Person of Interest: s02 e15 – Booked Solid

She’s baaaack.

Structurally, this latest episode of Person of Interest was a solid procedural Number of the Week, supplemented by two differing strands from the show’s ongoing underlying mythos, three if you count the mostly peripheral return of Paige Turco as fixer Zoe Morgan. But it ended on a twist made all the more enjoyable in its reveal by withholding the name of someone from the opening credits, which is the lead-in to the theme that will dominate the remaining third of the series.

Our Number this week is Mira Dobrica, real name Mira Brozy, played by Mia Maestro. Mira works in a very upmarket Hotel, supposedly a Serbian refugee from Kosovo. The Hotel has just acquired two new members of staff, a Concierge and a Bellhop, named Harold and John respectively, there to look out for who, in a Hotel of over 700 guests, wants to murder a housemaid.

The answer is relatively straightforward, indeed almost obvious once it is teased out that a professional hit squad is staking the Hotel, though there’s a not very serious attempt at drawing a red herring across our path with the fact that the officious Floor Manager is running a hooker ring that someone has shopped to the Police (by who is never revealed, but between Derek’s accusation of Mira and her non-denial of John’s assumption, we can guess it was her, but why she should be drawng atttention to herself thusly was never directly discussed). No, Mira was a witness to war crimes conducted by a Serbian General currently running for high political office and wanting the evidence, and the witness, to disappear.

In dealing with the thriller aspect of the story, the episode made good use of our two Guardian Angels, together in the field, and their respective skills. Harold, neat, professional, unhurried, a comprehensive source of information, was the spider at the centre of the web, all-seeing, all-directing, and a pefect concierge, and John our roving operative, covering the whole Hotel, whose guests included one Zoe Morgan, who took his appearance in a bellhop’s uniform in her professional deadpan style with a murmured, “Nice suit.”

Zoe would be very briefly used to ‘accidentally’ spill wine on a guy who’d been sat in the lobby all day, exposing him as part of the threat, but otherwise her appearance was deliberately for show, the series indulging itself in teasing our expectations. And John’s, if their mutual decision to stay on an extra night was any indication.

Fusco was brought in midway to lend an extra pair of eyes and legs. He managed, surprisingly, to shoot down two professional killers and then, when he’d brought Mira back to the Precinct for protection, Carter was forced to shoot another one. Add to that the two John shot up in the Hotel, one in an elevator car where he’d got Mira trapped, and it was a busy day.

But Mira was saved, the hooker ring exposed, Finch bought the Hotel and installed Mira as its new Floor Manager, plus the General was brought down, so all was well that ended well. Despite the political reason for Mira becoming a target, the Number was really a rather lightweight story, well-executed.

Except for her dramatic intervention to save Mira from an in-Precinct garrotting, Carter was kept back from the action this week, as part of her ongoing story. Special Agent Donnelly may be dead but his recommendation of her as an FBI Agent isn’t. Carter’s interested. Her relationship with Detective Cal Beacher is going well, enough so that she’s talking about introducing him to her son, Tyler. He’s definitely serious about her. And he is under investigation by IAB (Internal Affairs Bureau) for enough matters that her association with him knocks Carter’s chances on the head. Joss needs to think and, being Joss, she will need to know. Is Beacher dirty? We know, though Carter doesn’t, that he’s the godson of the head of HR. Where is this leading?

Of more direct application to both the Number and the ongoing story is the re-emergence of Hersh, having finally got himself out of Rykers. Special Counsel wants him finding Reese and disposing of him, but he wants to know who Reese is working for. The taciturn Hersh knows simply to look for a ‘mess’ and reports of gunfire at the Hotel is enough of a lead.

John’s got Mira out. He’s resigned as a bellhop, changed into his other suit, is about to leave and Hersh, who knows his face from Rykers, comes up on him from behind. The two fight, both professionals. This time, it’s John who prevails, sticking a kitchen knife into Hersh only just far enough to not sever an artery. John recognises a fellow soldier just as much as Hersh recognises him: in twenty minutes, Hersh will bleed out. He can pursue John or he can get to a hospital and save himself. That’s the difference: nothing is personal to Hersh, he follows orders. Everything is personal to John Reese. He invites Hersh to consider if his masters would show him the same mercy.

I’m forced to question Reese’s not killing a dangerous opponent who he knows will come back at him again. Letting Hersh live is tactically foolish and exposes both himself and Finch to risks that are, by definition, unnecessary. Hersh and Special Counsel have parts to play: at episode’s end, the recovering Hersh will be summoned by to Washington by his master to deal with a more pressing matter, taking him off the trail for the moment. But it’s still a development that smacks of scripting convenience rather than the natural outcome.

This summons for Hersh places us in Special Counsel’s office, where he works with a secretary. Literally seconds before the show revealed its twist, I saw it coming, this time and first time, from Miss May’s voice, from her super-competence, from the way the camera avoided showing her face.

A long time ago, in the second series of 24, one episode’s cliffhanger hinged upon the unexpected, last second appearance of President David Palmer’s now ex-wife. Penny Johnson Gerrold’s name was in the credits at the start and she didn’t appear anywhere in the episode, so the surprise fell flat because it had to be her. Series have learned from that fiasco since, including Person of Interest. So Amy Acker was left off the credits for guest stars. Miss May is Root. Welcome to the endgame.

Person of Interest: s02 e10 – Shadow Box

Oh, wow! This is where things really start to roll.

This far into Person of Interest‘s life, there have always been backround elements telling something of a broader story, and there was the season-crossing three parter concerning Finch’s kidnapping by Root (who gets a mention this week, to remind us of the lady), but there has been no directly continued story, until now. This week we had a cliffhanger ending.

The Number of the Week story was again well-planned, taut, intricate. Jessica Collins played Abby Monroe, outwardly a paragon: well-educated, thoughtful, in a socially worthy job with a charity offering low cost mortgages to returning ex-soldiers. In every respect the archetypal victim, as soon as you can find the enemy.

The enemy turned out to be Philip Chapple, Abby’s ex-boss, who had fired her and framed her for stealing. The loans were a scam, interest rates becoming unpayable within a year, foreclosure, one Bank selling them on and splitting the profit with Chapple. By setting Abby up, Chapple cut off going to the Law. So Abby, sister of a soldier who didn’t make it, teamed up with victim and boyfriend Shayne Coleman (Brian J Smith), ex-Army munitions expert with a prosthetic arm, in a plan to access Chapple’s safe deposit box and steal back the money.

It’s dangerous, and they’re highly suspicious of Messrs Reese and Finch, though they needn’t be: Reese has a thing about veterans being messed with and he ends up assisting in the execution of the robbery. That’s where it all goes wrong.

But this is the Number of the Week story, and that’s far from all we got. There’s Detective Cal Beacher hanging round Joss Carter: he enjoyed dinner (and from her smile I’d guess she did too), and wants to do it again. Carter’s re-opening the Davidson case, after the tip-off last week: she asks Beacher if he knew Davidson. Fusco, on the periphery, is worried about this, starts checking Beacher out. He’s a bit flash, best of everything, hints that he may be on the take. He’s certainly connected, as the Machine makes plain, to Alonzo Quinn, head of the vastly shrunken HR. In fact, he’s Quinn’s godson.

And Quinn and Simmons are plannning to rebuild HR. Now Elias has emphatically shut down that connection, they’re looking for a new revenue stream. An association with the Russian mob?

But the biggest movement in the ‘background’ is the reappearance of Special Agent Donnelly, free, now that HR has been reduced to an irrelevance (has there ever been anything on which Donnelly has been right?) to resume his obsession with the Man in a Suit?

They’ve got a new lead, but in order for Carter to be briefed, she has to accept a temporary assignment to the FBI, for clearance. Donnelly’s sure that will quickly become permanent, to Carter’s advantage. He’s got evidence that a new group, a Private Security organisation, with Chinese backing, has aquired the Man as an asset. And Donnelly is convinced the Man has flipped missing CIA Agent Mark Snow as an asset. This time, they’re going to get him, they have tracking devices put together by their men at Quantico that can locate the Man. Here, at this Bank.

Yes, at this Bank. The one Abby and Shayn, with the aid of Mr Reese, are robbing. They’re going in underground, timing their explosions to coincide with the subway trains. Using the stolen building plans, they get underneath the vault, blow the ceiling, let it come crashing down to them. They’ve got the accounts, Finch can (and will) extract every penny and transfer it to genuine veterans’ organisations. They’ve just got to get out.

Which is the problem. Underground, three of Chapple’s thugs are there with guns (one of them is a new hire for this job: remember that, it will be significant), keeping Reese and co. from getting out. Above ground, the FBI, with temporary Agent Carter, are raiding the Bank. Above ground is Finch, or ‘Harold Wren’, legitimate Bank customer, with passes and IDs for three associates. Reese and co need to climb up the rubble and into the Bank to find him.

That’s not easy with three gunmen shooting at you. Reese sends Abby and Shayn ahead but as for him… John Reese is resigned to what’s coming. It’s been on the cards all along, the inevitable moment when it stops working out. He accepts it. Just in this episode he’s woken up chipper and bright, has found himself… happy. He puts it down to the job Finch gave him. Reese has made peace with himself.

So, Fusco arrives to run interference for Harold and Co. And Agents Donnelly and Carter sweep down into the chamber below the vault where the Man in the Suit has been captured. Except that his men are holding four prisoners. All men. All in suits. One is John Reese. The FBI have got their man. All they have to do is find out which one he is.

The game is not over. There’s an awful lot more of it. But that’s next week…

Person of Interest: s02 e08 – Til Death

Marriage guidance…

Would you believe that a high-concept, high-tempo, action-thriller procedural could successfully tell a story about love? The evidence is here in the latest episode of this Person of Interest re-watch, one of which is a moment of fate, moving someone’s life off the trajectory it occupies, towards a destiny impossible to suspect from here.

The episode began with a flashback to 2006, picking up on the last flashback two weeks back. Harold has begun to see Grace Hendricks. They talk in a bar, halfway between a confident surface and a nervous interior, sharing thoughts and experiences, far more than we’d ever expect to see from the seclusive Harold. The flashbacks will multiply, show us more of their courtship, ending with thir first kiss. Michael Emerson and Carrie Preston bring to these scenes a depth of emotion that is more than acting, being married in real life.

That first flashback cuts back to 2012, and Harold walking Bear in the Park, the one just outside Grace’s home. He keeps his self-imposed distance as she descends her steps and sets off to where she intends to paint. There’s a moment of simple symbolism as a payphone rings, delivering a new Number: by the time Harold can re-direct his attention to Grace’s progess, she is gone.

The Number is the second love story, though that should be Numbers, two of them, Daniel and Sabrina Drake (Mark Pellegrino and Francie Swift), husband and wife, of differing backgrounds, rich, joint CEOsĀ  of a small but successful Publishing Company facing a buy-out offer. The Drake’s are divided on how to respond to this offer: he, take the money and run, she, fight to retain control.

There’s an obvious external threat to the Drakes, but this is the red herring. The twist in the procedural is that Daniel’s hired a killer to off Sabrina and Sabrina’s hired a killer to off Daniel. We should have known: after all, they bicker all the time only it’s not bickering. This is a couple in whom love has turned to hatred (the second flashback involves Nathan Ingram, reading the reason for Harold’s inner glow, but relating an awfully painful account of meeting his ex-wife, at a wedding, for the first time since their settlement, and concluding that there is a thing worse than love turned to hate, and that is love turned to indifference. He’s right, you know).

Lamenting that the Drake’s couldn’t just have gone to marriage counselling, and rejecting Harold’s suggesion that they let them get on with it and go help someone deserving, John needs to devise a solution that not only stops this over-privileged pair from killing each other today but stops them wanting to kill each other tomorrow. The violence part is easy to accomplish, but John procures the other by locking Danny and Sabrina into a larder and leaving them with nothing to do but talk: overdue talk about a miscarriage, about misunderstood motives, about silences in which the wrong words form in mistaken minds and a narrative based on what people resent instead of what they really mean slowly firms into what we’ve seen.

The Drakes are last seen getting arrested, each defending each other, summoning high-power lawyers: a short sentence and a long renaissance of the love that was always there, re-exposed to the light. A bit simple, a bit optimistic, but the ending we wanted and beautifully performed.

These do not exhaust the stories on hand. Fusco’s getting shifty refusing to answer John’s calls, something’s going on. Indeed it is: Fusco has a date, a blind date with Rhonda (Tricia Paoluccio), an attractive but not spectacular woman who, wenttheir dinnr is disrupted by a summons to work (from Finch), comes along and has a great time. It ends with a goodnight kiss. But it ends: Rhonda never returns.

Detective Cal Beacher (Sterling K Brown) does. Thus begins a momentum none of us can foresee. Ironically, it’s Harold who starts things, who is the pebble, sending Carter to Beacher for information on the cheaper of the would-be assassins. Beacher likes the look of Carter. She owes him one. Normally, he’d ask for a bottle of liquor, but in this case he’d like a date. So too would Carter. Threads, streaming out into the future. Love. The lack of it. Kisses that begin things, kisses that end things. Talk is cheaper than assassins. Grace Hendricks and Harold Finch, on their way to tragedy.

Love is such a small word for something that is so vast/for in it lies the future, the present and the past (c) Alan Hull.