Person of Interest: s02 e13 – Dead Reckoning


Look at this man carefully

Here ends, for the moment, Person of Interest‘s first foray into extended storytelling, drawing a line under several story threads that have run through the developing story, and introducing, like a long, deep plunge into cold water, the most important character too the whole of the remaining three and a half series.

To begin with, there’s a flashback to the end of ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’, including Finch’s warning, the crash, the execution of Special Agent Donnelly and Kara Stanton injecting John Reese prior to hauling him away. The episode picks up directly from there, with Joss Carter coming round and, against all her instincts but at Finch’s urgings, fleeing the scene.

From there on in, the episode maintains an acute level of tension throughout. Reese surfaces from his doping to find himself on a bus, with Stanton and Mark Snow. Like the latter, he now wears a bomb vest to keep him under control. He and Snow rendezvous with some highly speecialised criminals who have built a very intriguing hard drive to Stanton’s specifications (and who end up dead when, and we’ll have to refer this one to the Cliche Drawer, they decide to up their price  significantly at the last moment).

Reese and Snow then steal a car beloning to two ATF men (bomb disposal experts) and are directed by Stanton to a 21 story building currently being evacuated for a bomb threat. The 21st story is a very secure Department of Defence cyber warfare facility. It appears Stanton wants something stolen from there, probably military grade malware, ‘Cygnus’, which could be used to shut down an entire country’s computer network. It could even shut down the Machine.

Only that’s not the plan. Stanton has manipulated Snow and Reese to clear a path to upload something into the Government network. Something scheduled to activate in five months time (so, given that this episode originally aired in April 2012…)

Meanwhile, Finch, Carter and Fusco are trying to find and rescue Reese. The two Detectives are led to the building Reese and Snow hav invaded and, after 21 flights of stairs, arrive in time to try to save him. Stanton has departed, having completed her mission. Snow has departed, trying to reach a nearby CIA safehouse to get his activated vest removed, though he leaves with Reese’s words that he can never go back: the CIA will regard him as ‘compromised’, all that will await him is a black hood. Snow is too good an agent not to know that all that is true.

Reese won’t let Carter even try to disarm his semtex vest. She has too much to lose, a teenage son. He goes up to the roof, to die alone, but Finch is waiting, refusing to let Reese die. From their very tense beginnings, when neither trusted each other, this pair have forged an intense friendship. Over Reese’s intial refusal to let Finch risk it, he allows Harold to disarm the vest and save his life.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t an explosion, but it’s round the corner. Stanton having got what she wants, the name of the person ultimately responsible for the decision to kill her, gets into her car, making the one slip of her life as a BlackOps agent. Predictably, it kills her. Because Mark Snow, knowing he’s dead anyway, is sat in the back seat of her car. And there are literally only a few seconds before his bomb-vest explodes…

And with the obsessive Donnelly dead, and the persons in the car identified as Stanton and Snow, the FBI decides that Mark Snow is… was… the Man in a Suit. Case closed and a lot of underlying menaces swept away in one fell swoop.

Only…

That’s been the spine of the episode. It was beautifully played, without a wasted moment or word, and it drew you in from the first moment, so that you wouldn’t actually notice that there was no Number of the Week, this week. Or at least not formally so: Finch had gathered three books and typed in the Social Security number derived from them. Then he broughtup a picture of Kara Stanton. It was all done unfussily, without distracting from the immediate task of finding Reese. But in retrospect, it’s a subtle nod to the episode’s ending: Kara Stanton was the Number of the Week, and Finch took no steps to divert the fate coming for her.

Only, that’s not all of it. Early on we see the same old familiar flashback to Ordos, to Stanton shooting Reese, his escape and the cruis missile destroying the building. This time, however, it carries on, to Stanton awaking in the rubble, surrounded by Chinese with guns. And then in bed, the only patient in a massive room, with beds down both sides. And a moment of shock for those of us who know what lies ahead.

Stanton is approached by a superficially friendly elderly man, spry, immaculately dressed, wrinkled, with a head of silver hair carefully groomed. He’s played by John Nolan, uncle of Jonathan. He’s not named, but his name is Greer. He’s got the laptop Kara and John were sent to destroy: undamaged. And over her professional training, he brings her onto his side, whatever side that is. Everything she’s done in her Afterlife, has been in fulfillment of a deal struck with Greer, culminating in the introduction of this mystery malware. In return, Greer gives her a name, the person ultimately responsible for the order to kill her, a person who is completely off-grid, 100% untraceable.

Immediately, we think of one person. We don’t get told the name when Greer offers it. We don’t hear it when he tells Stanton, in the last moments of her life. But in the end, after we see John Reese re-united with the delighted Bear, the Machine rolls time back, literally, to the car and the explosion. And to a piece of paper, about to be claimed by flames, with two words on it: Harold Finch.

Greer, and what he represents, is in this moment an enigma. But he’s the Big Bad. HR, Elias, Special Counsel and Hersh, and people we’ve yet to see who have character arcs to drive the story along, and all of them unimportant. It is Greer against which everything will be tested in the episodes to come. We are exactly one-third of the way through Person of Interest, and it is finally revealing its true colours. In its own way, a piece at a time…

8 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s02 e13 – Dead Reckoning

  1. Extremely tense, twisty episode, even by this show’s standards. Narratively, it clears the deck on the first major arc, the hunt for the Man In the Suit, while setting the stage for one of the last arcs of Act One-the virus. It’s still an interesting episode regardless. Snow’s last line is a classic, as is that scene on the rooftop, further cementing the dynamic duo’s bond. They’ve now saved each other multiple times-I don’t think their friendship, once a tad antagonistic, is ever in doubt again. Plus Greer. Yeah, really great episode all around-I say that almost every episode, but that’s Person of Interest for ya.

  2. Absolutely. PoI’s ‘average’ episode is at a very high level, higher than most other series’ best. Personally, there are none that disappointed me on first viewing, though I read assessments from others who thought otherwise. More fool them.

    1. Seasons 3 and 5 are my favorite. But Season 2 is a very fine season of television, by any metric. It builds upon Season 1 in every way possible, deepens the story, and deepens the characters-in fact it’s an ideal sophomore season for this type of show I think.

    2. Seasons 3 and 5 have the highest average quality, I think. But Season 2 is a very fine season of television by any metric, and it’s a stellar sophomore season. It adds depth to the characters and story, starts branching out and in general is superior to Season 1 in every way. Which is the goal of television.

      1. I apologize for the double post. You can delete one of them if you wish. It was a weird thing with my internet.

  3. No worries. For me, season 2 is the necessay transition from a primarily procedural to an intricate, near future exploration: you can’t get from there to here without going through this, and it was masterfully handled.

    1. Yeah, Seasons 1 and 2 have a lot of really nice symmetry as well. They work pretty damn well together. In Season 1 episode 10, Reese narrowly avoids capture by the CIA. In Season 2 episode 10, Reese gets captured by the FBI. In the Season 1 finale, Root captures Finch. In the Season 2 finale, Finch commits Root to an institution. In Season 1, the stories are relatively straightforward, as are the characters. Season 2 adds complexity to both (as did Season 1). By the end of Season 2, there’s unlimited potential. I’m glad to say the writers completely delivered and lived up to it-big time.

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