Virtue of the Vicious went against the norm in a very creative manner. I appreciated the bold decision to depart from the traditional storytelling format. It worked in this case and helped to keep The Punisher from getting stagnant. It takes a second to realize I hadn’t skipped ahead to another episode. Virtue of the Vicious is told out of sequence with a mix of flashbacks and various character perspectives. Given the events that followed, this was the ideal episode for the creative team to be a little experimental.
Sgt. Brett Mahoney (Royce Johnson) from Daredevil Season 2 was trying to make sense of a hotel shootout that left a lot of dead bodies and one escaped vigilante. This played out in a lot of ways like Inside Man with Mahoney interrogating various subjects from Billy Russo, Senator Ori, Madani and Karen Page as they recalled the events from the past six hours. Ori and Karen’s take was wildly different and pretty funny.
Lewis was gunning for Senator Ori and didn’t care how many of Billy’s Anvil security he needed to kill to get him. But Lewis might have some company as Madani starts piecing together that Billy might have planted the bug in her office — or at least some Anvil guys were responsible for killing Stein. Madani hasn’t ever come off as stupid so it was nice to see her quickly realizing Billy might not be such a great guy after all.
Frank figured this would be his best shot at taking Lewis down, but his plan went off the rails a bit with Karen caught in the fray. Not that he needed any more complications with everyone from the cops to Anvil security thinking Frank was a terrorist. Perhaps not surprisingly, Madani cornered Frank on the stairwell. She wanted Frank to go by the books and turn himself in to bring down Rawlins.
Billy winging Frank definitely seemed to clue Madani in to his real intentions, but Frank seems in shock. The Madani/Billy stand-off gave Frank enough of an opening to catch Lewis and Karen.
I loved how much the final confrontation with Lewis felt so true to The Punisher. Captain America or Spider-Man might endlessly try and convince Lewis to peacefully surrender, but Frank actually eggs him on to press the detonator where the only person he’ll harm is himself. Given how quickly Lewis was spiraling, this was the best outcome for everyone.
The Punisher writers have some the right amount of restraint with Frank and Karen. There’s an obvious mutual attraction, but neither fully wants to give in. I definitely got a Logan/Jean Grey vibe here from their will they/won’t they? dynamic. There also seemed to be a little touch of The Dark Knight with Frank’s escape from the police the opposite of The Joker’s bank heist.
Virtue of the Vicious not so neatly wrapped up the side quest without going on too long. Lewis didn’t need to be a long term adversary for Frank. He proved just enough of a distraction to cause problems. The fallout from this episode should be very interesting.
Rating: 8 out of 10
Photo Credit: Netflix