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: s03 e03 – Lady Killer


Not that I’m saying this was in any way a bad episode, but I found the latest Person of Interest to be disappointing. Or, more to the point, a little perfunctory.

Except for the sub-plot with Root, alert via the Machine to the knowledge that Hersh was closing in on her trail to tidy things up and that she had better advance her plans for leaving the Secure Mental Facility to which Finch had delivered her, which she did with extreme ease, even down to obeying the Machine’s instructions not to finish him off, this was pure Season 1 Number of the Wek. Less even than that, really, for there were not even flashbacks to give us a glimpse of the wider story.

The Number was Ian Murphy, a rags-to-riches of a young man who came from nothing but who, with the aid of a $100,000 inheritance, made himself wealthy by canny investment in successful small businesses. Ian’s a lady-killer in the old-fashioned version of the phrase, constantly dating women, playing the chameleon to suit their wishes, obsessively building files on them: the classic stalker. and as one of his girlfriends is missing and another he’s interested in is dead in a car accident, we are looking at Perpetrator.

But, in a switch we should have expected, Ian is actually a Victim. He’s been baited witth three ladies dressed sexily for a hot Club, Shaw, Joss and a welcome reappearance from Zoe Morgan. He’s picked up Joss. He’s being the slightly-too-perfect boyfriend, Fusco and Reese are covering her back, Shaw’s got a sniper rifle on him and is bored waiting to kill him. And two street punks walk out of the dark with guns trained on him.

The story’s simple. Ian’s ‘inheritance’ was no such thing, it was a pay-off. Ian met heiress Dana Wellington at college, they fell in love, she got pregnant and her Master of the Universe father Bruce, one of these rich bastards who think they can control everybody, gave Ian $100,000 to get out of Boston. And he told Ian Dana had had an abortion.

Straightaway you knew that was a lie. Dana was dead, Iaan had attended the funeral, Vruce had kicked off at him right royally: why else would he want Ian dead if not to stop him legally claiming his grandson and heir, Alex, the ‘son’ of Dana’s elder sister and her husband.

So our crew turned themselves temporarily into a Scooby Gang to thwart the scumbag millionaire, but somehow the plot fizzled out, unexpectedly. Alex’s Birth Certificate was obtained by blackmailing a doctor way offscreen and somehow that was enough to frustrate Mr Wellington’s plans to place young Alex in a London Boarding School the next day.

There were a lot of good elements to this story. It began with Reese and Shaw on  ‘date’ in a boat on a rowing lake, with Shaw determined to have the oars. Our dark-haired beauty is establishing a very warm relationship with our doggy friend, Bear. And the immediate warmth and humour of our trio of ladies, out to enjoy themselves and let everyone know it, was worth the episode alone.

But, except in Root’s small corner, which did not interact with anything else until Finch arrived in the last minute, aghast that she’d gotten away, there was nothing to do with the series. We’re into the third season now, the rock is rolling, we are four episodes away from the midpoint of the series as a whole and you could have cut this episode out of the run completely and no-one would notice any gap because there is no hole that this story fills.

I’m hypercritical this morning because I’m suffering from an eye infection, so I may have been harsher on this episode than it deserves, but I want the show to be nothing but ongoing from here, for every part of it to point in some way towards the events that build upon each other, not to stand off to one side and smell the roses, especially if it can’t adequately end its sidebar tle when it does so.

Person of Interest: s02 e15 – Booked Solid


She’s baaaack.

Structurally, this latest episode of Person of Interest was a solid procedural Number of the Week, supplemented by two differing strands from the show’s ongoing underlying mythos, three if you count the mostly peripheral return of Paige Turco as fixer Zoe Morgan. But it ended on a twist made all the more enjoyable in its reveal by withholding the name of someone from the opening credits, which is the lead-in to the theme that will dominate the remaining third of the series.

Our Number this week is Mira Dobrica, real name Mira Brozy, played by Mia Maestro. Mira works in a very upmarket Hotel, supposedly a Serbian refugee from Kosovo. The Hotel has just acquired two new members of staff, a Concierge and a Bellhop, named Harold and John respectively, there to look out for who, in a Hotel of over 700 guests, wants to murder a housemaid.

The answer is relatively straightforward, indeed almost obvious once it is teased out that a professional hit squad is staking the Hotel, though there’s a not very serious attempt at drawing a red herring across our path with the fact that the officious Floor Manager is running a hooker ring that someone has shopped to the Police (by who is never revealed, but between Derek’s accusation of Mira and her non-denial of John’s assumption, we can guess it was her, but why she should be drawng atttention to herself thusly was never directly discussed). No, Mira was a witness to war crimes conducted by a Serbian General currently running for high political office and wanting the evidence, and the witness, to disappear.

In dealing with the thriller aspect of the story, the episode made good use of our two Guardian Angels, together in the field, and their respective skills. Harold, neat, professional, unhurried, a comprehensive source of information, was the spider at the centre of the web, all-seeing, all-directing, and a pefect concierge, and John our roving operative, covering the whole Hotel, whose guests included one Zoe Morgan, who took his appearance in a bellhop’s uniform in her professional deadpan style with a murmured, “Nice suit.”

Zoe would be very briefly used to ‘accidentally’ spill wine on a guy who’d been sat in the lobby all day, exposing him as part of the threat, but otherwise her appearance was deliberately for show, the series indulging itself in teasing our expectations. And John’s, if their mutual decision to stay on an extra night was any indication.

Fusco was brought in midway to lend an extra pair of eyes and legs. He managed, surprisingly, to shoot down two professional killers and then, when he’d brought Mira back to the Precinct for protection, Carter was forced to shoot another one. Add to that the two John shot up in the Hotel, one in an elevator car where he’d got Mira trapped, and it was a busy day.

But Mira was saved, the hooker ring exposed, Finch bought the Hotel and installed Mira as its new Floor Manager, plus the General was brought down, so all was well that ended well. Despite the political reason for Mira becoming a target, the Number was really a rather lightweight story, well-executed.

Except for her dramatic intervention to save Mira from an in-Precinct garrotting, Carter was kept back from the action this week, as part of her ongoing story. Special Agent Donnelly may be dead but his recommendation of her as an FBI Agent isn’t. Carter’s interested. Her relationship with Detective Cal Beacher is going well, enough so that she’s talking about introducing him to her son, Tyler. He’s definitely serious about her. And he is under investigation by IAB (Internal Affairs Bureau) for enough matters that her association with him knocks Carter’s chances on the head. Joss needs to think and, being Joss, she will need to know. Is Beacher dirty? We know, though Carter doesn’t, that he’s the godson of the head of HR. Where is this leading?

Of more direct application to both the Number and the ongoing story is the re-emergence of Hersh, having finally got himself out of Rykers. Special Counsel wants him finding Reese and disposing of him, but he wants to know who Reese is working for. The taciturn Hersh knows simply to look for a ‘mess’ and reports of gunfire at the Hotel is enough of a lead.

John’s got Mira out. He’s resigned as a bellhop, changed into his other suit, is about to leave and Hersh, who knows his face from Rykers, comes up on him from behind. The two fight, both professionals. This time, it’s John who prevails, sticking a kitchen knife into Hersh only just far enough to not sever an artery. John recognises a fellow soldier just as much as Hersh recognises him: in twenty minutes, Hersh will bleed out. He can pursue John or he can get to a hospital and save himself. That’s the difference: nothing is personal to Hersh, he follows orders. Everything is personal to John Reese. He invites Hersh to consider if his masters would show him the same mercy.

I’m forced to question Reese’s not killing a dangerous opponent who he knows will come back at him again. Letting Hersh live is tactically foolish and exposes both himself and Finch to risks that are, by definition, unnecessary. Hersh and Special Counsel have parts to play: at episode’s end, the recovering Hersh will be summoned by to Washington by his master to deal with a more pressing matter, taking him off the trail for the moment. But it’s still a development that smacks of scripting convenience rather than the natural outcome.

This summons for Hersh places us in Special Counsel’s office, where he works with a secretary. Literally seconds before the show revealed its twist, I saw it coming, this time and first time, from Miss May’s voice, from her super-competence, from the way the camera avoided showing her face.

A long time ago, in the second series of 24, one episode’s cliffhanger hinged upon the unexpected, last second appearance of President David Palmer’s now ex-wife. Penny Johnson Gerrold’s name was in the credits at the start and she didn’t appear anywhere in the episode, so the surprise fell flat because it had to be her. Series have learned from that fiasco since, including Person of Interest. So Amy Acker was left off the credits for guest stars. Miss May is Root. Welcome to the endgame.

Person of Interest: s02 e06 – The High Road


Suburban Wives.

There’s a kind of predictable unpredictability about Person of Interest in the first couple of seasons. It was sold to the network as a procedural, and it has to be faithful to that remit whilst expanding its internal mythos. That over-riding arc will take the show over, but a quarter of the way through season 2, we’re still at the point of individual episodes.

So a heavy-hitting, arc-establishing episode like last week’s ‘Bury the Lede’ is followed by a charming domestic tale whos impact is only felt within small confines, and which allows the team to relax as John Reese and fixer Zoe Morgan play a married couple in the suburbs whilst John watches over the new Number, Graham Wyler (David Denman), husband, father, hardware store owner, no clouds or shadows: ‘the most boring man in New York’, Reese summarises.

But we know there’s more to it than saving the life of a devoted family man. One reason is that there has to be a twist to Graham’s perfect small life: I suspected Witness Protection but it was slightly different. Graham’s real name was Lloyd Pruitt, he used to be an old-fashioned safecracker in Philadelphia, a guy who’d worked with a team. Except that on the one job he’d refused to do, the other two went ahead withouthim, got caught and did twelve years in prison. Now, thanks to a chance photo on Facebook, they’ve found good old Lloyd. Threats against his family, wife Connie, a gorgeous redhead (Alicia Witt, a gorgeous redhead) and teenage daughter Izzy force Lloyd into one last job, in which he’s going to be exposed and killed, until neighbour John Campbell, purveyor of security systems that enables Harold Finch to eavesdrop, intervenes.

There’s a happy ending. Graham, who’s already left a letter to Connie, revealing all, decides to turn himself in. Connie loves him still, he gets house arrest, his life in all its respects is saved. His neighbours, the Campbells, move on: the suburbs is not for them.

It’s a delicate, enjoyable story, one of those tales where a domestic idyll is changed but remains secure, the kind of story we hope to read and yet so often are denied in favour of the ‘realism’ of pain, destruction and death.

But we know it’s not going to be as simple as that for another reason. The episode opens with an extended flashback to 2004: Finch and Nathan Ingram in the park, by the river. It’s a test run for the nascent Machine, to identify the people it ‘sees’ and explain their stories. Ingram is sceptical, of the Machine’s attempts too understand humanity, and of his introverted friend’s ability to teach it. The Machine, off it’s own back, calls attention to the woman painting by the railings: she is Grace Hendricks.

Because the flashbacks come in threes, we return in mid-show to the park. It’s now 2005, and Finch is testing the Machine on discovering connections between disparate and random pairs of people. He sees the artist, and is intrigued that the Machine can discover no anomalies, no secrets, no shadows, no connections.

Then, at the end as it was the beginning, a final flashback, to 2006, January to be precise. Finch turns up at the park. He’s greeted by an ice cream truck seller, accepts his usual vanilla ice cone. The park is cold and empty, but for one person: the artist, painting by the railings as always. Finch walks up to her and, smiling, says Hello. A surprised Grace says Hello back. The screen goes black. Another jigsaw piece has been turned over.

Nothing is ever simple. Expect the unexpected. Nothing is unconnected.

 

Person of Interest: s02 e05 – Bury the Lede


Victim, or Perpetrator?

And here is where things really start to get interesting.

After resolving the issue of Finch’s kidnapping by Root, and allowing a lull in the form of a procedural episode or two, Person of Interest began developing its first major theme for season 2 in this episode. First, there was a bit of minor misdirection in the form of this week’s number, Maxine Angelis (guest star Gloria Votsis), a determined investigative reporter pursuing financial improprieties in one man’s political campaign to be elected Mayor of New York (gosh, if we only had reporters like that in Britain).

We begin in media res with the lady: there is no longer any need to rehash how Numbers are received, nor to introduce them in the Library, we save time by introducing them on the fly. But Maxine immediately seems irrelevant as the FBI, under Special Agent Donnelly, swoop on the NYPD and arrest 75 dirty cops, all members of HR. This does not include Fusco, though he’s sweating a bit, and he has Symonds on his back demanding he destroy evidence that implicates the latter.

The raid is all based on Fusco’s undercover work in season 1. The scale of it might lead you to suppose HR is crippled, at best, but the Boss remains unidentified and out of reach.

Maxine’s interested in that story too, and also the one about the Man in a Suit, which means Reese can’t get close to her in the usual way without risking publicity that he and Finch neither want nor need. It makes his job impossible, so Finch solves it in an underhandedly direct manner: Maxine is using an online dating agency, so winds up agreeing a date with a ‘John Anderson’, an actuary.

And when Reese starts floundering very quickly, Finch gets Zoe Morgan to do a walk-by, to perk Maxine up about ‘Mr Anderson’s attractiveness to other women.

That’s by-the-by. Maxine has a meet with Mayoral Office high-ranking staffer Alonzo Quinn (Clarke Peters, in between The Wire and Treme: does his presence alert you to anything?). Quinn’s behind the Griffin campaign, the one with the sleazeball implication, but is getting creamed by the Mr Clean candidate, Landon Walker.

And there’s an anonymous tip to Maxine, naming Christopher Zambrano as the boss of HR.

Zambrano looks good for it. His Dad was one of the Mafia Dons taken out by Elias last season, he runs an Import-Export business that is the kind of cover Dons use, the FBI are interested in him. Maxine sprays him all over the cover, but there’s just one thing wrong: Zambrano’s clean. Clean in that he’s the witness, not the boss, possessor of a ledger of pay-offs belonging to his Dad, that he’ll surrender to the FBI, once he gets his immunity deal. Now Maxine’s painted a target on his forehead.

The news that she’s been played, and allowed her eagerness for a scoop to let her see the wrong story, breaks during her date with ‘John Anderson’. Christopher Zambrano is shot dead, Maxine’s career ruined, she’s genuinely repentant, and when she tries to track down who set her up, her life is in danger. From being the Perpetrator, albeit unknowingly, she has become the Victim that Reese has to protect at close range.

What’s important is to find the ledger, but when they do, two homicidal ex-FBI agents are prepared to take it from them and arrange their death as a lover’s spat that escalated. Reese’s hands are tied, both literally and figuratively. This time it’s Carter and Fusco who arrive to save the day.

The fall-out is that both the ex-FBI guys and the ledger drop Landon ‘Mr Clean’ Walker in it. He’s arrested by Donnelly, Ed Griffin wins the Mayoralty. Fusco, who’s dancing on a knife-edge here, removes two pages from it first, relating to payments made to P Symonds and L Fusco. It’s still not enough to get him out of HR.

There are two stings left in the tale. Maxine goes on a fourth, entirely normal date with Anderson, but it’s their last: she’s wedded to her job and he isn’t yet over Zoe Morgan. But she’s dropping the Man in a Suit investigation. He must be an Urban Legend – after the weekend she’s just had, if he did exist she’d have seen him…

But the other is the big reveal, and it’s one that we should all have seen coming from the mere fact that Clarke Peters was playing a guest role. It’s to be a recurring role. The boss of HR is Alonzo Quinn. And the shape of season 2 slowly crystallises.

Person of Interest: s01 e23 – Fire Wall


Caroline Turing

We’re at the end of season 1 of Person of Interest now, and the show left the audience hanging on a slew of cliffhangers as several status quos were given a thorough kicking, and one cliffhanger in particular left the audience waiting for season 2 to find out just what was going to happen.

On a purely technical level, the episode crammed in multiple stories, intertwined, without feeling rushed or hurried, especially when the largest part of the episode, the Number of the Week, was a red herring of Loch Ness Monster proportions.

To signal the tension, the episode began in the middle, with Finch suddenly summoning Carter’s help because Mr Reese  is in trouble. Before she can do anything, she’s commandeered by Special Agent Donnelly and whisked off to the FBI Task Force command post. They’ve got the Man in the Suit cornered. They have him on security footage, with a woman, who, cleverly, we can only see blurred.

Then it’s flashback time, but only to the previous day, as we build into this moment.

The woman is the Number, Caroline Turing, a high-powered psychologist, played by Amy Acker, as a slightly nervous woman, caught in an unfamiliar situation. Turing deals with high-powered individuals, hears secrets that could have ruinous effect. She’s good at whhat she does: she does a pretty decent analysis on her new client ‘John Rooney’, quickly getting at a lot of John Reese. But someone wants her dead, and as Fusco reports back, it’s HR, going into the murder for hire business, who will carry it out.

A little of the tension, the sting, was taken out of the episode for me by simply knowing what was coming, though the reveal was mercifully very late. Because whilst I didn’t specifically remember that much of the episode, I do know who Amy Acker’s character is, and it’s not Caroline Turing.

But Acker played her part to perfection, not the least suggestion that she was anything other than she appeared to be. She maintained the part publicly, and even fooled Zoe Morgan (PaigeTurco, remember?) when Finch brought her in to try to identify the guy behind the shooting.

Reese intervenes in the would-be shooting, spirits Turing away, is caught on security camera with her, leading to Donnelly, still wildly misinterpreting what John is doing, according to his theory, closing in. Reese has got to protect Turing and himself from HR on the one hand and the FBI on the other. He’s not interested in Fusco meeting the three high-ups of HR, nor in letting Fusco complete his underground mission. And he’s not aware that Finch is being followed by Alicia Corwin (Elizabeth Marvel), nor that she’s found the Library.

For the moment, the show having caught up with and passed its opening scene, John is trying to get himself and Turing out of a hotel. It seems impossible, even with Carter feeding him warnings. But someone’s warning HR. Carter thinks it’s Fusco, who’s texting as much as she is, but when she confronts him, he’s feeding Finch. The two finally realise they’ve been helping the same people. They go in to get Reese away from the HR shooters, and discuss trust issues along the way. Reese has already sent Turing ahead on their escape route, to where Finch is waiting with a car.

And a woman does indeed get into his passenger seat.  But it’s Alicia.

She’s been trailing him for weeks. She has worked out that he built the Machine, Nathan Ingram’s ‘IT guy’. Alicia is herself on the run, though it’s not quite clear what from: it may be herself. The ethics of the Machine have destroyed her mental balance. In a foreshadowing of themes to come, she describes the Machine as God. It sees all, it hears all. She wants Harold’s help to destroy it. Harold sees clearly: Alicia has been behind the whole thing, has created the threat against Caroline Turing, just to draw Finch out into the open.

Only she hasn’t. She’s never heard of Caroline Turing. Who walks up to the car and shoots Alicia through the back of the head. There’s none of that nervousness now, as she sits in the back, eager at the chance to meet Harold: they have so much to talk about.

Because Zoe’s just found out that Caroline Turing doesn’t exist. That she’s a shell. A shell who ordered a hit on herself just to get Finch and Reese to save her, exactly as they did. To kidnap Finch. They can call her Root (you should here re-read my blog on episode 13).

Which leaves John Reese on his own. Finch is the brains, the man who communicates with the Machine. Root is a hacker whose skills are seemingly eqal with those of Finch. What can Reese do? He needs an ally. In an echo of the image in the opening credits, he stands in the street and quietly addresses a security camera, addressing the Machine. Finch has been doing the Machine’s work. Now the Machine needs to help him. Close at hand, a public phone rings. Reese goes to answer it.

At least there’s no waiting a close season to find out what happens next. Season 2 starts here, in seven days time. I shall fight not to watch it ahead of time.

Person of Interest: s01 e13 – Root Cause


Root

Rewatching a series you’re familar with is an interesting mental process, eespecially for a writer. The episode title this week filled me with anticipation, some of which was justified by its contents. It ended with a teaser. It was also an episode that, if PoI had failed in the ratings – and remember this is episode 13, the traditional Network hedging point – could have served as a finale. Which makes me wonder whether the teaser was part of the original synopsis?

At first glance, ‘Root Cause’ looked to be again a conventional Number of the Week, the series retrenching slightly after the fast-moving developments of mid-season. There’s an amusing twist of a begining in media res, Finch interrupting Reese beating down an ex-con intent on killing his wife, to give him a new Number.

This is Scott Powell, late thirties, married, nice wife, two kids, comfortable job, Project Manager. The face of normality. Also, out of work for eight months, hasn’t told wife Lesley (the lovely Amy Hargreaves), nearing the end of his money and his tether. Is he about to snap and assassinate Congressman Michael Delancey, who he blames for the cutbacks that cost him his job? The angry, threatening e-mails, the visits to libertarian websites on his laptop would seem to confirm the case, as does the temporary job with Delancey’s re-election campaign.

But it’s not so. Delancey is a target, and is assassinated, but Scott Powell is the patsy, manouevred into place to take the fall, an incredible amount of sophisticated incriminating evidence constructed around him to pinpoint him exactly. You’d back Finch to deconstruct it, but the brain behind this is incredibly sophisticated. Indeed, in some ways, she’s smarter than Finch: he breaks through her firewall, but instead it’s a honeypot, inviting in a waiting Trojan Horse that begins to corrupt Finch’s systems at the library. Finch is forced to shut down and to work on the move.

Reese, meanwhile, is one of thefew people who believes Powell’s not the shooter, because he prevented him from using the rifle he was setting up (a confetti shooter). Reese knows from experience on the other side that patsies don’t live long, that they’re eliminated in suicides or accidents (or being shot in Police Station cellars, eh?), so he takes Powell out of the hands of the FBI and into genuinely safe custody.

The FBI, incidentally, are represented by Special Agent Nicholas Donnelly, unnamed in the episode, played by Brennan Brown, to become a recurring character.

We do keep seeing the hacker, but only in back-shots: a woman, voice electronically distorted, long dark hair, black nail varnish. We’re not going to identify her yet.

In order to get to the bottom ofwhy someone would want Delancey dead, Finch calls in a specialist, Zoey Morgan, the fixer, who pinpoints, and provokes the culprit into reevealing himself. This is Pete Matheson, Delancey’s campaign manager and business partner who, whilst Delancey was focused full-time on the campaign, cut corners and paid bribes. The company’s under investigation: a dead partner can’t contradict claims that he was the crook.

Between everyone’s efforts, Powell’s life is preserved, evidence of Matheson’s guilt is delivered to the Police/FBI, and Matheson, wracked with guilt, leaves a suicide note on his laptop. That we’ve seen the hacker write… Her whereabouts are also made known to the FBI, but when they raid a college dorm room, of a freshman who’s been away for a weekend, the bird has flown.

So all’s well that ends well. But Finch has a job to do, restoring his base at the library. Operations will have to be suspended. He’ll call Reese when they get another Number.

Thirteen episodes, the initial order for a new series, to enable losses to be eliminated if numbers don’t add up. The thirteenth episode is designed to be an adequate, if not totally complete, ending. Remember 24, season 1? Person of Interest can die here, unmourned, by the Network, that is.

But it didn’t. The option was taken up for a full season. I don’t know when, but I guess with enough time to add the coda that makes this episode into the seed of something bigger.

Finch finishes his conversation with Reese. He’s on a small laptop in a public library. A chat connection comes through, unexpectedly. It is the hacker. We have not seen or heard her properly because the actress who plays her is an extra, a placeholder for someone who will take on the role in good time. The chat is in its way a challenge. Ostensibly, it’s a salute to a worthy opponent. But Root, as the hacker wishes to be called, is looking forward to next time. Next time? Oh yes, there’ll be a next time, though what Root becomes is impossible to foresee from here.

But she leaves a sting in the tail. A final word of address to Finch. Or, as she puts it, Harold.

Think about that.

Person of Interest: s01 e06 – The Fix


The Fixer

A very clever, very important episode, and a very insightful one as well, particularly in the wake of last week, and John Reese’s heartfelt appreciation of what Harold Finch is allowing him to do.

The episode begins in media res. A tall, attractive woman in her early forties leaves her home at night. A driver awaits her. He is not her regular, he is Mr Reese. Immediately, she is suspicious and calls the company. Mr Finch answers. He has an explanation: Bill’s called in sick, laryngitis, contracted from his younger son, Andy. The details are accurate. Her new driver is told no conversations, eyes on the road, stay with the car. His fee is torn in half: the rest to be paid at the end. The woman is Zoe Morgan (Paige Turco). She is the Number of the Week: victim or perpetrator.

It could go either way. Reese drives her to the Naval Yards (Finch is searching her impersonal apartment) where she buys something off a street gang. A gun. Then to a big social function where, stripped down to a little black frock, she calls out a ranking police officer, Lt. Gilmore. A shooter, then. No, a fixer. The gun is a police weapon, left in a subway bathroom, recovered discretely to save the officer’s career (a good officer, Gilmore says, your nephew, Ms Morgan replies).

Zoe’s next job is to recover a tape. It appears to disclose an affair between CEO Mark Lawson, of Vitragen Pharmaceuticals, and an unknown woman, and a fat slovenly blogger is willing to give it up for $40,000. Zoey’s professional: she doesn’t listen to the tape, she doesn’t need to. But that’s not enough: Vitragen’s head troubleshooter, Samuel Douglas, tries to take her in, but this is where Reese intervenes to save her.

It’s all down to what’s on the tape, and Zoe’s copied it (she may be discrete, but she’s not stupid). The matter takes on a new level of seriousness when they arrive at the blogger’s home to see his body being removed: a heart attack. And Zoe motors whilst Reece is distracted.

Another distraction: Detective Carter has another case, a former Mafia hit man, stabbed through the chest with a steak-knife. Only it’s not one of his steak-knives. It’s not serrated, it’s old, dull. The killer has brought it with him. The hit man rolled on a murder charge forty years ago, a stabbing, a woman named Marlene Elias. The case that was stolen from the evidence locker. The murder weapon. Something’s building here. We’ll come back to this.

Reese brings the copy tape to Finch, who starts cleaing it up. He also takes it a busness meeting: a Mr Harold Partridge has bought eight percent of Vitragen’s shares in the past few days and gets a meeting with not only Lawson, but Robert Keller, the company owner, and Lawson’s father-in-law. Lawson’s the heir apparent, providing Keller doesn’t get to hear about any affairs, that is.

Meanwhile, Finch has traced the woman on the tape, one Dana Miller, a former employee at Vitragen, in their clinical trials department. Vitragen has a new migraine drug coming out, FDA approved, a guaranteed winner. Mr Partridge’s money is safe: he’ll never need to invest in another company again.

Only, Mr Finch has heard Dana Miller’s name before. Six months ago, before he met Mr Reese, her Number came up. An apparent brain aneurysm. But the Machine doesn’t do accidents. Finch could do nothing, for her or any of the other Numbers that litter a noticeboard of their own, all people that could have been saved but for whom he could do nothing. To be able to avenge at least one makes this case intensely personal for the little man.

Zoe surfaces. She’s bet herself on Reese tracking her cellphone and she’s right. There’s a definite sexual tension between this pair, over and above the tension of deciding just how far to trust each other. They’re going to burgle Vitragen, and Lt. Gilmore, who owes her a favour – always have something to trade – will ensure the Police don’t respond.

In Lawson’s office, the pair uncover Dana Miller’s deleted records and the file she accessed multiple times, the file that had been altered before submission to the FDA, to remove six test subject’s names. Six subjects who all died of congestive heart failure. And Finch cleans up the tape enough to confirm that Dana Miller wan’t threatening to expose an affair, but a dangerous drug on which billions in profit rested.

Unfortunately, Lt. Gilmore has decided to free himself of any favours due to Zoe Morgan by shopping her to Vitragen. ‘Mr Partridge’ tries to contact Keller urgently, intending to expose Lawson’s plans to save Reese and Zoe until the simultaneous revelation, on the tape and in Vitragen’s offices, that the kindly, avuncular Keller knew all along, and was in it up to his neck.

Zoe swings a deal. In return for her life, she’ll hand over the copy of the tape she’s using as security, leaving Reese to be executed. As a farewell gesture, she gives Reese a lingering kiss – and a paperclip he can use to unlock his handcuffs, fulfilling the gag she made about the very same thing, earlier on.

Let’s go back to Carter. She’s called in Bernie Sullivan, the detective on the Maria Elias case, who confirms he had the hitman dead to rights but the political fix was in, bought and sold. Sullivan fills in some essential background. Marlene was having an affair with Mafia Don Gianni Moretti, and had a son with him, Carl. Marlene was killed because she wanted Moretti to marry her. Carl went into the system, became almost a professional runaway. There was only one teacher he was close to, to whom he sent Xmas cards and money every year. Sullivan’s got these: Carter will come get them.

Reese frees himself from the handcuffs and turns Douglas’s lethal hypodermic against him. Finch updates him that Zoe hasn’t betrayed him, she’s provided clues to her whereabouts: the Naval Yards. Reese arrives on time to stop Lawson.

Robert Keller enjoys a lunch meeting with ‘Harold Partridge’. He’s all jovial and optimistic, until ‘Partridge’ reveals that he knows of troubles coming the way of the company’s senior officials and that he’s sold out his shareholding. Keller threatens that he is not someone to be treated this way, but Finch, with a quiet but lethal determination gves him a photo of Dana Miller. He tells Keller that he knows money is the only thing that hurts him so he’s taken it all away. Finch will come out with half a billon dollars by selling short (I cannot work out how that works), ruining the company.

Carter arrives at Sullivan’s apartment to collect the cards. She passes someone on the landing. Inside his apartment, Sullivan is dead. The man on the stairs fires back at her and disappears. Who is Carl Elias and what does he want?

I’ve gone into extra detail as to the plot of this episode to show how Person of Interest works: intense, detailed plots, intricate twists, dry, ironic humour, and the willingness to build long-term stories in small increments. It’s giving nothing away to confirm that Zoe Morgan bcomes a semi-regular guest, and it’s equally obvious that Carl Elias, for all that he’s yet to appear, will have a major role to play. And remember, this is still the procedural-with-a twist stage, before it gets really complex.

What sticks with me though is Finch. Emerson has played him as completely self-contained, private, withholding. He built the Machine, he took on the obligation of trying to save the Numbers, but until now it might have been almost an abstract duty. Finch’s intensity in the face of his past failures, the chance to atone, and make no mistake, it is atonement, shows how deeply he feels the responsibility of his position. It matters to him, it matters very much.

“You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know, because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people; people like you. Crimes the government considered ‘irrelevant’. They wouldn’t act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You’ll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number’s up… we’ll find you.” Harold Finch’s voiceover introduction, season 1.

American Gothic: e22 – Requiem


This one I was reluctant to start watching, because it was the last one and not the end. I didn’t want to get to that point, which I remembered breathlessly, where the plug is pulled, the bathwater drains away and there is just a blank where season 2 should have been. But I had forgotten just how dark this last episode was.

Watching it put me in mind of the end of Blake’s 7, where a poor series 4, made under duress and boy did it show, ended up with the Seven, including Blake and, off-screen, Jenna, killed to destroy any risk of there being a series 5. It was wrong then, it’s wrong today. I am, in one sense, old-fashioned, due to my age. I grew up in an era where Good prevailed, and to see Evil prevail is, in certain circumstances, deeply wrong to me.

Had American Gothic lived as it deserved to, had seven seasons, until Caleb grew into manhood and came into his own, I think ultimately he would have rejected what Lucas Buck stood for. In this last episode, with Lucas apparently dead as of last week, Caleb embraced the power that flowed into him with all the lack of sophistication of a ten year old boy, and the only thing that stopped him was the resurrection of Lucas Buck.

There was a funeral, with only four attendees: Caleb, Gail, Selena and Ben. Five, of you count the gravedigger who showed no respect to the deceased. But then Caleb, left alone (but for the eavesdropping Selena) to say his final words, not only openly acknowledged Buck as his father but spat upon his grave.

There’s a horribly disturbing scene right off, in broad daylight, as Ben takes Caleb back to the boarding house. Caleb wants to see Ben’s gun but he refuses. He startles Ben by pulling out of the glove compartment Lucas’s gun, the one Ben didn’t know about. He sticks it in Ben’s chest, grinning, going on about how Ben was never praised by Lucas because he never showed his potential. His gun’s against Ben’s heart, he pulls the trigger, but it’s not loaded. It’s all a game: I was just funning with you.

Then he moves into Lucas’s house, against Merly’s wishes. Caleb is on the point of taking the name Buck, and doesn’t want her and her white dress around him any more. Once there, he finds Selena, at her most seductive, interested in Caleb’s potential.

At the hospital, Billy Peale has ordered post mortem blood tests on Lucas, concerned about why he ‘died’. We know he’s not dead, just buried alive, a point reiterated this week. Merlyn’s conducting a conversation with him in which he’s almost but not quite asking for help: because if he dies and his powers go irrevocably to Caleb, there’ll be no saving the boy.

But hospital boss Dr Narone, whose three year old granddaughter Ashley is with him today, is concerned about this. They’re expensive, the hospital can’t afford them, bring the results to me immediately (without looking at them yourself). And Ben, in the midst of a horde of townsfolk, demanding that they still get everything they had under Sheriff Buck’s ‘deals’ (whilst no doubt glad they no longer have to uphold their end of the bargain, not like all the dead ones), gets a prompt from a solid-looking Merlyn.

So Bill(y) and Ben go down to the cemetery at night and dig up a less-than-graciously-grateful Lucas Buck and sneak him into the hospital via the back door, so no-one else will know. Lucas is, however, weak.

And Selena’s told Caleb that Gail is pregnant by Sheriff Buck. It’s his insurance policy, an heir and a spare (how Windsorian) in case Caleb escapes him. But Caleb’s not having that: there can only be one Buck in every generation. He gets Selena to lure his cousin to the house where he makes it very plain that she’s not leaving there pregnant. Or alive, if need be.

Lucas, as soon as he learns this, skates over there, but not in time to prevent Gail from falling down the stairs: miscarriage, fracture concussion, possible spleen damage. Gail is out of it. And Selena, for playing her part in this, is definitively rejected by Lucas.

Who’s paid an unexpected visit to Dr Narone. Narone had taken advantage, tired of all the years of covering up the suspicious deaths that surround Lucas Buck. Something to temporarily stop his heat and burial alive. Lucas will be merciful: if Narone hangs himself with little Ashley’s skipping rope, Lucas will spare little Ashley. We know it’s coming but that doesn’t shake the horror when the little girl approaches Doctor Billy and Doctor Rita to tell them, in puzzlement, that ‘Granpa’s sleeping on the ceiling’.

Now it’s down to Lucas vs Caleb over who wields the power. Caleb uses a letter-opener to stab Lucas in the stomach, but it’s not him, it’s Merly, seeming to be him for a distraction. Lucas grabs Caleb from behind, but it’s too late, the only way to save him is to kill him. Lucas is going to throw him off the landing. Merlyn is frantic, thiswasn’t their deal, but Lucas Buck is a lying, cheating bastard. I won’t let you kill him, she yells. I know you won’t, Lucas says, having manipulated Merlyn into a sacrifice that benefits him. When he throws Caleb down, she is there: there is a blinding flash and she’s gone, never to return.

Caleb’s back to normal, good-little-kid normal. Buck tells him Merlyn’s inside him now: they’ll get by without her.

And it’s all over, it really is all over.

Creator Shaun Cassidy wrote the final episode. You can see in it all manner of layers and pointers for how it might have gone in season 2, in which it was planned for Dr Matt – who gets a namecheck – to return. But American Gothic was killed by its network, mistreated, neglected, denied a proper shot at an audience that I can’t believe it wouldn’t have grabbed if they’d had the proper chance at it.

But where Midnight Caller had been Saturday night dross, American Gothic gave Gary Cole a role in which he could dominate every scene he was in, and he took that chance with a vengeance, and these past 22 Thursdays, reacquainting myself with him and it has been time well-spent.

I have another series in mind for the Thursday morning slot, but what it is you’ll have to wait and see, in case I change my mind at the last minute. Thank you for visiting Trinity with me. It’s a nice town. If you do as you’re told…

American Gothic: e21 – The Buck Stops Here


And now we’re right on the brink.

This was an ideal set-up for a season finale, stirring things about to the greatest extent, resetting conditions that had been disturbed over previous weeks and introducing the greatest of new factors: Sheriff Lucas Buck is dead. Or is he?

In many ways, the penultimate episode was confused and muddy, with no clear storyline. Billy Peale and Selena Combs break into Buck’s house searching for medical files on Doris Lydon, believed to have been stolen by the Sheriff. Doris has been in a coma for two years, following some mysterious deal between Lucas and her husband, Yancey, the Hospital pharmacist.

Instead of searching for the files, Billy and Selena have sex in Buck’s bed. She talks of wanting Lucas dead, but when he comes home unexpectedly, they skedaddle out, though the Sheriff well knows what’s gone on. He interrupts Selena’s class the next day, making some pointed comments, but he also introduces Caleb to the eye in the pyramid symbol on the dollar bill, linking it to Caleb’s surname, Temple, and Lucas’s: the Buck stops here, and in every generation one rises who wields the power.

Weird stuff is going on. Caleb gets obsessed with cutting out the eye in the pyramid from dollar bills, arranging them into the third eye symbol. Gail, pregnant with Lucas’ baby, starts eating raw, uncooked beef and drinking it’s blood. Yancey blames Buck for cheating him: he gave a Judge who had upset Lucas a placebo (of which he impliedly died) in exchange for Doris’s life, but was lead to believe she would be restored, not comatose.

With the muddy waves stirring, and Merly getting ever more concerned about Caleb, someone attacks the Sheriff with a trochea, a medical implement constructed to split skulls. Billy’s there, but didn’t do it, though he’s thrown in jail at first (we all know it’s Yancey). Buck has been stabbed through the ‘third eye’, the pineal gland, the source of his power.

And he dies, just after whispering something to Caleb that we don’t get to hear.

There’s a funeral, a procession of people passing the coffin, several of them figures from earlier episodes. Reaction to his death is, to say the least, mixed. Gail admits to loving Buck. She also shoots Selena down, telling her she’s deader than Lucas.

But the worst is Caleb. He just smiles, like Gary Cole.

So it rushes towards a conclusion. Yancey is going to put Doris out of her hopeless condition but she dies first. Merly brings her back long enough to say farewell. Then Caleb enters, to punish him. Yancey winds up with his mouth and throat choked with pills: only an emergency tracheotomy by Billy saves his life. Caleb has come into his powers, it would seem.

He walks into the church, lays a dollar on the coffin lid, says, “The Buck Starts Here.”

And inside the coffin, Lucas Buck’s eyes open…

Next week is the finale, about which I remember certain things. Especially the closing scene. Hang on tight.