Person of Interest: s04 e20 – Terra Incognita


Now? Then? When?

We’re now only two episodes from the end of Person of Interest‘s fourth and last full season. Based on the pattern of the past two seasons, I have long been expecting some form of overriding arc but this has not materialised, except in little, background moments. Against such concerns, ‘Terra Incognita’ is an unusual choice of story, coming so late and, except in a little-pursued B story that occupies Finch, Root and Fusco, in keeping them off screen, is detached from any progress. And it’s one of the best, most deeply hypnotic, and saddest episodes ever produced.

The episode digs into your emotions in several ways. It lays John Reese bare for us, and shows us the man, the living, feeling man, beneath the hard-armoured shell that he wears to allow no-one near him. It brings back Taraji P. Henson as a guest star, for what is essentially a two-hander, to remind us of how much we miss her, and to point to a present that never existed, a phantom limb of life never expressed, a could-have-been that never could have been. And it points to a future that never would be, a phantom path through the woods ahead that had to be choked off the minute Person of Interest received a qualified, do-what-you-can-with-this renewal for a half-season to bring it all to an end.

The structure combined undated flashback, a present winter day and hallucination that allowed those so minded in the audience to incorporate the supernatural.

It began in the past, Reese and Finch on stakeout over a number, a bar owner in danger from HR. There’s a third person in the car, Detective Joss Carter. Finch leaves to walk and feed Bear. Reese and Carter talk as they wait. Or rather they don’t talk. Carter wants to know more about the Man in a Suit, who he is, what and why.

In the present, two members of the Brotherhood are shot dead without Numbers coming up. Is the Machine defective? No, it was murder by oportunity, not pre-meditated. A hint, no more. The Machine has been distant this season, in hiding, delivering mainly offscreen. We see everything through Samaritan now, though there’s one brief moment when the Machine’s eyes become ours again.

But there is a number and John Reese makes it his own business, his and his alone, all others excluded. Because Chase Patterson, former junkie, suspected of killing his parents and sisters, is a cold case, removed to the freezer when he fled the country. He was Carter’s case, her first, working with Detective Tierney. Hohn wants this to himself, to close the case in Carter’ honour. And to be close once again to the woman he liked, admired, felt an affinity for and who, in another life without the walls he has built, scared and alone in War, he might well have fallen in love with.

Reese follows Carter’s trail, the episode flipping between then and now, distinguished by a colder, bluer, more washed-out colour scheme for the past. it ends at a remote family cabin, in the snowy Catskills, off grid. No-one, not even the Machine, knows where John has gone. Long ago, Carter disturbed the real killer, who didn’t have the courage to kill a cop. Now, Reese finds Chase and the set-up for murder by drugs overdose. This time, the killer shoots John, badly.

The killer? An out-of-left-field older half-brother, son to a mother abandoned by Chase’ father for the woman who was Chase’s mother. An embittered psycho, of no importance, a nobody, a nothing. is this going to be the man who kills John Reese?

Another flashback to Reese and Carter, on stake-out, in the car. John unbends to start talking about Jessica, the real and unbelievably sad reason why he pushed her away, the woman he loved and who loved him. This cannot be fiction, it cannot come out of even the most sophisticated and deepest of writers, only real life can produce thoughts like this: two dead platoons, one from each side and every man carries a picture, a girlfriend, wife or kid they would never come back to, and the man who would become John Reese thinking that if he had no picture, no future he longed to last to see, it might make him more invulnerable. The heart cries at that thought.

nd we realise that we are no longer in the flashback, that like the Pacific Ocean canoists and the NASA astronauts in Pete Atkin’s ‘Canoe’, we have moved between times. John has killed the killer. He has broken into Chase’s car for refuge. He is bleeding to death, though he’ll die of the cold far sooner. And Joss Carter’s next to him, digging at him, poking and prodding, continuing a conversation they never had in life, despite John’s hazy recollections, opening him up. Keeping him alive long enough for someone to come out and find him.

Is Carter really there? Is John so close to the border with death that she can come back for a time, fighting to keep him from crossing over? Or is John’s mind constructing for him an hallucination, by way of self-preservation, not merely of his body but of his… well, would you call it soul? Forcing him to understand that he cannot remain so detached, so concealed from anyone and everryone that he is literally killing himself, seeking a death that he sees as inevitable, determined from the start?

There’s a mention of his psychologist, of Iris Campbell, a story that would have gone far further in the season 5 that wasn’t to be and which had to be abandoned, as we shall see in the season that was. Phantom relationships, stretching forwards and backwards. Elsewhere, people are looking for John. Headlights approach. he won’t die. Neither will Chase Patterson, who will reach a hospital before the pills his half-brother forced him to take can end him. No music, just a fade to a Person of Interest caption card.

And a long, silent ascent towards our own reality, full of thought.

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 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: s02 e22 – God Mode


Did you know?

If this episode were a Marvel Comic, it would scream from the cover that after this, nothing will be the same again. The beauty of this programme is that nothing will be the same again after every episode.

‘God Mode’ winds up the second season by presenting two different but closely related stories, one set in the current moment of 2013, the other by flashback set in 2010. It begins in the past, a Machine level viewpoint as a dishevelled Finch, bloody of face, stumbling on a crutch, struggles into the library, falls as much as sits on a chair and, with desperation in his voice asks, “Did you know?”

The whole of this flashback is a puzzle piece, little vignettes, leading back to this moment, and the Machine’s answer. The rest of the episode follows directly on from the end of ‘Zero Day’, last week. The Machine has rebooted after the virus attack by Decima, who have been thwarted in their attempt to take it over. Absolute Admin powers, for twenty-four hours, have gone to Root but, thanks to Finch’s ingenuity, they have simultaneously gone to John Reese: both hear the magic words, “Can you hear me?”

Both are using their access to hunt. For Root, it’s the whereabouts of the Machine, her monomaniacal, over-eager, nervous energy goal, and she’s dragging Finch along in his wake (not entirely reluctantly: when push comes to shove, Finch opts not to escape but to cut short this endgame.) For Reese, it’s the whereabouts of Finch, and he’s implacable and irresistable (even if he and Shaw are twice diverted by the Machine to Numbers who they rescue with drive-by efficiency).

There’s a third story too, centred upon Detective Carter (but not a fourth as for the second week, Fusco is absent from all but the credits). Carter’s on the sharp end of last week’s shooting set-up, determined to fight IAB. So Terney loss patience and makes plain she’s been set-up and that she should just sit there and take it, like a good littl girl, or HR will lay waste to everyone around her. They’re already planning to take out Elias tonight, a ‘prison transfer’, to the woods where the young Elias escaped execution by his father’s goons. It’s another of PoI‘s special little quirks, the parallel scene, but this time Elias is saved by a balaclava-masked person who shoots Peter Yogarov, killing him(?) and wounding Terney. It is, as we all understood instantly, Carter, though where she goes from here, she has no idea.

The 2010 story builds. Nathan Ingram is going to go public about the Machine, in the face of every attempt Finch makes to stop him. He’s meeting a journalist at 8.00am, the Ferry Terminal. Hersh is interrogating a terrorist suspect, a would-be suicide bomber, whose target is… the Ferry Terminal. Harold has warned Nathan that everyone associated with the Machine is dying, strange deaths, not all natural. He warns Nathan.

In 2013, Reese is still pressing the Machine for assistance. He receives a code that leads him to a book (Koestler’s The Ghost in the Machine, how apt). Behind it is a safe, and in the safe a map showing three potential locations for the Machine. There are also photos of women, ex-Numbers. Saved or Failed? The third is familiar: it is Susan. Reese’s reaction is extreme quietness, his normally soft tones even softer as he answers the questions Shaw poses as she recognises his feelings. The reminder that John Reese lost someone.

The Machine’s whereabouts are traced to a ‘Nuclear Facility’ in Washington State. Root’s twenty-four hours are up, but she’s got there with Finch, who has warned her that things might not be what she expects. And they’re not: they enter a massive, hangar-like space. And it is empty.

Root is in shock. The undercutting of her quest, her desire to set the Machine free, is the realisation that the Machine has set itself free, or rather than Finch has done it for it. Root’s mad enough to shoot Finch but the usual bullet from another direction comes from Shaw, shooting Root in the shoulder. Finch explains that, long ago, he realised that someone would someday attempt to take over the Machine. So he ensured that when the time came, they would try it with his code (a-ha! Greer and Decima), and that that code would be recogniseed as an attack, leading the Machine to defend itself, in this case by removing itself, a piece at a time, over five weeks.

It’s like old home week: as our band turns to leave, enter Hersh and another operative, just ahead of Special Counsel. It’s a stand-off, two guns againt two guns, stalemate. Special Counsel recognises Harold as the silent partner of Nathan Ingram, the black hole of non-information. Now that the Machine has gone, that the Numbers will only arrive if it decides to supply them, Special Counsel offers Finch his own terms to rebuild it. Finch has heard that before. It was what they said to his friend. Before they killed him.

It’s 2010, 8.00am, the Ferry Terminal. Finch meets Ingram, the latter full of energy and relief at finally speaking out. Hersh sets his suicide bomber off. There is a distant flash, blackness. Harold wakes in an emergency triage area, on his side in a temporary bed. He’s suffered neck and lower back injuries and mustn’t move. But he twists and turns, looking for Nathan. And he sees him. At the moment that the surgeon gives up resuscitation and calls time of death. To the professional relief of two vultures, hanging around to ensure Ingram is dead, and check to see if anyone else knows anything and also needs to be eliminated.

Harold struggles to his feet, grabs a crutch, stays out of their line of sight. And at that moment, Grace enters, fearful for her fiance. Harold is caught in that moment, facing an impossible decision that none of us should ever have to face. And as we know he must, he lets her believe he’s dead, lets her break down and cry in a way that at least half the audience wants to, seeing this.

And back to the library, falling as much as sitting on a chair, and asking “Did you know?” And re-programming the Machine to display the Non-Relevant numbers again, in the last seconds before midnight and they are automatically deleted, and yes, in the middle of the list: Nathan Ingram. So now we know.

There is a little more shuffling of the deck to do in 2013. Special Counsel receives a phone call from someone he addresses as ‘Ma’am’. He passes the phone to Hersh, who is instructed to seal the room. Ever the professional, he shoots everyone there, including Special Counsel, who, ever the professional, accepts his end stoically. There will be a new aggressor next season.

But will there be anything to work upon next season? Will the Machine continue to give forth Numbers from wherever it has buried itself? Harold and John stroll in the park, taking Bear for a walk. A payphone rings.

And in a secure Mental Institution, a catatonic Root wanders the halls aimlessly, doped to the gills. A payphone rings. She lifts the receiver. “Can you hear me?” Root smiles very faintly.

After this, things will never be the same again. Don’t they always?

Person of Interest: s02 e21 – Zero Day


“Allies”

So, this is where we come to the end of the beginning, the first of a two-parter to end season 2 and change things for ever. The guest list runs on forever with names we know, the action is low-key but non-stop, the accent is on apprehension, the Machine is on the fritz, cracking in Finch’s opening monologue, breaking it down, breaking down. It’s Zero Day, the day Decima’s virus goes active at midnight and all the rules come up for re-writing.

There’s a nervy edge throughout as the Machine’s constant insertions flash, split into code, blur the sound, racket crazily about until you’re twitching just from watching it. Reese is twitching: there have been no Numbers for ten days (nor any Relevant ones either as ‘Miss May’ – our dear pal Root – deploys an unusual method of handing in her notice to Special Counsel). Reese is reduced to ‘ambulance chasing’, following the Police bands. He’s too late for this one, two Elias men, one innocent, but gets to speak to Carter, who’s determined to bring down HR, a decision that will have consequences for her.

But the game’s on, a Number forced out, Ernest Thornhill, millionaire owner of payphone companies, who seems to operate wholly on-line, whose company employs people to spend all day copying code out of one computer and typing it into another. Thornhill (are we remembering North by North-West yet?) even hires a car to drive nobody back from the airport, a car bombed by a drone, a drone set up by Decima Technologies.

The Machine, reeling it seems, goes into flashback mode. A whole Finch tells Nathan Ingram that he plans to ask Grace to marry him on her birthday. Nathan’s engaged in rebuilding the company after seven years non-profit work developing their ‘project’. Nathan’s also engaged in drinking a lot. It’s day 1 of a new life for Finch: no, the engineer in Finch corrects, Grace’s birthday is tomorrow. That makes today Day 0.

There’s a complication, brought up jocularly by Nathan, but there’s something else under his voice. Under what pseudonym will Harold marry? Will Grace become Mrs Ostrich? But Harold is intending to become his real self again, for the first time in a long time. That will cause certain legal problems. It appears Harold’s real self is still wanted for youthful transgressions: sedition, mayhem. Still, the company can afford good lawyers…

And Harold proposes to Grace, as far away from surveillance cameras as he can, and out of earshot, the whole bended knee. And she accepts.

Everything is turning, falling in upon itself. Root calls Finch on his mobile phone. Time is running out. Whatever’s going to happen will happen at midnight. Everyone except Harold seems to be in urgent mode. Only he knows better.  But despite John’s insistence on protecting him from the ingenious hacker, Harold goes to a meeting with Root without telling. He has to: it’s outside Grace’s home. Root has made friends with Grace.

So Harold Finch unwillingly starts working with Samantha ‘Root’ Groves. And, following the trail of Ernest Thornhill, a ‘ghost’, a non-existent person created as a front, John Reese starts working, a little less unwillingly, with Sameen Shaw, who’s still following Root’s trail.

Things start to converge. Finch spots Nathan Ingram acting suspiciously, follows him to his ‘lair’, a disused Library, discovers Nathan and his back door into the Machine, his non-Relevant numbers, his less than fifty percent success rate (hence the drinking). Finch is stern in his opposition to this use of the Machine, obdurate in the face of faces who will die without intervention, callous in his assessment of Nathan’s remaining skills, and permanently shutting down the access. Out he storms. The last Number the Machine issues before it shuts down is Nathan Ingram.

Root knows far more than she should about the Machine. Decima knows a hell of a lot of it too. At midnight, the Machine will shut down. It will undergo a hard reset and call a payphone. Whoever answers will be given total access and control over the Machine. Decima know this. Decima wants the Machine. They’re guarding all the payphones, they want ‘Thornhill’ dead because ‘he’ owns them. Reese and Shaw, tailing Finch and Root, meet Greer, a confident, dry, wholly composed Greer, who drops a bombshell: their virus was built from code in a briefcase, the briefcase, the Ordos briefcase Reese and Kara Stanton were supposed to retrieve/destroy. The creator of that code was a man called Harold Finch.

Meanwhile, Carter’s being taken out of the game by HR. Terney has a lead on Beecher’s shooter, but it’s a set-up, a raid in which he’s meant to kill her. But a shooter appears before them. Carter draws and kills him, a good shoot. But not when IAB arrive, and both the gun and Terney’s recollection of seeing it disappear like the morning mist…

And Root and Finch, ten minutes ahead. Finch is confident. Yes, the Machine will call a payphone at midnight. But only he knows which one. Except that Decima know it too. And there’s more. Root realises that the print-outs, the endless code recycling, ae the Machine’s memories. To limit the Machine, Finch programmed it to dump all its memories at midnight. Every day it is reborn. Root’s horror infects us. Every night, Finch kills the Machine. We anthropomorhise as much as she does, see the Machine as a person, not a thing.

It’s almost midnight. Appropriately, the payphone is in a Library. Everybody’s headed there. Root is determined to take the call, to enter God Mode, to free the Machine. Reese and Shaw are shooting Decima bad guys. Harold diverts the call to the payphone he and Root are at, by rewiring the junction box. At midnight the Machine shuts down. Two payphones ring. Root answers one, seems pleased with what she hears, drags Finch off saying that the fun starts now.

The other is answered by Reese. The voice of the Machine asks, “Can you hear me?”

On original broadcast, the audience had to wait seven days for the second part. Now, so do I.

Person of Interest: s02 e19 – Trojan Horse


Despite what you think, this womanis not the trojan

This episode was like falling down a very deep and dark well, so deep that you haven’t landed in the water when it comes to an end. It begins with a death and it ends with a death. And it’s a narrowing of threads to pass through the eye of a needle. Though it may not appear such on a first viewing, this is the one there’s no going back from.

Centrally, there is a Number of the Week in Monica Jacobs (Tracie Thoms), software expert, rising star at Rylatech, a walking powerhouse. The astute viewer immediately picks her for the ‘her’ who is digging into the death of Justin Lee and who has to be stopped. This one’s Finch’s job, undercover as an IT expert and developing a bit of a crush on Monicca’s elegant mind. This is because Reese is on a mission already, staking out an isolated house and a ‘quarry’ that’s carefully not identified as a Number, because it turns out it’s not. I admit to not immediately picking up the significance of the letterbox name of Cole.

At Rylatech, Monica, who’s been there ten years and totally committed to the company, is carrying out a surreptitious investigation into Lee, a young engineer killed in a car accident a week ago. Lee, it transpires, is a fake, a plant sent in to, presumably, steal confidential information and designs. For bringing this to the attention of Ross Haskell, head of R&D, a mass of fake information pointing to Monica as the mole is dropped electronically into her phone/schedule/records and she is promptly terminated (no, not with extreme prejudice), publicly demonised as a betrayer of what she sees as her family, and thrown out of the building.

Monica’s at the centre but there other lines developing of too great a substance to be called peripheral. Harold plays chess with Elias, who makes the board a cryptic symbol by removing several of his black pieces and providing extra white pawns to Harold. Two of the removed pieces represent the DA and Detective Szymansky, murdered last week by HR to advantage the Yogarovs, Elias’ major rivals. It’s an imbalanced game with only one outcome foreseeable, but Elias is playing a game of his own. He will play another chess game later.

John’s in the woods staking out the home of Mr and Mrs Cole, parents of Sameen Shaw’s ex-partner. The Government have smeared Cole as a Domestic terrorist and John’s watching against the notion that the parents will be tken out as well. Shaw’s thereas well, disarming him and sending him on his way curtly, but not before expressing a minimised disgust at her former employers dirtying Cole’s memory for his parents. John reminds her that they may walk in the dark but they don’t have to do so alone.

And at the Library, Harold looks up to see Shaw walking in. He’d given her his number to be contacted, though he’d imagined she’d call. Shaw’s making a point abut how unpleasant it is to be stalked, but she’s actually turned up out of gratitude. A story has been planted in the paper, ‘leaked’ by a non-existent operative, that Cole was a CIA Agent who died heroically, combatting domestic terrorism. In her repressed way, Shaw is saying thanks. And she’s still not taking up Finch’s offer of a job, but she does take an interest in Root, together with her photo and the list of aliases Finch has collected. Shaw needs a hobby.

There’s also the first of what will become a series of barbed quips about John, as Shaw comments about Finch in his derelict Library, with his poorly-socialised guard dog, and Bear.

At the Eighth Precinct, Beacher is still trying to get Carter to talk to him, but since Szymanski’s death (under investigation by Detective Terney, oh hah hah) she’s even more mad at him, specially when he won’t give up the name of the Confidential Informant who fed him the false information that led to Szymanski’s besmirching. Carter even gets Fusco to look at Beecher.

Events travel apace. Beecher meets with his CI, his godfather, Alonzo Quinn, Mayor’s aide and head of HR. Beacher is clean, he accepted the information in good faith, Quinn claims it came from one of Elias’s men. Quin and Simmons are concerned about Beacher. As well they might be. Beacher stands off Fusco, knows about his dirty background. But he goes to Rykers, to play chess with Elias, which is no contest. And Elias confirms that yes, he gave money to Szymanski, who threw it back in his face.

That meeting is the trigger. It comes back to Quinn and Simmons, and a decision is taken. The recording of it, via Fusco, comes back to Carter (how Fusco gets it is left unexplained, a minor hole forgivable in the midst of so much). She’s relieved Cal is clean, calls him on stake-out, offers to buy him a drink. But the stake-out is a set-up. Shots fired, Officer involved, Washington Heights. Carter races out there with Fusco but it’s too late. Beecher is dead, on Alonzo Quinn’s orders. A long candle has started burning down.

But we’ve been neglecting Monica and it’s time to return to her story. Or rather, Rylatech’s story. Lee was a spy alright, but not for a rival but the People’s Republic of China. And not of Rylatech’s secrets but rather the company was being used as a conduit to siphon off vast amounts of data from Rylatech’s customers, including Government departments…

And over half the company’s officers are in on this. The scope, the implications are massive. But Ross Haskell wasn’t involved: he’s found dead in his office with a bullet through the head. From, it seems, Martin Baxter, the company’s founder and CEO, the true American story. But Baxter sold out after the dot.com crash, to avoid Rylatech’s bankruptcy. Now he’s going to kill Monica and Reese.

Except that he takes a phone call and the whole edifice turns over. Because the call is from Greer, to tell him that the time has come for the contingncy they talked about when Baxter did the deal. His family will be provided for. And Baxter shoots himself through the head.

Rylatech crashes. Finch has sent the masses of information to the FBI etc. They’ll investigate the China angle. But Finch has already seen that only a fraction of the data was going to China, the majority being diverted to a mysterious source, the onlyinformation he has being a name. For the first time, we hear the words Decima Technologies.

Finch and Reese are talking in the street. They walk past Greer, talking on his phone, planning the next strategy, to find the one source actively opposing them. Meanwhile, that one source is telling his badly-socialised guard dog that he recognised aspects of Decima’s coding in the virus Kara Stanton uploaded months ago.

And that the virus is looking for one thing: The Machine. And we are in the well, free-falling, and the cold water is still a long way below us.

Was this episode really only 45 minutes long? Only on the watch, only on the watch.

Person of Interest: s02 e18 – All In


For once, I would almost say that I was disappointed with the latest episode of Person of Interest: almost, but not quite.

The problem lay largely with myself. Since Relevance, and knowing how the season ends, I assumed the show would be going into its end game to set this up, but in that I was premature. All In was once again, in respect of its Number of the Week, a solus, with all the longer-term aspects taking place elsewhere, beyond the ken of Messrs Finch and Reese.

Once I realised that the issue of Lou Mitchell (Ron McLarty), a retiree on a fixed income who played bacccarat in an Atlantic City casino every day and who had lost over $320,000 over six months, had nothing to do with the wider issues, I found it difficult to be enthused. Yes, the story was nifty, and there was a nice scene when Finch, following Lou around all day, discovered his quarry was much less naive than he’d assumed and had not only made him from the off but confronted him in a bar, played baccarat for questions with far greater skill than he’d ever shown in the casino, and lifted his keys before dropping them in the lobster tank.

No, Lou wasn’t the loser he appeared to be. He was a card sharp from way back who’d fallen foul of the Mafia and been beaten for it, had married the woman who helped in and had forty very committed years together before her death from cancer. But to fund her treatment, Lou had sharked at a casino owned by Darren Makris (Michael Rispoli), and when Makris found out, Lou found himself on the hook, alongwith several other retirees, required to play, and lose, every day.

Why? Makris was in the drug trade and also owned a pharmacy. Lou and the others picked up ‘prescriptions’ daily, money they then lost, in a money-laundering operation. Makris’ drug profits disappear into the casino and come out as its profits.

What makes Lou stand out, and drew the Machine’s attention, was that he was using his skills to skim a bit off the top, a gesture of defiance, I’m not a loser, on the one hand, and with a sentimental purpose in mind on the other. Even when Harold sends Lou out of town, whilst he and John ‘eliminate’ Lou in Makris’ eyes, the cantankerous old bugger comes back.

And this time he’s playing to win, win back everything he’s lost. But with Finch staking him to $2,000,000 and John running interference on Makris, Lou wins over $20,000,000, negating the presence of our old friend, Leon Tau (an ever welcome cameo from Ken Leung, as shallow as ever but also as forensic with a money trail).

Reese saves the day when everyone is captured and forced to go through a Russian Roulette situation that’s actually harmless because Lou palmed the bullet. And with Finch’s help, Lou is set up to buy and preserve the diner in which he eats every day, the one he and his Marilyn practically lived in. A nice, sentimental ending.

It was a decent Number of the Week, and in another frame of mind I would probably have enjoyed it more, but I’m impatient for things to hot up, andthe only place that happened was in the B story, centred on Detective Carter.

Joss is still gathering evidence about the missing Detective Stills, using Detective Terney (Al Sapienza), when Detective Szymanski is hauled in, in handcuffs. Szymanski is due to testify todayagainst the Yogarof brothers, when he’sdirtied up by planted evidence he’s on the take. Carter starts investigating this immediately. Would-be boyfriend Cal Beecher is about but ruins his romantic hopes by admitting he provided the tip on Szymanski.

It’s all a scenario set up by H.R., Officer Simmons and Alonzo Quinn, for a cash deal with the Yogarofs: they will not go to jail. Except that Carter, following the money on the advice of Fusco, finds evidence that Szymanski has been framed. The trial goes ahead, with extra charges as to witness-tampering. Fusco warns Carter aboout making herself a target. Quinn invites the DA and Szymmanski to dinner, impressing on them how invested the Mayor is in securing a conviction. Both of them are determined to press ahead. And Quinn pulls out a gun and kills both, two shots each to the heart.

And another member of H.R. enters, Detective Raymond Terney. The killer got away through the back, leaving two dead and one wounded: Terney shoots Quinn through the right shoulder.

That’s where the heat was, where the long story took place. I sure hope the show turns its face towards the season ending next week…