Person of Interest: s05 e03 – Truth be Told


A normal life

Within this episode, Person of Interest came as close as it could to reminding us of the sleek, elegant, tightly-plotted procedural we first discovered. There was a Number of the Week to be investigated, Alex Duncan (Stephen Plunkett), to be tracked and traced at close range by John Reese in a secure cover prepared in advance by Harold Finch. Why was he taking photographs of classified documents? Was he a spy, betraying people who will die? Was he in danger from his actions? Questions we used to relish finding answers to.

But this is season 5. It’s short. What would have been twenty-two, twenty-three episodes have to be got through in thirteen. Phantom branches, stories set in motion, have to be cut off. Nothing is what it seems to be any more. Even Finch’s monologue to introduce the episode is perverted, intercut with the voice of Greer, twisting the words to speak them from Samaritan’s perspective.

The episode started in flashback, to 2010, Reese still a CIA agent. He and Kara Stanton are assigned to investigate a Major in Afghanistan, suspected of involvement with a missing shipment of Stinger Missiles, Major Brent Tomlinson. They’re assigned by Special Agent Terence Beale (Keith David).

In the present, Reese is trying to lead a more normal life. He’s late for a lunch date with Iris Campbell and her parents because he’s punching out a would-be killer in the toilets. Then he’s trailing Alex Duncan, until the Number is picked up off the street. By the CIA. By Beale.

Root is working too. She’s sent by the Machine to become a UPS package deliverer, wearing those dark blue mid-thigh length shorts that could make anyone look ridiculous. Why is she doing that? Because a massive number of packages from electronics companies are being diverted to an incorrect address before being re-routed to their proper destination.

Reese has a problem. The flashback is moving forward inexorably. He and Stanton invade Tomlinson’s quarters. She does the talking. Reese stays still and silent. Tomlinson talks, cynical but straight, the innocent man, until he starts to bluster and Reese shoots him. Only afterwards does Stanton find the money. Reese didn’t know where it was, obvious as the hiding place had become. But he knew that Tomlinson doth protest too much.

And he’s determined to pull out Duncan, despite the fact that if Beale makes him – and we know he will – it will spell disaster. John Reese is dead, and he’d better stay that way. But Reese has a Number to protect. He will not be deflected by considerations of his own safety. He gets Duncan out, temporarily.

But for long enough to find out why Duncan was snooping. It was about his older brother, Paul, dying ‘heroically’ in action yet in circumstances the military won’t reveal. Why? How? Time and again the questions that demand answers. The answer was that Paul Duncan was on assignment under a false name. That of Brent Tomlinson.

It’s an answer Reese can’t give him. But it’s an answer Terence Beale might, capturing Reese, a Ghost, and Duncan, with intent to quiz. Beale taunts both, coming close to spilling beans that Reese is determined to keep in the pot. Duncan knows his brother was under investigation. Reese tells Duncan that his brother was innocent, and did die, heroically, in a late air-strike. Beale, for reasons of his own but, on the face of it, a mixture of surprise and amiration, backs him up. Alex has the answer he wants, the only one that will shut him down, end his quest, allow him to move on. Reese gets him away.

Root enlists Finch to check one of the packages now heading to the right address. They discover malware, serious malware, that steals all a computer’s data and sends it to Samaritan. It does more but what it does is unknown. Finch doesn’t want to touch it, fearful of the risk. But the Machine has sent another Number, a long one, all in binary. It’s an Emily Dickinson poem, about metamorphosis. About Change.

Root runs the malware on an isolated laptop, to see what it will do. They are in a War. They have to change. They have to take the Risk or they’ve already lost. A strand put in place.

Beale pops up at the end, on the street. Duncan is far away and if he’s ever hassled again, the story of ‘Brent Tomlinson’ will come out. As for Reese, Beale’s omitted him from his report. What for? Good question, to which there is no real answer. Respect for Reese. An understanding that what he is doing is not far removed from his old job but directed towards saving, not taking lives? Beale likes the idea of knowing that Reese is out there, a Ghost. Pity Beale never comes back.

One final flashback, to set up the ending of a phantom branch. Kara Stanton tells Reese why he was chosen: because he has had no family since his adoptive mother died. Because he has no-one to go back to. Neither does she. People like them, they don’t get to lead a normal life.

So John Reese puts an end to his attempt to lead a normal life with Iris Campbell. She accepts with rather more equanimity than I might have expected, but then she reads people for a living, and anyway, time is running short, both in this episode and in overall terms. No time for this story, a thread laid in planning for six seasons, to be cut off when all you get is four and a half. Mr Reese, we have a new Number. You don’t get to lead a normal life.

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 e18 – Skip


Frankie and Johnny

So much contained in one episode, yet again, so impressive overall that it couldn’t be spoiled, well, not that much, by the early reappearance of Harper Rose (Annie Illonzeh) in one half of the story.

We’ve been getting a few of these separated stories in recent weeks, and I can’t decide whether it’s because the show has so many plots it wants to squeeze in at a point when the question of renewal for a fifth season was up in the air, or that the stories lacked the internal complexity to sustain a standalone episode without other entertainment.

On the one hand, we have ‘Detective Riley’ gambling with the Team’s remaining cash resources at a semi-illegal club, his eye (and who wouldn’t?) on new hostess Francesca ‘Frankie’ Wells (Katheryn Winnick). But Frankie is not victim but perpetrator, a bounty hunter tasked with retrieving the club’s manager, Ray Pratt (Ato Essandoh) to answer to his bail in Florida by Wednesday: not many tall, blonde hostesses have martial arts skills like that. Unfortunately, John’s at the wrong end of the stick and his intervention allows Ray to escape. John and Frankie make an uneasy team for the rest of the episode.

Quick interlude: Dr Campbell drops in to tell ‘Riley’ she’s handing him off to another psychologist for future sessions. Is it because of his recent unbending and the violence in his past? Her refusal to say why tells us instantly it’s not that, and what it actually is.

Over to Harold, who has a morning coffee date with an old friends, another returnee, this time Beth Bridges (Jessice Hecht, from episode 6 of this season). This is payback for Finch’s plan in Hong Kong to get certain software installed in her laptop. Now Beth’s algorithm has progressed to the stage where it’s going to be used. In a very few days it will be installed in Samaritan. It will function, once, as a very narrow back door, a trojan horse that will transmit a few megs of data before it is discovered and obliterated, but that data will include Samaritan’s ‘DNA’. It will give Finch a chance in an impossible to win war.

And the moment he sits down with Beth, she becomes a Number.

So ‘Professor Whistler’s association with Beth is to cause her death? Yes,but not for the reasons you might expect.

But back to John. Ray Pratt is going to need a fake ID to get out to Brazil, which takes him to the best in the business, a lady named Athena but who we better know as Harper Rose. Here I have to apologise: I remember three guest shots for our Lady of the Perpetual Scam but actually there are five, so this is not the ‘second appearance’ that prejudices me so irreversibly against her, though it does foreshadow her final appearance when it’s revealed, in passing, that Harper was led to Ray by contact from the Machine itself.

We’re winding deeply into this story, going through several action scenes in the show’s signature mode. Ray’s former boss, Carlton Worthy (Jeff Lamare), from whom he stole both money and a thumb drive with two years of crooked evidence, arrives to complicate matters. Frankie mentions a brother, Deke, now dead. Fusco, investigating Ray, uncovers a Florida killing, ascribed to a mugging, an accountant who got his throat cut, that he connects to Ray. The accountant’s name was Deacon…

And Root has reappeared to shadow Harold, and offer her assistance about Beth. She admires his plan… but we have another reversal. The threat to Beth is not Harold but Root. Harold’s plan to invade Samaritan is ingenious, worthy of his genius. She won’t let it happen, she will kill Beth before Harold can activate his Trojan Horse. Because if it goes through, Samaritan will kill Professor Whistler within minutes. And Root cannot allow that. She’s already lost Shaw, but Harry is the one person she cannot lose. She is not even acting on behalf of the Machine (which gives Harold no little relief): it has told her not to.

Harold is distraught. Some of it is his affection for Beth, who does resemble Grace Hendricks a little, but more than that he will not be responsible for the death of another friend. Root assumes he means Shaw, tries to deflect blame onto herself, it was her who recruited Shaw to get involved, but Ms Groves doesn’t know as much about Harold as we do, and we know to whom he refers.

And he heads her off by swallowing the chmical that will give Beth a heart attack. Only when Root promises not to kill Beth will he allow himself to be treated.

John’s story nose-dives into a three-conered shoot-out with Harper in the middle: John and Frankie, Ray, Worthy and his men. Typically, Harper negotiates a deal. Worthy gets the thumb drive and Riley lets him leave. Ray gets to choose between death or prison and Worthy lets him live. John and Frankie get Ray to imprison and don’t kill him. Naturally, there are multiple double-crosses; Harper hands over the wrong thumb drive, Riley has Worthy arrested before he leaves the city and Ray tries to shoot his way out only to be kneecapped by John. Right beats Might.

A coda and another quick interval. We’ll take the latter first: Frankie’s interested in John but tells him to call her when he’s free. John looks puzzled but here’s Doctor Iris to ‘fess up the real reason she has dropped John: she has developed feelings for him and that’s the complete no-no. John, on the other hand, knows how to keep a secret. Cue snog.

And Harold calls on Beth only to be thrown out. She’s been on the end of a reputation-destroying internet attack, claiming she’d falsified data five years before, an attack that came from ‘Professor Whistler’s office. Root only promised not to kill Beth but she has neverheless destroyed her. And she’s destroyed Finch’s activator, and thus destroyed months of planning and the only chance Team Machine had.

She’s done it even at the cost of the friendship that means so much to her. Professor Whistler is still alive. And whilst he doesn’t want to see Root at the moment, they are still friends.

Leaving me only to wonder. Finch’s scheme was set up twelve episodes ago, a great mystery. At this stage it was all in vain. By now I know enough to understand that it wasn’t just implanted then with the hope/intention of deciding what it was later on. But was it always intended to be a false trail, to set up the changed relationship between Finch and Root, or was it a casualty of lost opportunities, when the projected Fifth and Sixth seasons became improbable? We have seen other possible strands implanted by the series that were never followed up upon, for whatever reason that may be. I’d love to know if this episode was the regretful snuffing out of something that might have been prominent in another world’s version of Person of Interest.

Person of Interest: s04 e17 – Karma


Therapy

This episode came as a welcome return to form for Person of Interest after last week’s encounter with Harper Rose. Though it was once again a one-off, with no discernable connection to the overall situation, this was a powerful story whose Number, despite being a Perpetrator was nevertheless a very sympathetic figure.

The show began with a flashback to 2010, to Finch still unable to walk himself, working in conditions very primitive compared to the Library and even the Subway. We were asked to contrast his limited manouevrability with his intended actions, which were not the prevention of death but rather its execution. Finch wants revenge, revenge for Nathan Ingram’s death and he is targetting Alicia Corwin (a welcome return for Elizabeth Marvel).

We know he’s going to end up not killing her, since we know that Root did. The question is why, and what moves him. and, since this segues into Harold telling a version of his story, with variant details, to psychiatrist Shane Edwards (Patrick Kennedy), how this is going to influence the contemporary story.

Edwards is our Number. He’s a careful, smooth, thoughtful man with concerns for his patients, but Kennedy invests him with a submerged tension, and underlying intensity that never reaches the surface in this role. Because Kennedy has a second life. He works for Victim Advocacy, counselling those who have had their lives changed by crimes against them, such as Angela (Megan Tusing), confined to a wheelchair after being hit by a drunk driver. Angela struggles with her lifelong imprisonment, compared to her assailant’s brief passage through Rehab, already out and drinking.

And Reese follows Edwards as he plants all the necessary details that lead to the underpunished Clyde Barton being framed for Armed Robbery. And that’s not Edwards’ first dispersion of Karma.

You’ve got to like the guy. Reese and Fusco certainly do, even if, ultimately there’s something deeply disturbing (albeit viscerally pleasing) about people being punished for things they did not do as a counterweight to the failure of Law to adequately punish them for something they did do. It’s analogous to Lord Vetinari’s principle that for every crime there must be a punishment, and if occasionally you get the right criminal that’s a bonus, which is great for a laugh but no way to conduct a serious Criminal Justice system.

What lies behind this? There is a root cause and here it’s the most basic and painful of all, one instantly acceptable to those who have lost a partner, someone infinitely precious to them. Edwards was married to a woman he loved. One day, eight years ago, he came home to find her bludgeoned to death. The culprit was Wyatt Morris (Daniel Sauli), sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment for manslaughter on circumstantial evidence, pinned to Ewards’ testimony that he saw Morris’s delivery truck drive away as he got home. It’s all very Richard Kimbell, except that Kimbell wasn’t lying about the one-armed man.

Yes, Edwards lied. He wasn’t there, he didn’t get home until later. After his wife’s death, he left his lucrative practice, set up this non-profit programme, counsels those who, like himself, have suffered loss. But as he counsels them about moving on instead of staying focussed on their loss, he’s avoiding his own advice.

Because Morris is out on parole, confronting Edwards at a charity gala to which Reese and Fusco have gained access courtesy of Iris Campell (Wrenn Schmidt, dressed up to the nines in a strapless little black dress). Reese saves Edwards from a car bomb, an ironic counterpoint to the flashback where Finch plants a similar device on Alicia Corwin’s car, refusing angrily the attempt of his mute Machine to move him off his course.

But it’s all part of Edwards’ meticulous planning. He’s setting up to frame Morris, possibly for the second time. This leads to much debate. Fusco’s all in favour of letting Edwards kill Morris: one less murderer is one less murderer and that’s always good. Reese understands revenge and approves. Only Finch objects, frantically drumming in that we don’t know Morris is a killer. When he maintains his innocence, he might be telling the truth. They must know.

Because Finch understands that revenge doesn’t bring closure. He traps Alicia in her car, externally locking her in. He tells her about the bomb. He accuses her of complicity in Nathan’s death. The Machine box around his head turns from yellow to red, a nearby payphone rings incessantly but Finch doesn’t answer it. But Alicia accepts the facts of her death composedly. She didn’t know about Nathan’s death until it happened, but she should have known. Her mere involvement in the web makes her, in her own eyes, as much complicit as anyone else, and her death is a just punishment. Torn between his naked urge to strike back after what happened to his best friend and his expanding realisation that revenge changes nothing, Finch releases the car locks. The payphone stops ringing. The future is set on course.

Which is precisely why, in 2015, Finch can’t let Edwards go ahead and do what he plans, despite his colleagues’ willingness to let the plan proceed. But Edwards doesn’t intend to kill Morris. He’s lured him to a sacred place, the bench where he first met his wife, where he later proposed to her. And he will kill himself, framing Morris for doing it. And it is Harold who stops him, telling him that to do this is to desecrate the place he was most happy, and that if he dies this way, the presence of the wife he loved so much will disappear. It’s a powerful moment that affected me deeply: you do not have to have suffered that kind of loss to understand the loss of someone important to you.

Morris still protests his innocence. Edwards has only known he was guilty because he knows. Unpalatable as it may seem, some questions cannot be answered. We may never know all.

So the coda. Reese is once again in session with Doctor Redhead. He’s even more taciturn than usual. She tells him he owes her. She got him into the gala, she wants something real, something he’s not proud of. Reese slowly tells her a very outline account of himself and Jessica. He knows about loss, just like Shane Edwards. Perceptively, she tells him he needs to allow himself to grieve. Gazing iside himself, Reese whispers that he doesn’t know how to.

Finally, Reese and Finch talk by the river. Edwards may finally be able to take his own counsel, and move on with, or rather towards the friendly Becca, who is definitely interested in him. Was Morris the killer? The only one who knows is the Machine, and you don’t just reach in and extract information. If Morris is indeed a killer, and proposes to kill again, they will be there. And the camera pans out to show Morris down on the shoreline. They are already watching him.

Then we pull away into the Machine. It is accessing records, from 2007, compiling data. It alone knows the truth about this murder. And the bastards cut to black and the credits before we see a single second of those records. Bastards!

 

Person of Interest: s04 e14 – Guilty


Jury Duty

It’s a perennial tactic for Person of Interest that, after every intense and transformative sequence, it will then give itself a partial reset to the original concept in the form of a standalone Number of the Week, which will be treated with the depth and single focus of season 1. Thus, ‘Guilty’.

Root’s disappeared. Shaw is missing, presumed dead. Numbers have been lining up whilst Team Machine has been otherwise engaged, though most of them are dead because Finch and Co. have not been there to intervene. Finch and Reese debate the current situation, Finch even suggests suspending operations, though Reese can’t do that: to stop would be a worse fate than the death Finch told him they would probably come to eventually.

So they will go back to the beginning and the basics. Just them to and the Machine. No more outsiders, no-one else to be risked. Not even Fusco.

Which is where their plans first go wrong, as the little man won’t accept being pushed iut. He is as involved as them, and he takes over three missing persons ‘Detective Riley’ is investigating, and determines they all had links to Elias: is this Dominic and the Brotherhood regrouping and planning again? A reminder of our lesser Big Bad for season 4, indicating that that strand is now to be reactivated for the run-in.

But this is not our Number. ‘Professor Whistler’ has been summoned to jury duty, putting him out of commission but not (entirely) out of touch. He is sitting next to the Number, Emma Blake (Blair Brown), a sixty-something forcibly retired teacher and fellow jury member in the trial of Chad Bryson for the murder of his far-more-successful-than-him wife, Christine. What’s Emma got to do with it?

But this is a reset episode, and who’s here in the Courthouse, sneaking quietly up on ‘Detective Riley’? Why, it’s our old friend and occasional helper, fixer Zoe Morgan (Paige Turco, making the penultimate of her nine appearances).

Straightway, the ‘us, ourselves, alone’ principle is broken, because Zoe won’t take no for an answer. Emma’s relevance is as a game-changer. Buy choosing one side or other, Emma can bring a jury together to vote with her. Thus she can fix either a ‘Guilty’ or a ‘Not Guilty’ verdict to order. Obviously, she’s been hired by or on behalf of Chad Bryson to procure a Not Guilty.

But she hasn’t. Emma is being threatened, with the thing most likely to infuence her, the death of others, the responsibility for which being forcibly displaced onto her, and she’s to get a Guilty verdict, on behalf of the real killer.

How and why the plot resolves itself isn’t really important: Emma, and her willingness to commit suicide to frustrate the scheme, is the centre of this, but suffice to say that Chad Bryson is cleared and the unsusopected lower-level management guy is arrested by Fusco. Who gets to tell his partner that he knows why John’s been pushing him out, and that he’s aware he might go the same way as Shaw, but he’s accepted that: it’s unspoken but the work they’re doing is as important to the little square man as it is to the original, Finch and Reese. And John Reese doesn’t get to choose for Fusco what he is prepared to die for.

These reset episodes are only ever partial, firstly because PoI doesn’t do going backwards, and secondly because they’re change of pace, souffle not steak. Finch and Reese meet in the same cafe at the end, accept that they can no longer do this on their own. Reese still describes Fusco as fungus, still refuses to respect the detective, still holds him up against Carter and sees him wanting. But he’s in, and he stays in. As will Root be, if she ever comes back.

There’s one other thing. The appearance of Zoe Morgan usually involes Reese getting his rocks off, but when she more-or-less suggests this, Reese makes an excuse. From which our favourite fixer deduces that Reese is in love. With whom? Who else but with the fair Dr  Iris Campbell (Wrenn Schmidt). Iris has signed ‘Riley’ off, even though she knows, from five family generations and her own completion of graduate training, that ‘Riley’ is not a cop.

Indeed he’s not. But Reese has een wihout love for a very long time, from long before Jessica’s death. Maybe he’s not a man capable of it, as Zoe diagnoses, but John feels the need to open up.Non-mandatory sessions will continue.

As will Person of Interest‘s over-arching story.

Person of Interest: s04 e08 – Point of Origin


Hell of a place to leave an episode.

Most of this latest episode of Person of Interest was a primarily procedural thriller, developing the ongoing strand of the Brotherhood, building up the character of its imperturbable and strategic leader, Dominic, and setting up next week’s episode whose Number has been identified for us this week: Dominic has established a hold over all the gangs in New York save one. Next week, he plans to bring down Carl Elias.

But that’s for next week, which is rather more of proximate interest for the episode’s secondary strand. Remember that last week Smaritan constructed a very shadowy, blurred and completely unrecognisable picture of Sameen Shaw? A picture that it’s constantly refining, deblurring, bringing closer to recognisability throughout the episode. Meanwhile, Greer has set Martine Rouseau on the trail (always a pleasure to see Cara Buono).

The problem is, as it always is, as she and Greer cynically observe, relationships. Their underground friends overlook this. Leverage. Contacts. Trace them from one person to another – Katya, the woman replaced in Tomas’s gang, Romeo, who recommended her replacement, an online dating, and therefore contact app, called Angler – gradually closing in on the point of origin…

And there was a tertiary strand, reintroducing Dr Iris Campbell (the delightfully red-headed Wrenn Schmidt, I am being spoiled this week), psychologist to one Detective ‘Riley’, who’s not really playing fair, avoiding appointments. Iris’ commentary on ‘Riley”s supercop persona is a delightful in-joke, but she’s got him a pass to temporary re-assignment as a Training Instructor as the Academy, where he is watching the Number of the Week, trainee Dani Silva (Adria Arjona), who’s behaving very mysteriously towards her training group, especially the smitten Alex Ortiz (Mike Figueroa).

Not to mention that she’s savvy enough to kneecap ‘Riley’ in a training exercise with paintball guns.

It’s another switch episode, with Silva’s actions setting her up to be Perpetrator when she’s actually going to end up being Victim: already a cop, working undercover long-term, identifying a mole sent by the Brotherhood to inflitrate the Police (a callback here to Mike Laskey in season 3). Reese is sympathetic over and above his duty to both her and Team Machine (not to mention his hero-complex): she reminds him of Carter.

Things start to go pear-shaped. Silva’s cover is blown, ‘Riley’ saves her from being gunned down on the street, despite Iris bugging him over his psychology. Silva’s handler is murdered, and she is framed for it. The mole is, and I’m sure you will be surprised by this, Ortiz, whose naivete in thinking he’s doing a one-time job for the Brotherhood is almost laughable. His job was to steal Police files from the computer, years of investigative detail about Elias and his gang, gleaned in a moment. And Shaw and Finch identify the big thug Mini, the quiet boy at the back of the class who everyone thinks is stupid, as Dominic. Enemy sighted, but not yet enemy met.

It all works out. ‘Riley’ and Fusco bring in Ortiz, clearing Silva’s name. She has lost her trusted handler, but gained a friend on the force (she will pop-up again: irrelevant, I know, though perhaps the show’s own terminology justifies this aside, but I hadn’t recognised her as Anathema Device in last year’s Good Omens).

A good thriller, though not a great one, through ultimately becoming nothing but a preliminary to something larger. There’s no space for Root, and only a limited role for Finch, isolated in the underground, speaking to the others only by phone, not even Bear for company because he’s got an action role.

But a hell of a place to end an episode. Rousseau’s traced the Angler app to a department store, cosmetics section. Shaw, in her day job, won’t answer her phone. Samaritan says the target isn’t there. Rousseau requests the latest photo. It’s still unclear but it’s enough to enable Rousseau to recognise one of the assistants. Who’s staring back into her face, with recognition.

Rousseau strides forward, her gun in her hand…

Person of Interest: s04 e05 – Prophets


Kill me if you can

The early episodes of season 4 have been about accustoming us to the new reality of playing the Numbers game in a world ruled by Samaritan, but this is the point at which our beleaguered cast are drawn back into the higher but more basic conundrum of having to unpick the lock that Samaritan has upon our lives. From every angle, this was a storming episode, tight, taut, thoughtful and full of more developments than the average show could handle in less than three episodes. And fully coherent too.

Funny to go back and see that all this develops from a PoI-style comedy opening. ‘Riley’ and Fusco chase a crook up six flights of stairs to a rooftop where he leaps onto the parapet and threatens to jump. ‘Riley’ talks him into an attempt to grab a gun and shoot him, which leads to the traditional busted kneecap: ‘Hey, I saved his life’ is the detective’s plaint.

Less foreseeable is the two-part aftermath, a mountain of paperwork which keeps him off the job for the next Number, and a mandatory referral to Internal Affairs for counselling and surveillance over his propensity for shooting people.

So Reese is mainly peripheral to the Number, wizard pollster Simon Lee (Jason Ritter), spectacularly successful with ten winning campaigns already, an unbroken record and on the case of New York Governor, James Murray, all his figures pointing to a 52-48 majority ensuring re-election.

The race is won by challenger Michelle Perez (Caris Vucjec). By 52-48.

Simon can’t believe it. The numbers were right, they were locked down, he couldn’t have been wrong. Some of it is ego, but some of it is being right. Simon was correct: they couldn’t lose, but they did. Ergo, the Election was rigged. And it was. Simon’s big problem, which becomes a massive problem for the three people directly involved with trying to keep him alive, is the identity of the rigger. Which is Samaritan.

Samaritan has a plan for humanity’s appropriate governance. It’s not for Michelle Perez, who dies of a ‘medical complication’ in the middle of her victory spech, but for her successor, running mate Nick Dawson (Kevin Kilner), an eager-to-please, lacking-in-principle junior whose gubernatorial reign will benefit from advice from Liaison officer John Greer. Dawson’s one of 58 across the United States. Careful, thoughtful, controlled leadership. Power. Absolute Power. No need to remind us what that leads to.

And we’re given evidence of that in the form of flashbacks, of a kind we’ve not enjoyed for some time. These are all to between October and December 2001: an uncrippled Harold Finch is developing the early versions of the Machine, alongside Nathan Ingram (ah, Brett Cullen one more time). But these early iterations of the Machine are dangerous and uncontrollable except by killing. They write their own code, they try to escape, they are ruthless, they try to kill Harold over and over and over again. We can see the very good reason Finch has to fear Artificial Intelligence, and not merely Samaritan.

These flashbacks tie us to the extremely important middle of the episode. Root turns up in the Batcave, stripping out of one persona and becoming another. Reese, Finch, Shaw, they all have one life but the Machine has designed obsolescence into Miss Groves’ cover. Every 48 hours she changes, name, identity, occupation, chameleon-like, for purposes of which she knows nothing, but which she sustains from her absolute faith in the Machine.

Harold takes a step into the dark, welcoming her as an ally, as a comrade, but most of all as a friend. She has become a part of the team, in his eyes, and he is as concerned for her welfare as he is for Reese, Shaw and Fusco. And he’s acute enough to know that her contact with the Machine, the voice in her artificial ear is now non-existant, a severed line disguised by static and indirection, to save two lives: Root’s, and the Machine’s.

This is a war that can’t be won but mustn’t be lost. Root is coldly aware that there will be casualties, and that those casualties will encompass their little group. The Machine has changed her, but she remembers her old life: after that, a good death will be a privilege. Things can happen at any time – Root will in fact be wounded in a gloriously funny but brief shootout between her and Martine Rousseau, two hot women directed by two AI’s, firing two guns through floors and ceilings to keep each other busy – and if anything happens to her, Root want something said to Shaw. That teasing, flirtatious approach Root takes to Sameen is built upon something more, a subtext that a high proportion of the PoI audience started obsessing over, to the disgust of the neanderthal element that didn’t want girls playing in their boy’s game to begin with.

Elsewhere, Detective ‘Riley’ sits down with his counsellor, Dr Iris Campbell (Wrenn Schmidt). The Doctor’s too good looking to be taken seriously (ah, that red hair!) but the woman knows her stuff. Reese is under the handicap of having to lie about everything, but Iris is well aware of how ‘Riley’ is handling things, manipulating and concealing, and she has a grip like a steel trap. She even gets our split man to open up to something real, that he doesn’t like shooting people (you could have fooled us), in fact he hates it. It’s extremely odd from the John Reese we’ve loved these 72 episodes we’ve already watched, but Jim Caviezel sells it. He’s good at it, but most importantly, he gives his philosophy, that there are too many bad people in the world and not enough good ones, and if he doesn’t save these, who else will?

In the end, Finch saves Simon, but to do so he has to break him. Simon’s numbers change, showing his analysis to be wrong rather than there be any rigging. He’s destroyed either way but this way he gets to keep on breathing, and whilst in the PoI universe, that is seen as the greatest good, at least one member of the audience wondered if allowing his death might not have been the kinder end.

The episode ended on twin tracks. Samaritan wants to find the Machine. And Harold Finch confronts a camera and tells his creation that it’s time for them to talk. There are now thirty episodes left.