One of the big differences between the Deep Space Nine watch and Person of Interest is that I was content to watch DS9 on a weekly basis, but I’m finding it hard to watch an episode of PoI without wanting to burn through another two or three immediately. Some of it is because that’s the way I’ve watched it previously, but there’s no denying it’s a very moreish series.
That’s because, even in it’s early days when it’s most dedicated to its selling concept as an off-the-wall procedural, the series is constantly building its internal mythos, and depicting change in the status and relationship of its four principals.
This was clearly depicted in episode 5 without interfering whatsoever in the matter of the Number of the Week, His Honour, New York Criminal Court Judge Samuel Gates (David Costabile). Gates, a hardline Judge, lost his wife to cancer the previous year, has an eight year old son, Sam Jr, who is kidnapped to force his hand over a seemingly unimportant hit-and-run killing by one Angela Markham (Meredith Patterson), which we see up front in security footage.
Markham’s plainly guilty but what proves to be a multinational Russian gang wants her to walk. Sam Jr. is the lever, but at the end, both he and his father will be killed.
There’s a slight difference in approach between our two principals. Finch cannot avoid reservations over the fact that their victim is a law officer, constitutionally opposed to vigilante justice. Reese, on the other hand, commits emotionally to saving the boy. The Judge has lost his wife: Mr Reese won’t let him be left alone.
As for the case, Angela Markham may just be a drunk who ran over and killed a man, but she is the unexpected door into something very big. Just why does a Russian gang need her to be acquitted so badly that they will kidnap a boy ad kill a Judge?
Caviezel, whose usual performance treads a balance between a laidback, laconic, depracating casualness and an underlying intensity, plays more on the latter. This case matters to him, he is driven from start to finish, and it marks a shift in his relationship with the elusive Finch.
At the episode’s start, Finch is having breakfast at a small, clean diner, when Reese slides into the booth opposite him, asking what’s good here. Finch, admitting to being paranoid, with good reason, dissects this as an interrogation: if Reese can determine that Finch eats here regularly, it brings him a step closer to finding out where Finch lives. Reese protests with injured innocence that fools no-one that he merely wanted a recommendation as to what was good to order. As Finch rises to llleave, he taps the menu and slides it over: inside is Gates’ photo.
Now that’s not merely a cool way to slide into the story, but it sets up a parallel to underscore where the episode has taken us. It’s book-ended by a final scene, in the same cafe, with Finch ending his meal and Reese sliding into the same both in the same manner. They differ over whether the Judge would assist them in the future. Finch still sees him as a law officer, distinguishing himself from the vigilantes, but Reese reads between the line to the father eternally ggrateful, who will do something if he can.
Then Reese, with an intensity that belies the lightness of the word dance the pair have been playing, says, “Thank you.” Finch is taken aback (Emerson does such a wonderful job of containing his reactions at all turns, minimising his responses yet letting them show) and asks what for. “For giving me a job,” Reese replies. Four weeks ago he was an unwashed, heavy-bearded, bad-smelling homeless derelict, drinking himself to death. This isn’t a job. The Gates’ have been more than Numbers. They have been a purpose. Outside of his difficult relationship with the mysterious Finch, Reese is plainly thankful for having been given a purpose. A cause.
Finch regards him for a few moments, assessing this new Reese. He slides the menu over, recommending the Eggs Benedict: he has had them many times.
This is not the only forward movement, however, because we do have two other main cast members. Reese has managed to get Fusco transferred from Brooklyn to the Homicide Task Force, so that he can keep an eye on Carter and stop her tracking the Man in the Suit. Reese’s naked contempt for the bad cop persists, in the face of Fusco already turning back into a decent cop. He starts to forge an understanding with Carter over the murder of Sam Jr.’s nanny, demonstrating real detective instincts, and he wants to be of better use to Reese.
These little shifts are portrayed organically in the episode, as being part of the story of the Gates’ and their ordeal, not soldered on. That’s skillful writing in any situation. We’re only five episodes in but Person of Interest is layering various levels of story. Do you wonder that I want to load episode 6 into my laptop immediately?