Person of Interest: s04 e04 – Brotherhood

Not standing out

We’re far enough into seasion 4 now for me to note that PoI is concentrating all its efforts on how Team Machine is responding to the changed circumstances of their world now that Samaritan is under operation without putting them into direct opposition with Greer and his pet machine.

As such, we need an arc to keep the series from relapsing into a season 1 progression of Numbers, and this episode is where that arc is defined.

Our Numbers are two kids, Malcolm and Tracie Booker, aged 14 and 8 respectively, separated in foster homes half the city apart whilst their mother is in jail for possessing an illegal firearm. The siblings only see each other because Malcolm walks his little sister to school. Reese is watching Malcolm’s school, Shaw Tracie’s, but neither kid has turned up.

This is because, on the way, the kids have come across a drugs shoot-out, between the new and very effective gang, the Brotherhood, and the Armenians, in which only one gang member, the hulking ‘Mini’ (Winston Duke), a no-account footsoldier, is the only, wounded survivor. And they’ve walked away with a shoulderbag containing $500,000 in cash.

The Brotherhood want their money back. They also want to set an example to all others thinking of taking advantage in such windfall circumstances.

The kids are not difficult to find, buying new smart, professional clothes with which to approach a top-notch Lawyer to get their mother free. Malcolm (Amir Mitchell-Townes) has his head screwed on right, in some ways. His catchphrase is ‘If you wanna be the man, you gotta have a plan’ but Detective ‘Riley’ has to explain that any plan that starts with ripping off half a million dollars from a highly-organised street gang that will kill them as soon as look at them is not a well-founded plan.

The Brotherhood are well-organised. Their leader, Dominic, is an enigma, unknown, unseen. His right-hand man Link Cordell (Jamie Hector) has already been brought down by ‘Riley’, but been sprung thanks to the ‘willingness’ of one of the gang’s cornerboys to take the rap. Shaw kidnaps Mini to coerce information on Dominic out of him (look very closely at that name, people). And ‘Professor Whistler’ sets up a covert meeting with Elias on a subway train, only to come up short. And he has to lie to Elias’s face when the latter talks of something having changed in the world: Harold, whose first instinct is not to tell, denies any knowledge and hurries away: dead giveaway.

To protect the Booker kids, to recover the cash, to bring the Brotherhood down, ‘Riley’ teams up with DEA Agent Erica Lennox (Rosie Benton, playing grey-suited, hair-scraped-back professional). There’s a teasing flirtatiousness between the pair from the outset. Lennox warns ‘Riley’ that the Brotherhood have moles everywhere, including in the DEA. The moment she says that, everyone’s PoI radar immediately switches on to the prospect that it’s her and we are not wrong. When Malcolm reveals the whereabouts of the cash, Lennox goes for it… and doesn’t come back.

The endgame sees Malcolm take the brave decision to offer himself as a recruit to the Brotherhood, in exchange for his sister’s life being guaranteed (the whole thing is his responsibility, from the start: the illegal firearm was his and his mother went to jail covering up for him), and ‘Riley’ buying him out of this again with the fake shoulderbag that contains mostly waste paper.

Meanwhile, Shaw has let Mini escape, with a tracker on him, and follows him to a launderette where she cuffs him again, finds their stash of heroin, and buys ‘Riley’ back by threatening to torch it.

So the kids get away, and ‘Riley’ arranges for a new foster home together, and a lawyer’s appointment. Malcolm wants to be a lawyer himself, or a cop, like ‘Riley’. It’s a nice future. Maybe he’ll get it.

Because Link picks up the hapless, slow-talking Mini, who talks about the Brotherhood using him because he has a good head on him. In the back dseat is Agent Lennox and a shoulderbag. She can explain it all, she just needs to meet their boss.

And Mini turns in his seat and shoots her through the head. “You just met him,” he says. Do-Mini-c. Hide in plain sight. He knew about Shaw’s tracker, he led her to a minor stash, an unimportant sacrifice. Dominic is dangerous. He knows the score, he understands he won’t be on top forever, he’s in the game aware of only one rule: We all die in the end.

And Professor Whistler sits down next to Elias on a subway train again, to apologise for the lie Elias knew about. Things have changed, though  he can’t say more. He gives Elias a copy of The Invisible Man, including an address to start finding out about the Brotherhood. There is a new war afoot. And defeat is not tio be allowed…

8 thoughts on “Person of Interest: s04 e04 – Brotherhood

  1. “Brotherhood” (4×02)
    Written By: Denise Thé
    Directed By: Chris Fisher
    Originally Aired 14 October 2014

    As you say, the writers aren’t throwing their protagonists into the frying pan just yet. Some would argue that the series is playing it too safe. I would counter back that many shows have gone off the rails after radical turning points, and the writers are taking their time because they want to ensure the show still feels like itself. “Brotherhood” gets the ball rolling on one of the season’s ways of complementing the AI-war arc by focusing on the way organized crime exploit disadvantaged kids in order to bring them to their side. In short, it’s moving into “The Wire” territory, which series creator Jonathan Nolan is a big fan of. It also happens to be a little outside of the show’s comfort zone, which relishes in thriller territory for the most part. This has the potential to be a really great story, and the scenes with Shaw and ‘Mini’ were outstanding. But I’m forced to agree with the AV Club on this:

    “While this episode does a good job with its characters and themes, the execution is lacking. Malcolm’s story is incredibly rich, but it’s presented in an overly saccharine way. A plot involving wayward moppets, foster care, and drug money stolen for the good of family is easily weighed down by cheese. If transcendent child actors aren’t available, the tone has to be tweaked in a way that can elevate this type of material; playing it straight is not going to cut it. All too often, Person of Interest’s writers also save the majority of their quality material for the end of episodes. Twists and thematic conclusions are great for leaving audiences wanting more, but there won’t be an audience to impress if viewers have already bailed due to weak first and second acts. It was wise to keep Dominic’s scenes to a minimum to preserve the surprise at the end, but it’s a problem when his were the only ones that truly sung. A problem with this episode wasn’t that there was too little, but that it got there too late.”

    The execution was definitely more than a little schmaltzy until the conclusion, which unfortunately blunts its impact and leaves it as the weakest of the season so far.

    Grade: B. Could have been a B+, but fair is fair. The writers nailed the first three episodes, so this is just a minor blip that contained a lot of promise.

  2. Whilst I did enjoy the episode, I think it’s fair to say I was more concerned with analysis than living it, and whilst I’d never switch off an episode of PoI before it’s over, too much of the AV Club critique is on the mark.

    1. It was in C/C+ territory for a large part of it, but thankfully the end did stitch itself together. I still liked it more than, say, Reasonable Doubt. Episode 4 seems to be a tough one for them to get right. On the other hand, I’d still say that this season is stronger on average than the previous 3 seasons 4 episodes in.

      1. I like Winston Duke as Dominic, and thought he did a good job with what he was given. This story arc takes a lot of heat from fans as a re-heated Elias arc, and I can see why, but his acting was never a problem. Nor was Marlo’s! I mean Jamie Hector….

  3. Yeah, he kept his dual role under plausible wraps. Had Jonathan Nolan known they wouldn’t get a full 5th season, I bet the Brotherhood would have been cleared up much quicker.

    1. Or that Sarah Shahi was pregnant and would need to be written out soon. We’ll go over how they deal with this. He made a bunch of economical decisions as to which plot threads were the most important, which ones the audience *needed* with 100% certainty to see wrapped up. I think they did an exceptional job under the circumstances.

      1. *Spoiler* for those who aren’t fully au fait with the entire series like both of us…

        It’s a kind of reverse serendipity.

      2. Well, at least I haven’t said the manner in which she was written out, at least.

        I’m sorry, first time viewers–you guys know by now not to read my comments by now, lol.

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