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: s03 e09 – The Crossing


This was the one where it was really never going to be the same again.

‘The crossing’ is the second half of ‘Endgame’. Joss Carter has Alonzo Quinn and everything she needs to bring him and HR down for good. There’s only one catch: she has to get him to FBI headquarters across town. Across a town where every dirty cop and every crook has John Reese’s photo. And whilst Simmonds wants Carter and Quinn alive, the order is shoot to kill for the Man in a Suit.

Meanwhile, Harold Finch has received a string of numbers with one thing in common. They are all aliases, all aliases for John Reese.

Getting to FBI HQ is a problem. With reese runing interference, they get to the City Morgue, four blocks away, but that’s as far as they can go. Finch has brought Sameen Shaw into play. Lionel Fusco has helped Resse and Carter get as far as they have but he’s been captured, the key to the safe deposit box with all of Carter’s evidence taken, and they’re torturing him for the Bank’s name and location.

Meanwhile, Finch faces a dilemma. Root has a connection to the Machine fundamentally different to his own. She can help. She wants to help. It’s not that she cares all that much for John but she understands just how much Harry does: John is Finch’s creation as much as is the Machine. Nor is he Harold’s first partner. But Harold can’t break his fear of Miss Groves: she has changed the Machine. She has become closer to it than he has.

Fusco’s in deep trouble, fingers broken, but still defiant. This once dirty, once lazy cop has transformed, imperceptibly, into a stalwart. He’s tough, still wise-cracking, and he sends Simmonds on a wild goose chase to the wrong bank. In consequence of which Simmonds sends someone to Fusco’s home, to kill his son, Lee, with Fusco listening in by mobile phone. The shot is fired. Fusco crumples, his son is dead. But the voice on the line is Shaw: it is going to be alright. But if she is there for Lee, she cannot be where Fusco is for him.

The promotion for this episode leaned heavily on the idea that Fusco would die. But not tonight, brother, not tonight. Broken fingers made it easy for Fusco to break his thumb, slip his cuffs, attack and throttle his intended killer. Not Fusco.

Meanwhile, HR are in the Morgue, the power’s down, John and Joss are trapped. It’s the longest time they’ve spent together without an immediate threat, so they talk, compare scars. John explains just how important Joss is to him, how her intervention when he was a homeless drunk, planning on killing himself, changed him into what he is now. There’s a tremendous warmth between them, a growing intimacy.

And then John exits. Harold runs interference for him, he leads the HR cops away, and is arrested – by two honest cops found by Harold. It means arrest. But it’s better than death.

So Carter makes it. Quinn’s threats continue to the end but now they’re hollow. HR is broken, the story goes public, Simmonds is still missing but the lot are in custody. Joss is reinstated as Detective and uses her influence to get ‘John Doe’ out of the 3rd Precinct, in an echo of their first meeting.

What a long, strange trip it’s been, all the pieces, bright, shiny, sharp-edged, brought together in perfect balance to create so tense, so thrilling, so roller-coaster an episode, everything is going to be alright.

And then Simmonds steps out of the shadows and shoots both Reese and Carter. Aghast, Finch watches, a payphone ringing unanswered, conveying another Number but this one too late. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for Joss Carter. Simmonds is wounded, Reese is wounded, but Carter is dead.

Person of Interest: s03 e08 – Endgame


Not playing anymore

‘Endgame’ is an awfully final title for an episode only one-third the way through season 3, and especially for one that is but the first half of a two-parter. But it’s what it is. Last week, former-Detective Joss Carter discovered the head of HR to me the Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Alonzo Quinn (Clarke Peters). She’s not pussy-footing around any longer, she’s going for the throat. And the evidence of that is 38 simultaneous Numbers, all cops, all HR.

Because Carter wants her revenge for Cal Beecher’s death to be visceral, and delayed no longer. And the way to  do this is simple: to foment a war between HR and Peter Yogarov’s gang, the Russian Mafia.

It’s so neat and simple. The Russians have a drugs shipment coming in. Carter attacks it, steals it,  frames HR. She pulls in a favour from the ever-calm Carl Elias (Enrico Colantoni) to do an infodump – names, addresses, numbers – of the complete HR roster, up to and including Quinn. It’s going to be a bloodbath.

Finch is horrified and petrified. Reese is fearful for his friend’s fate. Only Shaw, gleefully pillaging Reese’s weapons locker to supply Joss with the tools to hijack the lorry, seems to respect Carter’s need to do this herself, though she’d just love to get in on this.

At stake is a catastrophic outcome. Win or lose, things are going to change out of all recognition. Joss brings things into Quinn’s circle, pretending to be overwhelmed by her task and backing off from it. The audience is given more reason to think that’s true that Quinn or Simmons (Patrick John Burke). But she won’t let Reese help her, she won’t let Fusco help her, she’s going down the rabbit-hole on her own.

And we’re pointed in the direction of her probable failure and death, though this is merely routine PoI misdirection that anyone who’s got this far has no business believing. Even when the ‘honest’ Judge to whom she takes her evidence to get an arrest warrant for Quinn betrays her to Quinn and Simmons, and the latter puts a gun in her face.

We’ve been led to this time and place by flashbacks too, Carter’s ex-husband, her son’s father, Paul Carter (Laz Alonso), an Afghanistan Vet with trauma that leads her to cut him off from contact with Tyler who, in the end, takes the road to Redemption, enough so that it’s to Paul that Joss has committed her son’s care these past eight months. Final words, the fateful see you soon.

But PoI has its other routine to perform, the one where the gunshot isn’t the one from the bad guys but the offscreen one from the good guys, John Reese, disrupting HR’s little execution party, snatching Joss and Quinn and setting off to get the latter to the FBI. But Simmons raises a gauntlet, of HR cops and crooks, through which they must ride.

And that’s next week. and I remember what happens next week. There’s still a bumpy ride to come.

Person of Interest: s03 e07 – The Perfect Twist


The Biter Bit

If you did this episode as a pure procedural, a complete one-off, it would still be a brilliant example of network thriller television, although the perfect twist that seals it off might have been a little easier to foresee. But build it into the developing arc of former-Detective Joss Carter’s unbending determination to finally bring down HR, garnished with brief scenes at first and last foreboding the future that the imprisoned Root knows is coming and that Harold Finch is obdurately trying to deflect, and you have a thing of beauty and a joy forever and no mistake.

The first touch was Finch delivering breakfast to Miss Groves in her Faraday Cage, protected as always by John Reese’s presence, leaving Root little option but to sting him over the fact that the Machine talks to her, but not to Harold. “But Mommy still loves the both of us,” she summarises.

At the end, when he brings the promised extra books to read, she’s less sweet, challenging him over the coming future, a threat we all of us anticipate in our varying manners.

In between, we have the story of Hayden Price, hypnotherapist, played by Aaron Stott, Mad Men‘s Ken Cosgrove. Hayden is the Number and it doesn’t take long to determine why: he’s a crook. A conman, to be specific, soaking his patients and anyone he comes into contact with, for everything he can get out of them, thanks to questions that elicit private information, like mother’s maiden names, pet’s names, streets where they live, the sort of things that unlock bank accounts and the like.

In short, Haydenn rips off everyone,  everyone that is except Natalie Boal (Jennifer Ferrin), the woman he loves, honestly and truly.

Hayden’s created a bit of a problem for himself. He’s been setting up Swedish antiques dealer Sven Vanger for a complicated but massively lucrative scam. The Swede is money-laundering, and cleaning it by buying fake auction items for seriously top dollar put up by his clients, who get clean cash for dirty. Unfortunately for Hayden, the money belongs to HR. Doubly unfortunately for everyone in question, Hayden’s tricked the Swede into paying $4.4M for a baseball signed by the New York Yankees, including Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig that’s actually worth $4.4M, and which the Swede sells to a street kid for $5.

That  kinda gets HR’s back up, to the extent that Alonzo Quinn, who’s previously taken the trouble to meet with Officer Carter over her suspicions about his godson’s death, kicks off at Officer Simmons. And when Simmons is kicked, he kicks downward, at Detective Terney and rookie Officer Laskey in particular. Hayden will be persuaded to return the ball – in return for the innocent Natalie.

So Hayden turns up. Terney’s going to take him in, get the ball authenticated and then kill him, and as soon as it’s done, Laskey’s going to kill Natalie anyway.

But the forces of righteousness are on hand to avert such an outcome. Carter and Shah knock out Laskey (with his eager cooperation counting for nothing in terms of the severity of Carter’s punch) whilst Reese and Fusco intervene to rescue hayden, just when he and Terney are reverbrating with shock at the discovery that the real ball is no such thing, not if Babe Ruth’s signature is in fibre-tip pen. Hayden’s been scammed by a superior scammer – Natalie. why steal a million dollar item when you can get your boyfriend to do it for you? Pity: he did love her, but she didn’t love him.

It’s a crushing defeat for HR, and Simmons wants Laskey. He send Terney after himn and Terney finds the rookie. With Carter, handing over photos of everyone Simmons has met today. Terney pulls his gun but so does Carter. it’s a stand-off. Until Laskey tries to pull his. To Carter’s horror, Terney shoots Laskey, killing him instantly. Carter shoots Terney, fatally. He’s got maybe a minute. He can be a stand-up guy at the last, he can point out HR’s head. A bloody hand smears one photo before Terney expires. Carter looks at it in shock. She recognises Alonzo Quinn…

Person of Interest: s03 e06 – Mors Praematura


The new team

Now this is the sort of thing I’m watching Person of Interest for. There are no less than three separate stories going on here, intercutting smoothly: spare, taut scenes that deliver minimum information each time but which do not leave the viewer flailing for solid ground on which to stand, each of which are, ultimately, merely way-stations en route to the slow-building greater concerns the series has yet to unfold. Oh, and there’s the odd few dry as a desert jokes along the way.

After last week’s Russian title, we have a Latin one, ‘Mors Praematura’ meaning Premature Death, the reason for which comes only late in the episode and which means something other than the one you might assume. There are two missions to begin with: Finch is in the field, with Bear, with the latest Number, Timothy Sloan (a splendid role for guest Kirk Acevedo), an Estate Investigator whose job is to find heirs to those who die apparently without family.

Sloan is, illicitly, investigating the death of hacker Jason Greenfield, two weeks previously, from a heroin overdose. Greenfield is family, Sloan’s foster-brother since his addict parents burned themselves to death when he was 14: he would never touch drugs.

Reese, on the other hand, has a mission closer to home. Shaw hasn’t checked in for far too long: is she ok? Now you, me and the gatepost know she’s been tasered, drugged and kidnapped by Root, and we’re about to see Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker working together for the first time, and it’s more fun than a barrelful of monkeys. Root has a mission from the Machine, for which she needs Shaw’s help, that turns out to also be to save someone’s life: Jason Greenfield’s to be precise. Jason isn’t actually dead. Not just yet, that is.

These two lines operate in completely different manners. Finch and Sloan develop their investigation along logical lines, expanding their understanding, whereas Root is happily accepting all manner of unrelated instructions, that come together gloriously in a freewheeling climax in which both stories collide.

The third strand features Carter and her unwilling sidekick, the HR rookie, Mike Laskey. Laskey’s collecting protection money from this storeowner he’s known all his life. But Laskey has a very big lesson to learn, about the real nature of HR, and what he’s in. The storeowner’s skimming, Simmons confronts him and shoots him, and Laskey’s punishment is to bury the body. Laskey’s really Russian, one of twelve filtered into the Police: instant loyalty and cementing closer ties with the Russian mafia.

Whilst Root builds an ambush to an as yet unseen plan, Finch and Sloan discover that Jason was using his hacking skills for a mysterious group that we will learn is named Vigilance. This is Peter Collier’s mob, the privacy crusaders. Jason ratted them out to the CIA in exchange for witness protection, only to find himself betrayed to indefinite interrogation, where he meets Ms Samantha Groves, brought in by Agent Dearborn, who looks incredibly like Sarah Shahi.

Vigilance plan to intercept and kill Jason. Since he’s been digging into Jason’s death, they’ll also kill his foster brother, Sloan. Reese, heading one way, crosses paths with Shaw, heading the other, whilst Root spirits Jason away to a new identity somewhere in paradise. Why does theMachine want to save an expert hacker? That’s a very good question.

Ultimately, Shaw saves Root from execution by Vigilance, although that’s only so she can sock her one, whilst Collier forces Reese to choose between catching him or saving Sloan: no contest.

Root’s fate, for the moment, is imprisonment at the Library, in a steel-caged room that’s constructed to be a Faraday Cage, i.e., no electronic communication can get in or out, not even the Machine. She warns Finch that the Machine will be angry that he’s interfering with ‘her’ plans. Finch counters by asking if Root is sure she isn’t where the Machine wants her to be? We eagerly look forward to the next episode, for more questions, and maybe even some answers…

 

Person of Interest: s03 e05 – PA3ᴦOBOP (Razgovor)


Smart Kid

Now this: this is what I have been waiting for since season 3 started.

It is a Number of the Week, but in the series’ greatest fashion, it’s woven inextricably into the wider arcs, and even allowed to permeate the explosive finale, which must lead inexorably into deeper waters.

But first a brief word about the title. Please excuse the imbalanced cyrillic version that’s the official title, I haven’t got a larger size version of that upside-down L on this laptop. As for Razgovor, I have it on reliable authority that it means Conversation or Dialogue, of which there was much in this episode.

We began with one of those increasingly brilliant mini-scenes saving an unrelated Number, a driver delivering a liver required for a transplant, about to see it hi-jacked for a mobster until Shaw, rising with him, shoots down the crook and walks off, brushing off his grateful thanks. Finch gently suggests that her bedside manner could do with brushing up.

Straightway, we’re put on notice that Shaw’s emotionless is going to be put to the test by our real Number, Genrika Zhirova, or Gen, played to perfection by ten-year old Danielle Kotch as a smart-arse kid, a legal immigrant Russian girl planning a career as an international spy, who has been bugging her apartment building for evidence to get the drugs dealers busted, and who has caught something a hell of a lot bigger than that.

It’s a new drug, a synthetic based heavily on the heavily toxic potassium permanganate, and it’s being distributed by the Yogarov gang and our old friened Peter, but it’s patriotically synthesized in this country on a fuck-the-Columbians basis by H.R.

That’s H.R., meaning we get Simmons, and Terney and young Laskey in the story, and we get Joss Carter trailing everyone because this time, when H.R. comes down, all of it goes down, right to the top. Finch and Reese are aware of her ‘side-project’, and willing to help, but Joss is keeping her cards very close to her impressive chest. She’s going to take full revenge for the death of Cal Beecher.

So Joss and John get to work together on this case, coming at it from both ends, but the fun part is Shaw, who is charged with saving Gen and who, despite having no facilities whatsoever for dealing with kids and indeed saying she hates them, winds up the one who has to protect her, and who, despite a serious wound, sticks determinedly to her role, even if it means trading Gen’s incriminating tapes to H.R. to get her back.

Shaw’s running alone, she’s running wild, so she doesn’t know that even Carter has agreed the trade. We have, for the first time this season, a return to flashbacks, and these are of Shaw, in 1993, when she like Gen was ten years old. There’s been a car crash, Shaw’s Dad is dead, she’s trapped and freed and has to be told about her loss, but though she processes it, she doesn’t feel it. One of the paramedics will say there’s something wrong with that little girl, but that’s too simplistic. Shaw will herself tell Gen, with patient resignation, that she doesn’t feel things – except anger, of course – but this automaton that Gen has prodded to check if she’s a robot is nothing like so simple as this episode is trying to tease us into believing, and there will be another summation near the end.

In the meantime, H.R. set up to trap Reese, which keads only to a knock-down drag-out fight between the Man in the Suit and H.R.’s second-in-command. It’s smart, tough, spare, but it’s also a test of strength. Reese could bring Simmons down: after all, he wins the fight. But he lets him go. John Reese understands need, the need to atone, and he respects avenging angels. Joss Carter didn’t believe in Cal Beecher until too late. She has to do this herself, for herself, to repay the debt that no-one but herself feels on her shoulders.

And she’s ahead of the game. Rookie Laskey pulls the bonds of their partnership on her to get her to join him in a bar, to talk about his problems with someone on the force: Joss Carter. It’s a set-up, but Joss is miles ahead. She’s known Laskey was H.R. from the moment her first got in her car. She used him to feed false information back to Simmons. And she’s too canny and too prepared to fall for the trap Laskey’s set up. She kills the ‘bar owner’, a Vice Lieutenant from the Bronx, another H.R. goon. She’ll shoot Laskey too, if he makes her, but Carter has an ace he doesn’t expect, in the H.R.-born rrogance that makes him call Carter ‘an arrogant bitch who doesn’t know her place’ (tsk, tsk, haven’t you ever heard of feminism?)

Because Carter shot the Lieutenant with Laskey’s gun. He’s working for her now, not H.R. We await developments with eagerness, now they have startted to develop.

But we have Shaw, delivering the once-neglected Gen to a super-school, the sort of place you go when you’re the ward of a very reclusive billionaire. And Gen is still smarter than the average ten-year old, just as we now beieve the ten-year old Sameen to have been. She presents Shaw with her grandfather’s Order of Lenin tht cannot mean anything like as much to her, but it means something to Gen to know that Shaw has it. And she tells Shaw that she does have all those emotions but they’re like voices on old tapes (superb analogy): you have to listen harder to hear them.

Which gets her a rather too vigorous hug from Shaw that Gen understands, just like she has understood Shaw so well (it’s a shame she never returns), and which gets Shaw a reassurance from Finch. Yes, she broke every order he gve her and she doesn’t soun epentant about it though she’s clearly concerned about losing this ‘job’ (she’ll miss Bear too much). But as far as Finch is concerned, she has finally got it. The job, that is, but we know what he means.

So Shaw goes home to sleep, the Order of Lenin hung closely by, content. Until Root appears by her bedside, asking if she’s missed her, and applying her taser.

We are off, and running.

 

Person of Interest: s03 e04 – Reasonable Doubt


Is she or isn’t she?

I’m a little of two minds about this latest episode of Person of Interest, and not simply for what it did not do. What it did do it did very well, yet in its desire to show us a Number that hovered on the edge of being Victim or Perpetrator until almost the very end (a very skilful performance by Kathleen Rose Perkins), the episode left a few of its convolutions unanswered in the rush to be clever.

What it didn’t do was more than play lip service to only one of this season’s ongoing concerns. Much as I enjoyed the episode, it was still a bubble, with nothing to do with the larger part of season 3. It’s the same scenario as the early part of season 2, post resolution of Finch’s kidnapping: revert to the procedural to begin with.

So, nothing of the menace of Root, who escaped confinement last week, to Finch’s consternation, but who is wholly absent. Nothing of the mysterious organisation fighting back against surveillance, introduced in episode 2. And of Officer Carter, once Detective Carter and still referred to as such by Finch, only the briefest of updates, as we but not she learn that her rookie partner, Laskey, is part of HR.

What we got was Vanessa Watkins, our Number, a tough, aggressive, very effective Prosecutor, married to Jeremy Watkins (Daniel Cosgrove), an equally brilliant Defence Attorney who gets the worst kind of defendants acquitted on technicalities (it’s always technicalities in these stories, and the lawyer is always a sleazebag on some level, that or a crusader on behalf of poor people, usually having dragged themselves up by their bootheels: as a former lawyer, I should be used to how my former profession is depicted by now).

But Jeremy’s dead, fallen from the Watkins’ boat in Long Island Sound, panicked message radioed by Vanessa. Except that she gets arrested for murdering him, by an obsessed Detective Cameron (Paul Ben-Victor, formerly of The Wire), who’s determined to get Vanessa to the point that, when she escapes the Station in typically inventive fashion, that he’s willing to have her shot on sight, despite the fact that the ‘murder’, if it is murder, was purely personal, and she isn’t armed in any way. Cameron wants revenge for a courtroom humiliation, but this?

And Vanessa’s first act of freedom is to procure a brick of cocaine from a drugslord she a) put away and b) helped get released, who gives her the drugs for free and hugs her. What the hell is that all about? Answer, it’s all about puzzling the audience, blurring the decisive question of which one Vanessa is, Victim or Perpetrator. The scene has no logic except in that respect, it’s a surprisingly lazy contrivance unbacked by rationality.

Indeed, that’s the problem. Vanessa, as we might have expected, is not either/or but both. The whole set up is a scam, set up between the Watkins, to escape debt to a mobster (a convenient McGuffin, again without any consideration of how Jeremy has run up such debt), fake Jeremy’s death and run away under new identities to be filthy rich). Except that Jeremy’s screwing Vanessa’s lifelong best friend Nicole and double-crossed Vanessa to run off with Nicole.

It ends up on the yacht. Jeremy has emerged from hiding, expecting his blonde shag, only to be confronted by his lawfully wedded and a gun. He claims the marriage to be a contract, presumably on the basis that it was there to be broken by both parties (Vanessa herself has had an affair, as represented by a text exchange about missing items of intimate wear found under a fridge – it’s always the fridge), but she loves him, genuinely loves him (without the episode once giving us any reason to suspect that’s true: Ms Perkins is just too damned good at slipping away from any conclusion about Vanessa).

Enter Mr Reese. Rather than intervene in this scenario, he leaves another gun within easy grabbing reach of Jeremy, defines his role as stopping bad things happening before stating that he’s not sure this qualifies, and walks off, pausing only to unmoor the yacht, which floats out into the basin, and not react to the sound of two gunshots coming from that direction: fade to black.

I’ve made it sound as if this was a bad episode, and that I didn’t like it. On the contrary, I was held by it throughout, especially thanks to Perkins’ performance as Vanessa: an attractive woman, hard-shelled, with a face that was strong rather than beautiful, emphasised by unfussy short hair that left it unconcealed. When Vanessa was finally confirmed as Victim, I saw it coming, not from the performance but from the fact this was Person of Interest, twists a speciality, but I couldn’t get out of my head the lack of foundation for the convenient acquisition of cocaine, and from there the show’s eagerness to skate over improbabilities for the sake of the outcome mant that it unravelled more than somewhat afterwards.

Still, a lot of merit, especially for Kathleen Rose Perkins, and some sidebar humour – Bear pretending to be sick in order to protect a Vet, the look Ms Shaw gives Reese when Bear goes to him instead of her, her seizing of a paperknife when faced with an ultra-slow Bank Manager making mistakes logging into a computer, Fusco’s preventative hand grabbing it off her – was fun. I just wish the writing hadn’t got carried away with itself in confusing the audience, to the point where it did confuse one member of that audience.

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: s03 e02 – Nothing to Hide


One of the many things I love about Person of Interest is the flexibility of its format. It’s basic underpinning is that Finch has invented an early warning system, forty-eight hours notice of murder, giving our heroic band the opportunity to save a life, whoever the person, whatever the circumstances. The possibilities are limited only by the various gradaions of humanity.

Take this week’s episode. The Number is Wayne Kruger (a splendidly rancid performance by David Alan Basche), CEO of a corporate titan who has made it by creating a Facebook-like empire called Lifetrace, which publishes complete details of people’s lives. Actually, it’s more like Friends Reunited, which the aged among us will remember, permitting re-contact, except that instead of letting the users choose what details to publish, Lifetrace sucks up and spews out everything. And Kruger sells on the data to make millions.

There’s an obvious issue here involving Privacy. Not that Kruger cares. He’s one of those bombastic bastards, master of his Universe, who is never wrong, always cleverer than everyone around him, unaware that his imagination is limited to only the next step in getting very richer and deliberately obtuse as to the effects of his orgamisation.

Frankly, he’s a twat, and a hypocrital one as well (aren’t they always?) Total exposure is good, it feeds the apocalyptical vision of a world in which everybody’s ‘wants’ will be anticipated, to the no doubt detriment of their thinking for themselves, and anyway, the only people who want privacy are those with something to hide.

Yes, that tired old line, promptly reversed when it appears Kruger has things he wants to hide and someone’s putting these out publicly. The sex with not-his-wife, the arrest record, the bank details used to strip him of every penny, being kicked out of his own company, privacy is such an outmoded concept, isn’t it?

Kruger’s life goes to pot, a helter-skelter leading only downwards. Finch, Reese and Shawwatch over him, rescue him from an overt attempt at murder but still the arrogant bastard pursues only the dollar signs in his eyes. He CAN resurrect the big deal, he can haul the guy who’s done this in front of Mr Peter Collier (Leslie Odem Jr.), nobody messes with him.

And at the last he may be capble of learning a lesson. The man behind all this is a father, or was a father. Lifetrace put his daughter’s entire life onto the internet. Three times, an abusive ex-boyfriend traced her. Three times, the family asked for her details to be removed. Three times, the company did nothing. The fourth time, the boyfriend murdered her. Not all people require privacy because they have something disreputable to hide.

Kruger may have finally caught the edge of something bigger than himself, that old saw that we all must understand to be truly human, that actions have consequences. Within minutes, however, he was dead, and John Reese also shot, in the bullet-proof vest. By the wholly unforeshadowed Peter Collier. Not a corporate functionary but a crusader. Whose Crusade is foursquare for Privacy, and whose Crusade is out to take it back, in a very forceful way. A dominant theme for season 3 has just been introduced.

This was the major story of the episode. Therewas no room for Root this week, but Carter’s story was advanced, slowly. At Cal Beecher’s grave she bumps into Alonzo Quinn, his godfather (as Carter knows him), a man alive to potential threats to HR and not prepared to allow them to develop beyond potential. And, lo and behold, Carter gets an eager rookie to train, Officer Mike Laskey (Brian Wiles). Whilst Fusco discovers Beecher’s file has been frozen, access denied.

Enough to keep us going. And we will be going there

Person of Interest: s03 e01 – Liberty


Whatever else you might think, this is going to be fun

Back when I was breezing through Person of Interest at a rate of knots, I was simultaneously checking the reviews at tv.com. ‘Liberty’ kick-starts season 3 by reverting to the primarily Number of the Week format, in this case Petty Officer Jack Salazar (Ray Valentin), enjoying shore leave with his buddy R.J. Philips (Alano Miller), unaware that R.J. has stolen some uncut diamonds at their recent encounter with Somali pirates and that a team of ex-Devildogs (Marines) want them back. I had fun with the episode and disagreed with the review that took it down. Now, watching with my brain on, I’m inclining more to the views of the idiot at tv.com.

After the events that closed out season 2, a straightforward Number episode does become a little mechanical, lacking any long-term significance. This was the feeling that prevailed, watching it today, though that’s unfair to the show. Taking Salazar’s story on its own, it provided an unexpected insight into one of our main characters. John Reese recognised someone in Jack, a good guy who tries to avoid trouble but who’s willing to act decisively and efficiently if it comes, a guy who could go far, both in the Navy and beyond. In short, a guy like John Reese, whose military career began in court, with a choice between jail-time, or five years in the military.

That’s how Reese started. And he can foresee a similar story for Jack, if he re-ups with the Navy. Just one piece of advice for him: when the CIA  come to recruit him, say No.

But what ‘Liberty’ was really about was a soft reboot of the series. All of its core components have been reset, and this was about re-introducing us to the new realities. The Machine has disappeared, whereabouts unknown, but it is still providing Numbers to Finch. Who now has a second operative in Sameen Shaw, who is a bit less co-operative, refusing to be contactable between jobs, openly sarcastic about Finch’s stricture against killing people, or even shooting them come to that. Shaw’s working with Reese is a whole new dynamic and it doesn’t hurt that even when she dresses down for operations, she looks shit-hot, as we used to say in my teens and twenties.

And there’s Carter. Joss has been busted down to Officer again, but she’s refusing to knuckle under and leave the Police. She is a cop. Fusco’s openly sympathetic, telling her everyone knows she was set-up. She’ll still do her job, ten more years until she gets her twenty-year pension. And she’s still there to assist Reese and Finch, who will have her back as well if she asks.

But Carter is keeping her cards close to her chest and one of these is that she has installed Carl Elias underground, in a basement, keeping a low profile and supplying her with information. It’s keeping him alive. It’s also earned the gratitude of Scarface. Elias offers to wipe out HR for her, but Carter refuses. She’s still a cop. And as a cop, she’s going after HR herself. Carter will get her revenge first hand.

And lastly there’s Root. With this episode, both Sarah Shahi and Amy Acker join the cast, and are well-deserved additions. Root is still drifting around her sanatorium, having regular sessions with her psychiatrist, Dr Carmichael (Bruce Altman). Carmichael is clever but condescending, humours Root’s stories of speaking to a Higher Power, thinks he can remove all electronic communication from her and she’ll thank him.

But Root is in communicationwith the Machine. She is now its Analog Interface, whatever that may turn out to be. And when it comes to truth, she knows far too much about Carmichael for his comfort. She’s having an argument with the Machine over whether she kills him or not.

So, these are the new ground rules, the reset for season 3. And there’s a disappointingly unsubtle prediction from Finch about fearing things are about to get complicated. Soft reboot. A simple Number story. Just a lull, a calm before the storm. Because things are going to get very complicated indeed over the next 22 episodes…