“One Percent” S2 / E14
- B- Community Grade
Looking up in the night sky at the helicopter that his latest charge is using to make his getaway, Reese notes that it’s illegal for helicopters to make rooftop landings in Manhattan and asks the little man in his ear, “Finch, how do we keep up with a guy who breaks all the rules?” Longtime watchers of Person Of Interest, and especially those who are readers of this space, will recognize this is as exactly the kind of line that pops out of Reese’s mouth when the show goes on autopilot. Wit, style, sly suggestiveness—these things just go out the window for a week, and the characters talk as if they were book jackets, describing the situations they’re in and the characters they’re dealing with in punchy, over-determined phrases that seem meant to be catchy. The guy in the chopper is Logan Pierce, a “self-made billionaire” and idealistic tech genius who is one part Sean Parker (as played by Justin Timberlake) to two parts Mark Zuckerberg (not the one Jesse Eisenberg played; the one Mark Zuckerberg plays in his sit-down chats with Oprah). Finch has already summed up his fantasy appeal for the dumbasses sitting at home watching in their underwear by describing him as “a one-percenter who finds other one-percenters tedious.”
Coming after the fireworks of last week’s episode, this is a disappointing, half-assed hour of Person Of Interest, but it is, at least, half-assed with an excuse. The writers aren’t trying to tell a good, self-contained thriller; they’re trying to introduce a new character who might have long-term potential and give him a chance to get his foot in the door. Logan Pierce is played by Jimmi Simpson, who has very little competition these days as TV’s leading portrayer of brainy, anti-social supporting characters who are just entertaining enough to make you want to postpone strangling them long enough to see what they’re going to do next. In his regular role as a convict on the defunct Breakout Kings, Simpson was very convincing as a hyper-intelligent, super-observant motor-mouth, and also very convincing as a creep whom you wouldn't want to sit next to on the bus; he was believably seedy in a way that made you grateful that the show didn’t come with Scratch-N-Sniff cards.
Here, he gets to show what that same quality would look like dressed in a tailored suit. During last year’s presidential election, some pundits explained that Republican candidates who might personally like to avoid contact with Donald Trump had to suck it up and treat him gingerly, because he had a special appeal to an important segment of the party base: Obnoxious, ill-informed blue-collar guys who enjoyed watching Trump make a braying ass of himself on TV related to him, because he was their fantasy of what kind of rich guy they’d like to be. Walking down a New York street without his shirt or pants, because he’s going to the dry cleaners to collect his one suit, Logan is the whimsical identification figure for smart people who like to think that they probably could have invented Facebook themselves, if only they’d been able to tear themselves away from that Pootie Tang marathon.
Logan invented a social networking site called Friendczar.com, which is about to go public. Now, he and his partner and lawyer are supposed to be spending a few days tidying up before the big day by bullying people whose rival sites and software got ripped off or trampled, but instead, Logan seems content to cut them all checks and apologize for any misfortune they may have suffered as a result of his success. He has a special place in his heart for the creator of a site called Alchemistry, which, he concedes, does everything that Friendczar does, except better. Unromantic about high tech, he sees social networking as a means to a romantic end: “Every technology ages,” he tells Reese. “The only thing that never gets old is connecting with people.” This tender-hearted attitude toward human contact may actually be a little outside Jimmi Simpson’s range.
Logan keeps sneaking off to engage in pick-up basketball games with guys he meets on the public courts, but Simpson keeps up his snarky deadpan when he’s good-naturedly busting people’s chops, so when Logan, who’s reckless about danger, is insulting people on the court, he comes across as a self-destructive, self-hating guy who’s trying to get beaten up. Logan tumbles to what Reese and Finch are up to very quickly, forcing them to take him into their confidence while they try to find out who’s trying to kill him. But he keeps information from them that would lead them to suspect his business partner, and at the end, Reese understands why: He wanted to drag the process out, even at the risk of his own life, so he could observe and learn more about how Reese and Finch operate. But considering how hard he’s working to undermine the success of his own company, it would be easy to assume that he didn’t tell Reese that his partner probably wanted to kill him because it was so obvious that he didn’t think he had to tell him.
In the end, Reese saves the day, of course, and Logan gifts him with an expensive wristwatch. Then Finch smashes it, because it’s embedded with a GPS device; clearly, Logan is still interested in learning more about his new friends and is, Finch says, just clever enough to be dangerous, even if he means them no harm. Whether Logan ever reappears or not, the character has potential (though I’m not sure that the writers need him for any chores that couldn’t have been handled by Ken Leung’s sadly underused Leon). But any follow-up adventures he appears in are almost guaranteed to be an improvement over his introduction.
- For what it’s worth, the big car endangerment scene here, with shots of a car whizzing around (the brakes and accelerator have been tampered with) while Jimmi Simpson’s voice on the soundtrack does its best to create the illusion that he’s in there somewhere, is probably the single worst action sequence in Person Of Interest history. It’s like a homage to a Quinn Martin production.
- The events of last week have left Carter with some time on her hands, and she's decided to use it to investigate cases of missing or murdered cops whom Fusco might have been involved with and warn him, despite everything they've been through together, if he's dirty, she'll nail him. Fusco stoically listens and nods, instead of even hinting that, if he was involved in putting down any bad cops, she ought to know by now that it was probably in self-defense. Here's hoping this subplot goes nowhere fast, even if means that New York has to once again become a busy place to be a detective.