As I’ve mentioned in passing before, Person of Interest has the ability to turn a one-off episode into an integral part of an ongoing art with a naturalness no other series can master. ‘4C’ is the last part of a six-episode sequence that started with Joss Carter’s final takedown of HR and her subsequent murder, and yet it’s a procedural Number of the Week, whose subject, Owen Matthews, computer programmer and all-round asshole (Samm Levine), has nothing to do with anything that’s been going on before or after him.
John Reese came back last week to save his friend, Harold Finch, but not to return to his job. Instead, Reese is going to lose himself, a one way flight to Istanbul. Except that his flight is suddenly overbooked and he’s bumped, and equally as suddenly a place opens up on a flight with a stopover in Rome. Reese can spot Finch’s meddling a mile away, and he doesn’t want it.
That’s not the whole of it. The pretty stewardess, Holly (Sally Pressman) asks if he’ll change seats to enable a newly-wed couple to sit together, which he happily does. His new seat giives him a view of Matthews, being transported by two ~US Marshalls. His phone receives a text: 4C: Owen’s seat number.
There’s just one problem about all this. No, actually there are three. Someone’s trying to kill Owen (with a mouth like his, you should be surprised?) and has incapacitated one of his Marshall’s. And Reese doesn’t want to know. It’s not his job anymore, not his responsibility, he will not be manipulated llike this by Finch. The third one is, Finch isn’t doing this. he’s as much in the dark as Reese is. This is the Machine, operating by itself.
But on a commercial passenger flight from America to Europe, there are no avenues for walking away. Owen has too many attackers, Columbians, Israelis and National Security. With only the willing and optimistic Holly, who will deliver the crucial little speech about helping each other in an entirely naturalistic manner, to trust, Reese has to take the job.
It’s a tight, stream-lined thriller, with Caviezel at his most magnetic, even in sloppy clothes and a baaaad shave. Shaw is used as a sideline to discover why Owen is a target for her former Agency, making Owen a Relevant rather than Irrelevant Number. This leads to an almost touching scene wwhere, having drugged her former trainer, Hersh, he explains that Owen is about to become a National Embarrassment: there’s a near-fatherly concern for whether Shaw’s ‘new employers’ are treating her well, which draws the line we all of us would have used at this moment: ‘They haven’t tried to kill me yet.’
The final moment comes when the last assassin standing, on board as the coach class steward, takes over the plane and tries to fly it into the ground, requiring Finch to take over the controls and land the plane using a toy flight simulator attached to his computer back in the Library, but there’s a hppy ending to it all, and we sigh with relief.
Owen, who has caused all this feverish activity because he’s not just a programmer but the guy who set up and ran a Darknet Drugs trading facility, to take violence and death out of the trade, is smuggled off by Reese and fitted out with a new identity by Finch. Who happens to be sat with his back to John and Holly when they finish their coffee. What’s needed now is a graceful climbdown by Reese, which Finch facilitates by never once acting as if anything has changed. he explains that the Machine is, of necessity, manipulative in the way Reese hates, because Finch designed it so that the human intervention should always be the last part of the process.
That gives Reese chaance to joke about getting a new suit, so that he can get back to work. With that, the personal turbulence is ended and the show can reset itself for the final phase of the third season.