At this early stage, Person of Interest plays primarily as a two-hander, and focuses entirely on the story surrounding the Number of the Week. There was no place for Kevin Chapman in this episode, and whilst Taraji Henson had some reasonable screen-time, all Detective Joss Carter had to do, until a cryptic conversation at the end, was to get not nearly close enough to catching up with ‘The Man in the Suit’.
The aforementioned Number of the Week was Joey Dunlop, clean, fresh-faced, brooding. Joey was an ex-soldier, six years in Afghanistan, come home to a loving, patient girlfriend, working as a doorman. Someone’s going to kill Joey unless Messrs Finch and Reese do their thing.
It’s standard operating procedure for Reese: clone Joey’s phone, follow him, get into his life. Eight hours of boring, blameless tracking reveal nothing, tht is, until Reese follows young Mr Dunlop into a bank where, suddenly, he pulls on a black balaclava, three guys with guns enter similarly clad and, with soldier-like precision, they rob the Bank of $80,000 in sixty seconds. Way better than the Minimum Wage.
Everybody’s got their reasons. Finch is all for tying the gang, and their boss, former Master Sergeant turned bar owner Sam Latimer, up in a bag and handing them over to the Police, but Reese, himself the old soldier, sees a resonance between himself and Joey, and wants to know more, dig deeper. This is the mission creep of the title.
It’s amplified for Reese by a flashback, this time to 2007. He’s in an airport, heading back to Afghanistan, when he bumps into his former love, Jessica. The scene is short, and made shorter by being chopped up into three small portions, judiciously distributed throughout the episode. First, she tells us that after the Twin Towers attack, he left her, without a word, signed up again. He didn’t ask her to wait. She accuses him of taking the coward’s way out, because she would have waited for him. Reese’s reply is that out there he learned that everyone is alone, and no-one’s coming to save them (a gentle touch of irony there).
When we return to this scene, Jessica accuses him of taking the coward’s way out, because she would have waited for him, but it’s easier for him to be alone. There’s an engagement ring on her finger, a man named Peter, they’re moving east. Reese walks away, telling her to be happy with Peter.
We’re not done, but let’s return to the plot. Reese engineers an introduction to the gang, through Latimer by having Finch plant guns on one of the quartet. There’s another mystery: Joey is giving money, lots of it, to another woman, a woman with a young child. Joey’s? No. The story goes deeper than that. One’s the widow, the other the never-seen daughter of an Army buddy, who died in Joey’s place. Joey’s guilt has placed him under an obligation to do for that little girl what her Dad was prevented from doing. As Reese says, you can’t cure someone of guilt.
But things are coming to a head. The gang’s been very successful, twelve jobs in six months. That’s unusual, most gangs hit internal stresses pretty fast, but Latimer is getting round that by constantly refreshing the line-up. The successful ones, who’ve made their piece, ‘retire’ – with a bullet in their head. It’s time to call time on this lot.
There’s one last job, worth $400,000, the theft of a single, specific piece of evidence from a Police Evidence Locker. Finch has to get inside to warn Reese it’s a set-up. The evidence is stolen, a manilla folder marked Elias, M: evidence of a woman’s murder, photos and the murder weapon. Mark this well. It’s a root, from which many vines will grow.
Forewarned, Reese is able to save Joey when the other two are gunned down by Latimer. He persuades him to run, get out of the city, take girlfriend Pia. He watches as she arrives, trailing a wheely suitcase, ready to catch a bus to Phoenix. Because she loves him, and she’ll wait forever.
And we’re back in that airport in 2007 and Reese pushing past Jessica to leave in silence, and she turns angrily on him. He’s too scared of commitment, though the word isn’t used. It’s easier to be alone, with nothing. And she puts herself out there, in desperation and love, and Susan Misner’s hopeful, fearful expression is a heartbreaker. All he has to do is to say Wait for Me. All he has to do. Just that. And he stares at her in silence until she turns away, grabs the handle of her wheely suitcase, and walks away into the crowd.
Only when she has gone too far to hear him, her back turned to prevent her lipreading, does John Reese whisper Wait for Me. Please.
These waters are deep. We have not yet seen much beyond the surface. Joey Dunlop got away. John Reese didn’t. There is so much more to learn.
Oh, and as for Sam Latimer? Reese intends to take care of him but when he arrives, Latimer is already dead, shot by, presumably, his boss, who wanted that manilla envelope. Why? There is so much more to learn, In more ways than one.