S01E03: Call me a sucker for bank robberies and broken hearts, but tonight’s episode of Person of Interest is a step up from the last two weeks. And this conclusion is based entirely on two separate lines in the episode—one spoken by Finch, one by Reese.
Tonight’s episode picks up the “Here’s this week’s case” theme less than two minutes in. Finch awakens in his apartment to see Reese standing over him, feeling guilty about blowing his cover at the company last week—or at least claiming to. We quickly move from any particle of continuity into the weekly mission: the machine has singled out Joey Durban (James Carpinello) a former soldier working as a doorman and involved in a long-term relationship.
"If Joey’s bad choices mean he’s about to walk into a bullet, we have to find out who is firing it." - Finch
Reese tails Joey for a while, noticing nothing of interest until the latter participates in a (successful, and nonviolent) bank robbery with a few other men. After the robbery, Reese follows Joey to a rendezvous with a young woman, to whom he sees him give an envelope of money. Finch and Reese surmise that Joey is likely cheating on his girlfriend with this woman.
Through some high-level surveillance work and information gathering (there is nothing these two men cannot see/find out), Finch and Reese figure out that the other men with whom Joey robbed the bank also served with him in the war.
One is a cabdriver—Finch plants some illegal weaponry in the man’s trunk and has him arrested. Reese goes “undercover” as a soldier looking for work and speaks with the head of the crime syndicate (syndiquette, really) who gets Joey & co. their heist jobs—for the benefit of the finder’s fee. Through some trickery, Reese convinces the man, Sam Latimer (Ruben Santiago) to link him up with Joey and the team. Of course, they don’t give him a warm welcome. They throw a bag over Reese’s head, drive him out to a back alley and point a gun in his face. Reese can tell that Joey does not intend to kill him—he’s not a murderer. This cements the idea that Joey must be the victim (as the machine chose him, so he’s either a potential murderer or a potential murderee). Reese also manages to convince the soldiers to let their guard down about him, at least to some degree.
Reese decides to get close to Joey to better solve the case. He “bumps into him” at a bar, and the two discuss war. Joey goes off on a speech, questioning the purpose of the war and berating the big businesses that profit while men like him come back to squalor. This instigates a couple of blue collar jackasses, provoking them to put down soldiers in general. Reese responds by knocking one out, and Joey does the same to the other. The scene…well, I guess it helped to characterize Joey, a little. And it brought Reese and Joey a lot closer. But it seemed more intent on illustrating just how big a jackass the writers think every banker and big business employee is.
Anyway, Reese begins following another member of the heist team: Straub (Keith Nobbs) who approaches Latimer for a job opportunity and seems to be considering killing his partners so that he could get a larger sum of money per job to pay his gambling debts/mother’s rent money.
"You can't cure someone of guilt." - Reese
Another heist takes place—of a casino, this time—and Reese is on board. He wears his direct-to-Finch headset, so he knows exactly when the cops are coming (and leading the cops is, of course Detective Carter, who caught a “glimpse” of Reese on the security camera in the bank robbed earlier). The gang escapes, but Straub is livid that they were unable to get the money.
Finch and Reese find out (through investigation and conversation, respectively) that the woman Joey is supporting is not a lover, but the lover an old soldier friend for whose death Joey feels responsible. The two had a daughter together, and Joey is dedicated to putting her through college.
Although Reese admires Joey for this, he tells him that he must be more present with his girlfriend. Here, Reese is channeling his own inner turmoil. We get a few flashbacks through the episode of Reese bumping into his ex, Jessica, who he finds out is engaged. But we’ll get to that.
"I waited six years for him to come home and it's like he's still over there." - Joey's girlfriend
Before the last heist, Reese pays a visit to Joey’s girlfriend, telling her just how much her boyfriend loves her, but also telling her that “there are other fish in the sea” if it doesn’t work out. Kind of a mixed message; I'm not too sure what he’s trying to drive home there.
The group, Reese included, pulls one more heist. Finch manages to find out and inform Reese of the fact that Latimer is setting them all up and plans to kill all of them. Latimer does manage to kill Straub, but flees the scene when Carter and co show up.
Reese gives Joey his share of the heist money and convinces him to leave town with his girlfriend, which he does.
"The truth is, it was easier for you to be alone." - Jessica
This channels the final flashback: Reese’s ex telling him that if he put himself out there and asked her to wait for him, that she would. She can’t take how protective of his feelings he is, and she needs him to be more open. He can’t bring himself to ask her, so she leaves. But once she’s gone, he mutters, “Wait for me. Please,” teary eyed. Sure, it’s not exactly never-been-done, but it’s powerful enough to make Reese’s character all the more valuable. That, by the way, is one of the two lines that made this episode an improvement.
The other comes from Finch after Reese heads to Latimer’s apartment to take him out — finding that someone else already has. When Reese investigates this, he comes up with the name “Elias,” which Finch claims he knows nothing about, but he’ll “look into it.” This means one thing: a continuous arc. Continuity! A larger story! THAT is what this series needs, beyond episodic mysteries. This is promising.