For me, last week’s episode hit a speed bump when Reese declared his love for Carter. It seemed to come out of nowhere, it required Jim Caviezel to tap into a vein of star-crossed ardor that neither comes naturally to him nor looks good on him, and anyway, I’m Team Zoe. None of that matters tonight, as Reese and everyone else deal with the fallout from Simmons’ murder of Carter. The episode begins with a montage set to Johnny Cash singing “Hurt,” which is the kind of thing you don’t want to accused of abusing; that version of that song could lend power and gravitas to Weekend At Bernie’s II. Each “act”—as Quinn Martin used to put it—is preceded by a flashback to one of the characters enduring some inquisition with a authoritative, mostly off-screen presence, and the first of these, with Finch seeing a therapist in the wake of the ferry bombing, provides Michael Emerson a chance to set a tone by talking about how one processes grief.
That simple fact, that someone who was here is now gone and people have to deal with that, was hammered home as the opening credits flashed on the screen, and Taraji P. Henson’s name was absent. She was just dropped from the roster, simple as that, despite the fact that there was a big photo of her face visible at the funeral scene, and I’ve seen shows grasp onto flimsier excuses than that to postpone the inevitable. Hell, when Jim Beaver guested on Revolution a few weeks ago, he was introduced at the start of an episode and then killed off at the end of it, and they still stuck his name in the opening credits of the next episode, despite the fact that he was just playing a corpse, and his role could have been doubled by a sandbag with a beard pasted to it. This, the show seemed to be saying, is how serious this is: In this economy, with the holidays coming, an actress just lost her regular TV gig.
Reese—memorably nicknamed “Tall, Dark, And Deranged” by Fusco—went about processing his grief in exactly the way you’d expect. Even though he was seriously wounded himself, he blew off curfew and went rampaging around the city, looking for the in-custody and heavily guarded Alonzo Quinn, so that he could ask Quinn where he could find Simmons, so that he could find Simmons and… well, the mind shudders. It was a smart move to keep Reese mostly off-screen, and follow Finch, Shaw, Fusco, and Root as they chased after him, and sometimes picked up his spoor. It was much scarier that way, like just seeing what was left of the brick wall that the Incredible Hulk decided was in his way and having to imagine what had gone done. While Finch is pained to think of what Reese was doing—to his body, his soul, and anyone who didn’t see him coming and dive for cover—and Shaw sort of gets a giggle out of it, Fusco had the most interesting reaction: He’s indignant, because he was trying to track down Simmons too, and Reese’s “scorched earth campaign is making him harder to find, not easier.” At one point, he and Shaw find Simmons’ lawyer, after someone has “used him for an ashtray.” Fusco is disgusted, but Shaw, trying to stick up for Reese, insists that someone else must have been the torturer: “Reese doesn’t even smoke. He would have just used a lighter.”
When Reese does find Quinn, it’s a momentous event in the show’s history, if only because Reese gets to handle more dialogue than he’s had in the preceding two and a half seasons combined. With all the regal aplomb a character played by Clarke Peters has at his disposal, Quinn refuses to help Reese track down Simmons. “Loyalty,” he says. “That’s how we built this whole damn thing. I’ll be damned if I’ll repay that loyalty by breaking it now, even if you threaten to kill me.” Reese, who has evidently been reading these reviews and approves of the recurring good-and-evil doppelgangers theory running through them, replies, “That’s why you and I understand each other. Now, everything you do is an abomination, but your word is your bond... You do what you say. So do I. I’m not going to threaten you to kill you. I’m going to kill you.” He promises to kill Quinn in three minutes, whether he helps him or not. He says that he’s killed a lot of people, and that it “never bothered me much,” but that he doesn’t like to cause people to suffer, and he worked long and hard to learn to kill people “quickly and painlessly. But if you don’t tell me,” he says, gesturing toward the paper on which he wants Quinn to write down Simmons’ whereabouts, “I’m going to forget all that, understand? I’m going to make the last three minutes of your life last forever.” When Finch and company arrive to talk Reese down, Quinn is practically writing the sequel to Infinite Jest. Somehow, seeing the devil wimp out on his own code of honor is much more satisfying than getting to see his heart cut out.
There’s an intriguing flashback sequence that reveals that Shaw was once on the fast track to becoming a doctor, until… The show shies away from using the word, but it comes as close as it’s ever come to officially diagnosing her as a psychopath. And Root is briefly incorporated into the team, which is meant to show just how urgent the hunt for Reese is, though presumably future developments will ensure that she gets to go on lots more field trips. But the biggest surprises belong to Fusco. It turns out that Fusco is no stranger to vigilante justice himself; long before he met up with Reese, he murdered a drug dealer in retribution for an unpunished killing, and we see him sneering at the department therapist assigned to help him process his the guilt he doesn’t feel over what was deemed a righteous shooting. In the end, Fusco brings Simmons in, resisting the urge to lower himself to his level and turn vigilante again. “Carter saved my life,” he says. “She saved me from myself,” and Fusco’s emergence as the show’s true, and truly unexpected, moral center is the best tribute to her character that the show can provide. Later, in what Quinn Martin would call an epilogue, Simmons is visited in the hospital by Elias, who spells out for Simmons and any slowpokes in the audience that people like Carter and Fusco serve society by abiding by its rules—adding that people like Simmons and himself are “outliers” to society, as he motions to one of his thugs to snuff the mean bastard, already. You could say that this ending is a choice example of a show having its cake and eating it too. I like cake.
- Richard Brooks, who looks as if he’s aged about 20 minutes since he left Law & Order, plays the federal agent in charge of Quinn’s protection, and it goes without saying that he kind of falls down on the job, or there wouldn’t be much of an episode. I have no suggestions for how this might be done, but it sure would be sweet if the show could bring him back for an episode that made more substantial use of him. He fits right in.
- This is the last we’ll be seeing of this show for three weeks. I’ll miss it, but this is sure a good episode to take a bow on.