S1E7: Over the course of the past six weeks, I have been asked many times what I think of Person of Interest so far. Like many who decided to get into the show, I was a zealous LOST-aholic. And, like most people who exist in the Western world, I am an admirer of all things Nolan. So, a show created by the The Dark Knight and Memento writer, produced by J.J. Abrams, and starring Michael Emerson seemed like a pretty good habit in which to get invested. Still, every time the question was posed to me over the last month and change, I’d humbly answer something in the vein of, “It’s been just okay so far,” always adding, for the sake of my own optimism and that of my partner in the discussion, “but I think it’s building to something.” Well, whether I truly believed it or was just saying it to keep spirits upbeat, it finally happened. This week’s Person of Interest episode, “Witness,” is the very thing to which the show has been carefully, charismatically building. And honestly, I am pretty freakin’ thrilled.
“If I testify, I never get to come back here. I’ve worked too hard. This is my home.” – Charlie
A shooting at a bodega stirs gang-related controversy. Detectives Carter and Fusco, and a lieutenant played by Mike McGlone (the “Could switching to GEICO…?” guy) deliver the story: Brighton Beach, although a territory ruled by the Russian crime syndicate, has an Italian uprising in the form of a man named Elias and his cronies. Elias is the figure that Carter has been investigating over the course of the past few episodes. His name first came up during Reese’s undercover bank robbery, and pervaded into last week’s episode, in which Carter and Dan Hedaya took on a case. The problem is: nobody knows who Elias is or what he looks like. The man shot in the bodega is one of Elias’ men; the shooter is a representative of the Russian mob, avenging his murdered family member. So where do Reese and Finch come in? There is a witness at the bodega: a schoolteacher named Charlie (Enrico Colantoni) who saw the face of the shooter. The machine shoots out his number, and Reese rushes to his aide—just in time to drag him from the clutches of gun-toting Russians (fun cameo for Community fans: one of the Russian thugs is Luka, the Slavic warmonger with whom Britta became temporarily enamored).
In hiding out with Charlie, Reese develops a liking and respect for him. Not to mention he busts his phone and cannot communicate with Finch, so he probably feels a little more compelled to make small-talk out of boredom (that inability to communicate is inconvenient for some other pretty obvious reasons too). Charlie refuses to testify out of fear of the Russian mob. He can’t get himself killed, primarily because his students need him. Reese develops a fondness for Charlie beyond even that which he seemed to foster for Zoe last week. Thus, he goes to every length imaginable to see him safe.
“Elias started a war that can’t be won. Now a lot of innocent people are going to die. Do you want that?” – Det. Carter
“If that’s what it takes.” – Mrs. D’Agostino
Unable to communicate with Reese, Finch is forced to finally interact with Det. Fusco. In cahoots (and sometimes behind each other’s backs, but still working toward the same goal), they investigate a parked car and a mysterious police officer who is believed to be Elias. Meanwhile Carter tries to reason with the widow of the dead bodega criminal, who only wishes for the downfall of the Russian mob at the hands of Elias. She also insists that when he does rise—wanting to take over far more than just Brighton Beach—the entire police department will answer to him. It’s spooky. It’s exciting.
Out of options and on the run, Reese and Charlie head into forbidden territory: the apartment complex run by the Bulgarian drug force. The Russians brave these wild-lands (earning the Bulgarians’ approval as they wish harm unto Reese for beating up two of their men in order to earn some coke to nurse Charlie’s gunshot wound…just go with it) and a game of manhunt ensues. Reese and Charlie get the break that one of the latter’s students allows them to hide out in his apartment. Here, Reese and the audience get to see Charlie really connect with the young man. We see just what kind of a role model he is—one that has clearly touched his students, and one that really deserves saving. This angelic good guy image really should tip us off to what’s coming, but it’s done pretty subtly and artfully, so it doesn’t (at least, it dupes me).
“Teaching can be a dangerous profession.” – Reese
“I am sure espionage is much safer, Mr. Reese.” – Finch
Reese manages to apprehend the Community cameo, and brings him aboard a boat docked at the pier, tying him up. While Reese promises further to protect Charlie, the Russian thug begins monologuing—gotta love it—and informs Reese, and us, that Charlie is not who he seems. Yep. Charlie is Elias. Charlielias confirms this by pointing a gun to Reese’s head and tying him up. He does let him live out of gratitude and respect, but goes on to collect his soldiers and vow to take back the neighborhood that once belonged to his lineage.
The ending of the episode is terrific for several reasons. One: it’s a killer twist. Two: it promises a large, exciting story to come—one that will hopefully carry over a good part of the season. Three, and most importantly: it makes Reese question the machine (and himself). The machine brought him to save the life of an evil man. How can he trust it blindly any further? How can he ever know who is worth saving? What is the point of saving lives at the cost of others? Is he even leading a noble life? The questions are endless. Luckily, we’ve got a Nolan behind it all. And an Abrams, too. And after six weeks of hopeful waiting, we finally see just what the two of them are up to. And let me say: it’s turning out to be some damn good TV.