has this under control, but he keeps it up, waiting for a clear shot at Frank. She orders him as a Federal Agent to put down his gun but he just shakes his head.
“It was war, Dinah. And the only crime in war is to lose.”
This scene is so heartbreaking to watch. It’s the moment that Dinah realizes not only was Billy one of the men responsible for Kandahar, but that he also killed Sam. That she actually developed feelings for her partner’s killer. Rest assured those feelings are now gone. But this is also the moment that Frank realizes his best friend, the man he thought he could count on no matter what, has betrayed him. That he actually would kill him given the chance.
Billy moves his aim from Frank to Dinah and they just stand there, neither of them flinching, both waiting for the perfect opportunity to shoot. And it’s in the middle of that standoff that the NYPD comes bursting in, arresting both Billy and Dinah, not realizing that she’s a Homeland Agent. But when they come for Frank, he fights back. He still has to save Karen. He kicks the officers out of the way, grabs the fire hose, and leaps over the railing. But when he swings down and lands, the hose jerks him back and pulls his arm out of its socket. Frank shouts in pain but continues on, gripping his shoulder, bleeding from multiple wounds, and limping down the stairs.
Lewis has led Karen into the empty kitchens, and that’s where Frank meets them. At this point, Lewis understands that there really isn’t a way out of this. He won’t go to jail, but cops are surrounding the place. The only way out that he sees is the bomb. Frank tries to talk him down, saying anything that will stall him long enough to get Karen free.
“You know, kid, maybe you were right. Maybe you and me, we are the same. Maybe this is the way it’s supposed to end…just you and me, though, right? Just you and me, and a bomb…when we were with Curtis, you told me to pull that white wire. You did the right thing, kid!”
Frank’s doing more than just stalling now, and when he looks at Karen, she nods ever so slightly, understanding exactly what he’s telling her to do. While he keeps talking Lewis down she tries to carefully reach for the white wire. And thanks to more of Frank’s codes, while one hand holds the white wire tightly, the other reaches into her bag for her gun. She pulls the wire out and pulls the trigger a second after, hitting Lewis in the foot. Frank charges forward, pulling Karen behind him and pushing Lewis back. Lewis stumbles into the freezer and locks himself in while Frank stares through the window.
Lewis can’t stop crying, and through the tears recites something he was told at war.
“When you’re wounded and left on Afghanistan’s Plains, and the women come out to cut up what remains, just roll to your rifle, and blow out your brains.”
While he recites this, he slowly reattaches the white wire. Karen looks out the door and sees at least ten NYPD officers, guns blazing. She screams at Frank that they have to go, but he just tells her to get out of there. He should know better – she’s not leaving him. He stares at Lewis through the window, watching him reconnect the wires and says, “Come on, kid, you can do it.”
Lewis did a lot of terrible things, but in many ways, he was also a victim. When Frank wants him to do it, it isn’t out of anger or hatred. It’s of an understanding that this is the only way this kid is going to find peace. Frank takes Karen in his arms and dives, shielding her as much as he can from the explosion. They both suffer dizzying cuts and bruises, but they’ll be okay. And Lewis has finally found peace. Frank starts to go towards the door but Karen saw the officers. There’s only one way he’s getting out of this alive.
When they walk out, Karen yells not to shoot. We watch as Frank holds a gun to her throat and takes her into the elevator with him. As soon as they start moving, he lets go. This is the most touching scene in the episode. They don’t say anything, they just look at each other. Karen pulls the emergency stop and Frank knocks off the one of the ceiling tiles. Before he jumps up, he gives Karen the gun. She walks over to him and puts her hand lightly on his shoulder. They lean in, foreheads touching, not knowing if they’ll ever see each other again. They step back, both with tears in their eyes. “Take care,” he tells her before climbing out of the elevator.
Maybe there isn’t anything romantic between them, maybe that’s why they didn’t kiss. But I have a hard time believing that. I think they both just aren’t ready to move on, to admit that there’s something between them that’s more than platonic.
So, where does that leave everyone? No one but Dinah and Frank know the truth about Billy Russo, and Dinah isn’t telling Mahoney that he’s dirty. Whether it’s because she wants to take care of him herself or because she doesn’t know how far his reach goes is unclear. But if I were Billy, I’d watch out. And as for Karen? Dinah is now starting to confide in her. She wants to help Frank Castle because she doesn’t think he’s a terrorist. But everyone else in the city, except for Brett Mahoney, thinks he is. And they’ll shoot first. She gives Karen her card and asks her to call her if she has any inkling of where Frank might be, or how to reach him.
And as for Frank? Karen says it best.
“Do you really think Castle’s the kind of guy who walks into a building he doesn’t know how to get out of?”
The episode ends with Frank zip-lining to a nearby rooftop, bleeding from pretty much every extremity. Limping, clutching his arm, and bleeding from his temple, Frank made it out alive. Barely. But his pain is more than just physical. He almost lost Karen, and he was betrayed by the one man he thought he could trust. Not to mention the fact that everyone thought Lewis and Frank worked together, thanks to a little story the Senator told. Frank’s angry and in pain. It’s only a matter of time before Russo and Rawlins get theirs. And I can’t wait.
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