S1E10: As many of the best shows do, Person of Interest really kind of sneaks up on you. Right out of the gate, you don’t really see the appeal—it comes across as simplistic and hyper-stylized with little beneath the surface. But much like its characters would, Person of Interest took effort to hide its true identity from us. The first episode to follow the pilot, “Ghosts,” was a self-contained crime procedural; the kicker in that ep was, the individual whose number the machine spat out had been declared dead for years. I remember finishing the episode with a curious thought: “Why did they start off the series with that twist?” It seemed to me that the show was vying only for what was apparent in that episode—a Law & Order with hidden cameras ordeal. So I found it odd that they wouldn’t begin things with a more straightforward mystery, and leave the “Here’s the catch” plots for later, once we’d become familiar with the formula. And the reason I bring up “Ghosts” is because now, thanks to this week’s “Number Crunch,” I understand entirely the flaw in my suppositions: Person of Interest never intended for us to get accustomed to that routine.
“Either she’s the paranoid sort, or she likes to fly under the radar. Both of which I can relate to.” – Finch
The show started us off with a premise that wasn’t quite right because we’d be dealing with an indelibly skewed delivery of the premise soon enough—nothing about the show was meant to seem formulaic or routine; although a few episodes to follow “Ghosts” might have conformed more closely to my premature conception of the show, kicking things off with a twist on the show’s selling premise was a wise way to keep us unsettled from the beginning (whether we knew it or not). And the payoff: episodes like “Witness,” and everything from then on, including this week’s “Number Crunch.” The week-to-week murder mysteries are gradually taking a backseat to bigger storylines that celebrate continuity. On the one hand, we have Elias: a mob figure with growing power, still at large with an ominous promise to stay that way for some time. Even more intriguing: Carter has elevated from the Tom to John Reese’s Jerry into a more focal figure. Their relationship was complicated tenfold when Reese saved her life last week—although the show could have written this plotline off and served us a slightly more frazzled, but still par-for-the-course Det. Carter this week, we get anything but.
“You know what would be clever? You pretending to chase this guy when in fact you’re working for him.” – CIA Agent (“Mark”)
The episode opens with Carter being investigated by a man who we later find out is CIA. He’s after Reese and wants Carter to lead him to the suited bandit. He eventually reveals to be a former associate of Reese (“I was his best friend”), before, as he explains it, Reese lost it and began killing indiscriminately. Of course, we’re meant to write this off as the agent attempting to manipulate Carter. But I also think we’re supposed to wonder just how much veracity lies in what this agent says. We know very little of Reese. We know he’s been hurt, and is far from your pinnacle of emotional health. Maybe the man speaks nothing but truths, and just has an unfortunately sinister face. It puts an interesting and welcome spin on the series when we begin to distrust our heroes.
“Where did you come from?” – Reese
“I breached the space-time continuum…not really.” – Finch
Meanwhile, we’ve got ourselves another new twist in the machine’s spit-outs: four different numbers, all connected (as suspected by Finch) by a single crime. Aside of course from the new angle of multiple victims—two of them do end up dead, but the ones we get to know (the apparently more sympathetic ones), make it out alive—the storyline is nothing spectacular. Unlike the few episodes preceding, the central Number story is not the most important aspect of the week (at least thinking in terms of the long-run). Carter is benched by her superior courtesy of her inability/refusal to identify John Reese, whom they are suspicious she might be in contact with and are sure, at the very least, she got a good look at. But Carter is torn: she affirms that she wants to bring Reese to justice, but is internally plagued by the idea of turning him in, as he did save her life just last week.
A fun aspect of the Number story, however, is Finch’s contribution: due to the heightened sum of potential victims, Finch is called into the field to do some tracking. In over his head due in equal parts to a lack of training and the fact that he can’t really move his neck, he’s not too good at playing lookout. Thus, when one of the Number people is killed, he takes heavy blame and beats on himself for a scene (they never resolve this, so it’s likely we’ll be seeing the theme pervade—he has proven to be a far more emotional person than Reese, but that is not saying much).
“I wanted to say thank you, Harold. For giving me a second chance.” – Reese
The end of the episode is the real grab. Reese keeps Carter in the loop about a tradeoff: he and one of the Number people are going to give a couple of criminals a ton of cash in return for the other remaining Number person, whom they are holding for ransom…it all goes back to an investment banker and his dead son, but like I said, the real value of the episode can be appreciated even if you ignore everything going on with the Numbers storyline (except for Finch’s miniature freak-out). Carter takes advantage of this information to inform the CIA Agents of Reese’s whereabouts. She and they intercept him before he can leave (but after he has saved the day for the two Number women), and a tense faceoff between old friends is engaged. Unexpectedly, the agent shoots Reese, but our hero still manages to get away from the scene undetected. While fighting for his life, Reese phones Finch (who is speeding over to the scene, courtesy of his omni-surveillance), afraid he will soon be dead and wishing to thank Finch for “giving him a second chance.” The episode ends with a guilt-ridden Carter spotting Finch (who she met back in episode 2 or 3) loading a dying* Reese into his car; she gives him a hand and orders him to get the hell out of there.
While Reese will quite certainly not die, the scene is still thrilling (thanks in part to the music—if anyone can identify the song, you get the coveted Favorite Commenter Award). It’s great to see more important, grander storylines come to fruition, especially after such a short time. They could have kept the formula going for quite a while: Carter chasing Reese, Reese living perpetually underground. But now, everything is out in the open. The CIA knows Reese isn’t dead. We know he may be more nuts than we think. Carter has probably got a lot of explaining to do. What do you think will become of her job on the force? And since her relationship with Reese is now completely changed, what will her role on the show be like from here on out? But more importantly: what is going to happen to Reese? All questions to consider. Terrific episode. Terrific promise for the post-hiatus. I hope everyone else enjoyed as much as I did.