This episode was like falling down a very deep and dark well, so deep that you haven’t landed in the water when it comes to an end. It begins with a death and it ends with a death. And it’s a narrowing of threads to pass through the eye of a needle. Though it may not appear such on a first viewing, this is the one there’s no going back from.
Centrally, there is a Number of the Week in Monica Jacobs (Tracie Thoms), software expert, rising star at Rylatech, a walking powerhouse. The astute viewer immediately picks her for the ‘her’ who is digging into the death of Justin Lee and who has to be stopped. This one’s Finch’s job, undercover as an IT expert and developing a bit of a crush on Monicca’s elegant mind. This is because Reese is on a mission already, staking out an isolated house and a ‘quarry’ that’s carefully not identified as a Number, because it turns out it’s not. I admit to not immediately picking up the significance of the letterbox name of Cole.
At Rylatech, Monica, who’s been there ten years and totally committed to the company, is carrying out a surreptitious investigation into Lee, a young engineer killed in a car accident a week ago. Lee, it transpires, is a fake, a plant sent in to, presumably, steal confidential information and designs. For bringing this to the attention of Ross Haskell, head of R&D, a mass of fake information pointing to Monica as the mole is dropped electronically into her phone/schedule/records and she is promptly terminated (no, not with extreme prejudice), publicly demonised as a betrayer of what she sees as her family, and thrown out of the building.
Monica’s at the centre but there other lines developing of too great a substance to be called peripheral. Harold plays chess with Elias, who makes the board a cryptic symbol by removing several of his black pieces and providing extra white pawns to Harold. Two of the removed pieces represent the DA and Detective Szymansky, murdered last week by HR to advantage the Yogarovs, Elias’ major rivals. It’s an imbalanced game with only one outcome foreseeable, but Elias is playing a game of his own. He will play another chess game later.
John’s in the woods staking out the home of Mr and Mrs Cole, parents of Sameen Shaw’s ex-partner. The Government have smeared Cole as a Domestic terrorist and John’s watching against the notion that the parents will be tken out as well. Shaw’s thereas well, disarming him and sending him on his way curtly, but not before expressing a minimised disgust at her former employers dirtying Cole’s memory for his parents. John reminds her that they may walk in the dark but they don’t have to do so alone.
And at the Library, Harold looks up to see Shaw walking in. He’d given her his number to be contacted, though he’d imagined she’d call. Shaw’s making a point abut how unpleasant it is to be stalked, but she’s actually turned up out of gratitude. A story has been planted in the paper, ‘leaked’ by a non-existent operative, that Cole was a CIA Agent who died heroically, combatting domestic terrorism. In her repressed way, Shaw is saying thanks. And she’s still not taking up Finch’s offer of a job, but she does take an interest in Root, together with her photo and the list of aliases Finch has collected. Shaw needs a hobby.
There’s also the first of what will become a series of barbed quips about John, as Shaw comments about Finch in his derelict Library, with his poorly-socialised guard dog, and Bear.
At the Eighth Precinct, Beacher is still trying to get Carter to talk to him, but since Szymanski’s death (under investigation by Detective Terney, oh hah hah) she’s even more mad at him, specially when he won’t give up the name of the Confidential Informant who fed him the false information that led to Szymanski’s besmirching. Carter even gets Fusco to look at Beecher.
Events travel apace. Beecher meets with his CI, his godfather, Alonzo Quinn, Mayor’s aide and head of HR. Beacher is clean, he accepted the information in good faith, Quinn claims it came from one of Elias’s men. Quin and Simmons are concerned about Beacher. As well they might be. Beacher stands off Fusco, knows about his dirty background. But he goes to Rykers, to play chess with Elias, which is no contest. And Elias confirms that yes, he gave money to Szymanski, who threw it back in his face.
That meeting is the trigger. It comes back to Quinn and Simmons, and a decision is taken. The recording of it, via Fusco, comes back to Carter (how Fusco gets it is left unexplained, a minor hole forgivable in the midst of so much). She’s relieved Cal is clean, calls him on stake-out, offers to buy him a drink. But the stake-out is a set-up. Shots fired, Officer involved, Washington Heights. Carter races out there with Fusco but it’s too late. Beecher is dead, on Alonzo Quinn’s orders. A long candle has started burning down.
But we’ve been neglecting Monica and it’s time to return to her story. Or rather, Rylatech’s story. Lee was a spy alright, but not for a rival but the People’s Republic of China. And not of Rylatech’s secrets but rather the company was being used as a conduit to siphon off vast amounts of data from Rylatech’s customers, including Government departments…
And over half the company’s officers are in on this. The scope, the implications are massive. But Ross Haskell wasn’t involved: he’s found dead in his office with a bullet through the head. From, it seems, Martin Baxter, the company’s founder and CEO, the true American story. But Baxter sold out after the dot.com crash, to avoid Rylatech’s bankruptcy. Now he’s going to kill Monica and Reese.
Except that he takes a phone call and the whole edifice turns over. Because the call is from Greer, to tell him that the time has come for the contingncy they talked about when Baxter did the deal. His family will be provided for. And Baxter shoots himself through the head.
Rylatech crashes. Finch has sent the masses of information to the FBI etc. They’ll investigate the China angle. But Finch has already seen that only a fraction of the data was going to China, the majority being diverted to a mysterious source, the onlyinformation he has being a name. For the first time, we hear the words Decima Technologies.
Finch and Reese are talking in the street. They walk past Greer, talking on his phone, planning the next strategy, to find the one source actively opposing them. Meanwhile, that one source is telling his badly-socialised guard dog that he recognised aspects of Decima’s coding in the virus Kara Stanton uploaded months ago.
And that the virus is looking for one thing: The Machine. And we are in the well, free-falling, and the cold water is still a long way below us.
Was this episode really only 45 minutes long? Only on the watch, only on the watch.