There’s a kind of predictable unpredictability about Person of Interest in the first couple of seasons. It was sold to the network as a procedural, and it has to be faithful to that remit whilst expanding its internal mythos. That over-riding arc will take the show over, but a quarter of the way through season 2, we’re still at the point of individual episodes.
So a heavy-hitting, arc-establishing episode like last week’s ‘Bury the Lede’ is followed by a charming domestic tale whos impact is only felt within small confines, and which allows the team to relax as John Reese and fixer Zoe Morgan play a married couple in the suburbs whilst John watches over the new Number, Graham Wyler (David Denman), husband, father, hardware store owner, no clouds or shadows: ‘the most boring man in New York’, Reese summarises.
But we know there’s more to it than saving the life of a devoted family man. One reason is that there has to be a twist to Graham’s perfect small life: I suspected Witness Protection but it was slightly different. Graham’s real name was Lloyd Pruitt, he used to be an old-fashioned safecracker in Philadelphia, a guy who’d worked with a team. Except that on the one job he’d refused to do, the other two went ahead withouthim, got caught and did twelve years in prison. Now, thanks to a chance photo on Facebook, they’ve found good old Lloyd. Threats against his family, wife Connie, a gorgeous redhead (Alicia Witt, a gorgeous redhead) and teenage daughter Izzy force Lloyd into one last job, in which he’s going to be exposed and killed, until neighbour John Campbell, purveyor of security systems that enables Harold Finch to eavesdrop, intervenes.
There’s a happy ending. Graham, who’s already left a letter to Connie, revealing all, decides to turn himself in. Connie loves him still, he gets house arrest, his life in all its respects is saved. His neighbours, the Campbells, move on: the suburbs is not for them.
It’s a delicate, enjoyable story, one of those tales where a domestic idyll is changed but remains secure, the kind of story we hope to read and yet so often are denied in favour of the ‘realism’ of pain, destruction and death.
But we know it’s not going to be as simple as that for another reason. The episode opens with an extended flashback to 2004: Finch and Nathan Ingram in the park, by the river. It’s a test run for the nascent Machine, to identify the people it ‘sees’ and explain their stories. Ingram is sceptical, of the Machine’s attempts too understand humanity, and of his introverted friend’s ability to teach it. The Machine, off it’s own back, calls attention to the woman painting by the railings: she is Grace Hendricks.
Because the flashbacks come in threes, we return in mid-show to the park. It’s now 2005, and Finch is testing the Machine on discovering connections between disparate and random pairs of people. He sees the artist, and is intrigued that the Machine can discover no anomalies, no secrets, no shadows, no connections.
Then, at the end as it was the beginning, a final flashback, to 2006, January to be precise. Finch turns up at the park. He’s greeted by an ice cream truck seller, accepts his usual vanilla ice cone. The park is cold and empty, but for one person: the artist, painting by the railings as always. Finch walks up to her and, smiling, says Hello. A surprised Grace says Hello back. The screen goes black. Another jigsaw piece has been turned over.
Nothing is ever simple. Expect the unexpected. Nothing is unconnected.