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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.