Person of Interest: s05 e09 – Sotto Voce


Victim or Perpatrator? One last time…

Where do I begin?

Firstly, I’m not going to start delving into the storyline of this episode in my usual depth. It was taut, it was complex, it brought everyone into play in separate missions that, before the end, tied into a single story, and it ended on a note of poignancy made all the more plangent by my knowledge of what is to happen in the next episode.

In essence, this was a Number of the Week episode, a good, old-fashioned, more or less self-contained episode, with next-to-no involvement from Samaritan. Reese, operating as Detective Riley for practically the whole episode, is following the number, Terry Eastern (Neal Huff), a locksmith breaking into an investment firm to plant a bomb. Reese defuses it, takes the terrified Terry back to the precinct, learning that Terry’s been coerced into this by the kidnap and threatened murder of his wife. The true culprit is the mysterious criminal, the Voice (s03 e15 – Last Call). Do we know what Voce means in Italian?

The Voice has planted bombs all over the precinct. Reese/Riley’s trying to protect Terry and find the Voice. Fusco won’t help. They’re not partners anymore. he’s helping get a lot of gang members into the holding cells, whilst an unregistered gun found on frightened taxi-driver Amir Saddiq (Rupak Ginn) links back to two of his unsolved murders. Not just two: four, and more. Saddiq is a professional hitman. He works for the Voice. He knows who the Voice is.

Finch is trying to track the Voice. He has back-up, Carl Elias, determined to take a hand despite the risk to him. He has lost his two friends, he will not lose another. He leads Harold to the Voice’s bombmaker, coerces locations out of him. They’re all in the Eighth Precinct, stretching resources, drawing Police from the station. Where Terry has been frightened into unlocking all the cells, letting the gang out to barricade themselves and the remaining cops inside.

I haven’t mentioned Root yet, nor Shaw. Shaw’s in Mexico, heading for the border. Root’s in the Subway with a Number of her own, supplied by the Machine directly, a radio engineer working to extend the bandwidth for Samaritan’s coded radio messages. But someone shoots him, and the goons. Root follows, into the Park. More shootings. She comes face to face and gun to gun with the assassin. It is Shaw.

But Shaw won’t go back with her, to the Subway, to the rest. She’s been put through over 7,000 simulations, her sense of reality is indeed broken, she is unsafe. At any moment, she might turn and kill everyone. Better she quarantine herself, continue her mission to kill Samaritan, one agent at a time.

Everyone? Everyone but Root. Root she could never kill. She would put the gun to her own head instead. Shaw puts the gun to her own head. Root swears this is real and not a simulation. Shaw won’t listen. So Root does the most simple and obvious thing, the one twist Samaritan’s simulations could not imagine: she puts her gun to her head. If Shaw pulls the trigger, Root will pull the trigger. A simple paradox. Shaw can’t kill Root. She can’t end the scenario by killing herself which kills Root. Impasse.

The pieces fall together. Reese/Riley and Fusco fight side by side in the precinct. Finch traces the signal to the Precinct, discovers Terry’s ‘wife’ is an actress. Yes, that’s right, Terry Eastern is the Voice. He kills Saddiq and walks away. In the street, he’s confronted by Finch who warns him this will end. Terry can’t kill Harold because Elias has got a gun on him too. A truce. The Voices drives away. I saw it coming, each and every time. ‘I think that’s far enough, don’t you?’ Elias says, and presses the detonator in his hand. Over Finch’s shock, he protests mildly that Harold must have known he would do something like that. Subconsciously, Harold has summoned this. Harold’s inner darkness has undermined his rigid surface code.

It can’t go on like this. We are getting very near to the edge, the tipping point. Reese, who saw Fusco take a bullet for him despite their differences, tells Fusco the story. The full story, all the truth, a private enlightenment. And there’s one last appointment, under the bridge, staring across the city, the point where burnt-out derelict John Reese first met extremely private software developer Harold Finch, there is a reunion, Root bringing back an almost bashful Sameen Shaw. The gang reunited. The Five Musketeers back together again, in sunshine and shy silence. One Last Golden Afternoon before…

If only it could all end here, in this moment of peace and warmth, this projection of hope. But there are four episodes more. The point of One Last Golden Afternoon is that it is the last. The end starts here.

Sunday Watch: Country Matters – Craven Arms


Firstly, apologies are in order for lateness. It is not a good start for a new feature to present it hours later than it may be expected, but unfortunately, this has not been a good week, and part of that not good week was needing to leave shift a few hours early one night and repaying the time. Which, to my disgruntlement, had to be this morning, from 10.00am – 12.30pm.

How many among you remember ITV’s Country Matters, or indeed have even heard of it? Once upon a time, and that time was 1972/3, it was an immensely popular, if short-lived, series, the kind of event TV that would have people staying at home to watch it rather than meeting friends.

The series ran to 13 episodes, a first series of six, a second series of seven, an anthology series based on short stories by A E Coppard and H R Bates, set in the 1910s and 1920s. They were beautifully staged and shot, on location in beautiful rural settings, set to the gentle pace of the countryside in that early part of the Twentieth Century, and yet the stories themselves were naturalistic, and often grim in the subjects they espoused, with a sensual and earthy sensibility. It also featured the cream of Britain’s actors and actresses, many of whom went on to long and highly-regarded careers.

It was a classic of its time, and one episode in particular, ‘The Four Beauties’, the last of the series, has remained fresh in my mind ever since.

It was the urge to see this again that led me to star looking for a Country Matters DVD and to the shock discovery that it has never been released on DVD in the UK. For that matter, the series doesn’t even have a Wikipedia entry and imdb doesn’t have a full run of information on every episode.

Luckily, I discovered that the series had been put out on DVD in Canada of all places, albeit in a double-DVD set that contains only eight episodes – and of course this doesn’t include ‘The Four Beauties’. Earlier this year, I got it through eBay, and now comes the time to watch it.

As it’s late, and I have tasks to perform, I’ve allowed myself only one episode today, the series 1 opener, ‘Craven Arms’ based on an A E Coppard story set not many years after the First World War. Unless it’s to indicate that the story was set in Shropshire, I have no explanation of the title.

The episode is a four-hander, with only one minor speaking part and silent extras, or rather it’s about three couples, with one partner common to all relationships. This is painter and teacher David Masterson, played by an exceedingly young ian McKellen.

Masterson teaches a weekly art class, amongst which attendees are the sisters Kate and Ianthe Forrest (Prunella Ransome and Susan Penhaligon, pre-Bouquet of Barbed Wire), who have no appreciable art talent, and Julia Tern (Marilyn Taylerson), who is very talented but who, despite Masterson’s fascination with her, remains detached and distant.

In contrast, the bubbly and uncomplicated Ianthe has no objections whatsoever to being kissed in the woods on an outdoor sketching walk (observed and passed by with silent amusement by Julia), but Masterson’s more involved relationship is with Kate, who is in love with him and is not averse to being kissed in the cloakroom after class, but whose attitudes, beliefs and morals are directly opposite to those of Masterson.

For an episode of only 46 minutes, ‘Craven Arms’ covers an amazing amount of ground, most of it in relation to Masterson and Kate. he is against marrioage, against caging, wants to be free to do what he wants, which is to get Kate into bed, which she is happy to promise to do just as soon as they are married, but ntil then her virtue is unassailable.

In a sense, it’s a simple story: which one will get their way? But the episode’s gift is to make the shifting relationship more complex than just that. Julia, initially, produces a head-sketch of Masterson that makes him appear to be noble and god-like to an extent that embarrasses him, yet when she comes to tell him she is leaving to go to London and Art School, she also makes plain her absolute indifference to him.

Ianthe, after getting pissed off at the attentions Masterson pays to her older sister, forgives him and the show implies that she enjoys a roll in the hay with him (there is a shortage of young men around after the slaughter of the trenches).

But Kate is the resistor, and this produces some odd effects. Both the original story and the tv adaptation were written in more male-dominated times than our own, so the episode gives Masterson free reign to spout his childish demands to do what he wants (i.e., remove Kate’s blouse and bloomers), and more than ample space to whine that she won’t let him get his end away.

In this, he comes over exceedingly weak and decidedly petulant, forever complaining and insulting her for the crime of not dropping them.

I’m afraid this leads to a somewhat confusing ending. Kate goes away for several months. Masterson sends her a final insulting letter ending things permanently, to which she replies with ignorance of several of the things he’s accused her of. Then, months later, they meet again, at a museum of Kate’s choice where Masterson immeditely throws a fit about everything being dead (no comment!) and reciotes her the opening of a play he once started which is no more than a defence of his position, whilst prtomoting his weakness.

She’s come back to make things up to him, he might just get her lily-white body if we understand things rightly, but during this recitation her face goes steadily sadder and disapproving. Only then he rushes her out, wants to buy her a present, a ring, an engagement ring, freeze-frame on his laughing face. I ewonder if there’s a book of Coppard’s short stories in the Library.

Until that point, I was utterly absorbed. The writing was good, the filming excellent, the direction unobtrusive and the cast perfect. It didn’t hurt that all three woman, even in full court blouses, ankle length dresses and hats and coats were evidently lovely, but the last thirty seconds took an unexpected and confusing turn.

I’ll probably mix and match series so don’t necessarily expect more Country Matters next Sunday, when we’ll be back in the proper slot. But the series is what memory and reputation made of it, and I shall enjoy my next visit to the country.

Lou Grant: s05 e08 – Friends


The fair Noelle

This episode started very fuzzily, as if it didn’t really know what it was or how to introduce its story, but once it had started to roll, it became increasingly powerful and, for its two principal characters, painful.

The two principals were Joe Rossi and Art Donovan, each at the centre of a separate syory, with no overlap, each of which in their differing manners revolved upon the subject of friendship.

We were introduced first to Rossi, early morning jogging with his old cleege friend – practically his only friend – Burton Cary (Larry Breeding). Cary’s a former lawyer turned politician, runing for election as County Supervisor. Cary’s a good guy, caring, thoughtful, progressive, on the right side of all the issues. Joe respects Cary’s principles as well as liking him: his election will be A Good Thing especially as his opponent, Ralph Shillitoe (Paul Kent) is a right wing creep on everything.

As a friend, Joe disqualifies himself from reporting on Cary’s campaign. As a friend, he’s close to the campaign, meeting and asking out Cary’s junior aide, Noelle Kilmer (Jennifer Holmes). But the fair Noelle is already seeing someone from the Sheriff’s Depertment, though she hopes she and Joe can still be friends.

We can see what’s coming in this story, even if we don’t know what form it will take.

Meantime, Art is struggling with his twin roles of Assistant City Editor and Environmental Editor, especially as Charlie Hume is pressurising him to get a piece on Acid Rain ready for Sunday. At the same time, columnist Jerry Hollister (Logan Ramsey) is hunting round for a piece for his next column. Art gives him a theme that puts the two in opposition. When Art needs a clip when he’s on deadline, Hollister has it and won’t give it up so Art goes and gets it.

Next thing is, Hollister arrives with an arm in a sling, claiming Art hit him, shoved him, sprained his wrist and gave him a bad time, causing his blood pressure to shoot through the roof. He’s going to sue Art Donovan – and the Trib.

It’s a try-on, a nuisance suit. Mrs Pynchon won’t wear it for a moment, sue and be damned. But in the meantime, Art is to be removed – temporarily, of course – as Environmental Editor. A gesture, a sop, a bone. And a kick in the teeth for Art who has put so much into building up the Trib’s environmental coverage.

Art’s version of the story was that he grabbed Hollister by the collar, saw the clip he needed and let Hollister go. But no-one else was there, though Mrs Pynchon, passing by, heard raised voices and threats. Which one is telling the truth? No-one knows. No-one will know. But Art is punished. And what’s more he learns the object lesson that no-one, not one of his friends, believes his story. Everybody thinks he could have done it.

Friendship, eh?

But back at Joe’s story, Cary’s campaign hits a big stroke of luck as Shillitoe, an ex-Disc Jockey, is arrested for poseession of cocaine. And then the chargesare dropped on the tecnnicality of an illegal Search by the Sheriff’s Department.

Who hate Shillitoe because he wants to cut their budget. Who’ve recently seized a shipment of cocaine cut with baby laxative. To the exact formula as the 7 oz. found at Shillitoe’s home. Which is 7 oz. light. Which was found there by the officer going out with the fair Noelle. An officer under investigation. And he hasn’t got the brains and she’s too junior. And she’ll do anything to see Cary elected.

So Joe confronts Cary on their morning job, and he admits to knowing about it. It’s Politics. You’ve got to play hardball in the real world. After all, it won’t come out if Joe acts as a friend instead of a reporter. Cary’s his closest friend.

It’s an awful decision to have to take but Joe takes it, weighing up the good that Cary can and will do against the good he has to be if he’s to be granted the powers of a County Supervisor. He gives the story to Tyler to write up. And invites Art to jog with him the next morning…

The Sunday Watch


Originally, the Film 2018/9/20 series was a way of getting myself to watch all the film DVDs I owned, and so I have. It seems fitting that I should press on myself a similar exercise to continue this extremely pleasant Sunday routine.

I have several TV series in boxsets, things like Homicide – Life on the Street, Hill Street Blues, The West Wing, of course The Big Bang Theory. All of these were long-running affairs that, if treated like Person of Interest, would take years for me to work through.

The fun of the Film series was that it gave me something different every week. And with two weekly TV series slots already, and successor series ready to take up those times when they become available, I’m not anxious to commit myself to a third long-term trawl.

But I don’t just have long-run box sets. There are series buried in storage crates that didn’t run that long, manageable programmes that I love. Now’s the time to dig these out and re-acquaint myself with them.

As these episodes don’t add up to the length of a film, I’m planning to watch more than one: two at a time, say, for drama series, three for sitcoms.

I hope we can continue to enjoy Sunday mornings for a while yet.

Lou Grant: s05 e07 – Drifters


From the title, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this episode. What I got was unexpected but also astonishingly good. This was down to a willingness to forget practically all the structure of the series and its characters – Mrs Pynchon doesn’t appear, Billie only appears fifteen minutes in, Rossi has two very short cameos – in favour of letting an extraordinary guest star dominate the episode and run you through every emotion under the sun, including one very tough-minded and shocking incident just before the end.

That guest was W.K. Stratton, as Scott Hume, Charlie’s nephew. He was unknown to me but when I checked his record in imdb, it turns out he’s been in lots of series I’ve watched, including Hill Street Blues, Tales of the Gold Monkey and Quantum Leap. Stratton is tall and sort of shapeless with, in this episode, a nondescript pudding bowl haircut. Scott Hume is what we would once have called ‘a troubled young man’: Stratton told us that just by standing there in the City Room.

Scott’s thirty. He suffers from depression and anxiety. He’s seeing psychiatrists, intermittently, on mood-elevating medication that he rejects taking. From the first moment he appears, without any extravagance in action or words, he projects an absence, a separation from the world.

Scott has no job. He has no abilities. He is unable to focus on anything for long. He has unrealistic expectations, like being a writer, like the never-seen Chrissy loving him when she’s married with two children. Scott can’t cope with it, with anything.

Charlie knows of Scott’s background, up to and including the ‘nervous breakdown’ of two years previously. For much of the episode he internally blames his older brother Steve (James Callahan) for Scott’s state, even as he concedes his own issues with son Tommy, whose choice of a different life in season 1 is only alluded to. Charlie himself will learn, from the psychiatrist, Dr Sorensen (Tom Akins) that he cannot blame himself for Tommy any more than he can credit himself – not that he does – for Joannie being terrific, and that a parent’s self-blame can be a burden to the child as well.

This is to prepare us for the finale. But before we come to that astonishing moment, I’ll reference the completely opposite B story that, despite being comic and lightweight and altogether out of proportion, was strangely complementary. It kept the paper bubbling in the background as Billie is assigned the story of Ziggy the bear who escaped from a zoo and stayed on the loose for days until the Trib’s hired tracker brought him in. Yes, no comparison, but it allowed several very funny lines along the way, and acted as a counterpoint to the completely non-humourous story of Scott. Lou, of course, straddles both stories, encouraging Billie whilst getting steadily more peeved with Charlie for putting the running of the paper second to his nephew and his bother.

As led into the ending. Scott, panicked, deluded in his belief Chrissy would set it all right, unable to cope with stress, with pressure, with living, ends up on Chrissy’s porch in the middle of the night, shivering in a t-shirt, outwardly courteous in not wanting to disturb her at that hour, but nonetheless afraid of and unable to handle another failure.

Charlie and Steve arrive, and the latter goes to sit with his ruination of a son, and in aquiet, level voice he tells Scott that they have both been looking for a magic wand, one thing to fix it all, Scott with his imagined Chrissy, Steve some miracle cure for his son that will put everything right. It will not happen. and Steve tells Scott that there will always be a room for him at home, no conditions, but unless Scott is doing thebest he can to help himself, there will be nothing between father and son and they will be strangers. Steve has decided that he can do no more and that in order to save himself he must abandon Scott. Charlie will drive him to the airport now.

It’s hard, it could even be stigmatised as ‘tough love’, but it is honest and without the sentimentality that I would usually expect from Lou Grant. The oly note of hope the episode allows, and Stratton’s portrayal has killed even this but we need a glimmer of sunlight, is that Scott asks if he could be taken to Dr Sorenson on the way.

A most extraordinary episode, inexplicably rated below the average on imdb. Forty years later, I’m still arguing with the crowd. Wouldn’t have it any other way.

Person of Interest: s05 e07 – QSO


Paranoia strikes deep

Undertones becoming overtones.

We are now at the midpoint of the final season and everything is now beginning to streamline towards the end. But it’s a streamlining that has plenty of jagged edges, and the overall tone is one of despair, highlighted in the very first scene in a casual, throwaway line.

Fusco has survived. He’s plenty banged about and he’s walking like Finch, but the tough little fireplug is intact. Physically. But Fusco has come to a turning point. He’s a cop, and he’s now a very good one, which means that when faced with the mystery of the missing persons, the bodies in the tunnel now irretrievable, he is enraged by the fact that his ‘partners’ – Reese, Finch and Root (who has come to visit him, dresed in NYPD Blue) – know what this is about and will not enlighten him. Fusco is on the edge. The others are ‘protecting’ him, by keeping him in the dark all along. Root has come with an exit strategy, a complete disappear-without-trace package of passports and ID cards. But Fusco has his pride, and his duty, and his determination to find out: he doesn’t need protection. He needs to be trusted, respected, and before the episode is out he will quit for the lack of these things, hand back his phone. Fusco is out.

But before we get there, we see that Reese and Finch are outside his room, watching over him, standing guard. Everyone in one place, our whole army.

Root is still desperate to find Shaw. We see her arguing with the Machine, burning through identities on an unfathomable trail. We see Shaw, hollow-eyed and half-somnolent, but resisting, resisting, always resisting. Root’s latest identty is Rose Franklin, radio producer, working with all-night talk radio host Max Greene on ‘Mysterious Transmissions’. Max is a conspircy theorist of great range and paranoia who has discovered a secret code, seemingly interference but too organied, broadcast on radio waves. ‘Rose’ knows who, or rather what, is behind it but Max is groping towards it.

And so Max is in danger, as is his regular, Warren Franco, ex-Forces cryptographer cracking the code. Both are targets.

As is a brilliant female biologist. Shaw’s been taken on another ‘field trip’, this time by Greer’s lieutenant, the smug smartarse Lambert. Out into the open, once more grinding on about the good Samaritan does, describing the dominos long years before they’re even placed, let alone ready to tumble. She’s trying to reintroduce the phylocene. In fifteen years time she will succeed. It will disrupt the environment, cause ecological disaster, cause thousands of deaths. Unless she is stopped now.

Lambert produces a gun. The bored Shaw, still an implacable will to resist, takes it, shoots the doctor and returns it. Anything to get to the end of this simulation quicker. Only it’s not a simulation. Shaw’s sense of reality is starting to blur.

And Samaritan is going all Outer Limits at the radio station. Everything’s locked down, cut-off. A synthesized artificial conversation is being broadcast to set up a mutual suicide pact between the already-dead Warren and Max so that when Samaritan’s operatives ariive to kill him… Root tries to get both of them out of the building but then realises: the signals Max has discovered are her way to talk to Shaw, give her reassurance. The message gets through.

And Root has a greater strategy: she offers herself to Samaritan. In exchange for Max being allowed to go free, unharmed, she will accept capture and being taken to Shaw. Samaritan is on the point of agreeing when the connection is cut – by Reese. To Root’s fury, they can escape.

But Max insists on going back, resuming his chair. He promises to stay mum on the code, to save his life, but instead he exercises free will and breaks that promise. An interference code beeps.Brittany, the pretty receptionist, writes something down. She takes Max a cup of coffee. He has a ‘heart attack’ live on air.

Finch is concerned. The Machine’s scheme has achieved its primary purpose, to contact Shaw, at the expense of sacrificing a Number. A Number who exercised free will. Finch sees only the death, the moral attrition. He overlooks that what he and everyone beside him, which is now reduced, in effect, to John Reese, is free will.

Root sees it more clearly. Max wasn’t the only Number she tackled this episode. There was Vassily, a Russian diplomat, who now owes her a favour. Like inviting her to his homeland, arranging for her to visit a Nature Park. Not far from a Missile Silo.

From here to the end is now only six weeks.

Lou Grant: s05 e06 – Double-Cross


For a show that can usually be summed up as a socially-aware drama, this latest episode was far from the usual fare. It was a detective story, not a murder mystery, but a convoluted affair full of contradictory stances and plot twists, and the heaping of layer upon layer until everything reached an emotionally satisfactory conclusion.

The episode began obliquely, with an extended entree of old photos of old California leading into Mrs Pynchon and the Historical Society and its in-house historian, Dr Michael Shepherd (Nigel Bullard). Millionaire Alex Matheson (Linwood McCarthy), a Board member, has just demolished a family-owned building against the Society’s opposition. Rather than kick him off the board, Mrs Pynchon persuades him to have opened the Time Capsule buried in the building’s cornerstone and donate its contents to the City. Lou assigns Billie to cover it.

At first bored, then enthused, Billie is the investigator, with Shepherd as her main source of background. It’s done unobtruively, but Shepherd is always there to provide new information when Billie hits a brick wall, which she does frequently: from the moment the Time Capsule, the Matheson family immediately have a concern that comes over as shady. What secret are they concealing?

The concern is the Pasteur Cross, a supposedly beautiful, indeed dazzling, gold cross encrusted with diamonds, belonging to the Pasteur family and donated by the Mathesons. Which comes out looking grey and green and unimpressive. Is it a fake? The bogus expert hired by Matheson says not, in a scientically intricate explanation that’s as much fictional as any of The Flash’s stunts cooked by by John broome and Julius Schwartz. But why?

We follow the steps as they fall into place. Shepherd helpfully illuminates California’s history, its succession of rulers and peoples. There was a feud between the two halves of the Matheson family a hundred years ago that, despite the public picture, is as real today as it ever was. The object is the Pasteur Cross, which is not only a fantastically valuable object but which is believed to have healing powers, which Matheson’s aged and ancient father needs.

The rich Matheson’s have the Cross. The unrich Mathesons want it and are searching for an opportunity to steal it. Both sides present their case for their ownership. The irony is that there is a true owner, and not a Matheson.

But first the levels multiply. Old Mr Matheson has a live in nurse, Mrs Barbara Dupree (Lynne Thigpen). Why, when the Doctor is called in, does she spirit the Cross into his medical bag, which is snatched from his car by a ski-masked kid presumably out for drugs?

The Cross is marked with the letter P for Pasteur. It’s the family brand, a stylised P with a tail to it, not the plain capital P of the fake. In fact it looks like the top of a shepherd’s crook. “I am so dumb!” Billie shouts. Shepherd’s crook. The Pasteurs were sheep farmers. What does Pasteur mean in English? Yes, right, it means Shepherd. Dr Michael Shepherd. Because the Pasteur Cross never belonged to the Mathesons in the first place. It was stolen and now it’s been taken back. With the help of Michael’s married sister, Barbara.

There’s still an ending. A new Time Capsule is being prepared, full of wonderfully witty things conttributed by the people. And a donation by Dr Michael Shepherd, after explaining the history of the Cross and the Matheson family’s olden days thievery, and paying tribute to his parents and sister, a donation of the Pasteur Cross.

No-one understands what Michael is doing, least of all Billie. He’s put the Cross back into the Matheson’s hands, in their building. Only to Margaret Pynchon does he complete the explanation, diverting her to a nearby Catholic Church. There is a gold cross around the neck of the statue of the Madonna and Child. This is the real Pasteur Cross: another fake is in the Time Capsule. Shepherd can’t keep it, that would be illegal. Instead, from his family, he has genuinely donated it to the City, to a place of public inspection.

And the closing image is of a little girl, maybe five or so, kneeling at the altar, looking at the Madonna, making the sign of the Cross and ending it by blowing a kiss, in sheer joy. I’m not religious, but moments like that make me wish…

One final point. I’ve commented very often over the last almost-two years I’ve been watching Lou Grant about storylines being merely McGuffins to showcase the personal conflicts of the cast. It’s a rare and welcome contrast to see the cast as merely McGuffins for the story…

Person of Interest: s05 e06 – A More Perfect Union


The moment before…

Take a line from the American Constitution, add in a wedding (Ahhh), cross-pollinate it with both a seduction and the groundwork for breaking a relationship, and what we have is an episode that tries to ofer itself as a Number of the Week but which also embodies the fragmentation of Person of Interest‘s primary goals.

The wedding is that of heiress Phoebe Turner and underpaid Public Defender Will O’Brien. Finch suspects someone, probably Phoebe’s racehorse owner father Kent, doesn’t want to see Will come into a share of the Turner fortune, so he contrives, in an amusing manner, to get both himself and ‘Detective Riley’ invited to the wedding to ensure the marriage goes ahead. Root, who’s feeling lonely, gatecrashes as a supposed caterer.

The seduction is Sameen Shaw. Her rejection of the simulation has now reached over 7,000 iterations and the smooth, urbane, arrogant and utterly despicable John Greer is finally starting to realise that he’s getting nowhere. So he releases Shaw for a field trip, into the real New York. He shows her men making deals, corrupt deals that will enrich themselves but which will lead to deaths on a far larger scale than the individual lives the Machine plans to save.

And the broken relationship is Detective Lionel Fusco. Fusco’s gotten involved with the missing persons angle after last week’s disappearance of Krupa Naik. Root, via the Machine, gives him an angle, Howard Carpenter (Russell G. Jones), dispenser of permits, on the take to see these go to construction companies owned by the mob. Howard has received a permit request, no. 44802, without a payment. He’s having a meeting in the Park with Bruce Moran (James Le Gros) about the payment. But it’s not one of the Five Familes’ companies.

And so we go towards our endings. The Victim at the wedding is not Phoebe or Will, nor even her father Kent, whose house is surrounded by protesters over his alleged dioping of his horses. The doping is real but it’s not Kent but his elder daughter Karen and the victin is family photographer Maggie (Purva Bedi), who accidentally snapped Karen in the act. Reese and Root save the day.

Sameen remains resistant to this softshoe shufflle of an approach, to Greer trying to get her to see Samaritan as the good guy. But she doesn’t try to escape And then there’s a shock ending, a demonstration of the outcome from not stopping Chechen militants from bombing the Russian Consulate; a hyper-rapid escalation to all-out War and a nuclear weapon strike on NYC. Because this too is a stimulation, one in which Shaw hasn’t died by her own hand.

And Fusco, patient, persistent Fusco who’s had Bruce plant in his head the idea that his loyatly might be misplaced if it’s given to two people who have never told him the truth, good cop Fusco traces Permit 44802 to the demolition of an underground tunnel. Where he finds dead bodies, laid out in a row like the photographs on his pin board. Carpenter’s there. So too is Krupa Naik. But the first one he sees is Bruce Moran. And then the demolition starts, with Fusco still inside.

One last scene, back at the Wedding. All’s gone well, the day’s an idyll, Karen hasn’t spoilt it. Root asks Harold to dance. She tells him she knows his experiment with the baby AIs is not going well, that the Machine is losing heavily. Once again she urges him to make the Machine open, give it the tools it needs to survive. Once again he is cautious, fearful of how having such a Machine might corrupt him, them.

Three faces at a table, relaxing with fine bourbon, enjoying a wedding. Three faces fallen in anticipation of the crash that is to come. There is no room in the world any more. Everything has gone wrong. And seven weeks to put it right.

Lou Grant: s05 e05 – Risk


Read on

It’s tempting to be cautious, given that we’re not yet quite a quarter of the way through the final season, but on the strength of four strong episodes out of five, I’m going to say that Lou Grant is back to form after a dismal Fourth season.

That’s not to say that everything about the latest episode was brilliant. There were three strands, all related to the notion in the episode title, though the third of these hardly qualified as a story, and was evidently something to keep Billie Newman from twiddling her hands throughout the episode.

The episode began with Mike Schrader (Kario Salem), a Trib photographer who isn’t Animal, balking at an assignment because it involved flying in a helicopter. This didn’t go down so well with Lou, and Art Donovan tries to advise him about how you can’t do that, can’t pick and choose assigments on whether you perceive risk of some kind.

Mike is not amenable to advice (he ain’t going nowhere) and challenges him on hypocrisy. Art, who has led a risk-averse life following a childhood under his reckless Navy father, is trying to get out from behind his desk more, and is doing a feature on California’s Mountain Search and Rescue volunteers, but has decided that his story doesn’t need him to rapelle out of a helicopter to be complete.

Art doesn’t see the contradiction then, but it gets beneath his smooth surface and, on the second assignment, he rapelles – and breaks his ankle. Unfortunately, that means he blows a major story for the Trib because he was the man near the scene and now can’t get to the scene. This does not go down well with Lou, who won’t let up when they discuss the need to test themselves.

We’ll sideslip to Billie’s meagre contribution this week, confined to the newsroom, covering for Donovan and the object of the eager, naive and bumbling attentions of junior reporter Lance Reineke (Lance Guest). Lance is training himself to become the first reporter in space, on the NASA shuttle. He bows out because of an inner ear condition. That’s the ‘C’ story, of interest only because of the puzzling moment when she tries to put him off by telling him she’s ‘seeing someone’ and not that she’s married…

But these are the back-up show. The lead story and rightly so involves Joe Rossi, but most of all it involves a return appearance from Sharon McNeill (Lynne Moody), she who was at the centre of the season 4 episode, ‘Rape’. Rossi is put on the track of a possible child pornography story by a school teacher. The source is the custodian, who wired a house for extra electric to accommodate¬† lights and cameras. He’s black, he demands a black reporter be involved, hence Sharon. He gets Confidentiality.

He will only take Sharon to the house. To get the story from a mother who’s an ex-porn star herself and talks bland and blase about the whole, chilling thing, Sharon promises her Confidentiality. The story is brilliant, it creates a massive stir, and a large part of that stir is the urgent desire to rescue a 9 year old girl from that life. Who wouldn’t want that to happen?

But Sharon promised Confidentiality. The Trib sides with her, though Lou, Charlie, even Mrs Pynchon question Sharon’s judgement in offering that at all. The Police lean on her, but Sharon will not concede. Some heavy stuff is laid on her, kept only from being self-righteous by the seriousness of the issue. Sharon cannot find the support she needs, not even from Rossi, who is backing her to the hilt but still not offering a total, blanket approbation.

In the end, details from Sharon’s story enable the teachers to identify little Connie. The Police raid, but the house is empty, everyone moved on, out of reach, out of rescue. A hard ending.

Though Sharon now receives more open support, she’s still in distress. Rossi offers dinner, a simple dinner. It might have been many things but Lynne Moody didn’t appear again, which was a shame because she would have been a good addition to the cast. And the two episodes she starred in were strong, thoughtful and powerful.

 

 

Person of Interest: s05 e05 – ShotSeeker


How many more ways can you describe an episode of Person of Interest as being brilliant?

We’re already nearly halfway through the season, nearly halfway to the ultimate fallout. It seemed strange that with so little time left the programme should still be concerning itself with a Number of the Week that seemed to be detached from everything. But sound specialist Ethan Garvin (Will Manning) was far from detached from our primary concern, and before the day was out we were even more deeply entangled, and for those who have been here before there was a large thread of irony, woven scarlet. I’ll refer to it but I won’t spoil it.

So, Garvin. Garvin works for ShotSeeker, a private company running a surveillance programme used by NYPD. Aural transmitters cover the city, looking for gunfire, seiving out the false positives: firecrackers, car backfires etc. Garvin has remarkably sharp ears, was born that way. He is the resident genius on determining what is what, better even than the software. With which he is at odds over Krupa Naik.

ShotSeeker says that it was firecrackers that went off in Ms Naik’s apartment at 2.00am, Garvin says it was gunshots. Krupa is missing. It’s personal to Garvin because, even though he didn’t like her, they were at school together. She’s not just a name. But Garvin’s going to get himself killed if he pursues this one. Why? Because, in Greer’s words from the newly-mixed opening monologue, he’s standing in the way.

There are two other stories going on. These are not B and C stories, they are integral to the developing narrative. Bruce Moran, Carl Elias’s accountant and business manager and the sole remaining Musketeer of the three friends, has come up from underground, threatening Fusco’s kid. He wants answers, the truth, about what happened when Elias and Dominick were assassinated. and he wants revenge.

Mr Reese steps in to shut down the threat but Mr Moran is adamant. He intervenes to take control of Reese’s person, extracting him from the pursuit of Krupa Naik’s fate, causing the loyal Fusco to call out an APB and full NYPD response to the disappearance of one of their own.

And there’s dissension and trial going on down in the subway. Finch has run the rogue programme from the Samaritan coding, in a Faraday Cage. He is keeping Root out of things. He has set up a miniature Machine in a second laptop, baby AIs at play. All to pit the two against each other, for the Machine to find the flaw in Samaritan that can be exploited in the real world to destroy it.

What everyone is after in the case of Krupa Naik is a formula, a code for freeze-drying food to preserve it for starving people for two extra years. She offered it to a non-profit global charity, refusing a fabulous sale to a big company, Harvesta (think Monsanto). At the same time those shots were fired in Krupa’s apartment, the file was hacked by Harvesta’s ruthless and self-entitled CEO. Everything begins to merge.

Krupa’s colleague and friend, Mary Mulhall (Julie Cavaliere) has a hard drive, for which she is attacked and killed. Root goes to Mary’s apartment where she finds the hard drive. She also finds the creepy Jeff Blackwell (Josh Close) ransacking the place. The two satnd-off, face to face, Root with a un, Blackwell with what looks like some kind of fencing sword. Root gets away. She and Finch have Krupa’s programme.

But everything, everything, except Bruce, is a Samaritan operation. The hacking, the encryption, the false trail to Harvesta. For some reason, Samaritan does not want Krupa’s code to be released. Over Finch’s concerns as to what problems it might cause, he and Root send it out. Garvin ceases to be a threat, his life is secured.

But Detective Fusco might now be targetted as a Disruptive. Fusco isn’t being told everything, he never has been. For all his faithfulness and loyalty, he remains on the outside, untrusted. No-one has found the answer aout Krupa Naik. She’s still a Missing Person. Homicides are down but suicides are up. So too are Missing Persons. Fusco is a cop. Something is going on. He’s going to get to the bottom of it.

And John Reese tells Bruce Moran the truth, or rather shows him. Giancarlo Esposito’s name was excluded from the credits to preserve the surprise but Carl Elias is still alive, rescued from the shooting by Fusco, Finch and Reese, slowly recovering and kept hidden in the Safe House. Elias knows enough now to know his time, the time of the men like himself, Anthony and Bruce, is over. They have an enemy that cannot be defeated: go back underground and stay there until you die, he counsels Bruce, meaning it. But Bruce won’t listen. He knows Carl is alive, but he will still seek revenge on their enemies, even if Samaritan can’t be beaten.

Can’t be beaten? The Machine is searching for away to beat Samaritan, locked in their playground fight. Root wants to change the Machine’s coding, teach it how to push back but Finch demurs. But the Machine has fought over ten billion simulations. And lost every single one. Some wars cannot be won. This is one of them.

There are eight episodes left.

These are not good numbers