Person of Interest: s03 e07 – The Perfect Twist

The Biter Bit

If you did this episode as a pure procedural, a complete one-off, it would still be a brilliant example of network thriller television, although the perfect twist that seals it off might have been a little easier to foresee. But build it into the developing arc of former-Detective Joss Carter’s unbending determination to finally bring down HR, garnished with brief scenes at first and last foreboding the future that the imprisoned Root knows is coming and that Harold Finch is obdurately trying to deflect, and you have a thing of beauty and a joy forever and no mistake.

The first touch was Finch delivering breakfast to Miss Groves in her Faraday Cage, protected as always by John Reese’s presence, leaving Root little option but to sting him over the fact that the Machine talks to her, but not to Harold. “But Mommy still loves the both of us,” she summarises.

At the end, when he brings the promised extra books to read, she’s less sweet, challenging him over the coming future, a threat we all of us anticipate in our varying manners.

In between, we have the story of Hayden Price, hypnotherapist, played by Aaron Stott, Mad Men‘s Ken Cosgrove. Hayden is the Number and it doesn’t take long to determine why: he’s a crook. A conman, to be specific, soaking his patients and anyone he comes into contact with, for everything he can get out of them, thanks to questions that elicit private information, like mother’s maiden names, pet’s names, streets where they live, the sort of things that unlock bank accounts and the like.

In short, Haydenn rips off everyone,  everyone that is except Natalie Boal (Jennifer Ferrin), the woman he loves, honestly and truly.

Hayden’s created a bit of a problem for himself. He’s been setting up Swedish antiques dealer Sven Vanger for a complicated but massively lucrative scam. The Swede is money-laundering, and cleaning it by buying fake auction items for seriously top dollar put up by his clients, who get clean cash for dirty. Unfortunately for Hayden, the money belongs to HR. Doubly unfortunately for everyone in question, Hayden’s tricked the Swede into paying $4.4M for a baseball signed by the New York Yankees, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig that’s actually worth $4.4M, and which the Swede sells to a street kid for $5.

That  kinda gets HR’s back up, to the extent that Alonzo Quinn, who’s previously taken the trouble to meet with Officer Carter over her suspicions about his godson’s death, kicks off at Officer Simmons. And when Simmons is kicked, he kicks downward, at Detective Terney and rookie Officer Laskey in particular. Hayden will be persuaded to return the ball – in return for the innocent Natalie.

So Hayden turns up. Terney’s going to take him in, get the ball authenticated and then kill him, and as soon as it’s done, Laskey’s going to kill Natalie anyway.

But the forces of righteousness are on hand to avert such an outcome. Carter and Shah knock out Laskey (with his eager cooperation counting for nothing in terms of the severity of Carter’s punch) whilst Reese and Fusco intervene to rescue hayden, just when he and Terney are reverbrating with shock at the discovery that the real ball is no such thing, not if Babe Ruth’s signature is in fibre-tip pen. Hayden’s been scammed by a superior scammer – Natalie. why steal a million dollar item when you can get your boyfriend to do it for you? Pity: he did love her, but she didn’t love him.

It’s a crushing defeat for HR, and Simmons wants Laskey. He send Terney after himn and Terney finds the rookie. With Carter, handing over photos of everyone Simmons has met today. Terney pulls his gun but so does Carter. it’s a stand-off. Until Laskey tries to pull his. To Carter’s horror, Terney shoots Laskey, killing him instantly. Carter shoots Terney, fatally. He’s got maybe a minute. He can be a stand-up guy at the last, he can point out HR’s head. A bloody hand smears one photo before Terney expires. Carter looks at it in shock. She recognises Alonzo Quinn…

Person of Interest: s03 e06 – Mors Praematura

The new team

Now this is the sort of thing I’m watching Person of Interest for. There are no less than three separate stories going on here, intercutting smoothly: spare, taut scenes that deliver minimum information each time but which do not leave the viewer flailing for solid ground on which to stand, each of which are, ultimately, merely way-stations en route to the slow-building greater concerns the series has yet to unfold. Oh, and there’s the odd few dry as a desert jokes along the way.

After last week’s Russian title, we have a Latin one, ‘Mors Praematura’ meaning Premature Death, the reason for which comes only late in the episode and which means something other than the one you might assume. There are two missions to begin with: Finch is in the field, with Bear, with the latest Number, Timothy Sloan (a splendid role for guest Kirk Acevedo), an Estate Investigator whose job is to find heirs to those who die apparently without family.

Sloan is, illicitly, investigating the death of hacker Jason Greenfield, two weeks previously, from a heroin overdose. Greenfield is family, Sloan’s foster-brother since his addict parents burned themselves to death when he was 14: he would never touch drugs.

Reese, on the other hand, has a mission closer to home. Shaw hasn’t checked in for far too long: is she ok? Now you, me and the gatepost know she’s been tasered, drugged and kidnapped by Root, and we’re about to see Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker working together for the first time, and it’s more fun than a barrelful of monkeys. Root has a mission from the Machine, for which she needs Shaw’s help, that turns out to also be to save someone’s life: Jason Greenfield’s to be precise. Jason isn’t actually dead. Not just yet, that is.

These two lines operate in completely different manners. Finch and Sloan develop their investigation along logical lines, expanding their understanding, whereas Root is happily accepting all manner of unrelated instructions, that come together gloriously in a freewheeling climax in which both stories collide.

The third strand features Carter and her unwilling sidekick, the HR rookie, Mike Laskey. Laskey’s collecting protection money from this storeowner he’s known all his life. But Laskey has a very big lesson to learn, about the real nature of HR, and what he’s in. The storeowner’s skimming, Simmons confronts him and shoots him, and Laskey’s punishment is to bury the body. Laskey’s really Russian, one of twelve filtered into the Police: instant loyalty and cementing closer ties with the Russian mafia.

Whilst Root builds an ambush to an as yet unseen plan, Finch and Sloan discover that Jason was using his hacking skills for a mysterious group that we will learn is named Vigilance. This is Peter Collier’s mob, the privacy crusaders. Jason ratted them out to the CIA in exchange for witness protection, only to find himself betrayed to indefinite interrogation, where he meets Ms Samantha Groves, brought in by Agent Dearborn, who looks incredibly like Sarah Shahi.

Vigilance plan to intercept and kill Jason. Since he’s been digging into Jason’s death, they’ll also kill his foster brother, Sloan. Reese, heading one way, crosses paths with Shaw, heading the other, whilst Root spirits Jason away to a new identity somewhere in paradise. Why does theMachine want to save an expert hacker? That’s a very good question.

Ultimately, Shaw saves Root from execution by Vigilance, although that’s only so she can sock her one, whilst Collier forces Reese to choose between catching him or saving Sloan: no contest.

Root’s fate, for the moment, is imprisonment at the Library, in a steel-caged room that’s constructed to be a Faraday Cage, i.e., no electronic communication can get in or out, not even the Machine. She warns Finch that the Machine will be angry that he’s interfering with ‘her’ plans. Finch counters by asking if Root is sure she isn’t where the Machine wants her to be? We eagerly look forward to the next episode, for more questions, and maybe even some answers…


Person of Interest: s03 e05 – PA3ᴦOBOP (Razgovor)

Smart Kid

Now this: this is what I have been waiting for since season 3 started.

It is a Number of the Week, but in the series’ greatest fashion, it’s woven inextricably into the wider arcs, and even allowed to permeate the explosive finale, which must lead inexorably into deeper waters.

But first a brief word about the title. Please excuse the imbalanced cyrillic version that’s the official title, I haven’t got a larger size version of that upside-down L on this laptop. As for Razgovor, I have it on reliable authority that it means Conversation or Dialogue, of which there was much in this episode.

We began with one of those increasingly brilliant mini-scenes saving an unrelated Number, a driver delivering a liver required for a transplant, about to see it hi-jacked for a mobster until Shaw, rising with him, shoots down the crook and walks off, brushing off his grateful thanks. Finch gently suggests that her bedside manner could do with brushing up.

Straightway, we’re put on notice that Shaw’s emotionless is going to be put to the test by our real Number, Genrika Zhirova, or Gen, played to perfection by ten-year old Danielle Kotch as a smart-arse kid, a legal immigrant Russian girl planning a career as an international spy, who has been bugging her apartment building for evidence to get the drugs dealers busted, and who has caught something a hell of a lot bigger than that.

It’s a new drug, a synthetic based heavily on the heavily toxic potassium permanganate, and it’s being distributed by the Yogarov gang and our old friened Peter, but it’s patriotically synthesized in this country on a fuck-the-Columbians basis by H.R.

That’s H.R., meaning we get Simmons, and Terney and young Laskey in the story, and we get Joss Carter trailing everyone because this time, when H.R. comes down, all of it goes down, right to the top. Finch and Reese are aware of her ‘side-project’, and willing to help, but Joss is keeping her cards very close to her impressive chest. She’s going to take full revenge for the death of Cal Beecher.

So Joss and John get to work together on this case, coming at it from both ends, but the fun part is Shaw, who is charged with saving Gen and who, despite having no facilities whatsoever for dealing with kids and indeed saying she hates them, winds up the one who has to protect her, and who, despite a serious wound, sticks determinedly to her role, even if it means trading Gen’s incriminating tapes to H.R. to get her back.

Shaw’s running alone, she’s running wild, so she doesn’t know that even Carter has agreed the trade. We have, for the first time this season, a return to flashbacks, and these are of Shaw, in 1993, when she like Gen was ten years old. There’s been a car crash, Shaw’s Dad is dead, she’s trapped and freed and has to be told about her loss, but though she processes it, she doesn’t feel it. One of the paramedics will say there’s something wrong with that little girl, but that’s too simplistic. Shaw will herself tell Gen, with patient resignation, that she doesn’t feel things – except anger, of course – but this automaton that Gen has prodded to check if she’s a robot is nothing like so simple as this episode is trying to tease us into believing, and there will be another summation near the end.

In the meantime, H.R. set up to trap Reese, which keads only to a knock-down drag-out fight between the Man in the Suit and H.R.’s second-in-command. It’s smart, tough, spare, but it’s also a test of strength. Reese could bring Simmons down: after all, he wins the fight. But he lets him go. John Reese understands need, the need to atone, and he respects avenging angels. Joss Carter didn’t believe in Cal Beecher until too late. She has to do this herself, for herself, to repay the debt that no-one but herself feels on her shoulders.

And she’s ahead of the game. Rookie Laskey pulls the bonds of their partnership on her to get her to join him in a bar, to talk about his problems with someone on the force: Joss Carter. It’s a set-up, but Joss is miles ahead. She’s known Laskey was H.R. from the moment her first got in her car. She used him to feed false information back to Simmons. And she’s too canny and too prepared to fall for the trap Laskey’s set up. She kills the ‘bar owner’, a Vice Lieutenant from the Bronx, another H.R. goon. She’ll shoot Laskey too, if he makes her, but Carter has an ace he doesn’t expect, in the H.R.-born rrogance that makes him call Carter ‘an arrogant bitch who doesn’t know her place’ (tsk, tsk, haven’t you ever heard of feminism?)

Because Carter shot the Lieutenant with Laskey’s gun. He’s working for her now, not H.R. We await developments with eagerness, now they have startted to develop.

But we have Shaw, delivering the once-neglected Gen to a super-school, the sort of place you go when you’re the ward of a very reclusive billionaire. And Gen is still smarter than the average ten-year old, just as we now beieve the ten-year old Sameen to have been. She presents Shaw with her grandfather’s Order of Lenin tht cannot mean anything like as much to her, but it means something to Gen to know that Shaw has it. And she tells Shaw that she does have all those emotions but they’re like voices on old tapes (superb analogy): you have to listen harder to hear them.

Which gets her a rather too vigorous hug from Shaw that Gen understands, just like she has understood Shaw so well (it’s a shame she never returns), and which gets Shaw a reassurance from Finch. Yes, she broke every order he gve her and she doesn’t soun epentant about it though she’s clearly concerned about losing this ‘job’ (she’ll miss Bear too much). But as far as Finch is concerned, she has finally got it. The job, that is, but we know what he means.

So Shaw goes home to sleep, the Order of Lenin hung closely by, content. Until Root appears by her bedside, asking if she’s missed her, and applying her taser.

We are off, and running.


Person of Interest: s03 e02 – Nothing to Hide

One of the many things I love about Person of Interest is the flexibility of its format. It’s basic underpinning is that Finch has invented an early warning system, forty-eight hours notice of murder, giving our heroic band the opportunity to save a life, whoever the person, whatever the circumstances. The possibilities are limited only by the various gradaions of humanity.

Take this week’s episode. The Number is Wayne Kruger (a splendidly rancid performance by David Alan Basche), CEO of a corporate titan who has made it by creating a Facebook-like empire called Lifetrace, which publishes complete details of people’s lives. Actually, it’s more like Friends Reunited, which the aged among us will remember, permitting re-contact, except that instead of letting the users choose what details to publish, Lifetrace sucks up and spews out everything. And Kruger sells on the data to make millions.

There’s an obvious issue here involving Privacy. Not that Kruger cares. He’s one of those bombastic bastards, master of his Universe, who is never wrong, always cleverer than everyone around him, unaware that his imagination is limited to only the next step in getting very richer and deliberately obtuse as to the effects of his orgamisation.

Frankly, he’s a twat, and a hypocrital one as well (aren’t they always?) Total exposure is good, it feeds the apocalyptical vision of a world in which everybody’s ‘wants’ will be anticipated, to the no doubt detriment of their thinking for themselves, and anyway, the only people who want privacy are those with something to hide.

Yes, that tired old line, promptly reversed when it appears Kruger has things he wants to hide and someone’s putting these out publicly. The sex with not-his-wife, the arrest record, the bank details used to strip him of every penny, being kicked out of his own company, privacy is such an outmoded concept, isn’t it?

Kruger’s life goes to pot, a helter-skelter leading only downwards. Finch, Reese and Shawwatch over him, rescue him from an overt attempt at murder but still the arrogant bastard pursues only the dollar signs in his eyes. He CAN resurrect the big deal, he can haul the guy who’s done this in front of Mr Peter Collier (Leslie Odem Jr.), nobody messes with him.

And at the last he may be capble of learning a lesson. The man behind all this is a father, or was a father. Lifetrace put his daughter’s entire life onto the internet. Three times, an abusive ex-boyfriend traced her. Three times, the family asked for her details to be removed. Three times, the company did nothing. The fourth time, the boyfriend murdered her. Not all people require privacy because they have something disreputable to hide.

Kruger may have finally caught the edge of something bigger than himself, that old saw that we all must understand to be truly human, that actions have consequences. Within minutes, however, he was dead, and John Reese also shot, in the bullet-proof vest. By the wholly unforeshadowed Peter Collier. Not a corporate functionary but a crusader. Whose Crusade is foursquare for Privacy, and whose Crusade is out to take it back, in a very forceful way. A dominant theme for season 3 has just been introduced.

This was the major story of the episode. Therewas no room for Root this week, but Carter’s story was advanced, slowly. At Cal Beecher’s grave she bumps into Alonzo Quinn, his godfather (as Carter knows him), a man alive to potential threats to HR and not prepared to allow them to develop beyond potential. And, lo and behold, Carter gets an eager rookie to train, Officer Mike Laskey (Brian Wiles). Whilst Fusco discovers Beecher’s file has been frozen, access denied.

Enough to keep us going. And we will be going there