Person of Interest: s03 e19 – Most Likely To…

Betty and Frank

It’s off the top of my head, I know, but I’m struggling to think of another episode of Person of Interest, or any series for that matter, that so successfully navigates the transition from genuinely comic dislocation to the sudden and most serious of wide-ranging danger, to end with a step off a diving board into waters cold and bleak, whose depth is unguessable.

And in addition to that, portraying these various moods and modes with an equal level of attention and as an organic, integrated package.

‘Most Likely To…’ began in deliberately standard operating mode, Reese and Shaw staking out the Number of the Week, Leona Wainwright, Personnel Secretary, in Town to see a musical (Mamma Mia). Who, What, Why, When and Where, the usual quinella, except that Leona is attacked in a taxicab which is blown up in front of everybody’s eyes. This is not standard operating mode: Team Machine has lost a Number.

This leads directly to a split in forces. A new Number is already in, Federal Prosecutor Matthew Read (Nestor Carbonel) attending something in Westchester that, to the vast dismay of Reese and (especially) Shaw turns out to be a 20 year High School Reunion. Shaw is convinced they’re being punished, and for once you’ve got to take that seriously.

Meanwhile, Finch and Fusco are off to Washington to investigate what information Leona Wainwright had that would make her a target for… yes, you guessed it, Vigilance.

So we have competing storylines, one deadly serious except for Fusco’s constant caustic commentary. He and Finch find the FBI ahead of them, removing every document from the office, and have to break into the FBI Evidence Locker to find it. Given that Miss Wainwright (she did not strike you, in her brief appearance, as one who would be married, with two children and a white picket fence, and certainly not an active sex-life) dealt with security clearances, her records would include the name of every security operative the US has.

Be warned, though. This is a red herring.

Whilst this is going on, ‘Frank Mercer’ and ‘Betty Wright’ find themselves plunged without warning into the company of total strangers who they are supposed to know from twenty years before, who know and remember them from that time, and about whom they haven’t a clue. Shy, braces-wearing, overweight, frizzy-haired ‘Betty’ attracts a lot of attention, as anyone would if they’d turned from that into Sarah Shahi. ‘Frank’ also atracts attention, from stoner Toke, an old buddy who’s thankfully out of it, but also from a succession of attractive women – brunette, blonde, redhead, so wonderfully colour-coded – each of whom walk up to him and slap him across the face.

But amidst this wonderfully silly stuff there’s a serious issue. Twenty years ago, a girl named Clair died of an overdose. She was Matthew Reed’s girlfriend, and everybody blamed him for it, and someone has a lot of stunts rigged to thrust her in front of everyone, to shame, embarrass, humiliate Matthew.

Except, as things modulate from light to darkness, he’s set it all up himself. He’d never been back for any previous Reunion. He’d spent twenty years blaming himself for driving Clair to suicide over his flirting with someone else, until he started looking at the case and thinking like a Prosecutor, not a boyfriend. And identified class nerd Dougie, Clair’s shoulder-to-cry-on, the one who would be a lover but had been irreversibly friend-zoned.

And Matthew’s set Dougie up to commit suicide out of remorse for what he did to Clair, drugging her up to make her more… relaxed. As in inert and unable to resist the rape that would have followed if Dougie hadn’t overdosed her.

Sands shift, the Number is a would-be perpetrator who couldn’t go through with it anyway. But without realising it, we are on a diving board as walking towards its end.

Because the High School erupts with overkill shooting in an attempt to kill Reese and Shaw. They’re not the only imposters there, as Vigilance have a man there, their whereabouts leaked by Root to draw Vigilance out into the open.

Unfortunately they’re in the open in Washington as well, and this time it’s Peter Collier himself, invading the evidence locker, confronting Finch, who’s just gotten Leona’s safe open stealing the folder. Collier’s going to take Finch as well, except that Root shows up, two guns blazing.

But Collier gets away with the folder.

And then we’re off the diving board and into the cold, dark water. Because Vigilance disseminates the folder world-wide. And the world learns that massive sums of money have secretly gone into something called Northern Lights, a massive surveillance system…

And Senator Ross H. Garrison (the ever-excellent John Doman), denying everything furiously, orders Control to shut the programme down. Shut the Machine down. And against her judgement… she does.

But the Machine shifts itself to commence Tertiary Operations.

What is it all about? Even without the benefit of hindsight and foreknowledge, it’s not difficult to see where this is leading. The Government has lost its greatest weapon in the fight against terrorism. It is blind and naked in the dark, privacy restored: Vigilance’s aim.

And there is a void. A space vacated by an Artificial Intelligence. Is there another AI, ready and waiting? Boys and girls, can you spell S-A-M-A-R-I-T-A-N?

Person of Interest: s03 e18 – Allegiance

An offer

Nice one. Superficially, this is 90% a prodeural, a Number of the Week of an unusual, but not unbelievable standing, bookended by twin scenes featuring Root and the mysterious Mr Greer. But this is Person of Interest, late third season, and even the Numer of the Week feads the overall story, the gathering storm. There is a cold wind blowing.

Said Number is Maria Martinez (a welcome guest apearance for Nazeen Contractor), an Engineer working on Third World infrastructure projects, lately having installed sixhigh-power generators in Iran. Maria is set up to be a potential terrorist and the team accepts her as such, despite the fact that Terrorists are Relevant and that, if that was the case, they would not have been sent the Number.

Though the premise is built on flimsy grounds, nevertheless the plot plays fair, riding that narrow edge where the things Maria says and does are in keeping with her perceived status yet are never entirely specific and are completely in line with what she really is doing which is getting paperwork to UN High Commisioner for Refugees Pierre Lapointe (Michel Gill) concerning Iranian asylum-seeker Omar Risha (Haaz Slieman). Omar has been accused of links to terrorism and is in danger of deportation to Iran, where he will be killed.

Though the revelation is left until later, Maria’s concern for, and increasing desperation about Omar, isn’t based on fairness and justice, nor even on the fact he’s saved her life, but rather on that oldest of grounds: they are in love.

Given that the French Foreign Legion, a bit left-field there but justified by their being in the pay of Maria’s boss, Ken Davis (Casey Biggs, who we remember from so many episodes of Deep Space Nine), are trying to kill Maria, there’s much slick action, with Fusco fully in the midst of it. Theres also one of those cliche moments when Maria, removed to Finch’s safe house but consumed by terror for her boyfriend, ignores all the advice from these self-evidently experienced and professional people to stay put and runs away to put her head in the noose and provoke the climactic shoot-out.

Whereafter Finch procures the asylum status for Omar, who celebrates with Maria by dining in a very high-class restaurant with a gorgeous view of the New York night-time skyline. This segues into a short but very touching scene between Shaw and Fusco. She’s melancholic: this restaurant was where her father took her mother on their first date. Fusco, who has been paired with her on their stake-out, on the usual combative terms, is in tune to her mood: though he’s a non-drinker he buys a glass of champagne, then places it in ront of Shaw: it’s March 20, Persian New Year. For the first time, he calls her Sameen. She silent signals her apprecation of his gentle concern, then tells him to get out: he leaves without a word, smiling.

So this is the bulk of the episode, all but a few twists and turns I’ve not mentioned. How so does this procedural tie in with our longer story? The answer is six generators. Removed from Iran by order of Ken Davis, sold and transported to an unknown location. Omar translated the contract: had he been permitted to meet Maria, the move could have unravelled. Hence the false accusation, the bribes to Lapointe, the forged letter. Why were these generators so powerful? Where had they gone?

Our answer was a meeting in the snowy Central Park when Davis – supposedly having flown the country – received his payment for his deal – and was promptly black-bagged. The purchaser was John Greer. the generators will power Samaritan.

So to our bookends. First, Root is on the trail of  Greer. following him into the subway, trailing him. She’s planning on stopping Samaritan by killing its master. But Greer knows he’s beig followed and, one  by one, has the systems the Machine is using to detect him, shut down: visual (camera feeds stopped), audio (footstep pattern blurred by overloading), GPS (phone dropped into someone else’s pocket). Root loses him.

Second time round it’s the identical setting, the identical sequence. But Root has another means of tracking Greer: she has borrowed Bear.

So this time she catches up to Greer, waiting for her in an empty corridor. He addresses her as Miss Groves, he offers her an alliance and, in case she should reject it by putting a bullet through his head, has two armed heavies behind her. Stalemate, or as Greer puts it, a draw. The offer hangs there. Greer does not underestimate Root. He does not think her crazy, as everyone else does. he walks away, and so does she.

And Samaritan’s coming on line draws ever nearer. There are now only five more episodes in the third season.

Person of Interest: s03 e17 – / (Root Path)

A walk in the Park

Here endeth the past.

According to my DVD, this episode’s title is simply “/”, which I interpreted as Forward Slash, which nothing in the actual episode would justify. imdb have it as “Root Path”, which is clever because that is what the episode is about. A moment’s googling tells me that the term is a computing term indicating where all files are stored in a system. Which is another relevant term for this episode. The people who write these things aren’t stupid, you know.

Amy Acker has been a full member of the Person of Interest cast all season but, in terms of screen representation has been held back, often to the point of invisibility. This won’t be the case any more.

Our first indication is the credits, Finch’s monologue. For a second week, the show incorporates variation to set up its point, with a truncated version alternating line-by-line between the familiarity of Finch and the strangeness of Root. It throws you, as it’s meant to.

The first act is a Root solo, temporarily springing a car thief from transportation to prison to use his likeness to intercept a package before abandoning him to recapture. It’s a lovely, complex, freewheeling sequence as Root talks away along, to Billy, to the Machine. She’s following a path created for her in which everything the scam needs is provided on the fly, but beyond the fact that she is acting to save both the Machine and the future, Root hhas no idea what she’s doing. The Machine directs its human Interface but doesn’t tell all, or even a fraction. It likes Root to work it out for herself.

I could happiy stand an entire episode of this, but the show intends something more dense than this. Root is next direced to locate janitor Cyrus Wells (Yul Vazquez), former financial wizard and millionaire, whose life was changed by tragedy, and a believer that there is a plan and that everything that has happened to him, however terrible, is a part of that.

What’s about to happen to him is definitely part of a plan, two in fact, but not with any thought for Cyrus. Root follows him to a snowy Central Park, for his morning walk to help him sleep daytimes. Someone else is watching Cyrus. Root sits down by Finch. Cyrus’s Number came through at 7.04am, the very minute Root approached him. Root, it would appear, has brought Cyrus into danger and the Machine is playing both ends against the middle. Or is it urging two diverging viewpoints towards collaborationn and merger?

Root is convinced she can protect Cyrus better than Finch, Reese and Shaw, because she has the Machine in her ear. Her confidence is overconfidence, or hubris. Because something bad is coming into being, something that will become the series’ focal point from now until the end. Two forces are after Cyrus Wells. These are Vigilance… and Decima Technologies. Peter Collier and John Nolan.

Because Decima are building a rival to the Machine, a rival called Samaritan. It’s crashed once, because there wasn’t a processor fast enough to run it. Two days ago, one was invented, in a secret NSA lab working under cover on the 19th Floor of the building Cyrus cleans at night. He’s the only Janitor with clearance to clean the 19th floor, who can pass the retinal scame. Can you see why Decima wants him now?

And they’ve the technology to sever Root’s connection to the Machine to ‘blind’ her and get him.

Finch chides Root, or Miss Groves as he will persist in calling her, for hubris. The two argument their viewpoints. Harold ‘broke’ the Machine by limiting it but even in its broken state it caresabout Cyrus Wells. Finch puts that down to his teaching the Machine.

Cyrus believes there’s a plan. Root denies that. There never was, there isn’t a plan. it’s all horribly random. But if Samaritan gets started, there will be a plan, its plan, to direct and regulate everything. There will be two AIs, two ‘Gods’, and they will be at war. What is more important? Saving the processor from Decima, or saving Cyrus Wells?

In the end, the team saves Wells but Decima gets its chip. Here endeth the past. Root warns that when Samaritan comes on line, a lot of people will die. And within the first thirty minutes, four people will be marked out for death: Finch, her, his helper-monkey, and Shaw. She’s been trying to save them all along. Our klast shot is the Machine. Samaritan’s completion percentage is rising rapidly. So too are the Probability of Death ratios of her assets. There’s an awful lot of red filling the screen…

“/” is an awesome episode. It’s fast, it’s tricky, it’s slick, without a moment’s sag. Everyone plays their role to perfection. It pursues its spinal story implacably, but not without the littlle asides and twists we come to associate with the series. There is a moment that stands out. Cyrus insists on taking a photo with him, three people, together and happy. He won’t talk about them, not at first. They were his friends from college, who started a small, careful financial business that became a major player by avoiding the crash of 2008. They got up somebody’s nose. An unidentified gunman walked in one day and killed his friends, wounding him and ten others. He spent weeks in the ICU, came out and abandoned his past and his money. But it was part of the plan.

The scene carries with it a frisson of understanding. Instinctively we know, without needing the slightest flicker of Root’s eyes that betrays her to us but not Cyrus. In a way, it’s a tiny moment of weakness that the episode decides it has to play to its slower audience by having Root admit that the gunman was her, in days of a greater moral depravity that are now gone: the Machine is making a point to her.

All things are connected. Everything leads back to itself. There is a plan. There are two plans. And two tribes, or rather gods, who are about to go to war.

Person of Interest: s03 e15 – Last Call

Yes, again it’s a procedural, a one-off, but this time with a far better, much more involving story, and another opponent who offers recurring possibilities but who, in the end, will return only once.

We start in media res, with Finch in the field as a Trainee operator in an NYPD 911 call centre, where he’s got his eye on the Number, Sandra Nicholson, an experienced, wise, calm-under-pressure supervisor (Melissa Sagemiller). Reese and Shaw are on standby outside, amused at Finch’s lowly role.

Meanwhile, at the Precinct, Fusco is enjoying popularity after his takedown of Simmonds, in demand from his colleagues, especially rookie Detective Jake Harrison (Gavin Stenhouse) seeking guidance on working the  murder of Tara Cooke, which is not the street mugging it initially seems to be.

The threat to Sandra comes out of left field: she takes a 911 call from Aaron, a ten year old boy kidnapped from out of his apartment by professionals associated with a Mexican Drugs Cartel: off go Reese and Shaw. But Aaron is merely a lever to use against Sandra. unless she does exactly as she is told by a mysterious voice on her mobile phone, Aaron will be killed.

The vooice is clever. He’s  hacked into the system to divert this call to Sandra, he knows who she is, he knows what’s in her sealed Juvenile Court records (whilst babysitting and bathing a three year old boy, she left him to get a toy from downstairs, during which short period he drowned) and what makes her completely vulnerable, he’s even gotten a webcam attached to her headset so he can see everything she sees. All Sandra has to do is wipe 30,000+ 911calls from two days ago, calls that are part of evidence in innumerable cases.

One of these turns out to be the death of Tara Cooke. Fusco and Harrison’s case dovetails with the Number. Cooke was having an affair with her CEO and wanted to go public. He and his wife wanted her out of the way. In  order to save Aaron’s life, she agrees to do it.

The arrest and confessions of the married pair terminates the contract and spares Sandra the final decision, but both she and Aaron are to be killed anyway, to clear up loose ends. Reese and Shaw save Aaron from a bomb, Finch threatens to electrocute the hitman sent after Sandra, and she gets to relieve a certain amount of tension by belting him across the back of the skull with his pistol.

And Finch arranges a final meeting with Sandra, enabling her to see the boy she fought for and helped save before she returns to work. Shaw produces the only lead they have as to the voice, paired burner phones taped together. One rings: the voice speaks to Finch, assures him Sandra and Aaron are no longer under threat. But Finch… that’s a different matter.

The voice does return, a long way from here, whilst the show has much weightier matters on its mind, close to the end. Were it not for such matters, I don’t doubt this invisible mastermind would have proved to be more of a recurring threat. Indeed, as we will see, there’s a moment when this figure could have been introduced for a half-season arc, but the show chose a different threat.

As for now, though ‘Last Call’ effectively repeats the same trigger – a child under threat – as ‘Provenance’, it’s a far better story, in ppart because it’s not clogged up by implausibility. Sandra’s emotional commitment to saving Aaron comes over as deeper and more effective despite his being a complete stranger, and that’s down to Sagemiller’s performance. She stays graceful, and doesn’t let the emotions overplay, and it doesn’t hurt that whilst she’s a very attractive woman, that’s downplayed: short hair, full police uniform, no obvious make-up. There’s no glamourisation and that keeps her and Sandra grounded to great effect.

All told, a very solid episode that shows that Person of Interest can still succeed admirably even when it detaches itself completely from its overall flow. But with only eight episodes left, and a lot of ground to cover, it’s time that tide rolls over us.

Person of Interest: s03 e14 – Provenance

Implausible but watchable

Watching and blogging a television series from beginning to end, the same day each week, is a vulnerable process, since you cannot bring the exact same set of sensibilities to bear every single Tuesday. Though it’s not happened so far with Person of Interest, it’s too much to expect for the entire run to go unaffected, and this has been the case today. Feeling at a low ebb, mentally as well as physically, due to various things going on, and watching one of those almost-never standalone episodes, ‘Provenance’ wasn’t going to lift me out of my prevailing mood. Perhaps I should have taken a week off?

The episode was a genuine standalone, its only connections to the ongoing story being at top and bottom. Reese returns from Italy, with a new suit, ready to resume his job, with a Number already on hand. At the end, the crew gathers to celebrate their success with drinks, and Reese places a glass at an empty place round the table, for the one who isn’t there.

After so many intense, serialised weeks, a one-off with no ulterior significance would have to be pretty damned strong to make it and this wasn’t. The Number was Kelli Lin, real name Jai Lin (Elaine Tan), a high-flying events planner who, it quickly turned out, was an international, world class art thief specialising in cultural artefacts of tremendous value. She was also, under her real name, a Chinese former Olympic Silver Medallist being chased by her own Jean Valjean, Interpol Agent Alain Bouchard (Henri Bulatti).

Jao basically had two skills in life: gymnastics and very high power stealing. She had a little daughter being held hostage by a Czech gang requiring her to repay her debt to them, as represented in New York by Cyril (Gene Farber) who was obviously never going to let her go.

It was this conception, gymnast and thief, that bent the plausibility curve out of shape for me and left me unable to get into the episode in the way I usually do. It was the usual, well-constructed thriller: the team start off aiming to frustrate the theft by Jao, in whose wake bodies drop like flies (Cyril was doing it behind Jao’s back) and then had to switch to carrying out the theft itself to protect Jao’s daughter and bring the Czechs down.

Even then, to achieve the required happy ending, logic had to be bent to get Bouchard, who’d pursued Jao across Europe for years, to slip her a key so that she could escape.

No, on another day, of fairer frame of mind, I could buy this and enjoy it for what it was, but not today. Today, I was not receptive to what I could only see as a weak episode by PoI standards. Next week will be better.

Person of Interest: s03 e12 – Aletheia

Don’t cross this woman

‘Aletheia’ is a Greek word meaning, for our purposes, ‘disclosure’ or ‘truth’. It’s an apt title for an episode that uses Person of Interest‘s capacity to construct a tense, slick and violent thriller whilst incorporating the show’s philosophy witth regard to the existence of the Machine.

As an episode, this is so much a direct sequel to  last week’s ‘Lethe’ that it could be joined to it to create a 90 minute feature without any seams showing, a fact recognised internally by the way only a title card is used to identify the show instead of the standard monologue.

We pick up with Control threatening Arthur Claypool and Harold Finch: one of them will give her what she wants and that one will live. Agent Shaw, in the meantime, is disposable and will be shot: mind the bloodspray. This is interrupted by the arrival of the Cavalry in the form of Root (who has freed herself from the Library in a manner she could have done at any time), two-guns firing. But on the way out, she is shot in the arm and captured.

Root goes on to secret immprisonment, interrogation and torture at the hands of Control herself. It’s vivid, it’s horrifying and it includes mutilation: a smll bone, essential to hearing, is cut out from behind Root’s right ear, making her completely deaf on that side.

It’s easy enough to loathe Control, and Camryn Manheim makes her into a total monster without ever once foaming at the mouth or chewing the scenery. Control is frighteningly self-righteous in pursuit of goals that protect the State, and is ruthlessly unconcerned about life. Secrets must be kept, maintained, controlled and anyone who potentially disrupts that world by having knowledge is to be killed, without thought or conscience.

What makes this so frightening is that this is John Reese’s world, that John Reese is every bit as capable of the actions undertaken by Control. It’s not played up blatantly, nothing the series does is ever blatant, it’s all their for the audience to draw the conclusions and, hopefully, think upon them.

Speaking of Mr Reese, he and Fusco are stuck in a Colorado jail, almost by arrangement. Fusco claims the Sheriff can’t recognise an NYPD badge, but when his attempt to turn Reesse back fails, they get out free on a word from the cynical detective. Nothing has changed. Reese has lost his anchor, he has twisted into the nihilistic frame of mind he had when Finch first gave him a job. Nothing is worth it, entropy always wins, Fusco will turn back into the corrupt slimy piece of garbage crooked cop he was. Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.

The meat, so to speak, of the episode takes place in a bank vault. negotiating his way around Claypool’s brain tumour and his wandering memories and perceptions, Finch establishes that disc drives exist preserving Claypool’s Samaritan, in a safe deposit box in a bank under an account opened in the name of a false persona created at MIT by Finch, so solid that it could open a Bank Account. And these drives contain a correct and working Samaritan.

Unfortunately, Control, via Hersh, want the drives, and so does Vigilance, who are equally unconcerned as to the sanctity of human life. Samaritan is Arthur’s child, as much as if it were biological, so his acceptance of the need to destroy the discs to prevent either side from getting hold of them is almost infanticide.

Everyone gets out, though unfortunately they have to jump into the sewer to do so (at least that means we should never again see the hideous checked suit Harold wears throughout these two episodes). There is another of the show’s gunshot set-ups, which frankly are overused. Someone’s been held-up at gunpoint, is about to be shot, a gun fires but it’s someone offscreen doing a last second rescue that’s so frequent you get conditioned to expect it. These are two of Hersh’s SWAT team members, but they are also Reese and Fusco.

But John’s not back for good, he just came back to save Finch and then it’s back to his nihilistic stream.

I haven’t yet mentioned the continuing flashbacks to Harold’s youth and to his Alzheimer’s affected father. Dad has to go into a home. Harold’s still trying to build the machine that will be his Dad’s memory. In search of more computing power, he breaks into Arpanet, the Government forerunner of the Internet, as a result of which he has to go on the run, accused of treason. But by then his father has forgotten him.

Just two more touches. Harold has set Arthur up in comfort under medical care, at a secret location. More and more of Arthur’s memory is disappearing. He can’t ever remember the colour of Diane, his wife’s eyes. But Root, who is becoming or perhaps already is the Machine, who’s gone her own way for now, has a gift for him: old surveillance film and photos of Arthur and Diane together, beamed into his computer. Saul Rubinek, who plays Arthur, has been magnificent these two episodes, up to and including his utter absorption in the life that has been conjured back for him.

At least the discs have been destroyed. But a Bank Manager has been found dead, stuffed into a closet. She’s the Manager who let Claypool and Finch into the vault, was trapped with them, wounded and forgotten in the panic. No, she’s not. The woman who entered the vault was posing as her. She switched the discs. The ones Claypool destroyed were meaningless. The real ones are delivered to Greer, who is so pleased with her  sterling work he shoots her through the heart. Greer has Samaritan. Greer has an AI. And he does not have Harold Finch’s reservations.

The future starts here.

Person of Interest: s03 e11 – Lethe

Two geniuses

From the opening moments – The Machine showing flashbacks of recent events – we feel as if we are in a different dimension. There’s a disorientation to things, made manifest in John Reese’s rumpled and empty bed and Harold Finch’s pretence to Sameen Shaw that there are no new Numbers, which is only true because he is ignoring the Machine’s efforts to contact him.

Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold, mere anarchy is leashed upon the world. Reese has left, in silence, gone to Colorado where he sits in a bar drinking whisky, ignoring the litle man getting a beatdown from a bigger thug. ‘Lethe’: a Greek word meaning Oblivion, or Forgetting.

And the flashbacks return, brief vignettes from the life of a bright, eager, intelligent boy in 1969 and later, a boy interested in birds, learning about them from his father. Ah yes, his father: a man with some kind of illness that is slowly eating his memory, a father being looked after with love and devotion by an extraordinarily bright boy, who will restrict his own life to take care of his father. We do not need to be told the boy’s name is Harold.

But if the Numbers can’t come one way, they will come in another, via Root, still caged, but now voluntarily, in her Faraday Cage in the Library, yet able to piece together the Number: Arthur Claypool, a man in late middle-age played by Saul Tubinek, about whom there is a very small digital footprint. But a man about whom Finch has a natural advantage: Shaw is too eager to return to action to recognise that Harold knows Arthur.

But Arthur Claypool is in Hospital, with a brain tumour. He is a dying man, joking with Shaw, posing as the Doctor she once was, about being a honeybee rather than a dragonfly: a dragonfly has a life expectancy of four months, a honeybee of four weeks. As long as you don’t mayfly on me jokes Shaw in return.

But the hospital is no laughing matter. Claypool is surrounded by security, Secret Service security. That’s because Arthur works for the NSA, the National Security Agency. He is privy to secrets, but his condition destoys some memories but floods others out, uncontrollably. The name of Samaritan is mentioned for the first time. It will be mentioned in every episode to come.

Claypool is a target. He’s a walking leak, a magnet for agencies who want his secrets and a magnet for agencies that want his secrets locked up real tight, maybe even dead tight. Rudy has them, he says at one point, under the influence of sodium pentathol: has what?

But Claypool is a target for Vigilance, our privacy-terrorists who’ve laid mainly low hilst the drame of HR has been working itself out. To get everyone out, Finch has to do the one thing he’s been trying to avoid all along, appear before Arthur Claypool. His old friend, his fellow genius, his ‘brother’ at MIT. Harold knows Arthur and Arthur knows Harold.

They flee to a safe place, Finch, Shaw, Claypool and Diane Claypool (Camryn Manheim), Arthur’s wife who he doesn’t recognise, sweet, helpless, gentle, distraught that her husband doesn’t recognise her, but we who have been here before recognise her (I’m pretty sure I had her pegged first time round).

Why does everyone want the dying Arthur. It’s that name: Samaritan. Samaritan was a Machine built and designed by Arthur to accept, analyse and interpret all surveillance feeds post-911, to pre-identify terrorist activity. An AI, an artificial Intelligence that could learn, remember and grow. Samaritan doesn’t exist. It was scrapped, a few weeks before Arthur could complete it, in 2005, along with a host of other prjects all with the same intent. Arthur knows why Samaritan was scrapped: because somebody else got there first, somebody built a Machine that did it, that worked.

Arthur’s memory is full of holes. He remembers Harold, but he doesn’t remember Diane. Unfortunately, he remembers why he doesn’t remember Diane.

Let’s cut away though, to Reese, in his Colorado bar. Not just Reese, but Fusco, assigned to watch over Reese but also concerned himself for the Man in a Suit who gave him the impetus to turn himself around. Reese will let Fusco stay provided he doesn’t talk and accompanies him in drinking himself into oblivion, into Lethe.

But Fusco has changed more than we think. He’s on bourbon and soda, hold the bourbon. Reese is in despair. A genuine war hero is celebrated in this bar, with photos and clippings. Fusco spots the resemblance: Reese’s father, a Vietnam vet. Who survived the war and was killed at the oil refinery. Reese is burned out. No matter what they do, bad things happen. Doing good things is pointless, entropy always wins, why bother raging against the dying of the light? Fusco will have none of this. Reese changed his life for the better, is he saying that was pointless. Fusco provokes a fight, out back, in the driving rain. at first, Reese merely dodges but Fusco is a tough little bugger. They’re starting to fight in earnest when the lights and the siren of a cop car interrupt them.

And why does Arthur Claypool not remember Diane? Because she’s not Diane. Diane died two years ago, Arthur can remember the exact date he buried her. ‘Diane’ is another whose real name we will never know. The name we will know her by is Control. Agents bust into the room, outnumber and overpower Shaw. Hersh enters. What is it all about?

It’s about Samaritan. It may have been scrapped but Arthur still has the discs and Control wants them. As a bonus, she has the creator of the Machine. She wants to know where that is. One of them will tell her what she wants to know. That will be the one who lives…

This is a two-parter. And it’s a gateway. We have already stepped through it.