Person of Interest: s05 e10 – The day the World went away


I’ve been not looking forward to this episode for weeks. When I was watching Deep Space Nine for three years, I had the advantage of ignorance, of not knowing, not remembering. I have been aware of this week’s episode for all the two years since I started watching Person of Interest again. Known it was coming, known what it brings. Known by how much we lose.

The sign is in the credits. If your Number’s up… The red box captures a known face, Harold Finch.

Harold is in fatalistic mood. He plans to close the Machine again but first he wants a talk, not that the Machine has a voice with which to respond. They are losing, they have lost, he will soon be dead. What pains Finch is that his helpers, John, Samantha, Sameen and Lionel, will all be dead too. Is there any path that can save them? No, almost certainly not. Harold is tired, tired of the fight. And he has, because he is human, because he has thoughts and feelings and a desire to give himself a momentary veneer of the life that once was, he has gone to a cafe that he knows. Where he took Grace ten years ago on their first ‘date’. Where the waitress recognises him and brings him the order they used to have. Harold has blown his own cover. From there it’s nothing but a countdown.

Root argues the case of the Machine, but Harold still resists. There are Rules, Rules he has imposed, and about which he has thought long and hard, and he will not bend. Nothing can make Harold Finch bend, nothing. He will allow the Machine a voice, and will let it choose the voice it wants. Against his will, Ms Groves has given the Machine the ability to defend itself but, in acknowledgement of Harold’s primary status, only if he asks it to do so.

John and Lionel are on the street. A phone rings. A Number is read out. It is Harold’s.

From this point the episode becomes an escalating battle. John and Root retrieve Harold from Professor Whistler’s office ahead of the goons, take him to the Safe House but that too has been blown. Carl Elias deals himself in. He will take Harold to a place of safety. Harold wants none of this, none of his friends to risk themselves helping him. Let him face his fate. Just doing the job you hired me for, John replies, saving a Number.

Elias takes Harold back to the Projects, where once John set out to save the life of teacher Charlie Burton. The gangs that war over it agree a truce out of respect for Elias and the man he respects: the goons won’t get past them.

Root and Sameen stay at the Safe House, fending off goons. John and Lionel visit Temporary Resolutions, the company employing the goons. The office is cleared in silence to create a trap for them but they blast their way out.

The goons get into the project. They don’t fare too well. The gangs act as a screen as Elias gets Harold out, to a waiting car, his driver William. But William is dead of a shot to the head. Carl Elias tells Harold to get in the car, he will drive himself. The door into the Project opens and Carl Elias turns to face it. He is shot through the forehead. Elias is dead. Harold is taken.

Taken to see John Greer. Harold refuses to give any information, demands he be killed now, his friends spared. But Greer’s certitude of his and only his rightness is swollen into fanaticism. Harold will be taken away. One day he will see, and will work for Samaritan, to develop and improve it, of his own free will.

Root and Shaw arrive in the street to start a pitched battle, guns and bullets everywhere in unfeasible numbers, one of the shows most impressive – and convincing though totally unrealistic – shoot-outs. Overlaid by one of Root’s most tangled philosophical arguments that, as they usually do when it’s Sameen, ends as a piece of outrageous flirting that brings a smile to our favourite lady assassin’s face.

Sameen stays behind to hold them off as Root drives away with Finch. But there’s another factor coming into play, Jeff Blackwell, under the robotic like directions of Samaritan, to travel down suburban streets, climb stairs to a vacant fifth floor apartment, assemble a high-powered rifle. He has a primary target, a passenger in a car that will shortly speed down this street near the river. At the last second, the driver sees him, swerves the car, fires a shot. He misses the passenger. But he hits the driver.

Though she pretends she’s alright, we know that Root has been hit, and hit bad. The Police stop the car. Harold is arrested and taken to Central. Samantha Groves is taken to hospital, in critical condition. Lionel follows her, John and Sameen head for Central, where Harold has fallen into the System. Reports of being seen at fifteen Homicide sites, fingerprints taken, attracting the FBI over a forty year old charge of Treason.

Can things get worse? Faced by an FBI Agent, Harold is silent. He’s at breaking point. As much as a warning to what may be listening as it is an admission to himself, he talks about playing by the Rules. All his life. He set Rules and he kept to them. They won’t tell him how Root is but Harold knows it’s bad. And so he will break his Rules. All that is left to decide is how many of them. But he will kill the ‘person’ listening. He is not talking to the FBI Agent but to ‘someone’ else.

We ave already gone through so much. We have lost one ally, one friend. Surely not… Surely not. But on his way to Holding, as Agencies argue over who is to have him, Finch is interrupted by a payphone ringing. “Hello Harold,” says a very familiar voice. Harold almost chokes with relief, asking with incredulity, “Ms Groves?” But this is the day the World went away. “No, Harold,” the Machine says, regretfully. “I chose a voice.” Samantha Groves, Root, is dead.

“Can you get me out of here?” Harold Finch asks. And it all goes black. To the quiet backdrop of the Nine Inch Nails song that gives this brutal, hope-slaying episode its name, John and Sameen arrive to a scene of chaos. Someone cut the powercable, six hundred prisoners are out of their cells. John reads it correctly when he says that Finch is no longer there. But in how many senses is that true?

This is not the end, but the beginning. At a very late hour, something new is beginning. We will watch it very carefully over the last three weeks.

not really now not any more

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.

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

Person of Interest: s04 e22 – YHWH


An appropriate word

If it had ended here, it would have still been a good ending. It would have been an ending in defeat, almost like the infamous and controversial ending to Blake’s Seven almost forty years ago, the nature of which still rankles with me. The difference is that the ending to Season 4 would have left a shaft of light, a glimmer of hope, that it wasn’t completely over.

Ratings fell during Season 4. The nature of the show changed, it slid from series to serial. Some people hated Samaritan, some just didn’t like change, there’s always some. Person of Interest was in danger of cancellation. Once upon a time and not very long ago that would have been it. Networks are commercial entities, governed by income from advertising. Without eyeballs there is no advertising, without advertising there is no show. Person of Interest would have died then.

But things have changed. DVD box-sets give shows a long tail. Who, though, will spend for four box-sets of a show without an end?

If Person of Interest had ended here, where would it have left us? Like last week’s set-up, there were three elements: Control’s attempts to divert the Correction, Reese, Fusco and Elias’ capture at the hands of Dominic and the Brotherhood, and Finch and Root’s attempt to rescue the Machine.

It began with a revelation, as a Thornhill Industries box is fixed to a telegraph pole. What it was for we had to wait to see, though it’s later description as a Line Modulater was meaningless to me. whatever it was, we, or at least me, instinctively understood that it was the Machine, that all of them were. Two years ago, when the Machine vanished, it didn’t go somewhere, it went everywhere. Into the National Power Grid.

And now Samaritan knows where it is. Power surges and brown-outs are occurring all the way across the United States, the Machine’s visual feeds are fritzing and blurring. It is being driven East, until there is nowhere left for it to go, until it can do nothing but die.

Root goes into god-mode, constant communication starting from a telephone built into the walls of the Subway, walled over (Amy Acker swings a mean sledgehammer). This sends them on a helter-skelter scavenger hunt, for an improbable collection of things whose purpose is unguessable. It also has them break into the offices of Caleb Phipps (Luke Kleintank), reintroduced in episode 16, who was once a Number. The moment Finch steps forward to be recognised, to congratulate Caleb with genuine pleasure at his success, Caleb gives him the compression algorithm, no questions. Whatever the man who saved his life in season 2, episode 11 (2 Pi R) wants, he can have. Caleb’s belief is absolute.

Elsewhere, the Reese situation is relieved with almost bathetic simplicity. Dominic continues to rule the roost. He demands from John the same arrangement Elias has, with Harold as his inside man. What Dominic doesn’t understand, or believe, because his life and career conditions him to see things only within one pattern (he’s not the only one we’ll see doing that this episode) is that there is no arrangement.

And it falls apart rapidly. Dominic sends Floyd to kill Fusco, but Harper (no, sorry, still can’t stand her) has picked the lock on his handcuffs, he’s got away and he returns with the FBI to arrest everyone, including Dominic and Elias. It’s the pugnacious little fireplug’s moment of glory, and it earns him a handshake from John, who’s now free to slip off to first warn Iris Campbell to get out of the city for a few days, then join Finch and Root, the faithful muscle guarding the techsperts, the core of Team Machine on one final wild ride.

So that’s that. But it’s not. We’ll return to this. But for now, Control is fighting back against the Correction. Shipman, her right hand woman in the nerve centre, cannot detect any potental flashpoints, Senator Garrison regards her as paranoid and unbalanced when she wants Samaritan shut down and areversion to Northern Lights, which never lied to them. She and Grice (Nick A Tarabat) invade a Quarantined house in Washington where they find evidence of massive bomb-making. The target is the Supreme Court, hearing an anti-surveillance docket. Control steers greer into a private meeting at which she triumphntly advises him that it’s all over, in a moment he will be black-bagged and taken to a hole so deep and dark that Samaritan can’t see it, where he belongs. But remember what I said about people whose life and career have conditioned them to see things only in a certain pattern? It’s a bomb. It has to be  bomb.

Team Machine has reached its destination, an electricity sub-station concealed in a suburban house. Here at last Finch understands where the Machine went, and explains for us. Thornhill Utilities. Thornhill. The company that, in ‘God Mode’, exactly two seasons ago, was the Machine’s human alias. The Machine is dying. it is being forced out of existence. But with Caleb’s compression algorithm, a part of it, a ‘strand of DNA’, can be downloaded via a series of laptops, into a collection of high capacity RAM chips, stored in an indestructible briefcase. It can live.

No-one knows if it will work, if the Machine can survive wiithout the equivalent of brain damage. A screen lights up. The Machine talks to its Father, to Finch, its creator, who it feels it has failed. Father to son/daughter to Father, a completeky human exchange. With its last power, the Machine puts Reese into god-mode too, continual direction that enables him to take down an entire army of Samaritan operatives. Then it’s gone. God in the Machine becomes God in the Briefcase. If it’s worked. A shaft of light. A glimmer of hope.

Elsewhere, Greer is his usual superior, unconcerned self, despite Control and the gun with which she will kill him. It’s a bomb. But it’s not a bomb. Greer explains in his philosophy that the vast majority of human beings are docile and do not cause trouble (he doesn’t quite call us cattle or sheep but the words hang in the air). There are only a few hundred trouble-makers at any time, the ones who disrupt, who question authority. After a year, Samaritan has identified these people. The Correction has been a colossal bluff, a careful manipulation and a loyalt test. It is a surgical strike, nothing so crude as a bomb.

And the wagon taking Dominic and Elias downtown is rammed by one of Elias’s men, who helps him out of the wreckage. Dominic hauls himself out too, having grabbed aweapon. He is about to shoot Elias when he is stopped, again, by Fusco, who has his gun on him. Who will shoot first? in true PoI tradition, the shot comes from offscreen, a bony-faced man we’ve seen in the street before, a sniper’s rifle set-up on a rooftop. Corrections. He kills Dominic. Elias makes it into the escape vehicle ut is shot through the window. He appears to be dead.

Shipman’s dead, lying on the floor in Control’s nerve centre. Grice is dead, sat behind the wheel of a car outside the Supreme Court building. Others are dying. Control is black-bagged, to be taken to a hole so deep and dark, only Samaritan can see it. Where you belong, Greer states, with relish.

It would have been a good ending as it was. A week after this episode was broadcast, it was announced that it had been renewed, for a final season. That’s where we go next week. Now we are on the countdown

Person of Interest: s04 e21 – Asylum


It’s all gone pear-shaped

This is how it’s done. This is how to go from a standing start to a cliff-edge climax in which everything is placed at risk in only 43 minutes. This is how to race, headlong, at a brick wall, and still not show the impact. That comes next week, in the season finale.

‘Asylum’ took what felt like half a dozen weeks of story and crammed them into one episode, without short-changing any aspect of what was needed, whilst touching upon a million angles, whilst flirting with the greatest of disasters, and bringing in a host of guests, only one of whom was new to the series. Control, Greer, Rousseau, Elias, Dominic, Link, Harper, without cramping or overload.

Instead of the by-now-common two stories there were three. A middle-aged primary school teacher named Shelley Spencer (Erin Dilly) had her brakes cut and crashed on a deserted parking garage ramp. She’s black-bagged, a dead blonde is placed in her car, it’s blown up. Shelley Spencer is dead, and she’s going to be, unless she admits what she is to Control. Admits she’s an agent-handler for Samaritan, including moles in the ISA. But Shelley is merely a frightened middle-school teacher, a mother of two, the victim of a desperate mistake, doomed to be killed for being unable to give answers she doesn’t have.

Detectives ‘Riley’ and Fusco are called to a murder scene, four dead Brotherhood soldiers, without warning from the Machine: how could that happen? But the Machine has a warning, a Number, two Numbers: Carl Elias and Dominick. The War is coming to a head. It needs to be averted for the sake of the innocents between who will be killed. There’s a canister that explains everything and gives away Elias’s whereabouts, a pneumatic canister, a relic of the pneumatic tube system of communication that underlines Manhttan Island, incapable of electronic interception or surveillance, because it isn’t in any way electronic.

Riley and Fusco visit Elias’s headquarters. They are not welcome, nor are their efforts to intercede. But before they can leave, the Brotherhood attack in force. They take the bank, they take everyone. Dominick is leader but can he lead? He wants ‘Riley’ and Finch working for him now. He wants Elias to acknowledge his leadership. He taunts him over his role in Anthony’s death: what does that feel like? Be careful what you wish for, Elias replies.

Dominick also wants Harold and his network. How does he even know about Harold? Someone told him, someone for whom only money matters, who constantly lies, cheats, twists and who has not an atom of loyalty in her body except to herself. Harper Rose will sell out nyone for the right price.

And this, not either of her first two appearances, is why I loathe Harper. She has no conception of Good or Evil, just of Me and Them, and by her actions she has betrayed half our team to death, destruction and the end of the world.

But that leaves Finch and Root, the cerebral half of the battle. A message rings through on Sameen Shaw’s phone, a half-line, a plea for help. Shaw is alive. It’s a trap, the most obvious of traps, but that doen’t deter Root. Shaw is out there, she has failed her once, she will not do so again. It takes playing chicken on a ledge thirty floors up, placing her own life in the most proximate of danger, but Root forces the Machine to give up Shaw’s location, a government-run Asylum. Just like the one Finch put her in. Now, Root commits him as a means of getting both into the building.

Which is Samaritan’s base of operations. Rousseau confronts Root. They are both captured. Greer will have Root’s cochlear implant cut out to locate the whereabouts of the Machine. Rousseau will torture Harold. Everybody will die, the whole thing is over, Samaritan will win.

And the future will be a boot stamping on a human face, forever.

But we are not done. Control proves Shelley is lying. Shelley’s character turns in an instant. The Correction is coming, on May 6, something that will change the world forever. It’s nothing more than Control has done all her life. Shelley says “Go home to your loved ones. Hold your daughter tight, because a new day is dawning. And those who impede progress – the disruptive, the aberrant – will be systematically purged from our society. There will be no mercy. No stay of execution. For some, this will be the end. But for others, a rebirth. A second chance to live the life they were designed for. Every life given a purpose. Samaritan will build a new world. A better world.” Control says “Too bad you won’t live to see it.” and shoots her through the chest.

Dominick realises Elias has a rat in the Brotherhood. He tortures Elias, he tortures ‘Riley’ and Fusco. He threatens Elias with having all his loyal men killed unless he gives up the rat. Elias painfully accedes, provides a bank account number. It is traced. Dominick asks Link, his right-hand-man, his trusted lieutenant, his oldest friend, what to do about this traitor. Link repeats his already given advice: you don’t just hit back, you put them in the ground. Dominick guns him down. Link was the rat.

But he wasn’t. There was no rat. It was a beautifully executed play by Elias, knowing he was going to lose the War anyway and undermining Dominick first. Dominick can’t trust anyone now, he’s killed the only one he did. His men won’t trust him.

And he knows what it feels like to be responsible for the death of a friend.

In the asylum, Rousseau will make Finch’s torture painful. Root warns her not to lay a hand upon him. In response, Rousseau carresses Finch’s face. Then she leans over Root. Who, in a moment of shocking brevity, pins Rousseau’s hand to the bed, grabs her neck and snaps it. Harold is shocked by Greer’s complete indifference to the loss of an ally, threatens him with the prospect that one day Greer will be found dispensible by Samaritan: Greer sneers that Harold is arrogant to think that any of them are indispensible. He’s about to get a lesson.

There’s a deal on the table: Harold and Root’s life for the Machine’s location. Despite Root’s imploring not to do it, that Harold is right to say she and he are interchangeable for the Machine’s purposes, the Machine disagrees. It apologises for failing Shaw. It will not fail Harold and Root. They must be released first. Samaritan accepts the offer. The Machine reveals its location. Samaritan marshalls its forces. It is the end. Everybody lost.

Forty-three minutes.

Person of Interest: s04 e09 – The Devil You Know


Three amigos

If this isn’t an in media res opening then I don’t know one that is. After a brief, ten second recap from Samaritan to place us, the episode gets straight into Martine Rousseau’s exposure of Sameen Shaw’s day job and her intention to resolve it by killing her. This leads to a shoot-out at the cosmetics counter that’s fast, intense and slightly absurd, given such factors as Shaw apparently keeping a machine gun under the counter, two expert markswomen firing dozens of shots at each other without inflicting so much as a scratch, nor even any stray bullets hitting the milling, hysterically frightened clientele or staff.

Am I being facetious? Well, yes I am.  Exciting as this all is, it’s nevertheless a slightly OTT introduction to a phenomenal episode in which this lead takes us into merely a secondary strand in the episode. Shaw steps out the emegency exit to find Root pulling up outside on a motorcycle, intent on getting Shaw back to the subway using the Shadow Map (i.e., the map of all the camera dead zones where they cannot be seen).

With assistance from Fusco, the ladies are making progress until Shaw learns that Reese is handling the latest Number alone, and that a very significant Number. She insists, to the point of threatening their cover, on going to his assistance, despite appeals from Root not to get herself killed because this will devastate people who care about her.

On the other hand, Root then promptly tricks Shaw into dropping her guard whist she injects the furious ex-assassin by injecting her with elephant tranquiliser or something equally effectie: Shaw is still asleep by episode end with Reese and Finch a little fearful of waking her.

I’ve dealt with all that first because, despite the clear and obvious danger to Shaw both in media res and in long term as she now has no identity to go to, not to mention Rousseau and Greer becoming aware that Samaritan has in some fashion been blindspotted, this is a minor strand. Because, as we are well aware from last week’s story, the Number of the Week is Carl Elias, targeted by the increasingly impressive Dominic: it is the Brotherhood’s time.

That Reese and Finch will protect Elias to the fullest extent of their abilities is a given. He’s a gang boss, a villain, a murderer many times over, not a man that, on any ordinary scale, is worth saving. Nor does the loose friendship between him and Team Machine tip the balance far enough. But Elias is The Devil You Know. In relative terms, he is Order and The Brotherhood is Chaos. The collateral damage of gang operations will rise exponentially if Dominic takes over, or should I say when?

For Dominic has planned well, and his move against Elias works. He has infiltrated Elias’s men, flipped an unspecified number of them, deprived him of options and escape routes. We watch the noose tighten in a building Elias has led Reese and his Lieitenant Scarface, or Anthony as we learn is his real name. It’s Elias’s failsafe, containing a safe he doesn’t have quite time to open before the guns bark and Anthony is wounded, captured and beaten. Dominic wants the code, but Anthony is loyal unto death to Elias. It wasn’t just the foreknowledge of how the story played out: even first time I sensed what was coming, that the only knowledge and power the safe contained was under Elias’s control. He only gave the code at Anthony’s insistence, both of them, boys who made friends in a juenile detention centre that used to occupy this significant building, chosen by Elias, loyal to one another, knowing what the code meant.

Morior Invictus, Anthony said, Death before Defeat, or I Die Undefeated, the last words he spoke before the bomb that was the safe blew out the top two floors of the building and killed everyone there, but not Dominic or his Lieutenant, Linc, who received a warning from Anthony about finding himself in a chair like his.

Reese gets Elias away. He’s still a target but he has his men. And he has another Lieutenant, his accountant, Bruce Moran (James Le Gros).Bruce appeared at the beginning and end, the end revealing that he too came from that same juvenile detention centre, that the two that were Carl and Anthony were a three with Bruce. They were Elias’s friends.

And Elias phones Harold, to thank him for his help. Enrico Colantoni is never less than excellent as Elias, presenting the inevirable weoght of the character in his calmness and collectedness. In this episode, he is magnificent, carrying the emotion of the moment, the commiment to his friends and especially that one he is forced to sacrifice for the confusion of his enemies.

And in the final moment he warns Harold Finch, and by extension Reese and Shaw, that he will settle accounts with Dominic, and, letting roughness into his voice for the first time since he was introduced in season 1, warning them that they had better not stand in his way. He too has a Latin tag to speak, though only to himself. Invictus Maneo: I Remain Unbeaten. Death and Life and victory in both.

In such a superb episode, I hate to mention a flaw, but the writing slipped into melodrama as Finch relates to the audience that things have changed yet again, with Shaw’s exposure and Elias’s removal: their world has gotten more dangerous. Didn’t need that, we know that it’s getting worse as we go, we don’t need so blatant a needle: how many times so far has it gotten more dangerous? Sometimes you don’t need to cry wolf, especially when you can feel its breath on your neck.

One final thing: some of you may have noticed that Shaw spent most of the episode wearing a clunky, chunky, figure obscuring long jacket. There’s a reason for that. In two weeks time, I’ll explain for you newcomers what that meant: you are on your honour not to look it up.

Person of Interest: s04 e06 – Pretenders


Two ‘Detectives’

In which a seemingly self-contained episode, pitching heavily on the light-hearted button, nevertheless attaches itself to the developing mythos of season 4 at a very late stage.

‘Pretenders’ runs two stories in counterpoint to one another, each adopting a deliberately comic tone before coming to a wholly serious coda. In the main story, Reese and Shaware working on the new Number, mild-mannered Insurance Clerk Walter Dang (Erik Jensen) or, to give him the name of his secret identity, Detective Jack Force.

Yes, that’s right, Walter has a secret life as a supposed NYPD Detective, battling crime (the reference to Thurber’s Walter Mitty is unsubtle, though I kept stumbling over the visual resemblance to Walter White, another person with a secret life).

Detective Force (the name is perfect comic book) is investigating the death of truck driver Abel Mindler, a supposed suicide. Not necessarily out of the pursuit of truth, justice and the American way, but out of sympathy with, and attraction to his co-worker Elena Mindler, sister to the deceased.

Reese is doing the legwork whilst Shaw, at first, does the nerd bit, because ‘Professor Whistler’ is in Hong Kong, sent by his boss to present a paper on an abstruse and multi-faceted topic that I couldn’t even begin to understand. It provoked an approach by an attractive businesswoman, Beth Bridges (Jessice Hecht) who greeted the Professor by saying that she disagreed with every single spect of his argument.

It was hardly meant as an introduction to a flirtation but that was the atmosphere as we kept cutting back to Hong Kong and Harold and Beth’s interactions, which included a street-mugging in which her handbag, with laptop, and his attache case were stolen.

Meanwhile, in New York, Detectives ‘Riley’ and Fusco re trying to keep Walter safe from the people who are after him. What our comic ‘cop’ has stumbled into is something deadly serious. Abel was hired to drive a truck. Unfortunately, he found out what was in it, namely 100 high-power super-rifles-cum-missile launchers. Being an honest man, he dumped the truck somewhere unknown. Walter doesn’t know where, but he has Abel’s phone. With its GPS tracker history of everywhere he’s been…

Enter a second person hunting Walter. This is Elias. He’s been hidden in the scenery for a long time, basically popping up to provide information in his gently avuncular manner that we’ve gotten used to him being on the side of the angels, but he’s still a highly professional criminal. Elias controls the supply of guns in New York. He wants those super-rifles.

Over in Hong Kong, Harold has persuaded Beth not to go to the Police. He can find the mugger, a restaurant delivery boy. They stake out the steakhouse (it’s not a steakhouse but I couldn’t resist the alliteration). Harold knocks the kid off his bike, retrieves the stolen bags and become quite the hero in Beth’s eyes. She’s coming to NY next month and wants to set up a date.

Back in New York, it all roll out. ‘The Armourer’s thugs kidnap Walter, find the truck, chec the merchandise and prepare to execute him. ‘Riley’ and Fusco intervene, start shooting. They are massvely outnumbered and John takes a bullet to the shoulder, but in Cavalry-fashion reinforcements arrive, led by Elias’s lieutenant, Scarface.

The men are killed. ‘The Armourer’ is not the boss, nor will he tell who the boss is, but Elias knows who it is.

So we segue into the endgame, in which the two strands of this mostly inconsequential take become unexpectedly very consequential indeed. Elias meets up with the man who wanted the guns, Dominic. They have been destroyed. Elias will not permit the balance of power in this city to be tilted so. Dominic is quietly angry that Elias has twice interfered in his business. Elias contradicts him: he has only ever pursued his business. It would be wise for Dominic to steer clear. In this manner, a war starts.

And in Hong Kong, Harold meets and pays off the mugger who confirms that, as instructed, he installed certain software on Beth Bridge’s laptop. Beth’s on her way to the airport, reporting her progress by phone to an organisation she’s co-operating/collaborating with. The young man who takes the call reports it to his boss: John Greer.

There is no such thing as an unconnected story in the Person of Interest universe.

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…

Person of Interest: s04 e01 – Panopticon


Little black dress (and little blue one)

Another season, but not just another season. Everything has been reset, everything is new, there is a darkness to the world and our heroes have been separated and dispersed to the far corners of the world, that is, if you accept New York as the world.

And yet, as all new seasons are required to do, the opening story resets the principle of the procedural. There must always be a Number, there is always a Number, but there is dissension among the team abut what to do.

Season 4 starts without an opening monologue from Finch. It starts with surveillance footage from a bar in Budapest, a journalist who’s just been fired, a journalist who’s been pursuing a story about the changed underlying structure of the world. He knows he’s on the right track because his contacts are all dying. He’s telling this paranoid fantasy to a beautiful blonde he met in the bar, but she met him, for a reason. He’s a threat. She’s called Martine Rousseau, though we don’t learn this today (played by Cara Buono). She’s there to execute him.  The surveillance footage looks off, but that’s because it comes from Samaritan, with different processes and the use of circles to pick out individuals.

Back in New York, we tour our friends. Sameen Shaw, promoting perfume and makeovers in  Department Store, in a little black dress. Detective John Riley of Narcotics, busting drugs dealers. Professor Harold Whistler, teaching an esoteric class at college to a limited number of students, one of whom, a pretty girl in a short skirt, gets up and walks out when the Professor says that all grades are final and cannot be bargained up (a very economical piece of storytelling, that).

Everyone’s separate, unable to communicate or even to mingle, for fear of drawing samaritan’s eye down upon them. Shaw’s openly rebellious against her lot, spraying perfume in women’s eyes instead of on their wrists. Reese is at least doing something. harold wants nothing more to do with their old profession, for fear of exposure to Samaritan – if one is detected, all will be – and because in his mind he has made a break with the Machine – whereabouts still unknown – since it instructed them to kill that Senator. Harold wants nothing to do with it. Besides, they don’t have the Library, they don’t have the resources.

But John Reese has not forgotten his Purpose. And Root, getting a makeover from Shaw, with whom she’s starting to flirt quite openly, is making the point that these roles chosen for Team Machine aren’t just for survival but part of a longer-term plan, the outlines of which are not even visible yet.

But there’s a Number, sent to Reese and Shaw. He’s Ali Hassan (Navid Negahban), owner of an electronics shop, reluctantly working for a new street gang called the Brotherhood, whose representative Link Cordell (Jamie Hector, so effective as Marlo in The Wire and just as good here with his laidback menace) wants a private network for the gang, that can’t be tapped by the Police.

Ali attempts to retaliate by blowing Link up but Detective Riley is on the scene and saves the day. Link responds by kidnapping Ali’s son, Ben: network by midnight or…

Finch is reluctant. Not only are the people they could save a mere drop in the ocean, of no practical difference to the world situation but overall their efforts have caused more deaths than lives saved (yeah, but never mind the width, feel the quality). Root is angry with him: this is a War. Reese visits Carl Elias, discovers that midnight is the biggest heroin shipment in America, a quarterly event, run by the Brotherhood and its unseen leader, Dominic. He wants to hire Elias…

And it all comes together. Finch helps Ali complete a foolproof Network, using an old, unremoved technology. Scarface makes it look like a gang war is brewing over the drugs, giving Detective Riley probable cause to investigate and free Ben. Shaw runs interference for him with a sniper’s rifle, still wearing her little black dress. The Number is saved: the Hassans wwill move onwards. It’s a subtle marker that the times have changed, alongside all the blatant ones: Finch cannot organise a new identity and funding for them, they will have to do that for themselves.

So, Team Machine can still operate effectively, under their changed circumstances, though the fact they have operated at all puts them t risk: Martine Rousseau is already on the scene…

But there has been  major advance already. Finch has acquired a Network that can enable them to talk freely. Riley’s got a promotion to the Homicide Task Force at the eighth. He’s going to be partnering Detective Fusco. There’s a delicate moment as he pauses before taking is assigned desk, the one that used to be used by Detective Carter. Shaw gets linked up with a small team of crooks, for whom she becomes their wheelman keeping her from going stir crazy. And Root points out a message from the Machine to Harold that he didn’t even know had been sent. it leads him to a book about old, underground tunnels, one of which he and Bear locate what he sees is… reserved for next week.

So, we’re back in business. The world has changed, and so have our eroes response to it. Five people against the world. Crazy, melodramatic, comic book pulp stuff. But this season is going to show that Archimedes was right: give them a sufficiently long lever and a reliable place to stand and five people can move the world.

Just don’t expect it to be easy.

Person of Interest: s03 e10 – The Devil’s Share


Oh, my. Such a perfectly balanced episode, with a horde of actions, emotions and revelations all drawn together in the pursuit of a just revenge. Did this episode last forty-six minutes or did it draw you into itself for a lifetime?

Detective Joss Carter is dead, killed brutally by Officer Patrick Simmonds, the last HR standing. There is no title sequence, not even the series’ name. Just Johnny Cash singing ‘Hurt’, one of the most powerful recordings ever made. Carter’s ex-husband, her son, sit in a cemetery, with looks of indescribable pain on their faces. From a distance, Finch watches, also in sorrow, alongside Shaw, who disappears when he back is turned. Shaw wants revenge.

So too does John Reese, shot and wounded, seriously, by Simmonds, but single-mindedly determined to exact revenge, on both him and Alonzo Quinn. John is off the reservation. Jim Cavaziel gets something into his eyes that you had better pray you never see in real life because that is the expression of someone who has gone far past what it is to be human.

And so the episode becomes a multi-layered chase, as the team tries to find and stop Reese, which is like trying to find and stop a will o’the wisp. Instead of Carter, there is Fusco, the weak link, the joke cop, but this is Kevin Chapman’s coming of age in this series. He is now what they have, and he rises to the occasion.

They find Shaw. But Reese is always ahead of them. To find him they nneed to find Quinn in protective custody and to find Quinn they need Root.

There are once again flashbacks, four in total, at four different times, each of someone speaking to an interviewer. Finch, in his wheelchair after the Ferry bombing that killed hiis closest friend, discussing grief and survivor’s guilt. Dr Sameen Shaw, a technically brilliant surgeon who lacks the emotional commitment that makes the difference between fixing and healing. John Reese being psych-profiled for his fitness to be Black Ops, but only as a means to get close to and execute a traitor. Let’s just hold off on the fourth for a moment.

Reese, dying on his feet, gets to Quinn. He’s going to kill him, but first Quinn has to give up Simmonds’ escape route Here is where the quartet catch up, Root, Fusco, Shaw and Finch, but it is Harold, who willnot lose another friend, whose gentle voice reminds John that this is not honouring Carter. Carter wanted Quinn her way, the right way, the legal way. Evidence, arrest, trial, conviction. But John”s body is failing and only his will animates him now. He pulls the trigger, but the chamber is empty. Three take him away, fusco stays to secure Quinn. As they drive off to get John urgent medical attention, Root, speaking with the voice of the Machine, says that Mr Reese is not the only one out to kill Simmonds.

And inside, Fusco finds the note written by Quinn of where to find Simmonds.

We cut to that final flashback, Fusco and a therapist, traume counselling, Fusco has just shot and killed someone for the first time, in self-defence. He’s our Lionel, tough, wise-cracking, forever defensive. Until, assured that whatt he says is completely confidential, he changes. The dead guy was a drugs-dealer. He shot and killed an off-duty rookie last year, kid was 24, baby on the way, the dealer got off. It wasn’t a clean shoot. Fusco trailed him for weeks, just to get him alone, let the guy see him before he put two in his chest. They call it The Devil’s Share, an act of redress for the world’s shittier things. Fusco sleeps like a baby.

So you think you know.  Fusco intercepts Simmonds. He’s got a gun, Simmonds hasn’t. But Fusco has his eye on higher things. Despite the disparity in their fighting strengths, Fusco tackles Simmonds, yes, even with a broken finger in plaster. It’s simmonds’ to win, to execute Lionel and escape after all. But Fusco is a tougher little bastard than we’ve everr been allowed to see before. He whips Simmonds, breaks his arm.

Because Fusco was once the kind of cop who would execute a criminal. But then he got a partner who respected him, who treated him right, who got his back and, though this is insaid, more importantly trusted him to have her back. she showed him how to be a good cop, and drew Lionel Fusco back towards being a good cop. She saved him from himself. And Fusco won’t let that go over a piece of crap like Simmonds. Fusco brings Simmonds in. Fusco rises.

So all is well that ends. John will live after receiving treatment. Root, having been freed, returns to her cage in the Library voluntarily. Something big is coming and she and Finch need to work together.

And in the hospital room where Simmonds is being guarded, a seated, miling, almost cherubic face looks at him from the shadows. Brilliantly uncredited, Carl Elias addresses the still scornful Simmonds. He is awaiting Civilisation’s punishment. But neither he nor Elias are civilised. Joss Carter didn’t like Elias, but Elias liked her. Elias is here to watch The Devil’s Share be taken. John was not the only one who intended to kill Patrick Simmonds, Number of the Week.

One last word. We’ve seen Fusco rise to the occasion. This is also the point that the Team really forges itself into a Team, around the loss of one of its own.

Was this really only 46 minutes? Only in our lives.