One of my favorite moments in Person Of Interest comes in “Dead Reckoning,” when Reese is on alone on a rooftop, strapped into an explosive vest that he doesn’t know how to deactivate. All he can think to do is isolate himself as much as possible, so that no one else will be hurt anyone when he blows sky-high. Finch saves him by appearing at the last minute and switching off the vest, but what really stays in the memory is the misery and regret in Jim Caviezel’s face, at one of the few moments when his character is completely, hopelessly vulnerable. Meanwhile, on the street below, the police and the feds are gathered, having missed the real show, in the process of continuing to misunderstand what’s going on.
Again and again, this show says: You can’t trust the forces of authority, and you can’t trust the law. If you want justice, you have to make it happen for yourself. And at the same time, it cautions that, while an intelligent, skilled person can do amazing things without the full resources that the official “protectors” have at their disposal, you’d better not go it alone. All the characters—Reese, Finch, Shaw—have had their lowest moments when they’ve tried to do it all by themselves, something they’ve usually done for the most selfless of reasons; like Reese on that rooftop, they were worried about someone else getting hurt. Person Of Interest is all about rooting for the individual over the organization. But it also stresses the value of being part of a small, functioning team. And not just to help out with the threats to one’s physical well-being; the fact that they work together is the first thing that separates Reese and Finch from every other person in New York who thinks that they know the real, secret truth, because the pay phones talk to them.
“Endgame” is Carter’s episode, and part of the suspense comes from seeing Carter, once the sanest of the series regulars, kicking against the wisdom the show has been preaching and setting herself up as a renegade, ready to set fire to the world and go down with it, so long as Alonzo goes down with her. What’s happened to the woman? The episode begins with a flood of reminders of the human cost of Alonzo’s rise, building to the ID badge of Carter’s dead police partner, but the name that comes up again and again is Beecher; Carter cannot understand what kind of man would have his own godson murdered.
The show has never been generous with details about Carter’s background, and “Endgame” makes up for lost time, intercutting scenes of Carter preparing to go to war with flashbacks showing how her relationship with the father of her child fell apart when he came home from Iraq and was resistant to the idea of getting help for his PTSD. This story thread doesn’t reveal much that a loyal viewer couldn’t have guessed, but it drives home the essential differences that separate a warm, questing loner like Carter from a smiling cobra like Alonzo. It also makes you feel the chill surrounding Carter, who has no one to expend her warmth on and lost a possible candidate when Alonzo authorized his godson’s murder. Alonzo himself is constantly surrounded by people, any of whom he’d sell out in a heartbeat.
Carter isn’t entirely alone; she pulls in a favor from Shaw, who is more than happy to loot the supply closet and gift her with firepower and ammunition, even though she doesn’t know what Carter has in mind. (Caviezel has his funniest line in ages when, watching a video feed of Carter in action, he says, “Wait… that’s my grenade launcher!?”) Carter also has a heart-tugger of a scene with Fusco, who does know what she has in mind and wants to help. She declines his offer, again because she doesn’t want him to get hurt on her account. Naturally, he assumes that she still thinks of him as a dirty cop, and doesn’t want him watching her back.
They make up, but it’s a measure of how far this show has evolved that it can hit emotional notes like this, based on the contrasts between who the characters once were and whom they’ve become, with a couple of support players who, in the first episodes, didn’t seem likely to still be on the show a season or so later; Fusco practically had a tag on his toe, and Carter’s Javert-like pursuit of the Man In The Suit was bound to get old. Always changing, recharging, and finding new twists to play on a premise that didn’t look as if it could sustain that many of them, Person Of Interest is heading into its final batch of episodes of 2013 with a full head of steam.
- Alonzo is as slimy a villain as the show has ever offered up to the gods of melodrama, and I probably should refer to him as “Quinn” when I routinely refer to all the other characters by their last names, instead of making it sound as if he and I are chummy. But dammit, “Alonzo” is just such a fun name to say, and type.