S1E12: Person of Interest has been on a steady incline in quality for a few weeks now. The latest episode, “Legacy,” is neither quite an exception of nor a continuation of this pattern. Of the four elements that make up the episode, three are big winners. And the mere fact that so many different storylines are going on in an episode of Person of Interest without it getting cluttered or confusing is a testament to how much the show has organically grown. But there’s that one holdout: the Number of the Week story. It’s not a bad story at all. It is fueled by some good old-fashioned sentiment and humanism. It is well acted by all major parties. But something about Reese’s mission to protect a fledgling defense attorney who defends rehabilitating ex-cons, operating under the maxim, “Everybody deserves a second chance,” just feels a little bit like it is torn from the pages of your ordinary, less creative television procedural.
“I’m not running away from who I was. I was taught everyone deserves a second chance.” – Angela Gutierrez
Angela Gutierrez is a Queens-born, Queens-educated and Queens-based attorney whose belief in the goodness of humanity has driven her to defend ex-cons, such as Terrence King: a man whom she claims was wrongfully imprisoned for drug possession. The drugs were found at his house, where he claims they were planted. King is placed in a detention facility while his son is handed over to a pair of foster parents with several other children to their name. A hit man’s attempt on Gutierrez’s life is foiled by Reese, who traces the hit back to King’s parole officer. It turns out the officer has been planting evidence on various ex-cons with children; his goal is to get the parents put in jail and split the state-paid foster salary with foster parents like those who took in King’s son. All of this is made possible via some illicit paperwork undertaken by one of Gutierrez’s trusted coworkers, who claims to truly believe the children will be better off without their ex-con parents.
As stated above, the story, while sweet and not at all poorly executed, just feels a little too complacent. The surprise culprit is the nice guy we meet early on. The corrupt state employee’s big motivator was a little extra cash. I could have pictured Law & Order “dun-dunnns” accompany every scene change. But I don’t believe the real meat of this episode is intended to lie in the Number of the Week story. We get plenty of good stuff elsewhere.
“You’re getting paranoid, Carter. That’s a step in the right direction.” – Reese
Carter officially joins the team this week. Reese gives her the job of looking into Angela Gutierrez’s juvenile file once her number comes up. Carter is eager to join the task force, but has conditions: she refuses to do anything illegal. This is clearly not in close conjunction with the Reese/Finch business model. Still, throughout the episode, Carter becomes privy to the sort of activities her coworkers make their M.O., and rapidly decides to shrug many of them off after a quick hostile look and maybe a shout or two at Reese. She’s in the game now—it’s exciting to see how much of a conflict this will play for her in episodes when the police, or the CIA, start to catch wind of her mysterious behavior. Police more adept than Fusco, that is…
Fusco’s role in this episode, while not much more than trivial until the very end, is actually some dynamite comedy. Fusco, thinking he’s contributing something to the Reese/Finch team, keeps calling Reese with tips that Carter (about whose involvement he knows nothing) is “up to something.” She doesn’t know anything about Fusco’s involvement either—but she still manages to seem a lot less like a buffoon about it. Poor ol’ Lionel.
But the befuddled officer will get his moment to shine. In the final moments of the episode, Reese gives Fusco a mission—follow someone, and find out what he is up to. That someone: FINCH. (Now there’s your “dun-dunnn” scene break).
“You have your rules. And you have a chance to save a life. It’s your choice.” – Reese
See, throughout this episode, the open book that is Harold Finch is uncharacteristically enigmatic about some personal matters to which he must attend. We see Finch waiting outside of a courthouse, happily embracing a much younger man when he emerges. The man thanks Finch for bailing him out (“again”), and Finch expresses a great deal of pleasure to see him. Thoughts arise regarding who this kid might be. Does Finch have a son? No (or, probably not), but this is the closest thing we’ll likely see. He is Nathan Ingram’s (Finch’s old Machine partner) son, Will—a good-hearted, handsome young doctor with a suggested gambling problem—coming back to New York City to consider selling the old place his billionaire father left him.
It turns out the young man has very little knowledge about his father, despite (or, maybe, in accordance with) his apparently close relationship with Finch. But Will begins to uncover information in the investigation of his father’s old paperwork. What secret project was his dad working on? Why did he shut down his company for seven years, leaving all of his employees with only severance packages? Why did he sell his mysterious project to the government for just one dollar? All good questions. All questions he seems to be bent on finding the answers to. At least, bent enough to decide not to sell the house after all, and to stay in the area until he figures out the mysteries surrounding his deceased dad.
Therein arises a complication for Finch. Someone he cares about poses a threat to him and his secrets. And we’re not supposed to simply believe that Finch is afraid Will is going to find out about his vigilante work. There is more to Finch’s backstory, as has been overtly suggested since day one, that we do know know about. Thankfully, Will is operating with the same curiosities that we’ve had for weeks. But there’s dissention in the ranks—Reese’s distrust for Finch is brewing, and he’s having Fusco tail his boss to find out what is going on.
What did you think of this week’s episode? Do you think Will might uncover some dark secrets about the ominous Machine and the men who created it? Might we see a future where Reese turns on Finch entirely? Share some of your thoughts and theories in the comments section, or on Twitter (@MichaelArbeiter).
And if you're interested in reading more on the subject of the unfortunate life of Det. Lionel Fusco, check out our interview with Person of Interest star Kevin Chapman.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
A billionaire TV producer (Robert Mammone) has a great idea for a reality show that he wants to put on the Internet and his goal is to beat the 40 million Super Bowl audience. He has compiled a crack team of young hip and immoral tech geeks directed by Goldman (Rick Hoffman) and puts cameras throughout a remote island where former prisoners are going to kill each other while audiences watch after shelling out the pay-per-view fee. The location is done on a remote secret island and the death row prisoners are bought from prisons around the world with the promise that the survivor gets to walk free. Among the contestants are a rogue Aussie named McStarley (Vinnie Jones) a martial arts expert (Masa Yamaguchi) a husband-and-wife team (Manu Bennett and Dasi Ruz) a monstrous killer who doesn't do much more than grunt (Nathan Jones) and others known only as The Italian The German and other monikers quickly forgotten. Enter the sole American Jack Conrad (Steve Austin) who's in a South American prison for some obscure reason and is recognized on TV by his wife (Madeleine West) who tries to save him. However it looks like Conrad is pretty good at helping himself. Don't expect the acting to be much more evolved than what could be seen among the World Wrestling Entertainment superstars especially since many of them were plucked from the ring to star in this morality tale. But Austin (who had in a strong cameo in Adam Sandler's Longest Yard) proves he has a sense of humor as well as strength. Vinnie Jones is ridiculously over-the-top as the Aussie who's the hand-picked winner of this game shown setting up alliances Survivor style only to turn on them later. The supporting cast are refreshingly entertaining but one-note caricatures both in the contest and running the contest. It's obvious that they aren't going to be around long but the actors do milk their tiny roles for every bit of attention they can get. Rick Hoffman as the brilliant camera mastermind of the project is both whiny sniveling and mean-spirited so when he joins some of the rest of the crew and suddenly develops a backbone and a conscience he ends up stealing the movie with his acerbic humor. But it's the understated American hero Conrad who holds a mirror up to the people who like to watch this stuff. Director Scott Wiper who co-wrote this story has also acted in similar movies like this (A Better Way to Die). It’s obvious he knows what he’s doing with The Condemned and develops a sense of voyeuristic angst like those of us who can't keep our eyes off a train wreck. Like the darkly subversive Belgian film Man Bites Dog the camera crew remains safely distant and remote until the reality directly involves them. Then the crew wonders "What the hell are we doing?" while the audience might be thinking "What the hell are we watching?" Much like Series 7: The Contenders Rollerball and other movies which show a dark and bloody near future this kind of reality doesn't seem too far away and maybe proves that movies which provide this type of gladiator spectacle target a certain segment of the human population who need to blow off steam.