S1E5: Right off the bat, let me just say how thrilled I am with Person of Interest’s guest casting. Last week: Lindsay Weir. This week: Gale Boetticher. It’s like they’re looking through my DVD collection for inspiration.
But onto more substantial matters. While the episodes are never ‘boring,’ the ones—like tonight’s—that put all their time into the “Case of the Week” without lending anything to either Reese’s or Finch’s backstories (or any part of the overarching story whatsoever) just seem a little frivolous to me.
“You have two questions right now: ‘Who are you?’ and ‘Where’s my son?’ Which one do you want to focus on?” – Reese
This week’s number was that of Samuel Gates (David Costabile), a dedicated, no-nonsense judge, recent widower and single parent. Gates’ young son, Samuel, Jr., is kidnapped early on in the episode by an Eastern European gang who deals in some pretty high-level money laundering.
The men who have Sam, Jr. (and who killed his nanny, Cristina) are well-off, thanks to a profitable business resultant of the cooperation of one Angela Markham (Meredith Patterson), a bank employee who conveniently shuts down the monitoring of money periodically so that her “business partners” can enjoy some discrete embezzlement—and if I explained that clumsily, it’s not because I wasn’t watching the episode carefully, it’s because my understanding of the way money laundering/bank operations/the economy/most things that don’t have to do with TV work is offensively low.
The significance of Markham is that she is on trial for a drunken hit and run, under Judge Gates’ jurisdiction. If she were to go to jail, the syndicate’s operation would be no more, and their vast array of clients would likely have their heads. Thus, they kidnap Sam, Jr., and inform the judge that if he doesn’t let Markham go free, his son will die.
This is where Reese steps in.
“No question is innocent coming from you.” – Finch
Now, it’s understandable that the “You have to trust me” thing is a recurring theme in this series, but every once in a while, they should at least change up the phrasing. Seriously though: trust is an issue not just between Reese and his ‘clients,’ but between Reese and Finch. No one is willing to trust Reese—not even his business partner and only regular contact (besides the groggy and grumbling Detective Fusco, who they’re building up to be a more interesting character week by week).
The episode is framed by Reese trying to get closer to Finch by probing him with a simple question about what he’ll be ordering at a diner. Finch sees right through Reese, who is, in actuality, trying to get a sense of whether or not his boss frequents the diner (thus finding out where he lives, then where he’s from, more on his backstory, yadda yadda). Although it makes up about two collective minutes of the show, this is my favorite part of the episode, because it concerns the only two characters we really care about.
And we care about them for two very obvious reasons. One: they’re the only ones we actually see every week. Two: they’re, despite Reason One, the only ones we know almost nothing about. Both men are shrouded in mystery. One by choice, one by necessity. Both are emotionally damaged, although this manifests in different ways. And both are dedicated to saving the lives of strangers. In turn, this means both are often put into the position of earning the strangers’ trust. The irony: neither man is capable of returning that trust.
“Try the eggs benedict, Mr. Reese. I’ve gotten that many times.” – Finch
The episode wraps up as one would expect. Judge Gates lets Markham off in order to save his son. The criminals go back on their word, but Reese shows up in the nick of time with a twofer: a fancy plan that puts the bad guys in a tight spot, and some quick hands when they ignore the entire speech he has just given (this is actually kind of funny when you’re watching it). Afterwards, Markham and the rest of the criminals are brought to justice by the combined efforts of Reese, Det. Carter, and the Fusco between them.
The one surprise (and not the good kind) this episode gives us is not having Gates turn out to be the killer. When he glares resentfully at Markham as she receives an innocent verdict, it seems as though he’ll be the one taking the law into his own hands eventually. But no: everything wraps up nicely.
As said earlier, trust is always a theme in this show, but maybe it seems a little bit thicker this week. Reese has to consistently convince Gates that he is on his side. Finch attempts to pry Reese away from Gates, as any knowledge that anyone has about the two of them is a liability. But Reese trusts Gates. He connects with him. This is not Finch’s wheelhouse, but he seems moved by Reese’s trust in and appreciation for the man, so he does offer his partner the slightest bit of generosity in the last moments by declaring that he regularly orders the eggs benedict at the very same diner that opens the episode. Again, this is the most fun part of the show (at least for character-development junkie nerds like me). Person of Interest does terrifically when it does this. Understandably, it can’t only do this. But it should do more. Hopefully, the trend will pick up some speed.