Person of Interest: s04 e02 – Nautilus


The Number That Got Away

A few years ago, I blogged a short series Italian crime drama, Inspector DiLuca (I think it was called). It was set in Fascist Italy, under Mussollini and one of its aspects was the problem of solving crime in a criminal country. The second episode of season 4 took a similar turn: how can the helpers of the Machine protect Numbers in a society where honesty cannot exist?

‘Nautilus’ set out to show us a way in which it can be done. It made a first step to draw us back to normality by reinstating Finch’s opening monologue, unchanges, with the twist that the surveillance feeds are drawn now from Samaritan, not ur operating-in-secret Machine. And there is a new meaning to the key word Irrelevant, applying to each of our secret quartet who, each time they are identified as enemies are reclassed as Irrelevant.

Everyone is separate under different covers. At least they can talk on the phone on their private, secure network, and Detective Riley invites Professor Whistler for a late night coffee. Except a Detective’s paperwork is hell so Riley doesn’t turn up. But Clare Mahoney (Quinn Shephard) does. And Clare’s a Number.

She’s a Number vouxchsafed to Reese, not Finch, who wants nothing to do with her. They don’t do that any more. Well, he doesn’t. But Clare’s a brilliant Math student, a chess master, an asset of major proportions and not unlike Finch himself.

She’s also a thin-faced, not unattractive young woman with no concern for anything but a game she’s playing, or rather a competition she’s set on winning. A series of genius level mathematical puzzles laid out as a Treasure Hunt across New York, each clue marked with the sign of a Nautilus Shell, a shell whose chambers are a natural logorithmic progression (thank you, Root)

It’s a competition being played out in different cities at 27 day intervals, first to solve it wins. And Clare is determined on being the winner, for good or ill, and the intensity that Shephard brings to the part convinces us early on that tis is not going to be a good thing to win. It’s going to take a high level of genius not to mention a kind of desperation-fuelled ruthlessness, and people don’t set underground competitions for that kind of person to recruit staff to care for fluffy bunnies.

The episode tries to peg Clare’s fanaticism to the random death of both her parents a year before and her subsequent search for meaning, but that to me seemed entirely too facile, and rational. Shephard was, if anything, too good at embodying Clare’s utter obsession for it to have an external reason; this woman was screwed a long time before from within.

There was an added complication in the form of Silverpool, a private military company whose files Clare had hacked to win an earlier round without ever being bothered by their contents, which could bring the company down. Reese cwas following Clare to keep her safe, Silverpool were following her to kill her and retrieve the file and Finch was trying to reach her on a psychlogical level, because something was bad about all this, something seriously stunk and it was the puzzle’s creator: Samaritan.7

But Clare was lost before we first met her, driven by her obsession to win, intent on constructing a meaning around herself, the structure being her sole concern and the exact meaning… meaningless.

Clare walked away to Samaritan. Silverpool whent down. So too did its big project a surveillance system built to utilise and analyse Government feeds. A potential rival for Samaritan, shot down in flames; how convenient.

But Clare served yet another purpose, this time one not of Samaritan’s design. She brought Harold Finch back into play, the underground space he discovered last week being an abandoned subway service tunnel wired to be undetectable. It’s not the Library, but it’s a new base from which to fight back, and the mayhem twins are no longer working without back-up.

The game is once more afoot, even in an abnormal world.

8 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s04 e02 – Nautilus

  1. In the US, Il commissario De Luca is included with Amazon Prime rather than with my usual Euro streaming service, so I keep forgetting about it because I rarely open Prime. I have no idea how you feel about it (I wasn’t following you back then), but I do really want to see it if only for the milieu. I have a morbid interest in Italian fascism.

    1. I liked it. It wasn’t perfect by any means, and there were some repetitive beats, but overall it’s worth watching. (the first one’s the worst, despite having the best looking actress in it, because it’s not a Di Luca novel but a standalone, set before the war started, adapted as a Di Luca.) Go for it.

  2. “Nautilus” [4×02]
    Written By: Dan Dietz and Melissa Scrivner Love
    Directed By: Chris Fisher

    “Nautilus” is a pretty interesting episode that serves the purpose of showing us the way Samaritan tends to operate. It does so in the shadows, recruiting the best and brightest to its cause. In this episode it takes the form of a nautilus shell contest. This gives the writers the chance to recognize and use many cool real life puzzles in the show, and they gladly seize the opportunity, drawing in many mathematical puzzles of different types used by real organizations. It also introduces the character of Claire Mahoney, who has the potential to be a fascinating parallel to Root, in the same way that the Stasi agent from Foe was to Reese, Genrika was to Shaw, and Caleb to Finch. Unfortunately, though the idea and characterization is strong, the acting….could be improved. I don’t like picking on young actors and actresses, so I’ll just leave it there. Thankfully, the plot is interesting enough that it never becomes too distracting. It’s a good early insight into Samaritan recruits.

    Grade: B+/A-. Can’t decide how much to dock it for the acting stuff. You decide.

    1. I’d have liked to see Clare return, maybe to show her response to being on the inside, but this was a one-off. I’d accept a straight A.

      1. She does return! Spoilers. In Q&A (4×15).

        I shall go with an A- then. Not quite an A for me, as I definitely preferred the premiere. That being said, we’re off to an even stronger start than Season 3. I think Season 4 in general has one of the strongest opening runs of any PoI season–I assume you watched Wingman today, which I’m looking forward to next week. Love that episode.

  3. She does? I went by imdb which didn’t give me any indication of a repeat visit: well, well. Yes I watched and loved Wingman today and a draft post is ready to go. So e15 means 30 June: i shall ave my eye open for her then. Bloody useless imdb…

    1. It does say she appears in two episodes of Person of Interest on Quinn Shephard’s profile, but you have to dig pretty deep. She is relegated to a subplot though, unlike in this episode here she’s the main focus. This episode is very good, as is the next one she appears in.

      1. Ah well. I shall fix my attention on that episode (but there’s another eleven to watch before it and we know some of the things that happen in *those*…)

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