Tonight’s episode is the bridging chapter in the three-part wrap-up to the whole “bringing down Alonzo and Simmons” saga, and in the last few minutes, somebody dies. This in itself should not be news to anyone who keeps half an eye on the show; CBS has done everything in its power to alert viewers to the terrible news, short of digging up Royal Dano, dressing him in black, and sending him door to door to frighten people. It would be premature and overly pessimistic to say that, in its determination to get the country revved up for a big honking tear-jerking game changer of an episode, Person Of Interest jumped the shark, and it would also amount to rank ingratitude for what was often a riveting hour of television. But the show definitely overplayed its hand. It’s always been very good at surprises that come out of nowhere—but tonight, the show practically sat in your lap, whispering, “Ooh, something big’s gonna go down tonight, I want to be extra sure that you can handle it.” There were indeed a couple of things that I had trouble handling, but not in a good, sensory-overload kind of way.
If you’ve really been paying attention to the ads, you may have gotten the message, loud and clear, that people who do their Christmas shopping early for fictional characters needn’t waste their money on Fusco this year. For the practiced observer of TV series trying too hard to shock the bejesus out the audience, this was the first clear sign that Fusco would be just fine. The second clear sign came when Fusco was given a tender scene with the son I didn’t know he had, who apparently lives with him. Maybe it’s been mentioned before that Fusco has a son, and maybe we’ve even seen the little tyke. If we did, it didn’t stick with me, because this was the first time the kid was used to signal that Fusco has someone in his life that bad guys can use for leverage when he’s captured and tortured. That having been established, Simmons and his HR goons wasted no time in capturing and torturing Fusco, after hauling him off to a fortune cookie factory.
Scenes in which people are beaten on and have their fingers broken, and cry in despair and plead for the lives of their children with the camera an inch from their faces, are not generally to my liking. I suppose the producers would explain that these scenes establish that Fusco is a noble fellow who would suffer the torments of Hell before letting his friends down (and that the HR guys are no-good bastards), but as a regular viewer of Person Of Interest, I knew this already. I also knew that Fusco would probably manage to get the drop on his tormentors, because one of them is played by Lee Tergesen, whose smirking, sadistic crooked-cop character is pretty much carried over directly from his appearances on Longmire. Simmons just runs into him on the street, and the show treats him as if he’s a recurring character we’ve seen before, though he isn’t. But anyone who watches TV immediately knows that he’s at least as despicable as Simmons, so it tosses him into the mix so that Fusco will have the chance to blow away someone as richly deserving of some violent payback as Simmons. Fusco can’t blow Simmons away, because his services are required at the end of the episode, when, as has been mentioned already, somebody dies.
But thanks to the CBS publicity department, that doesn’t come as a surprise. Here’s a surprise: Reese has the hots for Carter. I did not see that coming, and I hope to never think about it again, though it should at least provide some subtext for next week’s episode. Just to be clear, Reese and Carter are both interesting and sympathetic characters, and Jim Caviezel and Taraji P. Henson are both attractive and likable performers. So when I say that seeing them kiss made me throw up in my mouth a little, I’m referring to the queasiness one may feel when a show seems to be pulling a major plot development out of its ass, one that has not been sufficiently prepared for and that does not ring true, just for the sake of an effect—say, to make it seem especially sad when, later, somebody dies, and to explain why somebody else is going to be especially broken up about it. But more about that next week, I guarantee.
Anyway, for an attempted big event that misfires, it has enough solid thriller effects to give a fan hope. Somebody who works on this show has the proper love and respect for ’70s movies: When HR puts out a city-wide contract on Reese and Finch announces that “every criminal in New York” is gunning for him, Reese and Carter are on a subway train that looks a little rundown by current standards, and when the doors open and a bunch of hoods make a beeline for Reese, the scene is so neo-The Warriors that I was holding out hope that a bunch of guys with clown makeup and baseball bats would enter from the other end of the train. It’s just too bad that the torture scenes and the prolonged shots of Reese and Carter mooning at each other eat into the time that could have been spent further developing that setup, or providing some followthrough on Finch’s conversations with Root about the changing nature of The Machine and their different relationships to it—or, as Root insists, “her.” After the show has worked through its grieving period, it would be nice to really explore that. I have always maintained that it is better to have Amy Acker on a show where she doesn’t have anything to do but hang out in a caged area of a library than to not have Amy Acker on the show at all, but I’m not sure I want to see that theory really tested.
- Fusco, who might have to get used to trading quips with Shaw, gets off one of his better ones: “You know the dog’s the only one that likes you, right?
- A nice touch, when Finch informs Reese that, because of the threat from HR, The Machine has spit Reese’s name out: Finch says that The Machine actually flagged 70 names: “It took me a while to realize that they were all prior aliases.”
- Root taunts Finch, who is plainly worried about Reese: “Let’s not pretend that John is your first helper monkey. Exactly how many guys did you go through before him?” This scene is probably just there on the off chance that it’ll trick a few people into thinking that Reese might actually be killed, and the subject will presumably not be raised again. Which is a shame, because it’s not a bad question.
- Seismic event of the evening: Root calls Finch “Harry.”
- Whoever owns the copyright on the word “pal” made more money tonight than he has on any hour of TV since Miami Vice went off the air.
- Rushing to the rescue, Finch introduces himself to a thug who asks who the hell he is. Finch says, “I’m the guy that’s gonna catch you when you fall,” and hits him with a Taser. The man falls to the floor in a heap. “Sorry,” says Finch, “I’m not very good at this.” Michael Emerson parodying the idea that Michael Emerson could even try to act like an action hero is a joke I never get tired of.