Warner Bros. Entertainment
Last night's episode, which opened a three-episode arc, began with surveillance footage of a delivery truck pulling up to a car on fire. A person shot at the truck and two people were subsequently knocked out and the assailant then drove off with the truck. Oh, yes, the mystery person was wearing a gas mask.
The show cut to the library, with John Reese (Jim Caviezel) and Harold Finch (Michael Emerson). Apparently the Machine, which is the center of the whole show, has issued 38 numbers. (A brief primer - this machine, which uses all kinds of surveillance footage, issues numbers for people who are in potential danger. It's then up to Reese, Finch and anyone in their network to save these people.) These numbers turn out to be all cops. Hmm.
Detective Lionel Fusco (Kevin Chapman), one of the people Reese and Finch regularly call on, came up to the morning scene of the smoldering car. Reese surprised him by also coming up and presenting a fake badge. It turned out to be a Russian driving the truck; for those who have been following the show, you know that the Russian mob has been intertwined with the mysterious HR, a criminal element of corrupt cops. An element that Fusco used to be part of. Reese and Finch knew that a war is possibly brewing between HR and the Russians, since HR was supposed to give safe passage for the Russians to trade their illicit wares. Reese wondered, "Who lit the fuse?"
This show REALLY does well in going back and forth in time. The footage rewound to Nov. 10 (the show pretty much operates as if it is happening on the very day that it airs). Another Reese/Finch cohort, police officer Joss Carter (Taraji P. Henson), was meeting with Alonzo Quinn - a prominent member of City Hall, the godfather of the late Cal Beecher (a love interest of Carter's) and the head of HR, which Carter now knew from events in last week's episode. She purposely sounded pessimistic when talking with Quinn, saying she was thinking of stepping down from the Beecher investigation. Clarke Peters continued doing a great job of playing Quinn as a sociopath. Quinn left but not before Carter used another technology often featured on the show: She paired her phone with his, so that she could hear whatever calls he makes or receives. She heard him talking with Patrick Simmons, a corrupt cop and pretty much Quinn's right-hand man, to set up a meetup with the Russian Mafia and their big man, Peter Yogorov. They met and of course, Carter was nearby with a directional mike. Yogorov complained that he was more like an errand boy and then said that he was done. Simmons fired a verbal warning shot by saying that they wouldn't provide safe passage for their delivery vehicles anymore, which Carter duly noted. Simmons then told a dirty cop that he wanted him to stake out Carter.
Carter went home and found Reese waiting there. There's always an undercurrent between those two. Reese is very protective, but Carter wasn't having any of it this time. She said that she wanted to be left alone - since the law says he's a criminal and HR knew they work together. Reese seemed to respect that and then as he was leaving, tossed over his shoulder for her to call if she got in over her head. After seeing that the former CIA operative was gone, she took the phone that Finch and Reese contact her on, removed the sim card and smashed it with her gun. Well...that was a statement. Not necessarily a SMART one, but a statement.
Two more flashbacks were woven through the episode dealing with Carter and her ex, Paul, at different junctures in time - eight years ago and five years ago. Eight years ago, Paul was a defiant man who refused to get help for his PTSD during military service. Carter had enough and made him leave. At first he was defiant and even went to her home and sat with their young son. He got angry when she told him he still needed help and even smashed a lamp, causing her to reach for her gun. He left, angry. Then the five-year flashback showed that he HAD gotten help and while he knew it was too late to repair their relationship, he wanted to be there for them.. and he left her his number to call if she needed help. This all played a part in the end .
Flash forward to present day, with Carter and Fusco sitting near a dock. Carter had been shutting Fusco out, but her former partner reached out after she had lost her current partner in a shooting. Fusco was trying to figure out how everything happened, but Carter, who had actually been there, diverted his attention. After Fusco left, she made a phone call...which turned out to be to Carl Elias (Enrico Colantoni), an ally only in the sense of keeping one's enemies closer than one's friends. Elias, who had been in hiding, paid a visit to Yogorov, which was awkward because Elias had killed Yogorov's dad. After convincing Yogorov that he hated HR more than him, he left an incriminating file for Yogorov to pore over.
After Carter got a confirmation phone call from Elias and told him to lay low, a recent cohort, Samantha Shaw (Sarah Shahi), met with her unbeknownst to Reese and Finch (because they would have had a collective aneurysm) and brought a satchel of guns. That led up to the scene with the burning car and delievery truck. It was Carter who did it. Later, Reese and Finch saw the footage and after sussing out that it was a female, thought it was Shaw. Turns out Shaw spilled the beans that it was Carter, leaving both Reese and Finch in a state of consternation
An angry Yogorov called Quinn, accusing him of the theft of the truck. Quinn tried to play cool, but the mobster threatened him. This was interspersed with Carter on a nearby rooftop overlooking Quinn's office.
While Carter was busy, Reese went to her house (he tends to ignore personal boundaries) and found it empty but located a bulletin board with her HR list. Reese called Finch and then got a call from Carter. She asked him to trust her, which he did, reluctantly. Afterwards, Simmons called Quinn and while they were conversing, Carter shot out his window with a sniper gun, making him think it was the Russians, setting the stage for an all-out war, a war that Finch said favors HR, since they have the law on their side.
There were scenes of Russian men being rounded up by HR and then Carter went to a cornered Yogorov and warned him. The only solution? Have her arrest him, a point she punctuated by holding up handcuffs.
This was a half hour's worth. The writers do NOT dilly-dally, which makes a very fast show. It felt like an hour's worth of excitement had been crammed in that shorter span.
The second half-hour began with Yogorov in holding under a fake name. Carter said that he shot at Quinn and that she knows Quinn is head of HR. She also said that Quinn HAS to go down and needs him to sign a statement as such. The carrot that she dangled was moving his brother, who HR has in Rikers as leverage, to a safer facility. Yogorov bit, but not before warning her to be careful which judge she chose to get a warrant on Quinn, since there's a lot of money moving around. Carter assured him that she had done her due diligence.
Carter surprised Fusco outside his place and after some back and forth on the subject of trust, she admitted that she's protecting him and gave him the key to a safe deposit box that has everything on HR. Hey, if that's not trust, I don't know what is. Fusco was so moved at this that he wanted to help and ran upstairs to get equipment, but of course Carter ditched him, since she needs to be the lone wolf.
HR had the mobsters at a shipyard and were all set for some gunplay. Reese and Shaw were at the scene, hiding. But just as the HR cops pulled their guns out, the FBI came screeching in. After a brief conversation, they found drugs in the trunk of a high-ranking HR cop's car. Fusco called Reese to say that Carter ditched him.
Carter called a judge for a warrant, but after he agreed to, he hung up and called Quinn. Oops. Right then I had a vision of the ancient Knight Templar in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: "You have chosen...poorly."
Before heading to the judge, Carter called Paul and had a heartfelt conversation with both him and her son, who was staying there. After hanging up, she drove to the judge, who escorted her to his living room, where Simmons, Quinn and several other dirty cops were waiting. With guns. Quinn had to have a little speech, and Carter got him to keep talking...for them to record his words on his own phone (Knight Templar: "Oops. You chose wisely! Wisely!") and in that moment of stunned silence, Reese burst in through the doors like the Terminator, guns ablaze. Carter managed to grab Quinn, who got winged by a shot, and managed to drag him outside while he defiantly kept saying that this was the worst mistake she ever made. A cop car came screeching into the driveway, but Reese shot out its engine and they made their getaway while the cop took cover behind his car door.
Of course, though, Simmons got a picture from the police car dashboard. and directed that the image of Reese, Carter and Quinn be distributed to EVERYONE. Including criminal elements. The episode ended there...which was good, since I almost permanently whitened my knuckles during the last 10 minutes.
The wheels are rolling and it's going to be VERY interesting to see what happens in the next two episodes.
At the moment there are few greater clichés in the media than the freaking out single woman on the cusp of 30. Of course clichés are clichés for a reason worth exploring even through the lens of just one or two women as in Lola Versus. Unfortunately while the intention behind Lola Versus isn't that we should all be happily married by the age of 30 it still fits into the same rubric of all those "Why You're Not Married" books.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) has a gorgeous fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and they live in a giant loft together the kind of dreamy NYC real estate that seems to exist primarily in the movies. Just as they're planning their gluten-free wedding cake with a non-GMO rice milk-based frosting Luke dumps her. It's cruelly sudden — although Luke isn't a cruel man. Lola finds little comfort in the acerbic wit of her best friend the eternally single Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is probably delighted to see her perfectly blonde best friend taken down a peg and into the murky world of New York coupling. Lola and Luke share a best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) a messy-haired rumpled sweetheart who is kind and safe and the inevitable shelter for Lola's fallout. Her parents well-meaning and well-to-do hippie types feed her kombucha and try to figure out their iPads and give her irrelevant advice.
Lola Versus is slippery. Its tone careens between broad TV comedy and earnest dramedy almost as if Alice is in charge of the dirty zingers and Lola's job is to make supposedly introspective statements. Alice's vulgar non-sequiturs are tossed off without much relish and Lola's dialogue comes off too often as expository and plaintive. We don't need Lola to tell Henry "I'm vulnerable I'm not myself I'm easily persuaded" or "I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" (Which is by the way an asinine statement to make. One might even say she's not even that "slutty " she's just making dumb decisions that hurt those around her just as much as she's hurting herself.)
We know that she's a mess — that's the point of the story! It's not so much that a particularly acerbic woman wouldn't say to her best friend "Find your spirit animal and ride it until its d**k falls off " but that she wouldn't say it in the context of this movie. It's from some other movie over there one where everyone is as snarky and bitter as Alice. You can't have your black-hearted comedy and your introspective yoga classes. Is it really a stride forward for feminism that the clueless single woman has taken the place of the stoner man-child in media today? When Lola tells Luke "I'm taken by myself. I've gotta just do me for a while " it's true. But it doesn't sound true and it doesn't feel true.
In one scene Lola stumbles on the sidewalk and falls to the ground. No one asks her if she's okay or needs help; she simply gets up on her own and goes on her way. It's a moment that has happened to so many people. It's humiliating and so very public but of course you just gotta pick yourself up and get where you're going. In this movie it's a head-smackingly obvious metaphor. In one of the biggest missteps of the movie Jay Pharoah plays a bartender that makes the occasional joke while Lola is waiting tables at her mom's restaurant. His big line at the end is "And I'm your friend who's black!" It would have been better to leave his entire character on the cutting room floor than attempt such a half-hearted wink at the audience.
Lister-Jones and director Daryl Wein co-wrote the screenplay for Lola Versus as they did with 2009's Breaking Upwards. Both films deal with the ins and outs of their own romantic relationship in one way or another. Breaking Upwards a micro-budget indie about a rough patch in their relationship was much more successful in tone and direction. Lola Versus has its seeds in Lister-Jones' experience as a single woman in New York and is a little bit farther removed from their experiences. Lola Versus feels like a wasted opportunity. Relatively speaking there are so few movies getting made with a female writer or co-writer that it almost feels like a betrayal to see such a tone-deaf portrayal of women onscreen. What makes it even more disappointing is how smart and likable everyone involved is and knowing that they could have made a better movie.
S1E17: Person of Interest is pretty much a crapshoot, varying from dull and flavorless (like the last episode) to invigorating and filled with merit, like this week’s “Baby Blue.” While there have definitely been better episodes of the show, “Baby Blue” might cover the widest range of emotion: I actually found myself laughing, nearly tearing up, and genuinely tensed up at various different points throughout the episode—and a piece of cinema or television that can illicit any emotional response is a successful one.
"The cop who is on her own." - Moretti I find that this show works best when it has more than one storyline going on—it detracts from the hollow and sometimes formulaic procedural angle that Person of Interest sometimes falls victim to. This week, the team, with Carter on the front lines, is looking to wrangle Elias’ father Moretti (returning Breaking Badian Mark Margolis) into an ad-hoc Witness Protection Program to evade any attacks from his vengeful son. They’re also hoping that Moretti might be able to fill them in on any info that might aid in the apprehension of Elias, who, as I’m sure all Person of Interest fans are glad to realize, looks to be back for the long haul. At least I hope we won’t be living with another long string of episodes without the compelling villain who really does drive the show. All the while, a number comes up. Whereas the Number of the Week story usually suffers due to monotony, however, this time there’s a special twist: the Person of Interest is a six month-old baby.
"Every cop in the city is looking for that kid." - Carter
"I'm teaching her to work undercover." - Reese As an audience member, three things come with this. One: any danger the P.O.I. finds herself in is automatically much more dreadful to watch—you might find it hard to keep your eyes on the TV screen in the climactic scene of this week’s episode. Two: there’s also a good deal of sweetness that comes with watching both Reese and Finch care for an infant girl. You’d think at least one of them would play the “I’m not good with kids” card—it seems like an easy trait to apply to either character, Reese especially. But both men are extremely attentive and extremely warm toward young Layla. Finally, three: at times, it’s also quite funny to watch the hired assassin and his super genius boss befuddled and turned affectionate by a baby. And a scene that places Finch and Carter discussing their secret agent strategies while on line in a department store buying diapers and the like is surprisingly well crafted for this program (the music, the camerawork and the actors’ deliveries all contribute to a fun scene), which is usually pretty simple and straightforward in its direction. The hunt for the people after young Layla is the most inconsequential aspect of the episode. It turns out that some middle-aged, married socialite fathered the baby with a young woman who was promptly killed thereafter—by hit men hired by the adulterer’s wife, who also hired a crew to take Layla out of the country and sell her. The operations going into discovering these facts and accomplishing the goal of delivering Layla—who had been living at the hospital—to her biological grandparents, the loving parents of her murdered mother, are all pretty commonplace Person of Interest surveillance and legwork stuff. What’s far more compelling is how desperate Reese and Finch get to ensure young Layla’s safety (they are way more invested in their Number’s well-being than usual, understandably) and the lengths they are willing to take to achieve this.
"I'm all out of moves, Finch. Risk is all I have left." - Reese In an effort to bring the baby to her grandparents, Reese and Finch are intercepted and bested by the hired kidnappers—the baby is taken. Reese has no idea how to get to them and get Layla back, so he contacts the only man who has a profound enough knowledge of and hand in the New York crime rings to provide any assistance: Elias.
Elias does help Reese get Layla back, but for a price: information about his father’s whereabouts. Carter has Moretti safeguarded in a house in Queens under the watch of one of the few remaining uncorrupt cops with whom she’s acquainted, Officer Could-Switching-to-GEICO (Mike McGlone, another returnee). When Reese refuses, Elias’ men stick Reese in a freezer truck until he gives up the info. But here’s the kicker…Elias puts the baby in the freezer, too. As the temperature drops, we see Reese’s agonizing terror for Layla’s safety rise. He is handcuffed to a pipe, so it takes him a while to even manage free of this so that he can cradle her with his body warmth. Eventually, Reese gives up Moretti’s location. Elias slips him the key and zooms off to take care of his greatly detested father.
"It'd be nice to have a child. Children. Think that'll ever happen?...Probably not. Our line of work." - Reese
"The trouble with children: you never know how they're going to turn out." - Finch Elias manages to take down Officer GEICO and leave the scene with his dad in custody. When Reese (after dropping Layla off with Finch) and Carter arrive, they nurse the officer, whose condition is unclear; Carter learns that Reese was in cooperation with Elias to save Layla’s life, which seems to bring her to the realization of all the crazy, backwards and hardly legal stuff she has been involved in. Carter promptly insists that she can no longer be a part of the team, which Reese accepts. He and Finch then solemnly drop Layla off with her new guardians, her maternal grandparents, with Reese tacitly revealing that he will genuinely miss her.
Interestingly, the episode seems to allude to the fact that Finch has a child of his own. Throughout, he is far more prepared with and knowledgeable about childcare than Reese is, knowing how to feed and change Layla expertly. As the duo bids its farewell to Layla, Finch seems to be a bit callous about the whole thing, almost glad that he won't be able to see her grow up. Has Finch raised a child that has somehow "gone bad?" Is this why he is so close and loving to Nathan's son William?
"What'd you learn?" - Officer
"She had a pizza." - Fusco The episode also continues on the path of redeeming Fusco. Despite probing by his suspicious and corrupt superiors, Fusco does not give up any of the information he manages to accumulate regarding Carter’s “side-operations.” Attaboy, Lionel. Earn your way back into our hearts. This week’s “Baby Blue” has the right components to make it one of the better Person of Interest episodes in recent weeks. The reintroduction of the Elias plot is clearly a big win—the larger arcs are far more compelling than the one-off crimes. But as far as one-off crimes go, this is one of the more captivating ones. It has the immediacy needed to keep audiences caring about the outcome (even if it’s kind of cheating—who wouldn’t care about a baby?), and a good deal of sentiment, excitement, and humor. The final scene shows Elias on the beach with his father, surrounded by Elias’ men, and some good old ominous music. What is Elias’ plan here? Is it simply cathartic revenge, or is there much more to it? And what about the possibility of Finch's fatherhood? Let us know what you think in the comments section or on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.
S1E7: Over the course of the past six weeks, I have been asked many times what I think of Person of Interest so far. Like many who decided to get into the show, I was a zealous LOST-aholic. And, like most people who exist in the Western world, I am an admirer of all things Nolan. So, a show created by the The Dark Knight and Memento writer, produced by J.J. Abrams, and starring Michael Emerson seemed like a pretty good habit in which to get invested. Still, every time the question was posed to me over the last month and change, I’d humbly answer something in the vein of, “It’s been just okay so far,” always adding, for the sake of my own optimism and that of my partner in the discussion, “but I think it’s building to something.” Well, whether I truly believed it or was just saying it to keep spirits upbeat, it finally happened. This week’s Person of Interest episode, “Witness,” is the very thing to which the show has been carefully, charismatically building. And honestly, I am pretty freakin’ thrilled.
“If I testify, I never get to come back here. I’ve worked too hard. This is my home.” – Charlie
A shooting at a bodega stirs gang-related controversy. Detectives Carter and Fusco, and a lieutenant played by Mike McGlone (the “Could switching to GEICO…?” guy) deliver the story: Brighton Beach, although a territory ruled by the Russian crime syndicate, has an Italian uprising in the form of a man named Elias and his cronies. Elias is the figure that Carter has been investigating over the course of the past few episodes. His name first came up during Reese’s undercover bank robbery, and pervaded into last week’s episode, in which Carter and Dan Hedaya took on a case. The problem is: nobody knows who Elias is or what he looks like. The man shot in the bodega is one of Elias’ men; the shooter is a representative of the Russian mob, avenging his murdered family member. So where do Reese and Finch come in? There is a witness at the bodega: a schoolteacher named Charlie (Enrico Colantoni) who saw the face of the shooter. The machine shoots out his number, and Reese rushes to his aide—just in time to drag him from the clutches of gun-toting Russians (fun cameo for Community fans: one of the Russian thugs is Luka, the Slavic warmonger with whom Britta became temporarily enamored).
In hiding out with Charlie, Reese develops a liking and respect for him. Not to mention he busts his phone and cannot communicate with Finch, so he probably feels a little more compelled to make small-talk out of boredom (that inability to communicate is inconvenient for some other pretty obvious reasons too). Charlie refuses to testify out of fear of the Russian mob. He can’t get himself killed, primarily because his students need him. Reese develops a fondness for Charlie beyond even that which he seemed to foster for Zoe last week. Thus, he goes to every length imaginable to see him safe.
“Elias started a war that can’t be won. Now a lot of innocent people are going to die. Do you want that?” – Det. Carter
“If that’s what it takes.” – Mrs. D’Agostino
Unable to communicate with Reese, Finch is forced to finally interact with Det. Fusco. In cahoots (and sometimes behind each other’s backs, but still working toward the same goal), they investigate a parked car and a mysterious police officer who is believed to be Elias. Meanwhile Carter tries to reason with the widow of the dead bodega criminal, who only wishes for the downfall of the Russian mob at the hands of Elias. She also insists that when he does rise—wanting to take over far more than just Brighton Beach—the entire police department will answer to him. It’s spooky. It’s exciting.
Out of options and on the run, Reese and Charlie head into forbidden territory: the apartment complex run by the Bulgarian drug force. The Russians brave these wild-lands (earning the Bulgarians’ approval as they wish harm unto Reese for beating up two of their men in order to earn some coke to nurse Charlie’s gunshot wound…just go with it) and a game of manhunt ensues. Reese and Charlie get the break that one of the latter’s students allows them to hide out in his apartment. Here, Reese and the audience get to see Charlie really connect with the young man. We see just what kind of a role model he is—one that has clearly touched his students, and one that really deserves saving. This angelic good guy image really should tip us off to what’s coming, but it’s done pretty subtly and artfully, so it doesn’t (at least, it dupes me).
“Teaching can be a dangerous profession.” – Reese
“I am sure espionage is much safer, Mr. Reese.” – Finch
Reese manages to apprehend the Community cameo, and brings him aboard a boat docked at the pier, tying him up. While Reese promises further to protect Charlie, the Russian thug begins monologuing—gotta love it—and informs Reese, and us, that Charlie is not who he seems. Yep. Charlie is Elias. Charlielias confirms this by pointing a gun to Reese’s head and tying him up. He does let him live out of gratitude and respect, but goes on to collect his soldiers and vow to take back the neighborhood that once belonged to his lineage.
The ending of the episode is terrific for several reasons. One: it’s a killer twist. Two: it promises a large, exciting story to come—one that will hopefully carry over a good part of the season. Three, and most importantly: it makes Reese question the machine (and himself). The machine brought him to save the life of an evil man. How can he trust it blindly any further? How can he ever know who is worth saving? What is the point of saving lives at the cost of others? Is he even leading a noble life? The questions are endless. Luckily, we’ve got a Nolan behind it all. And an Abrams, too. And after six weeks of hopeful waiting, we finally see just what the two of them are up to. And let me say: it’s turning out to be some damn good TV.