S1E8: One of the reasons I have found my captivation with Person of Interest waxing and waning since the pilot is a simple, but pretty major facet of any television show: characters. Person of Interest has weighted itself with a pretty arduous task—make two men, who are completely unwilling to reveal anything about themselves, or show any sign of personal humanity while hacking into computers and tracking suspects, people that we can actually care about. Little by little, the show sneaks out some insight into the pains within John Reese, and we might feel somewhat moved by his agonizing plight to compensate for his broken heart by stopping people from killing other people (still not sure how it connects entirely, but I’m sure we’ll find out someday). However, for the most part, the show’s focus has been on the action—the crime, the Big Brother theology, the looming “Is this the right thing to do?” question. But this week’s episode gives us a healthy helping of a character examination, even if it is one that only scratches the surface. It doesn’t come in accordance with Reese or Finch, though. Instead, we get a look at the trials, heartaches and driving forces behind another regular character, who just happens to be this week’s Number: one Detective Carter. The episode title, “Get Carter,” should probably have tipped us off. And you gotta love a joke title in a show with so few actual jokes.
"I'm a cop. My life's always in danger." - Carter
Carter has been illustrated as the sole remaining “good cop” on planet Earth, and this episode accentuates that idea tenfold. When Reese, Finch, and the lot of us at home pontificate on who might be after Carter, the police are not out of the equation. Detective Fusco meets with his old Captain, who reveals his and the general force’s distaste for Carter’s protocol. The captain also beams about the coming of Elias, a criminal who he trusts to run the town “respectably,” working in accordance with the cops the way organized crime is meant to.
Among the other suspects of Carter’s assassination-to-be-attempted include the husband of a beaten woman in whom she has taken a special interest, and, more significantly in the episode, an arms dealer and gang member named Hector who she has pinpointed as the primary suspect in the murder of a young snitch outside a local convenience store. In this episode, Carter aggressively pursues each case, threatening both men with the idea that justice prevails beyond anything else, and that she is the vehicle for justice.This episode truly does let us get a better understanding of Carter’s ideology. She has the viewpoint of a much younger, fresher cop. She believes not only in the value of justice, but in the inevitability of it. She truly seems to think that criminality cannot and will not prevail, and that so long as she intends to take these men down, so will they be taken down.
As a juxtaposition to both Reese and Finch, it’s valuable to have a character like Carter. Both the heroes of the show have been far and beyond jaded by the things they’ve seen and done—Reese especially. He’s practically dead inside, and seems attached to his new way of life more as a logical pursuit than a visceral one. Finch, on the other hand, is definitely still very much capable of feeling—which is why he so actively protects himself and his identity from everyone. Finch trusts no one, Reese included, out of fear and defensiveness. But Carter is an open wound. She avows her passions and her investments even to the men she is hunting. It’s sort of a contradiction then, in this very episode, that she refuses to tell her partner Detective Fusco her first name. I think the series is trying to play her off as a woman with damages of her own (indicated of course by the flashbacks to an interrogation gone awry back in her military days). But we have plenty of that with Reese, and, as it is hinted, with Finch. I’d like to see more focus on a character who is capable of and accustomed to embracing his or her emotionality.
On this token, we also learn that Carter has a son. He’s the kind of son you’re likely to see in television circumstances like these: he’s warm, boyish but well-behaved, intelligent, his mother’s best friend. Someone we can’t help but feel gladdened by. Obviously, you don’t introduce a character and a relationship like this without putting it in danger in a later episode. But that’s a bridge we’ll cross when we get to it.
"Get too close, you risk getting caught." - Finch
"What am I supposed to do? Let her catch a bullet?" - Reese
Up until this episode, Carter’s primary function has been Reese Hunter. She hasn’t exactly shown malice for her target, but a definite stake in finding and capturing him. This episode sort of alters their relationship, however. When Carter’s fate is revealed, Reese is the one who comes to her aid. It is in fact a homeless man whom Carter has been paying for years for information that guns her down—not out of his own will, but thanks to an order from Elias (who makes a quick appearance in the episode), telling the man that he’ll kill him if he doesn’t kill her. Reese, who has made it his extra special mission of the week to protect Carter (“she’s not just another Number”), manages to convince her via a series of phone calls to wear a bullet proof vest, and then guns down the homeless man before he can finish Carter off. He also has a word with the crooked police captain, threatening him to deliver a message to Elias that Carter is off-limits. So basically, Reese has got some serious affection for Carter, even if it’s only professional.
Carter never really sees Reese, but she does understand that he is the one who saves her life, and she does begin to accept that maybe he’s serving a pretty important function himself, even if he’s operating beyond the law—and, more importantly, beyond her own personal code. It’s nice to see an episode of POI get a little more personal than usual, even if it’s not with either of the two leads. Through Carter, we do actually see a heightened dedication/emotionality from Reese. So maybe Carter isn’t the only one we start to “get” in this episode, after all.
Oh, and Tío Hector Salemanca as Elias' jailed father? Person of Interest, your guest casting gives me dizzy spells from awesomeness.