Person of Interest: s03 e04 – Reasonable Doubt


Is she or isn’t she?

I’m a little of two minds about this latest episode of Person of Interest, and not simply for what it did not do. What it did do it did very well, yet in its desire to show us a Number that hovered on the edge of being Victim or Perpetrator until almost the very end (a very skilful performance by Kathleen Rose Perkins), the episode left a few of its convolutions unanswered in the rush to be clever.

What it didn’t do was more than play lip service to only one of this season’s ongoing concerns. Much as I enjoyed the episode, it was still a bubble, with nothing to do with the larger part of season 3. It’s the same scenario as the early part of season 2, post resolution of Finch’s kidnapping: revert to the procedural to begin with.

So, nothing of the menace of Root, who escaped confinement last week, to Finch’s consternation, but who is wholly absent. Nothing of the mysterious organisation fighting back against surveillance, introduced in episode 2. And of Officer Carter, once Detective Carter and still referred to as such by Finch, only the briefest of updates, as we but not she learn that her rookie partner, Laskey, is part of HR.

What we got was Vanessa Watkins, our Number, a tough, aggressive, very effective Prosecutor, married to Jeremy Watkins (Daniel Cosgrove), an equally brilliant Defence Attorney who gets the worst kind of defendants acquitted on technicalities (it’s always technicalities in these stories, and the lawyer is always a sleazebag on some level, that or a crusader on behalf of poor people, usually having dragged themselves up by their bootheels: as a former lawyer, I should be used to how my former profession is depicted by now).

But Jeremy’s dead, fallen from the Watkins’ boat in Long Island Sound, panicked message radioed by Vanessa. Except that she gets arrested for murdering him, by an obsessed Detective Cameron (Paul Ben-Victor, formerly of The Wire), who’s determined to get Vanessa to the point that, when she escapes the Station in typically inventive fashion, that he’s willing to have her shot on sight, despite the fact that the ‘murder’, if it is murder, was purely personal, and she isn’t armed in any way. Cameron wants revenge for a courtroom humiliation, but this?

And Vanessa’s first act of freedom is to procure a brick of cocaine from a drugslord she a) put away and b) helped get released, who gives her the drugs for free and hugs her. What the hell is that all about? Answer, it’s all about puzzling the audience, blurring the decisive question of which one Vanessa is, Victim or Perpetrator. The scene has no logic except in that respect, it’s a surprisingly lazy contrivance unbacked by rationality.

Indeed, that’s the problem. Vanessa, as we might have expected, is not either/or but both. The whole set up is a scam, set up between the Watkins, to escape debt to a mobster (a convenient McGuffin, again without any consideration of how Jeremy has run up such debt), fake Jeremy’s death and run away under new identities to be filthy rich). Except that Jeremy’s screwing Vanessa’s lifelong best friend Nicole and double-crossed Vanessa to run off with Nicole.

It ends up on the yacht. Jeremy has emerged from hiding, expecting his blonde shag, only to be confronted by his lawfully wedded and a gun. He claims the marriage to be a contract, presumably on the basis that it was there to be broken by both parties (Vanessa herself has had an affair, as represented by a text exchange about missing items of intimate wear found under a fridge – it’s always the fridge), but she loves him, genuinely loves him (without the episode once giving us any reason to suspect that’s true: Ms Perkins is just too damned good at slipping away from any conclusion about Vanessa).

Enter Mr Reese. Rather than intervene in this scenario, he leaves another gun within easy grabbing reach of Jeremy, defines his role as stopping bad things happening before stating that he’s not sure this qualifies, and walks off, pausing only to unmoor the yacht, which floats out into the basin, and not react to the sound of two gunshots coming from that direction: fade to black.

I’ve made it sound as if this was a bad episode, and that I didn’t like it. On the contrary, I was held by it throughout, especially thanks to Perkins’ performance as Vanessa: an attractive woman, hard-shelled, with a face that was strong rather than beautiful, emphasised by unfussy short hair that left it unconcealed. When Vanessa was finally confirmed as Victim, I saw it coming, not from the performance but from the fact this was Person of Interest, twists a speciality, but I couldn’t get out of my head the lack of foundation for the convenient acquisition of cocaine, and from there the show’s eagerness to skate over improbabilities for the sake of the outcome mant that it unravelled more than somewhat afterwards.

Still, a lot of merit, especially for Kathleen Rose Perkins, and some sidebar humour – Bear pretending to be sick in order to protect a Vet, the look Ms Shaw gives Reese when Bear goes to him instead of her, her seizing of a paperknife when faced with an ultra-slow Bank Manager making mistakes logging into a computer, Fusco’s preventative hand grabbing it off her – was fun. I just wish the writing hadn’t got carried away with itself in confusing the audience, to the point where it did confuse one member of that audience.

9 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s03 e04 – Reasonable Doubt

  1. “Reasonable Doubt” [3×04]
    Written By: Melissa Scrivner Love
    Directed By: Stephen Williams

    I previously said this was one of the weakest of the series. I actually do enjoy the setup, but, opposite to most POI episodes, the payoff doesn’t really live up to it. My criticisms are similar to yours-the episode trips over itself trying to be twisty, and loses me somewhat in the process. Still, I can’t deny that it’s really not a bad one, even if it’s far from one of my favorites.

    Grade: B

    Also: The A.V. Club recently made a list of their favorite shows of the decade, and POI was #73 out of 100 on there.

    1. I’ll have to look up who the A V Club are but I certainly don’t agree with placing PoI that low. Then gain, I’m not sure if I’ve seen 100 different shows in the 2010s: almost certainly not.

  2. I’ve just been scrolling through the list and there were a total of 10 shows I’d watched to one extent or another (I didn’t count Game of Thrones because I only ever watched the last episode). The rest were a mixture of shows I’ve never heard of that were/are not shown over here, ones I haven’t seen because I haven’t had a television all decade and besides I’d never spend *that* much of my time watching TV and ones I wouldn’t watch for anything less than £1,000 an episode (£5,000 if they clashed with a good Skandi).

      1. Blimey, that means reading the list again. Ok: The Crown: Gray’s Anatomy: RuPaul’s Drag Race: Succession: The Great British Bake-Off: Fleabag. Thoughts?

      2. I am ashamed to admit that I have seen the Great British Bake-Off. I would never in a million years place it on this list, even if it got pretty dramatic at points (one guy used salt instead of sugar in his Angel Food Cake-oof).

        Grey’s Anatomy is, I think, one of those exhausting medical dramas that might have been compelling at one point, but has long since run out of stories to tell.

        RuPaul’s drag race-I have nothing against drag queens, I just am personally not interested in the subject.

        Succession I cannot comment on-but it’s just about a bunch of horrible rich people. Doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.

        Fleabag-It has received lots of acclaim. I’ve never been bothered to watch it though.

        The Crown-Some people I know like it. Might be more interesting if you don’t know anything about the British monarchy. I have enjoyed historical series and films in the past, but they’re mainly about war-who knows what that says about me. I’m not sure how popular this is in the UK, but I can imagine that for a lot of British people, it just might not appeal to them.

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