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 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: s04 e19 – Search and Destroy


Nice Wig

We’re a very long way into Person of Interest‘s fourth season without the usual sense of something building to either a conclusion or a cliffhanger, as we would normally expect. For weeks we’ve been experiencing individual stories without connecting threads. For the first time in a long time, this episode starts to deliver on its arc.

Not at first. New Number Suleiman Khan (Aasif Mandvi) is a man whose life has been destroyed in an instant. His company, Castellum, has grown from a garage operation to the world’s largest purveyors of anti-virus protection, automatically installed in 86% of the world’s computers. And it’s been hacked, in an instant, everything revealed, down to the nude photos of his estranged wife that he swore he’d deleted. Not just everything, but more than everything, including evidence of things he’s not done, like major embezzlement.

Khan’s life collapses like a souffle prematurely removed from the oven. Everything is stripped away, any avenue along which he might be able to fight back is closed off, practically the only thing they don’t remove is his expensive, hand-tailored suit.

What can lie behind this? Finch and Reese know but fantastic and arrogant as it may seem, Khan has worked out that he has been targetted, very specifically, but an Artificial Intelligence: Samaritan.

What’s the plan, Stan? It’s very simple, but before we go there, let us just collate the little semi-detached strands that decorate the episode. There’s Paige Turco making her final appearance as Zoe Morgan, fixing Castellum’s problems, twitting John about his relationship with his redhead, acting as his ear in a meeting. There’s John trying to teach Harold how to shoot a gun, since he won’t always be here and he wants to know Finch will be safe. There’s Root, going to great lengths to steal a virtually atom bomb proof suitcase, not for the beautiful Faberge egg it contains and which she chucks away, but for the suitcase: why?

But the plan is simple, and so in one sense, one fatal sense, is Khan. It’s his besetting flaw, his insatiable curiosity. Why him? Why has he been targetted? In the end it gets him killed. Rather than escape he goes back inside, is taken to Greer and Martine Rousseau. He wants to see the face of Samaritan, of God. His wish is granted, shot through the heart by Greer.

Because Samaritan has been using Khan’s code to search. Search the word for the presence of unknown code. For the whereabouts of the Machine. And it will find it. That is inevitable. And Detective Riley and Professor Whistler. How can one withstand a God forever?

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 e16 – Blunt


The Stumbling Block

Here, I’m afraid, we hit a block. A stumbling block of rather large proportions. It’s called Harper Rose, and since she’s the Number of the Week and thus looms large in this episode, it is a stumbling block of major proportions.

As usual, we begin in media res, Reese on a snowy campus tracking the new Number, played with energy by Annie Ilonzeh. Harper Rose is already unique in that, instead of her Social Security number, the Machine has provided her College Registration. This is because Harper Rose is not Harper Rose’s real name. What that is goes unrevealed: ‘Harper’ is a chameleon with multiple phones, IDs, names, roles etc. Why is this? Hang on a bit.

The usual question is Victim or Perpetrator. There’s nothing except Harper’s general air of innocuous innocence to tilt the balance, but early indications are that she’s likely the former. Her stoner boyfriend, Trey, works shifts at a Medical Marijuana Dispensary, and he’s feeling under the weather so Harper takes his shift. A legal Dispensary of marijuana nevertheless has issues, especially around how orthodox Banks won’t open accounts for them, and there’s tons of cash lying about, enough to warrant private security from a legal operation of, and it’s about time we got back to them, the Brotherhood.

And something goes wrong tonight. Harper’s handling the takings run. The Cartel attempts to steal the money. Much shooting occurs, including the usual number of kneecappings by ‘Detective Riley’. The bag is recovered. It is full of travel brochures. The bag with the money is disappearing towards the nearest horizon in the possession of Harper Rose, she who is a grifter, a conwoman, a perpetrator of criminal acts.

Which is where I hit my personal wall. It’s not just here but I remember her return appearance (and her third), and between now and next I find myself violently disliking her. Harper is highly intelligent, curious and inventive. She operates on permanent alert, every second devoted to pursuing angles and advantages, and to complete the alliteration, she’s completely amoral.

Every second of dear little Harper’s day and night is devoted to furthering the interests of dear little Harper, using her wits to con, shuffle and trick absolutely everyne around her, to get what she wanrts and do what she wants, without an atosecond’s worth of thought for anybody else. She is the predator and they are her prey and her refusal to get attached to anyone or anything leaves me cold. I cannot feel anything about a character who feels nothing and prefers to see everyone she encounters as sheep to her wolf.

That was a bar against my ability to enter into and enjoy the world of the show this week, or to be engaged in the machinations of the plot. Who cared if Reese and Finch got Harper’s feet out of the fire? She certainly didn’t. All she wanted to do was get out and find another sucker to leech off. Did we care about Trey’s fate, the pathetic stoner put at risk through all this but who, as played easily by Connor Hines, was insignificant to the point of utter dispensability?

The only things of merit to the episode lay in the aforementioned return of The Brotherhood and Dominick to the forefront of the audience’s attention, and the extremely truncated subplot featuring Root. Root has an idea. Finch and Reese have the wrong approach, pushing everybody else out since Shaw’s ‘death’. Instead of excluding, Team Machine should be recruiting. There are others out there who think as they do, who would fight if only they knew how. Root has designed an App (we all know the Machine has been at least a consultant on this).

And Finch, concerned, follows Root to a company, with whom she is set to go into partnership, to market her App, and to work with them on designing another.

What is the App? What does it do? How will it work? This is something to be patient about.

There are now only six episodes to the end of season 4, six episodes in which to deal with the Brotherhood, the War Dominick intends with Carl Elias, and the counter-measures Root and her App will bring into play to start the attack on Samaritan. Such a waste that this episode had to concentrate upon Harper Rose, who I decidedly do not trust, or like.

Person of Interest: s04 e15 – Q&A


Wanna fight?

It would be stating the obvious to say that this was a complex episode. It was composed of two contrasting stories, one each for Reese and Finch, that led to a foreseeable link at the very end and it featured one of the most satisfying and unexpected deus ex machina saves the series has produced. Let me explain.

Reese’s story continued the partial reset aspect of the show’s current phase. Number of the Week was Anna Mueller (Bella Dayne), a transcriber working for Fetch and Retrieve, the latest, hottest, most successful search engine, and its new programme, VAL, which is basically Alexa. The company is headed by Lauren Buchanan (Helene Yorke) and its chief technical officer is Calvin Mazer (Nick Westrate). Anna transcribes verbal queries for the record.

She alo has a very sick sister, Jill, who’s getting home chemo, and she’s a very aggressive and effective MNA fighter in illegal private bouts. She can’t help Jill but she has got something she can kick. Victim or perpetrator?

Victim, definitely. Anna has pursued a case, Paul Zimmerman, who made multiple requests relating to depression and suicide. The last query should link only to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline but in Paul’s case (and thousands of others) it threw up guides on how to do it, and in Paul’s and thousands of other cases, he did.

Someone doesn’t want this known, and is willing to have Anna killed to prevent it. Anna, a slight, dark-haired slip of a girl, is well capable of looking after herself, though ultimately she needs Reese – or rather Detective ‘Riley’ – to make sure it all comes out well. It’s an algorithm designed by Calvin behind the back of Lauren that turns VAL into the greatest manipulator of emotions for vulnerable people and thus the greatest advertising tool the world has ever known. Lauren would never have allowed it, because it’s wrong. Bear that in mind.

That’s Reese’s portion. Finch’s is functionally separate, though the pair stay in constant communication by phone throughout, without impinging on each other’s work. Finch’s story starts with discovering another Nautilus puzzle poster, identical to the one in episode 2 of this season. Only it’s not quite identical: a hidden message is embedded in the image, saying ‘You Were Right’ and the puzzle decodes to a place on the shadow map, where Samaritan cannot see.

We realise and look forward to seeing the young, fanatical programmer, Claire Mahoney (Quinn Shephard again). Finch promised her aid and she’s reaching out for it. She’s seen inside now and is horrified/disgusted with Samaritan. She wants out and wants Finch’s help, even though she never knew his name. A Samaritan sniper interrupts the meeting, shooting Claire through the shoulder: Finch takes her to a nearby morgue to fix her wound.

She’s full of remorse and regret, not to mention determination to bring Samaritan down and save the world. It was at that moment that I smelled a rat and wondered if she was playing a double game. Partly this was because I’ve seen this episode twice before and if I don’t consciously remember exactly what happened, my subconscious is far more retentive, but the larger part is that this is Person of Interest, and after 82 episodes prior to this, you learn to anticipate reversals.

Claire’s got a flashdrive, stolen from Decima. It can be used to access Samaritan and destroy it. It can also be used to access Finch’s network and identify all his friends prior to killing them, or so he fears. Is he right to doubt, or is he paranoid? Sweet-faced Claire is convincing, but she can’t help the light of fanaticism, which marked her in episode 2, from shining out of that sweet, desperate face.

Finch decides to take the chance on her, but is wrong to do so, for Claire slips and calls him Harold when he still hasn’t told her his name. He turns to find her holding a gun on him.

She takes his laptop and phone. She’s bringing him in, but Claire is too much the fanatic to just simply complete her mission, which she believes is to get Finch on their side, make him an asset.  She takes him to see Samaritan, but to her Samaritan is a saviour, out to improve everything for everybody. To Claire, Samaritan is a bright, bustling, effective Charter School, promoting a new, more effective manner of education (to Finch it’s education in what?)

It’s an echo of The Last Temptation of Christ. It’s a portrait, true enough in its way, of what an overarching intelligence could do to make what we do with our world healthier, wiser, more efficient, eliminating waste, ignorance, pollution etc. The most deadly eneny is happiness or contentment. But Finch knows what Claire will not, cannot ever see, that Samaritan is also Sauron’s Ring, that it’s first duty is to itself and which, by its very nature, is corrupt and self-serving.

He won’t join them, not even the true believer Claire, so he’s to be taken away. This is where we anticipate the god in the machine, shots to ring out from an unseen source, but how can Reese have tracked him? Reese can’t, but Root can, goddess in the Machine, to rescue him and bring him home before setting off on her next, enigmatic task.

And that link? At Samaritan HQ, where Finch’s laptop has proved to be the bust we all knew he would have ensured, Claire is desperately apologetic for her failure but Greer is avuncularly forgiving, appreciative of her fanaticism. Though Claire has a question: the bullets were supposed to make Finch sympathetic towards her but they were also supposed to miss; what if they’d killed her? Then, my dear, the smiling Greer replies, you would have died in a good cause.

We won’t see Claire again, which is a pity, but Claire is just one of a thousand details and time is limited. A full Fifth season order would, subject to Quinn Shephard’s availability, have brought her back, I’m sure, and shown us whether the chink in her belief healed over, or split wide open.

But the smiling Greer has a meeting to attend, under Mergers and Acquisitions, a promising company with a very special algorithm to identify and manipulate emotions, that’s vulnerable due to a recent fall. Greer’s going to a meeting with a rather subdued Board and a CEO named Lauren Buchanan. Who, very recently, placed right and wrong ahead of profit. Where does that stand in relation to survival?

Power corrupts. What the hell else is it for?

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 e13 – M.I.A.


The Mayhem Twins

Very recently, and in the context of Person of Interest itself, I discovered the term ‘schmuck-bait’. It refers to television episodes that threaten the life of a permanent member of the cast. It’s termed schmuck-bait because only a schmuck would feel genuinely threatened by the prospect of a star character being killed: I mean, it’s just not going to happen, is it?

I bring this up in the context of this episode of PoI  because the whole episode is a prime example of what the term means. Two episodes ago, Sameen Shaw sacrificed herself to save the rest of the team. Is she still alive? Is she dead? Don’t be silly, she’s a star of the show, her name’s in the opening credits… Well, actually it’s not.

The episode divides itself into two strands. Reese and Root have trailed a refrigerated truck to the upstate small town of Maple. Maple’s a nice town, a happy town, a lucky town. It’s the epitome of small town America, couldn’t be more apple pie and Mom’s cookies. six months ago, it was broken: it’s only industry collapsed, everyone was going to be out of a job, but a new Company, Carrow, took the plant over and everybody prospered. Maple is also a puppet town, with people shuffled into jobs and roles that most suit them. Everyone loves it. Maple is also an omelette. A few people don’t fit. A few people get broken, like eggs, and like eggs, once broken they don’t get up and walk around.

Reese and Root don’t care. They’re here for one thing only and that’s Shaw. She isn’t dead. But she is Schrodinger’s Cat, in that until Finch and Co get an answer, she is both alive and dead and neither. And we know from last week that Finch believes the worse. Root is ultra-positive: this cat can’t be killed. But Root is positive because she has to be. She can’t let herself entertain the least doubt. Where is Shaw? The truck arrived in Maple but it never left.

But even as the Mayhem Twins rampage upstate, back in New York the Numbers keep coming, in this instance a real sad sack of a guy, Albert Weiss (Mason Pettit). Finch takes the folder to Fusco, at his desk in the precinct, his ears ringing, just stewing. Fusco’s as badly hurt as the rest: he wants a Number to give him something to do, to alleviate his feelings.

Weiss is a nothing, a sap, a mouse. But he’s also being watched by a former Number, Dani Silva, a welcome repeat for Adriana Arjona.  The pair team-up to check out Weiss, who may look completely innocuous, but who, every time he visits the Big Apple, there’s a Missing Persons report. Someone with gang connections. The sappy exterior is a clever cover for a freelance assassin.

Whilst things are hotting up in Maple, this half of the story looks to be cleverly made but uninvolving. Things don’t go well for this ill-matched pair, Weiss is too smart for them, especially Fusco. And Fusco’s being protective, paternal and patronising in exactly the way Dani is going to hate. Some of it is Fusco’s not overly developed but still present chauvinism, but most of it is his quiet line, ‘I couldn’t stand to lose somebody else today’.

It boils down to a nice little twist. Dani breaks into Weiss’s New Jersey home, discovers a Kill Room, escapes being shot when Fusco intervenes. Fusco discovers that another cop who spotted the pattern between Weiss’s killings went to sleep in his garage with the car engine on. Dani goes home, wanders through a deserted apartment not really turning lights on, goes into her bathroom, strips off her t-shirt revealing her black bra. Only then does she shut the door behind her. Weiss steps out of the shadows, holding a rope by which a cop will commit suicide. But when he opens the bathroom door, Dani’s facing him with her gun in his face. And Fusco’s behind him.

Weiss isn’t done. He slams the bathroom door shut, tackles Fusco, gets his gun, is about to shoot him when Dani emerges from the bedroom, having taken the time to put her t-shirt back on (I get the modesty angle, but is this the best time, girl?) and shoots Weiss twice in the chest.

Apart from Fusco telling her she reminds him of a friend, that’s it for this part of the episode, having climbed to a higher height than at one time I expected.

Manwhile, back upstate, the Mayhem Twins discover that to pursue the trail of Shaw, they need to learn everything they can about Maple, which involves kidnapping and torturing – over Finch’s frantic pleas – the town’s public face, Leslie Thompson (Maddie Corman).

Though they have only one goal, Reese and Root can’t help but learn how thoroughly Samaritan has taken over Maple, and manipulated its people, first to happiness and now to see what happens when you take that happiness away. Maple is Samaritan’s petri dish, though the show uses the metaphor of an ant farm: it’s the microcosm that is embedded in the macrocosm.

Through Leslie, they gain access to the Carrow factory, even though Thompson will be killed for this betrayal. They shoot and blast their way in, they find that the factory is manufacturing transponders, microdots and neural implants, designed to be fitted to the whole population to enable Samaritan to observe and manipulate every human, they find the woman who was carried in the truck from the Stock Exchange. She’s got dark brown hair… but she’s not Shaw. Her name is Delia Jones and she was a secretary at the Stock Exchange. Everything, the only lead they have, was wrong. What’s that about schmuck-bait now?

Because this is the end of the trail. Root goes on a shooting spree, but she and Reese get Delia out. And Carrow pull out of Maple, leaving the town wrecked. Samaritan’s plans have been blocked. But they have no lead, no clue about Shaw. Reese recognises that there is nothing more they can do. Finch talks to the despairing, devastated Root. But she is not convinced, that is, until the Machine sends it’s one and only message, by payphone: Sierra Tango Oscar Pappa. S.T.O.P. Root says ‘Goodbye Harold’ as if it were a final word and walks away.

Shaw is gone. And the audience is treated to a final coda. Greer, in his most sinister-uncle mode, smiles down at a bed. Shaw is cynical: ‘If this is the afterlife, it sucks.’ Greer just smiles more, tells her to rest, she’ll need it.

We know, but they don’t. Schmuck-bait, but of the very highest order.