What we have here is a great spinal story that, in the show’s early days, would have made a magnificent standalone episode, a story of chilling prescience for this year of our terror, 2020, carrying with it three peripheral stories of varying momentum that lead towards our impending end, the whole thing being a textbook example of combining multiple strands.
Just your average, everyday episode of Person of Interest then.
At the centre was a Number of the Week, international negotiator James Ko, flight diverrted to New York ‘due to maintenance reasons’. Ko’s not too well so he checks into a local hospital. He’s given a standard anti-viral only for him to collapse and die abruptly, bleeding from the mouth. The label on the anti-viral has been switched: he’s been given an injection of live flu. Ko already had avian flu: the two strains combine in a unique manner, unique amongst millions of combinations, to create a superflu of lethal proportions. The hotel has to be locked down to prevent the contagion spreading. Yes, four years before the fact, we have a COVID19 orecursor story. I am no longer surprised by things like this.
Also locked down in the hospital are ‘Detective Riley’ and, joining the fray to assist, ‘Professor Whistler’. The attack is self-evidently but why? What could Samaritan possibly want in this scenario?
One answer is equally self-evident: two disruptors’, two ‘obstacles to progress’ to die as part of this. These are Doctor Mason and Nurse Carroll, who have filed complaints about the new automated medical database and mistakes in sending drugs. The database is controlled by Samaritan.
Meanwhile, first of three, there’s Jeff Blackwell. He takes the girlfriends who’s waited for him during twelve years in prison, since she was seventeen, out for a meal at an upmarket restaurant, but she’s full of doubts and statistics about recidivism, and she leaves him, unable to face the fear of his winding up inside again. Jeff expresses doubts about his new employment to his supervisor, Mona, and is asked to complete one last task, after which he can quit if he chooses. He’s to go to a particular hospital…
Meanwhile, second of three, Fusco is not letting go on the bodies in the tunnel. He beards Carl Elias in the safe house, tells him Bruce is dead, gets his assistance. Fusco’s a detective. He works his way through leads, identifies Jeff Blackwell, traces him to a hospital…
Meanwhile, third of three – but let’s save this one for the end as it alone has no direct connection to the hospital or the contagion. Blackwell’s been sent there to kill the Doctor and the Nurse, two of the three complainants who might expose what it is doing. No need to kill the third when he’s taken your shilling, envisioning a future of automated diagnosis and dispensing, cutting out the human errors that cause 400,000 deaths each year.
Working together, Team Machine save the days. Finch and Bear stop the collaborator. Blackwell’s about to inject the Doctor when Reese tackles him. Fusco intervenes to save Reese but gets a syringe himself, Blackwell jabs the nurse and escapes. But Root, continually extolling the benefits of an open system, identifies and steals an antidote, saving the day.
But there’s fall out. Reese doesn’t chase Blackwell out of concern for his partner. Like Spider-Man and the guy he didn’t stop, there is a consequence to this, as we who have watched this before are all too aware. Fusco however has put in for a transfer, a new partner, someone who will respect him, share information with him, will trust him. Fusco has been kept in the dark too long. Fusco has washed his hands of things.
And Finch, displaying as much anger as he ever has, rounds on Elias, forbidding him to ever speak to Fusco again. And Elias, as calm as he always is, explains that in war you have to use all your forces, and that in war there are always sacrifices. Sacrifices: that word so abhorrent to Harold Finch. But, Elias warns, it’s the quiet ones you have to beware of. Harold, inside, is the darkest of them. It’s a foreshadowing.
But we have a meanwhile to return to. It’s Shaw. It’s another escape, starting from when the next sedative is to be administered: overpowering the doctor, injecting her, knocking a glass of water off the stand. Disabling security card systems. Accessing tunnels. Emerging in a cell in a South African prison, in Johannesberg. Breaking out of that. And being confronted by Lambert, mini-Greer, as smug as always. Why bother? It’s just another simulation. Any moment now the technicians will remove the VR headset. Isn’t she tired yet? Has she any hope of telling what was real? Sameen wavers, her grasp on things breaking down. If Lambert wants her to believe this is a simulation, why doesn’t he prove it by shooting himself in the head?
From the moment he doesn’t do it, we know. We know this is not a simulation. We also know what Lambert doesn’t know, that Sameen is carrying a gun behind her back. If this is a simulation, she might as well do this. She pulls the gun and shoots Lambert through the heart. Oh dear. She steals his keys and heads off into the night of Johannesberg. Shaw is coming. But she needs to be quick…