Person of Interest: s03 e16 – RAM

Mr Finch and Mr Dillinger

It’s never not a pleasure to watch Person of Interest but there are some Tuesday mornings that can almost have me chortling with glee at what I’ve just seen. ‘RAM’ (random access memory for the computer-illiterate among us) was a 99.9% flashback episode, so designated by it starting with the season 1 credits, as far as the words ‘I needed a partner’, at which point it went into fast reverse, all the way back to 2010. We’re in the past, where they do things differently. But we’re not just here for a compare-and-contrast night out, we’re here to see skeins and trails being laid that underlie everything we will be dealing with for the rest of the show’s existence.

At first, it’s very much compare. A frightened woman runs  down empty Manhattan streets at night. Finch is plotting her movements and urging Reese to catch up. Only it’s not Reese, it’s Dillinger (Neil Jackson). Yes, he takes out the two gunmen, but unlike somebody else we know, it’s with gunshots to the upper torso, not the leg. Finch hopes (probably in vain) that it’s a case for an ambulance, not the coroner. And John Reese would never take advantage of a frightened woman’s gratitude towards a rescuer to take her for drinks and what inevitably follows.

It’s all there, the original set-up, the Library, the minimal exchanges of information between Finch and Dillinger. But this is 2010. Finch is still in a wheelchair, the set-up’s a bit more spartan. Dilinger asks Finch why he doesn’t get a dog.

The new number is a man called Daniel Casey (Joe Mazello), who’s gone dark two months ago, no grid presence, whereabouts unknown. Finch is not yet as practised at locating people so Dillinger has to scare up a lead himself, almost literally. Dillinger isn’t as good as Reese, he’s brash, direct, reckless, and we’ve already seen that he’s in this for what he can get.

He’s also not the only one looking for Casey. There’s a man and a woman about an hour ahead of him. It comes as no surprise, especially since we’ve seen Annie Parisse’s name in the credits, to recognise this pair as Kara Stanton and John Reese, under orders to kill a traitor.

But Casey’s not a traitor. He’s a freelance hacker, hired by companies and government to test system security. Two months ago he did a massively hush-hush job for the Government, trying to hack into a system so comprehensive and complex it was almost alien. It is, of course, the Machine, and Harold understands that instantly, as well as all it’s implications. It was only in the previous year that Nathan Ingram was killed.

It’s a deadly and ruthless world for anyone who knows about the Machine. Stanton and Reese have been assigned by Special Counsel (Jay O. Sanders, of course) but he is as nothing in comparison with Control (Camryn Manheim) who has not the least regard for human life. Control wants in to the Machine, she wants to be rid of the limitations Finch built in, she wants the total vision,  and with it the control that total knowledge brings. She is a warning for what is going to follow.

It was always intended that Casey should die after his assignment. Brought to the Library, much to Finch’s horror, he explains how lucky he was to get away, and that a friend was preparing a fake identity for him, to disappear, like a ghost. Casey had reported failure to the Government. He was trying to report the matter to a Government Department that oversees complaints about government, but ‘Mr Banks’ is not the real Mr Banks, but rather Mr Lambert, a mercenary working for John Greer (John  Nolan).

Everybody wants Casey’s laptop. Because he found a way into the Machine, a ‘back door’. The Machine adapted itself to throw him out but Casey came away with a few strings of code. Besides, we’ve seen that laptop before…

But this is where Dillinger steps in. Finch doesn’t trust him, won’t tell him anything. It’s been fun saving damsels and bankers but CIA operatives? Dillinger wants something for himself, and he’s taking the laptop and selling it to China.

Casey runs, but runs into Reese. Stanton is taking down Casey’s friend Lester and Greer’s associates, all except Lambert. Reese shoots and reports Casey dead. All this under the eyes of Finch, who has managed to stagger to his feet after his drugging by Dillinger and is out of the Library, desperately trying to stop he inevitable disaster.

But Reese’s shot was directed wide. He knows Casey is not a traitor and, for the first time, is stopping being a good soldier. Money, a getaway route to Canada, disappearance.

As for Dillinger, he meets the Chinese but is taken out, along with three of the four, by another black ops operative, a promising agent, who cleans up. She is Sameen Shaw.

But there’s a loophole. One Chinese got away with the laptop. Control wants it found and destroyed. Stanton and Reese will be assigned. The lapptop has been taken to a place in China called… Ordos.

And with that the Machine’s memory clicks into fast forward, very fast forward, a montage of high-speed clips as we roll through the show’s history to the present day and a lonely, snowbound cabin in Canada. Someone knocks on Daniel Casey’s door. She’s a total stranger, a pretty girl, and she’s setting up his cabin to burn down. He has two minutes to gather his getaway stash, a fake passport and $50,000. She is sending him to Columbia. Casey and Root have a mutual frend who needs his help…

What a stunningly brilliant episode! Within one forty five minute spell, the show completes its backstory, in a brilliantly logical construction tha fills in all the little gaps and lays the foundation for both the present situation and the near future to come. It also gives us an insight into the two main players, grounding their respective natures and illuminating the evolving relationship they now enjoy. In short, it was bloody near perfect.

And I chortle with glee for the Tuesday mornings on which I will watch episodes that are even better than this.

32 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s03 e16 – RAM

    1. It’s too well crafted not to love. Apparently all those notes that Nolan had pinned to a giant whiteboard in his office paid off. Yes, he actually had that to explain to the writers which plots they needed to hit w=in what episode.

      1. That’s a detail I hadn’t previously known but which doesn’t surprise me. The show is too finely crafted to have been made up on the fly.

      2. Well, that’s why it’s the best sci-fi show ever. Better than Lost, better than Fringe, better than BSG. And better than TNG and DS9. Which I think I can tell from your DS9 reviews.

  1. “RAM” [3×16]
    Written By: Nick van Zeebroeck and Michael Sopczynski
    Directed By: Stephen Surjik
    Originally aired 4 March 2014

    Sadly, this it the last time an episode will be written by those two, but they went out with a bang this season: this and Endgame. RAM is experimental in a way, as it is composed entirely in flashbacks. It is a very creative way to kick-start the ending of a season, though. It’s fantastic to see almost every major event of the series tied together. Specifically with Daniel Casey, AKA Eugene Sledge from The Pacific. Turns out he’s behind the Ordos laptop and the virus that caused the Machine to reset in ‘God Mode.’ Finch found out about it and was planning to unleash the virus when Dillinger knocked him out, and sold it to the Chinese. Decima found out about it, killed all of the workers in Ordos, and stole the laptop (hence why there were so many dead bodies around back in Matsya Nyaya). Also refers to one of Root’s comments in ‘The Crossing’ about Finch having other ‘helper monkeys.’ Dillinger is certainly not ideal, but he is extremely well-written and acted, one wonders if things might have turned out differently had Finch trusted him, and set the Machine loose in 2010 instead of 2013. This episode has a lot to pack in, but it manages it all. Not a second wasted in this one-it’s a treat for POI fanatics. Certainly a top-10 contender.

    Grade: A

    1. Always enjoyable to see Finch be able to relate to the number, like the misunderstood genius from ‘2 pi r’, or the hard-working expert from ‘Trojan horse’. Not all of us are social butterflies, Mr. Reese. Casey certainly fits the bill on that one. Though he ends up getting a couple molars ripped out by Reese with no Anesthesia , so he’s tougher than he looks. A really interesting and fun number of the week for Finch to pal around with briefly. Just a drop in this episode’s very large bucket. It’s kind of mind-blowing.

      1. Indeed. Yet Casey was responsible, without understanding what he was doing, for everything that happens. I wonder how Finch would have reacted had he foreseen that?

      2. I assume Greer would have gone after Samaritan anyway, as he caught wind of them independently from Casey and The Machine. Hm,

    1. I think he needed were the drives Arthur had to bring Samaritan online. I think he didn’t need the laptop, as that was only related to his plan to bring the Machine under his control. Not positive.

    1. Yeeahhh….your reviews were pretty savage lol. I may have been in denial or something about it, It’s possible I was just remembering the good half of the show?

      1. Some were savage because savagery was merited (especially when it came to Quark). Some were laudatory, often wishing everything was up to that standard, but mostly i thought I was fair, according to theb limited standards of the time. Even i ghaven’t got enough capacity for snark that I could have watched a series for over three years with only that in mind…

      2. The ‘Profit and Lace’ write-up you did was rather delightful I think. ‘Pure filth’ is the proper description of it. The exact opposite of entertaining, I think. And I also agree that your savagery was merited, as about 30% of the show is subpar to crap. But most people don’t criticize DS9 on as deep a level as you did, as you made me reconsider how the show stacks up as a whole. And how almost nothing actually fits together.

    2. Indeed! It’s kind of crazy how under-the-radar it flew. If more people would just give it a shot past Season 1, they’d find a sci-fi show that fixes the problems of DS9 (builds on itself) and BSG/Fringe/(Lost)-sticks the landing.

  2. Also, I have to salute Nic Van Zeebroeck and Michael Sopczynski for continuously improving their writing throughout the series, culminating in this episode, definitely a top 10 for the series. Nice how writers can work their way up like that, and learn by experience.

    1. For me, it’s Beta – for the omportabnce of Grace Hendricks to Harold Finch, all his protective instincts refined down to one person whose heart he broke by ‘dying’, and for those three words: kill them all.

  3. Lots of subtle differences between Dillinger and Reese that I didn’t notice at first, but are quite clear to me now.

    Reese: gives his money to charity, doesn’t take advantage of damsels in distress, calls himself a monster with great remorse. Dillinger only does it for the money, will definitely take advantage of damsels in distress, and calls himself a ‘shark’, and one gets the feeling that he relishes that title.

    Despite that, at the end when Finch is burying him alone with the music playing, it’s not *sad* exactly (Dillinger doesn’t really deserve pity), but it’s powerful nonetheless.

    1. It’s also an unspoken moral lesson. Dillinger thinks he’s too clever for everybody else, and they are beneath him and deserving only of being used. He dies alone,unmourned and unloved. Reese uses talents he resents for the benefit of strangers. I will not speak of his end, but you know it as well as I do.

      1. In one 45-minute episode, we learn about Finch’s operations before 2011, why he was drawn to Reese, why Reese regrets his time in the CIA (partly), what the Ordos laptop is, and how it got to China.

  4. Patterns. Tapestries. A hundred things, all necessary for this to happen. One after another. Not one of them significant in themselves. But without any one of them the chain snaps and we never reach where it is we are going to go.

      1. I’ll keep searching–if I find another show as well planned out as PoI, I’ll let you know. I doubt it, though…..Not in the same way. Still kind of in shock that this show got made at all. It’s like someone reached into my brain and tailor-made it for me. I swear that right before I first watched it in February 2017 that I thought how interesting it would be if someone made a show based around pre-crime and the surveillance state……My tv bucket list was then completed.

  5. That’s a rare but wonderful coincidence. I think the closest I ever came to that was a set at an all-day concert decades ago, Pete Shelley once of the Buzzcocks. After the first couple of songs i was about to shout for my favourite of his, but he played it before I could. Ok, I’m gonna shout for… oh, wow, he’s playing *that* too, well i wanna hear… OMG. Truthfully for the rest of the set it was as if he was plucking his next song out of my mind as I thought of them. Incredible expeerience, never had it again.

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