Saturday, February 9, 2013

Our Troubled Evolution (Person of Interest S1E02 Ghosts)

Last time on Person of Interest, we were introduced at length to a variety of people and we may or may not have reveled in our ridiculously broad knowledge base that lets us pore over all the military and tactical things they're doing in this show, to say nothing of our usual focus on writing, acting, and cinematography. For those of you just joining us, yes, we're those dorks who never met a topic we couldn't research if we didn't already know something about it.

This time: Reese just can't stop getting his hands sliced up, we really like the person of the week, and Finch is really not who you want in the field. (This will be a refrain. Finch is the dumbest smart guy we know, dear lord.)

I want to start with the credits, actually, because we didn't have them to talk about last time and this is a brilliant set of credits. The whole thing is framed within the Machine, for oh so many reasons. First of all to emphasize the fact that the Machine sees all, including you, yes you over there in the audience. Second of all, it underscores the fact that the Machine is as much a character and silent partner in this show as any other. And third of all, it reminds us that the Machine, in being used as a framing device, is the character that is choosing what to show us, the audience. Fourth wall? We don't respect the fourth wall in this establishment. (There's a whole other essay on the Machine as breaking the fourth wall that I hope to get to someday.) The narration is, of course, given to us by Finch since the Machine doesn't have a vocal component to it, or not one that it's inclined to use for general purposes; also because Finch has the most knowledge out of any of the human characters. Which is not to say that he's omniscient, and an unfortunate amount of the time he doesn't know how to interpret the data he does have. But that comes later. Said narration accomplishes a great deal in very little time, boiling down the information from the pilot to the bare essentials necessary for new viewers to hop into the episode; the fact that it comes before we break into the teaser helps ease that a little bit too. The visuals are solid but nothing that would distract the viewer from getting food/drinks/otherwise getting settled in front of the screen. Of note in the narration, "people like you" is often followed up by "people like me" and here it's conspicuous by its absence. Because, of course, Finch is not like us and will at this point go to great pains to appear not like us. The last couple clips in each credits sequence change with each episode to be relevant to the case of the week; in this instance we get a shot of Reese running down the street after an unsub and then Finch and Reese at a gravesite, indicating that this is already an unusual case. I also find it fascinating that the camera always comes back around to Reese on "victim," or nearly so, because yes, he is a victim. Of the government, of his handlers, of his partner, of all kinds of institutionalized abuse that broke him into tiny little pieces of spyssassin and left Finch (the Machine, Carter, Fusco) to clean up the mess.

And all of that in under a minute! Oh show, I love you so. We open not on the case of the week but on Reese clearing a different case; a phone call in the late evening with a businessman who stayed late at work and has calla lilies for a woman. Said businessman gets in an elevator with two guys who could possibly be more blatantly heavies if they tried, but it might require closer shots on how their suitcoats are being pulled out of alignment due to the guns they're packing. Ahem. We could imagine this as the businessman's bodyguards, which would not be entirely surprising, but when Reese shows up in his soon to be customary spyssassin suit with a hand in the door we can guess it's not that simple. (After all, if they were bodyguards and there was an ambush below, Reese would be set up in the parking garage and quite possibly the target would never known he'd been a target. Because Reese is Like That.) He gets some glorious snark in, Reese, being with Finch is giving you worse habits about people's privacy and the poor mark is worried. So are the heavies, who would like to know who the fuck this guy is and if someone new has been sent to make sure they do their job, or so I would guess by that exchange of looks. (Taking Reese out is mostly a point of pride regardless of why he's here, or would be if they were trained up to his level. Hah. Hah.) Bill the adulterer would like to fire Reese, aww, that's cute. Reese thinks so too. He will now proceed to deliver several words of warning about cheating on your wife when she's the kind of person to take her vengeance cold and well-executed, pun intended, while I facepalm over at least the shorter thug having his gun tucked in his waistband. Not that I want anyone stupid enough to do that to breed, but SERIOUSLY, PEOPLE. Come on now. We know the outcome, of course, and though we don't see the action this speaks to Reese's control once again. Fighting in tight moving quarters like that, presumably unarmed against two opponents, this time with someone to protect? Ain't as easy as he makes it look. At any rate, Reese walks off with one of the guns in hand while delivering yet another witty quip about calling the cops and a good divorce lawyer, and then we flip to Machine's-eye-view!

The Machine takes us around several streets until we get to a payphone with yet another thug, this one of the lean and mean variety. Hey, how's about that, he's got a job! And we... don't have a name yet. All in good time, apparently, since first things first, Reese is going to tail Finch. Finch, remember how we said not to blather on at your operative about need-to-know, how that would only make him more curious? I hope you meant to draw him out and intrigue him, because now he's going to keep following you until he gets some damn answers. Reese takes a moment to call Finch and confirm that last night's job went fine, Finch clearly knows he's being followed with that jab about getting some rest. Alright, fine, we'll all be knowledgeable here! They exchange some banter about doing research and meeting soon, and despite Finch's impediment and Reese's skill the former manages to disappear into (presumably) an unknown building. I'm not sure if that's meant to be down to Finch's ability to elude surveillance, Reese's rustiness, NYC traffic, or a combination of all three. I'm going to go with all three and leave it at that, and thus we close on Finch informing Reese that they'll meet on his schedule, not John's. Grumble mutter I wanna know too.

Speaking of last night's mission, Carter's back! With the bit in her teeth, having heard nothing more than whatever was put out over dispatch - probably just two bad guys kneecapped in an elevator. Which would still be enough for me to suspect Carter's man inna suit, but then I do occasionally play Agent Smecker. (What.) She is not at all surprised by any of this, and is still enough of a badass to brush aside the detective's concerns that she's overstepping her bounds. She is, a little, but not by much given the likelihood of Reese's involvement by the information she has. Sadly, we don't get more of her snark about the elusive man inna suit, just a highly exasperated arms akimbo stance and headshake. I feel you, Carter.

In a lot of respects, this ep is the pilot part two, inasmuch as the actual pilot set up the premise of the Machine and got our characters together. This time we get a sense of the procedural aspect when the writers have the luxury of stretching it over a full 40-odd minutes, plus a lot of setup on various threads which will play out over the course of first season and, so far as we've seen, into second. Actions have consequences! God I love a good slow build. We don't waste any time bringing out the complications of the case once Finch deigns to inform Reese of who the number of the day is. Hey look, somebody's supposedly dead but the Machine spat out her number anyway! (Possibly, on reflection, because it is an unusual case and thus holds Reese's interest more than the more run of the mill cases would.) Guess that must have been a bit of an exaggeration. I'm not sure why Finch feels the need to drag Reese all the way to the graveyard aside from proof of his own eyes and possibly Finch is punishing himself with that long walk. Like he does. Theresa is a ghost in the machine, there, I made the pun, are we all happy now? Finch is apparently not above bad not-jokes himself, snarking at Reese about Reese's curiosity and persistence in digging up who Finch is and what he wants. Reese, in turn, refuses to admit to anything or defeat or both. He also doesn't seem to have settled on his trademark outfit yet, or maybe the blue shirt is camouflage? Either way we have an interesting contrast in colors here, Reese in ninjistic black and blue, Finch in plain formal white and warm browns with a touch of gold. The operative and his supposedly normal handler. No one believes your Just Plain Folks act, Finch, not ever.

After the break we get a quick pan across an Unidentified Server Room to zoom in on one random box and get what we'll come to find is the Machine going back through its records. Again, that whole other essay on the Machine breaking the fourth wall goes here, but we'll skip that for today. Today the Machine is showing us something far more interesting than holes in walls, we're going back to 2002 (I love how on this show we get nice, solid timelines. Haven, I'm looking at you and your fuzzy chronology.) and the location-stamp on the footage reads various of the IFT building. It's June 10th, for those of you who care. Another man in a suit, because this show is a bit lousy with them, goes into the building and up to the 36th floor and presents identification to what we can assume are security guards, but the floor seems empty. Gee, It's Rather Strange That Security Guards Would Be Watching An Empty Floor, says the lampshade. More servers, more equipment, holy shit it's Finch on a treadmill! So the incident which caused his limp, whatever it is (because we don't know that at this stage) happened somewhere in the last ten years. All right, fair enough, and again, I love that we have a good solid timeline on this show. Finch is also, for what it's worth, much more groomed than he is today despite being mid-workout. This particular man in the suit comes bearing whiskey and another award, aww, that's so cute. He does rather look like he's just come from an awards dinner or perhaps lunch; given that the timestamp on the video is 5:37 and it's half-light outside I'm going to guess dinner, and the 5:37 is in the morning and that's dawn breaking. And that if it were 5:37 in the evening it'd actually be 17:37, military time. So, we have ten years younger Finch, and a mysterious friend of his in a suit (another one) who goes to awards dinners. Immediately after waggling the award he describes "they" won, however, he goes into the routine of how things work for them for the benefit of the audience, which is to say that he is the public face of the whatever and Finch does the work. And now we know a bit more! Between this and Finch describing the machine he built, we have a pretty good idea where this is going even before the friend gets to Orwellian nightmare, and it's at this point that I suddenly start having flashbacks to a lovely little movie released about 20 years ago called Sneakers. But which one's Cosmo and which one's Marty?

The friend claims being the public face is exhausting, but with that smile he might be kidding. It's interesting to note that Cos-- er, Finch was that reclusive and secretive as far back as ten years ago, though. Whether or not he was officially dead at the time is yet to be disclosed, but we've seen forward enough to know that he's been not-who-he-says-he-is for a while. Officially dead! Which makes him Cosmo. Finch isn't drinking the whiskey, either, which goes along with the treadmill and the water but may also indicate that Marty, whatever Marty's actual name is, is uncomfortable with what they're doing. (By the way, extra special bonus points for getting an actor with Redford-esque features. The casting director must have had a field day.) You know, along with the phrase "Orwellian nightmare." Finch isn't paying attention to the implications Marty's trying to bring up, he mumbles something absent-minded about making a difference, which is notably what he says Marty wanted to do, and keeps pushing buttons. Finch is freaking always pushing buttons, whether it's keyboard buttons or people buttons. After a second Marty looks over at what Finch is doing and realizes what it is: holy shit it's the NSA. The surveillance feeds, apparently, from the NSA, for the entire fucking city of New York. Yeah, I'd be drinking too. Granted, I'd also expect the entire country to take up more physical space than what's being used in there; technology's come a long way but not that far, not in 2002. Apparently the first problem, according to Finch, is teaching the Machine to track people using the various methods one could use from the information given, and the next problem is finding the patterns that indicate 'terrorist.' Dear god, good luck with that, Finch. In some respects, a computer probably could process all that information hundreds of times faster than human beings and extrapolate patterns and so on. In other respects, humans being better than computers at pattern recognition is exactly why space organizations are having human beings look at high-resolution Hubble images in their spare time to find star clusters in the Andromeda galaxy. No, I'm not kidding. Either about the Hubble images or about the humans being better at pattern recognition than computers. Anyway, Finch goes on about people hiding things, people living double lives, and Marty points the finger at him because he finds the benevolent hypocrisy amusing. Finch seems to find it amusing, too, but not as much so as his friend, I think. I'd love to know just how long that's been going on, since Marty takes it as a given throughout this scene; six months based on 9/11 and time to develop the concept of the Machine is one answer, seven years or more based on a date given later in this episode would be my other major contender. He guesses it'll take four, five more years, and he doesn't sound in the slightest bit bothered by this. Like your average target-fixed person, the journey will take as long as it takes, as long as he reaches his goal. Marty, or whatever his name is, stares at the tiny dots on the screen representing, as Finch says, everyone.

And we're back to the future! Present. Whatever. Finch is standing on a pier leaning against a railing, because for whatever reason he couldn't give Reese the details of the case at the graveyard? Or maybe he just likes running Reese to and fro, I wouldn't bet either way at this early stage in their relationship. Certain he's not prepared to deal with Reese invading his space just yet, as he becomes resigned to later on this season. Apparently this place is significant because it's the last place their number was seen alive. She died two years ago, after her father took the family out for a weekend sail and no one came home. The father had financial difficulties relating to the market crash, supposedly shot the wife and kids before turning the gun on himself, but Theresa's body was never recovered!  You know what that means, folks, it's not a death until you've seen a body. Sometimes not even then. The Machine concurs, Finch concurs with the Machine, all Reese offers is that presuming the girl dead is a reasonable assumption and since he's being an inscrutable spyssassin today it's hard to say whether or not he agrees with the assumption or not. Given that everyone on the pier today is presumed dead, I'm guessing not. Finch's faith in the Machine is touching but at least he does say it sees almost everything. The qualifier is important. Reese would like to know why she hasn't surfaced before now if she's still alive. Good question! Especially since it probably has something to do with why she's in danger. But neither of them know, so he'll have to look at the police report on the murders to see what he can find out. That's cute how you call him your friend in the department, Reese, as though you weren't blackmailing him into working with you. It's interesting to note that, in this show, everyone starts out as neutral towards each other if not openly hostile, and it's only through everyone's morality (or, heh, reasonable facsimile thereof) and sets of circumstances that they form bonds of actual friendship.

Reese's friend in the department, of course, is Fusco. Hi Fusco! Reese grabs him out of a hallway and into a men's room, pressing him up against a wall with one spread-open hand and I can't possibly tell you what I'm thinking right now. No, that is a gun on Fusco's belt, he's not at all happy to see Reese. He wants to know how Reese got in there, which is a reasonable question considering that's deep into the precinct where civilians should fear to tread. Reese fears nothing, first of all, and second of all he's got Stills's badge! Also he does kind of walk like the authority that comes with law and guns, head pointed straight ahead with eyes glancing rapidly at regular intervals to scan his surroundings, posture good but loose in case he needs to react quickly, springy stride that isn't hurried nor lagging. He follows that up real quick with reminding Fusco of the hold he has on him, thanks, Reese. Real friendly of you. Pragmatic, at this stage of the game, but even so. He needs a file from Fusco, and Fusco needs Reese to keep him out of jail before other inmates are doing things to him that involve walls. The other cops think he's dirty, don't you know. I have to agree with Reese, that's because he is dirty, and has been for a while. I doubt this is anything new or sudden, he's probably been under suspicion for at least a short time before Reese blasted into his life. And Reese is not concerned with Fusco's 'predicament,' and that whole sentence right there is an interesting piece of dialogue that reeks of someone who is well educated either at schools or of his own accord via reading everything he can get his hands on. I don't know if we've noted that before, but it stands out for the context. People who threaten cops with blackmail over a murdered cop don't usually use words like 'predicament' or phrases like 'not my doing or my concern.' Anyway. Reese the well-read gives Fusco the details and underscores his demand for the file and the Machine will now whisk us away via footage of major thoroughfares to a scene of archived video watching!

Finch, Reese, one of them has pulled the video archive of some news report about the original case. News on 10, for anyone keeping track at home, while I doubt it'll be relevant anytime soon you never know when they'll get tossed a media person's number. (I'm actually a little surprised that hasn't happened yet, for a value of yet that takes us through the first couple eps of s2 as of this writing.) The uncle is giving good stoic face, but that hand on his neck speaks to discomfort and possibly a guilty conscience; he could be just unhappy about attention from the media and want to be left alone to grieve on his own, but unlikely. Because everything is important on this show, even the things like that. I say again, get you guys a damn profiler. The aunt is far more upset, apparently they were having known problems with an implication on the marital but not specified, and she never thought her brother-in-law would do anything like this. For once, that's a correct belief instead of the usual platitudes the family and friends offer when someone goes off the deep end! More normally, at least in real life and often in procedurals, you'll hear people saying that they never believed it and then little behavioral tendencies add up to paint the picture of an angry/violent/despairing perpetrator. But in this case, the aunt is the One Good Person Left so Theresa has somewhere to go, so she's right. Thank you, the narrative. Reese doesn't seem to think much of the uncle, though he doesn't spell out why for our benefit. I don't think much of the uncle and his inability to lie convincingly. Bet you anything the dad did reach out. Jackass. At any rate, Reese is reading over the autopsy report and would like us to know that this is a professional hit. Which he knows because that's how he would've done it. So a pretty decent professional hit, at that. I assume Finch knows the answer to this stupid question and is asking to make Reese say it/force himself to hear the answer and thereby remind himself of who he's taken up with. Well. Yes, Finch. You did hire a spyssassin. A very broken one. Bed, made, lie. That little eyebrow quirk on Reese's reply suggests that he's mildly surprised, possibly that Reese went ahead and said it. Yup. Finch is still people-dumb. And it's telling that Reese can't explain why the assassin didn't kill Theresa - we can guess right away, because a lot of guns for hire have a no-kids rule. The son was 18, so he was fair game. (I never said it was a logical rule.) Reese has spent so much time overseas and so much time doing things that he prefers not to consider too closely that yeah, he's probably killed kids. I expect we're unlikely to get direct confirmation of that on the show, but it would be a rare CIA spyssassin in this genre who hasn't been given a mission that involves killing children. And now he gets to try and atone for that. Uplifting digression aside, Finch does think that maybe the aunt and uncle know what kind of trouble the family was in, so that's something! And Reese has another angle on where Theresa might have gone, since she had a boyfriend who started out as a petty criminal and seems to be progressing toward felonies. Oh YAY. Sweetheart, your choices leave something to be desired, even if they do make it easier for our terrible twosome to find you. But they don't know how much time Theresa has! Hey Finch, guess what, you get to do fieldwork. ENJOY.

We take a couple establishing Machine shots, presumably the seaport is on the way to the aunt's house, and now we get to see Finch doing fieldwork, just in case we were in any doubt as to what Reese means by "needing some help." All due credit to him for picking a cover story that matches his appearance and overall social awkwardness! Elizabeth Whitaker is tired and sad, like you are when you've lost a brother- and sister-in-law and nephew and niece, plus gone through what sounds like an unpleasant divorce in the last two years. Poor woman. Hey, look at that camera angle! This Will Be Important Later. Finch only gets a full-face camera angle when he's conning someone in some way; I can't wait to see the first time he actually breaks fourth wall. Yes, I think he will someday, and not just with the Machine, who he can't con so he has to look at dead-on. (But that scene is a long ways off. Does it show that we enjoy shredding this show with all our teeth? Omnomnom.) This angle isn't quite full-face, but it's a bit more than three-quarters profile which is what we've gotten from Finch for the past 50-odd total minutes of the show. More importantly, he's giving Elizabeth what appears to be his full attention, in a way that neurotypical people understand the meaning of the term, something Finch rarely to never does around people he doesn't feel the need to pass as normal in front of. Right now that's just Reese, though later I think it becomes Reese, Carter, and Fusco. But it doesn't appear quite right; neurotypical people will glance around at other things or perform one of the various memory/deception/other emotive eyeflickering type of tells in the course of a conversation. The only times Finch looks down are so he can glance at his pad of paper, either to write something down or to give Elizabeth space to be emotional, something he apparently does know is a neurotypical-polite response. Finch doesn't know how people work, so it lands in the uncanny valley for us and has the Doylist effect of an easy tell for when Finch is conning people. It's a really nice combination of cinematography and acting choices, because most of the time when Finch is trying to pass, he's also trying to con someone. Sometimes for their own good! But it's nonetheless a set of lies. No wonder he looks so uncomfortable.

Profiler-spew established, Finch goes on to pry as much information out of Theresa's aunt as possible, which sadly does not include any information about what enemies the Whitakers might have had. I snort over the fact that Derek never "came out of his funk," yeah, that's what happens when you a) lie down with dogs and b) have a guilty goddamn conscience. For all his protests later I firmly believe Derek knew what had happened and was ignoring the hell out of that corner of his brain. Jackass. They never had kids, we don't get a timeline on when Derek and Elizabeth split but it sounds like it's been a year or thereabouts. Oh honey. Most of what this scene does is establish Elizabeth as Not The Perp and also as someone who can take her niece in, in the case of the line about loving her like her own daughter a bit hamhandedly though the delivery is excellent, when Our Heroes save the girl. As they're bound to do. It also becomes the first in a long chain of scrambling for IMDB to find out who the fuck That Person is (in this case, I know her from Third Watch days). And it establishes Finch as someone who goes out in the field when necessary, however unwillingly and/or unskilled he may be at certain aspects of fieldwork. Also unsuited, because frankly if you need to surveille someone being a person with a very noticeable trait does not work out well - people may notice the disability instead of the person, but they will notice that they're being followed more readily. It's a pain in the ass that way.

At any rate, we hop back over to Carter's desk at the precinct where she would be swearing at her eight case files connected to Reese, half of which are redacted, were this not network TV. I bet she knows some good swears in several languages, with her background! Because Carter is just that badass. Her partner of the moment whose name either is never established or I've forgotten brings a file over! It should be Reese's file! Which is completely redacted, where's that jar. Poor Carter. Her partner advises her to drop it as being above her pay grade, which would be far more effective if she weren't at least as stubborn as either of us. Probably more so. That is not the look of a woman going to drop anything, unless it's some serious pain on the feds/Reese/anyone else who gets in her way. That is the look of a woman who is all out of bubblegum.

Alas, there will be no Carter kicking ass more literally just yet! Finch updates Reese, the uncle's in the wind and one assumes that Finch will now be using certain of his extralegal methods to track the guy. Reese has been to every skate park in the city and probably bitten his tongue nearly in half not to snark back at the skate punks, let alone kick any ass. We don't get to hear what Finch is going to do because hey, look, it's Theresa's erstwhile boyfriend! Or perhaps less-than-erstwhile. John, you could be less subtle but it would take some work and probably getting arrested. He cheerfully manages a force pairing on the kid's phone via playing the bully cop (aka resurrecting Stills) and some incredibly unsubtle interrogation about Theresa, which of course means that Deacon gets spooked and spooks her into fleeing. He does a pretty good job of lying to Reese, too, I will grant! The main tell is that he doesn't look away at all, which goes along with his aggressive punk-kid attitude so a lot of people would let it pass. But We Know Better. We get a reminder that the Machine watches all, the phones pair up, and several other punks give Reese some side-eye as Deacon texts Theresa. Poor girl. Several pans around the park later, we focus in on a young girl with her hoodie pulled up to conceal her face as best as possible, over at an ATM with some kind of mechanism attached to it. Well, that explains a lot, though we'll wait for the expo-speak in just a bit to explain what it explains. Other than the props department is excellent with their consistency. Theresa is sufficiently spooked that she leaves her equipment and flees on her board as John comes tearassing up behind her, yeah, that's going to help so much. And he's clearly unused to assessing how much of a civilian anyone is in mindset, with that reach out for her. John, honey, she's been on her own with some morally questionable friends for two years after watching her family be murdered in front of her. Whatever she is now, she damn well isn't a civilian, and she doesn't act like it, either, reaching for a razor knife of some sort and slashing at the nearest thing. Which would be Reese's dominant hand. Ouch. As with last ep, NYC traffic interferes with his ability to chase down his target, and we're left with an exasperated and bloodied Reese.

We come back in sometime either that same day (after lunch?) or first thing the next, with an anonymous crowd shot at Grand Central. But wait! It's a Finch! Who is not quite so lost in the crowd as he'd like to be, and is apparently going to... an office building. With a bunch of cubicles. A woman greets him by Harold as he walks in, with the sort of breathy tone and smile that suggests this is the office Nice Woman or possibly Gossip. And lo, we acquired a first name in this alias! Well, there has to be a reason they're showing us this, and while we can quickly guess our dear Mr. Reese is that reason, first we're going to establish Finch's cover ID with this company a little more thoroughly by having some young punk manager boss him around. They're going to need that database a little sooner! Finch gives good nerdy not-quite-competent software engineer, which since it's a close match to nerdy highly-competent-and-not-thinking-about-your-shit software engineer is a good choice of cover ID for him! At least he knows how he works within our society, even if he's pretty clueless about other people. I attempt not to make too many 2001 jokes about "I'll see what I can do, Dave," because come ON you guys are killing me here, and once Finch finishes not making eye contact and being generally deferential we finally get to hear, rather than see, the reason for this scene. Hello Mr. Reese! Who is sitting so that he can't be seen from the entrance to Finch's cubicle, at least with the route Finch takes, but can presumably hear and see most people coming and going. Finch is shocked, shocked that Reese has invaded his privacy. Honey, you told an ex-spyssassin who got burned by his previous handlers that something was need-to-know and he didn't. I'm just pleased they showcased Reese's competence by not dragging this meeting out. Reese is sardonic and very, very pleased with himself for catching his employer off guard; Finch is doing that distant look where he's recalculating frantically to adjust his assessment of his employee's competence and resultant danger levels. I am over here alternately facedesking and cackling. Reese is not going to stop smirking this entire scene and he should really give those teeth back to Fassbender. So Finch owns all of this company? Which may or may not be IFT? (If not, is certainly a subsidiary of it.) I am Jackohn's utter lack of surprise. There's a not-so-veiled threat here when he asks what would happen if he said the wrong thing too loudly, and while Reese might be expecting to be disappeared himself, no, that's not how Finch works. Finch will just split the entire department up so they can't share stories and make them the New Guy in a new department with an outrageous story to tell. Or fire them, in certain cases, douchey manager guy we are looking at you. Finch is pretty damn scared that Reese is going to pull something that requires him to take direct action in managing his company, and no, we are not in the least bit surprised that he's decided to hide in plain sight. At least, since he seems inclined to do so at all, which is likely an indication that he's been trying to retain what little connection to the rest of humanity he had Before. (We're still not sure what Before refers to, since we haven't seen Nathan Ingram's death, but I'd say safe money is that that's one of the most major stressors in recent years, and also that there is an event, possibly handing over the Machine to the government and possibly something else, that in Finch's mind demarcates Before and After.) But no, with the automatic response that rather indicates that someone's gotten too close to Finch's secrets before and he has a series of planned responses, Reese relaxes a little bit and says he's make it quick. Though he doesn't fully put away the teeth. This is one of the only times we see him actively threaten Finch, too; it serves as a warning that he is not a tame spysassin and let the games begin. He delivers some rather dry commentary on the subject of Theresa and her trust issues, with a look that says he's rather starting to like her. Oh Reese. Finch gives us the technobabble about an ATM skimmer for those in the audience less steeped in spyssassin genre fiction, quickly tucking it into his briefcase because that is really not something he wants to get caught with at work. He'll take on the forensic accounting aspects of the case, because it's computer work and tracking hidden financial details, both of which Finch is expert at. One of those from hiding his own finances, of course. Reese will take the incredibly not subtle route of looking for an assassin in the city by finding out where he can hire one. And now we will snicker endlessly over Finch having to deal with the Office Gossip/Flirt who wants to know who his friend is. (So say we all. This is becoming a bit of a Theme. Did someone watch lots of Babylon 5 growing up? I'm just saying.) Alas, we don't get to hear what kind of lie he devises, because it's over to...

… Junior's Cafe, which is not at all shady looking! Plus Fusco's unmarked. I'm a bit dubious about this, because there cannot be only one bar in NYC that has that kind of information, but I'll believe Fusco's assertion that the fixer knows people who knows people who knows people and so on down the line. Reese looks awfully greasy here, where are you even living, dude? Let alone showering. He's touched that Fusco's worried about him. Touched in the head, more like, but sure, we'll go with this. We see these next bits from Fusco's POV, which somewhat limits the analysis we can do on it, but I would venture a guess that Reese walked in, snarked off, got thrown out on his ass and in so doing took the measure of the guys he was going to have to fight, and walked back in to open up a can of whoop-ass. Like he does. And hey, the Machine's watching, too, though it's not offering any color commentary this time. I will note that the two heavies who throw Reese out look poorly trained at best and the one who shoves a gun in his face is, in fact, holding it gangster style. Reese dusts himself off with this little not-grin and eyebrow waggle that totally breaks fourth wall well hello there. I'm not sure if that's an actual filming mistake or something else, but I'm going to go with Something Else. Fusco has a great aw-shit expression as John goes back in, and we get very little information about what goes on in there other than a couple gunshots, presumably either kneecaps or Reese disarming people, possibly both. There's a glimpse of several other tough guys beyond when he comes striding back out, none of whom look particularly sad to see him go. Sad in other ways, yes. The whole thing is shot very Western-style, the music and the badass who gets thrown out only to go back and kick everyone's ass, the morally dubious sidekick who gives us audience reactions. Aww, you guys. You shouldn't have! Our sheriff Lone Ranger spyssassin will now use Fusco as a chauffeur service.

To a prison! Where Reese is updating Finch, because fuck knows he's not sharing information with Fusco, about what exactly he found out at Junior's. Well, there's this guy who got caught on a different job and isn't it a grand thing that Reese still has Stills' badge? I have to assume that one of the things Finch does at work that isn't working on those databases is now "fix all of Reese's egregious misuse of police resources so as to leave no datatrail." Because otherwise there's no reason this should be working for so long, since Stills' buddies should really assume he's dead at this point. Selnick comes out looking suitably faded and displeased with the appearance of a strange man in a suit, who he assumes to be a lawyer. I will not fall over laughing at the thought of John in a courtroom... no, wait, never mind, gone. Somewhere along the line Reese got hold of a nice CV on this guy, at least down to a job suitable to blackmail him for information with. Which makes Selnick realize what kind of person is sitting across from him, so we get a nice little moment of assassin knowledgeableness. Heh. But what Reese has forgotten about non-military trained assassins is that many of them do have a code: they don't kill children. Child-killers are highly frowned on in jail, and Reese has always had the dubious protection of the government for whatever jobs they made him take. Well, up until the end he did. Throughout this they've got a lot of dominance games going with body language, mostly on Reese's part with the handset held away from his body; it's the customary "am I being clear enough for you?" pose without the resultant receiver-slam. Selnick tries to mirror it to very little effect, aw, that's cute. It also sounds like whoever hired Selnick stiffed him on his usual costs, which, no wonder he was more willing to defend his honor to the guy on his cell block. Prison being a vast maze of gossip, of course this will have gotten back to someone, and we'll politely ignore the way Reese Does Not React at the "I don't kill kids" line. Oh John. Whoever hired Selnick used no names, cash, SOP for these jobs, and Reese is not even going to dignify the guy trying to turn the question back on him with an answer. Considering he didn't know as much as he thought about the government and has a whole swath of known unknowns about Finch. It's okay, John, we hate known unknowns too.

Finch is still at "work," where he is not at all working on the database when Reese calls on his way out from prison. Yeah, bets that he's deeply enjoying getting to put his talents to use in time to save people? No takers? Ahem. But why are they so worried about Theresa being alive; after all, it's not like a teenager on the run poses much physical threat. On the other hand, there's the matter of inheritance and the legal threat she might pose, which is a whole other kettle of fish. Hey, there's an anomaly in Whitaker's financials! We like those. That's the end of a string to pull and unravel the whole fucking mess. Reese heads over to spy on Landale, and we get a brief clip from the Machine of the hitman hired at the beginning of the ep coming up to Theresa's boyfriend and having what the police reports might call an altercation. A mild one, but still. That's not good. Meanwhile, Reese is lurking on top of a building across from Landale and if it weren't such a bad habit for someone who needs to be in top physical condition I would say he should take up smoking to explain his love of rooftops should anyone ask. My, that's a lot of security you have, Mr. Calhoun. My, that's a missing uncle you also have, Mr. Calhoun. This must have been near the end of the day or Finch made his apologies (quit his job? hard to confirm, given the end of this ep) and headed out, since he's is back in his hacker lair rewatching the news footage from the marina and tracking Theresa's activity online. So about those account numbers! Reese heads off to the location he's given, which is for once not a surefire direct line to the exact location of the girl in question. Because she's working from a wifi hotspot, good thinking, Reese! Hey, look, it's a laundromat. I'm not actually familiar with laundromats and whether or not their having wifi is common (K: Having gotten way too familiar with laundromats in the transition to fully-stocked house, it's pretty common.), but it's not something that would surprise me much and for the sake of the narrative I'll accept it. Reese, not always the most clueful on how to present as nonthreatening, goes for another direct approach! Honey, that would work better if you got out of the doorway and didn't impede her exit. It's both amusing and telling that his idea of connecting with her is to admit that she got him pretty good; most normal people would take that exactly as Theresa does: an indication that he's come for payback. The soft voice and attempt at a nonthreatening stance aren't really helpful. For a relatively untrained young woman, Theresa's got pretty good instincts and situational awareness, moving to where more people are and getting in spots that lend themselves better to her body type than is, plus hauling out her knife again.

I don't know what this whole speech is supposed to accomplish, because REALLY, Reese? Seriously? You have to present a credible threat that's NOT YOU if you want someone as justifiably skittish as Theresa to believe a strange man with a line like "nobody's going to hurt you again because I won't let them." Luckily for him, the narrative provides! There's a slight sigh as he turns to disarm the hitman, but this guy doesn't go down nearly so easy as the previous rounds of thugs have. Partly I assume this is because Reese is up against someone more professional; partly I'm guessing it's because he's already had one fight in which he undoubtedly took a few hard hits, either today or yesterday. Whoever else used to be in here clears out right quick (seriously, we don't even see them leave, and there were five or so extras) as the fight starts. Lots of using the hard machines to slam each other into, nice use on Reese's part of the dryer door to disarm the hitman. That shit would HURT. Oh, hey, there we go, one extra cowering in back and a second trying to scuttle out the front. Both of them get some good hits to the face in, the unnamed hitman getting a few more including a rather painful-looking headbutt, though that's a nice throat jab Reese gave him, too. Still, he gets enough leverage on Reese to half-shove half-throw him through the laundromat window, and unlike a lot of badass spyssassins he does not manage to get up right away and launch back into the fight. Again, for a multitude of reasons: he's been in a recent fight with multiple opponents, he's out of practice, and this guy is one of the better-trained opponents he's faced already. Theresa, having frozen in horror/fear/astonishment during the fight itself, will now do the sensible thing and book it out of there. To the hitman's credit, he's not bothering with ominous villain smack talk, either, beyond that first quip at Reese. He just goes, gets the gun, and trusts that he'll have the advantage of a ranged weapon and Theresa's misplaced adrenaline rush. Luckily for her, Reese is carrying! Unluckily, the hitman is wearing a vest. Or maybe that's a good thing; lord knows Carter would be even crankier about chasing him down if he'd committed outright murder instead of multiple aggravated assault. We can tell he's wearing a vest by the lack of bright red squibs going off. I approve of this whole scene for so many reasons, not least of which is the sheer pragmatism. Neither of them is inclined to break out the firearms at close range, because it's just ineffective; both of them go for their handguns when they're beat to shit and just want it to be over with; all the punches are aimed at joints and soft areas. I may be a little in love with the fight coordinator, okay? Theresa will continue to be sensible and get the fuck out of a situation where BOTH people have hauled out guns and neither of them seems to have any compunctions about shooting their target in broad daylight. I'm a little disappointed that this means Reese doesn't have the time to kneecap our hitman of the week, because that would solve a lot of problems, but he's got to go chase her down and make sure that there's not backup waiting, fair enough. We get a few seconds of confirmation that the hitman is, yes, alive, yes, due to a vest, yes, those were all center of mass and connected and probably hurt like a sumbitch.


And then we go over to the alley where Theresa has stopped running, probably because she'd prefer not to attract attention rather than out of any desire not to run. Reese has no such issues with being visible! Convenient, that whole being legally dead thing. For now. She does not immediately strike out at him again, which means she at least believes he means her no immediate harm. Or possibly that she's in shock; judging by the look on her face I wouldn't bet against the latter. Poor girl. Reese has no clever or pithy arguments for her, just all but begging her to trust him now, because she has to trust someone. Which, yeah, she does. So after the break we come back to a Machine's-eye view of... a random deserted hotel hallway! Then down to normal camera view of Reese opening the door to one of the rooms. It's not quite a no-tell motel and in fact, if Reese's comment about the cheeseburger is anything to go by, it's actually quite upscale. Which would be a good choice for him when hitmen are after the girl, at least one added level of security between the hitter and them. But the wallpaper and the lighting do their best to convey a sickly yellow-green impression of a much lower-rent place than it is. That and what I suspect is the subtle muting of the usual background noise give the impression that the whole floor is empty (which, as we find out later, it is, thank you, Reese) and makes the whole settling her into a safehotelroom more sinister than reassuring. Reese makes an attempt at engaging her in conversation with the aforementioned cheeseburger comment, but when that doesn't work goes straight to business. Sitting down, thankfully, so the tall lanky bastard isn't looming over her. Reese, honey, we love you, but damnyoutall. The usual round of questions, did she recognize the hitman (no), did she know who came after her parents or why (no), did it have something to do with Uncle Derek. Which, that last one gets a reaction out of her even through what is increasingly looking like a shocky exterior. She doesn't trust him. She sounds disgusted by him. Something her Dad said right before being killed, that it was Derek's fault, but I doubt it's just that. There might have been more to that except that's the door, which Reese opens cautiously and with a gun. No, it's just Harold. Hi Harold! Isn't it convenient that we now know your first name when it would be most reassuring to introduce you to a rescuee by first name for bonding porpoises?

Finch offers one relatively neutral comment on the room, possibly out of nervousness. While he's capable of fieldwork he doesn't exactly do much of it, this bodyguarding thing is what he has Reese for in the first place, and after the number of demonstrations at exactly how good Reese is at the violence he might be rethinking his position on using our dear spyssassin in this endeavor. Or at the very least wondering how well it's all going to work out. Reese's mention of booking the entire floor on Finch's card smacks of testing the limits of his leash; how far can he go before Finch freaks out about how expensive it all is? Which is something government bosses certainly would have done; in this case all it gets him is a quip about air miles. So evidently we have reached "do you think there will be any future need for a tank" levels of obscenely rich. Or in Finch's case you might substitute "defence contractor" for "tank." It does, anyway, afford Finch a bit of an opportunity to get back at Reese for putting him in the awkward position of playing bodyguard, both by Finch's lack of reaction and by the very faint smile as he turns his head away from Reese and to studying the girl in question. Reese starts to say something about how she can't be left alone, etc, when he realizes he's about to leave her with Finch and access to sharp pointy things. Can't have that. So he'll take the knife from the room service tray. And the fork. The look she gives him is kind of priceless; it's okay, honey, he's only been civilized for a little while, he'll learn. She's still suspicious, and wants to know where he's going. "Pay a man a visit" is spyssassin for "beat the shit out of people until results happen," and everyone in the room knows it.

Which is probably why Finch doesn't bother lowering his voice too much when he exposits to Reese! The GPS on Uncle Derek's phone is now active thanks to his technowizardry, you're welcome. Okay, that's not what he says, but that's about what he means. So Reese is off to question Uncle Derek, and Finch sort of mumbles 'don't dawdle' more in a scared and alone voice than in what will later become his usual taking care of his pet spyssassin voice. And while Finch is trying to cope with what he's done and the role that's been thrust upon him, Reese will be off scaring the crap out of other people too! Because he's nothing if not talented that way. Reese makes a phone call to a half-drunk? Uncle Derek who is coming out of some club, using or spoofing the dead dad's phone number for added creepy. Specifically for the creepy; going by how close he was at the time he did that on purpose to unnerve Derek so he could grab him and overwhelm him more with force of personality than force of strength, and get him into the truck. It's not quite the original tactic of shock and awe, but it serves the same purpose. We have a brief Machine's eye view of what is presumably the street outside Aunt Elizabeth's house, since that's where we're going to next! A quick stalkery view through the basement, laundry room window as she gets on the phone with Derek to try to talk to him about insurance, finance, you know. Grown-up matters that Derek isn't interested in because he's too busy hiding from what he's done. Meanwhile the cause of the stalker's-eye view is the hitman establishing a wiretap on her phone. Oh yay. I will say, they do practice good conservation of detail and character in this show. It's just that sometimes it tips the balance from good conservation to predictability, because we all know that This and the conversation between Finch and Elizabeth Will Be Important Later.

Meanwhile the Machine will take us a few hours into the future and over to Roosevelt Island where Reese is carrying out a fairly soft interrogation on Derek, which is only soft because he's a fucking scary man and Derek is still carrying around a whole pile of guilt. Here is also the giant pile of exposition laying out the details of why it's Derek's fault that everyone's dead or in hiding, which is to say, Derek hooked the father up with some shady people to front the money for his land speculation, which took a bit too long to mature, thus shady people wanting their money, thus murder, thus Theresa goes on the run. The reason they want her dead now is because she stands to inherit all that tasty rich land; since there wasn't a will it goes to surviving next of kin, which would be their pet Derek except that they apparently know Theresa is still alive, making her the next of kin, making her in the way. It's actually fairly direct as far as these plots go, but the size of the infodump makes it a bit confusing. The scene closes on a rather bitter, protective Reese taking a chunk out of Derek for letting his niece go on the run and play dead with no one to look out for her. Because our dear spyssassin has a soft squishy place in his heart for kids in trouble, as we see over and over again.

Speaking of kids in trouble and that significant conversation, it's about that time! Finch has very little idea what to do with a kid, so he defaults to what I'd guess is his normal state with adults, treating her like a somewhat different species with less information than he has. Which is... well, pretty accurate. Oh Harold. If he knew people a little better and/or was more experienced at fieldwork he could guess that Theresa would take this discussion for a chance to call her aunt and that that's a Bad Idea, but he doesn't and he isn't. Also we never saw Reese share his impressions of the hitman onscreen, which means he doesn't really have a yardstick beyond Reese's bumps and bruises (things our spyssassin is all too good at concealing, don't show weakness, yadda yadda) for how dangerous their opposition is. So with that in mind, let's begin the scene proper. Finch is looking at Theresa, but he's looking at her in the mirror rather than directly. This accomplishes a lot in a single frame: he's giving her and himself some space from the serious and rather dire nature of the situation, he's got the closest thing to a Machine's-eye view of her that he can without having his workstation, and all standard symbolism about reflections are applicable. Whatever Finch is thinking about, he doesn't appear to fully have his head in the game, which is not the smartest thing to do when you're supposed to be bodyguarding. But he talks a little bit about Aunt Elizabeth, who's the one person left who still cares about Theresa for her own sake, not for her inheritance or her as a symbol of the people Finch and Reese didn't manage to save. Notably, Finch has less difficulty looking at Theresa as long as she's not looking back, which she doesn't for several seconds, feeling vulnerable and hurt. As well she might. She looks back when she goes on the defensive, and then he looks away, only to look back when he's trying to bond with her. Oh Finch honey. This would work better if he were giving her any context, but as it is it's not a bad attempt at building rapport; he can easily guess that Theresa is likely to run, and all Finch has to keep her there is her willingness to trust him. Best created by him giving her just enough of his history to indicate that Bad Things Happen To Other People, Too. And more importantly that Finch is an object lesson, not a role model. Aheh. Aheh heh heh. Tell us something we didn't already know!

Oh, hey, you say the Machine will do that for us? Excellent. We're going back to 2007, though an unknown date. Finch has a rather more attractive suit on than we've seen him in during present-day, and still no limp, which narrows our field of inquiry on that to the last five years or so. At this point, the floor where he began building the Machine is covered in racks and racks and racks of servers - not so many as we see with the Machine in its final configuration, but enough that I have to wonder how godawful the cooling bill for it is, let alone the hardware costs. It's not in precise, neat arrays, either, giving the whole floor a rather mad scientist/hacker feel. How apropos. Hello, not!Marty! (Yes, we're going to keep calling Ingram that until we finally get them to fork over his name in canon, because that will be a day of teasing out all the relevance of why this reveal then.) Finch's pace slows as he sees over his friend's shoulder, where there are three monitors' worth of files up, with what is to us the now-familiar schematics of the Machine having popped out people in danger who aren't relevant to national security. His expression doesn't change too much, but the slightly parted lips and widened eyes are as much of an oh-shit look as we're going to get out of Finch. Not!Marty, by contrast, is fucking pissed. And tired. So this is him finding out that Finch was setting up the Machine to filter "relevant" from "irrelevant," and hoo boy this ain't gonna be pretty. He'd like to know when Finch was going to tell him, well, we can all guess the answer even before Finch hangs his head and admits he hadn't planned on it. I'd like to give Finch the benefit of the doubt here and say that he was trying to keep that burden from his friend's shoulders, but I'm not sure his sense of morality is all that well-developed at this point in time. Not!Marty gives a grimace of "yeah, figured," and Finch continues on to say that he'd rather not know himself. In conclusion, this sucks. For everyone. Not!Marty gives us the expo-confirmation that the Machine had identified people in danger/people about to commit crimes, though he's more focused on the victim angle than the perpetrator, because Not!Marty is the Good Guy and thinks first of saving people rather than catching criminals. He also starts by distancing it, "the Machine knew," and makes it personal, "you knew," which gives us a good indication that we, too, should be roughly equating the Machine with Finch. The Machine is just... more, because it has more data, more access, more everything. Not!Marty can't believe that Finch would just sit there and do nothing, though I'd love to know what he thinks Finch is going to do even with their vast funds. It's not like Finch has the right contacts for this sort of thing, his friend's the people person. At which point Finch goes on the attack, pointing out that not!Marty knew exactly what they were building, they built it to look for premeditation but a computer doesn't understand the difference between premeditated terrorist plots and premeditated any other malicious crime. Though by the way his voice falls quieter and sadder on "irrelevant," he knows a) exactly how weak an excuse that is and b) how many buttons of not!Marty's that's going to push. Which, indeed, it does, to the point where he has to get up and loom and pace. Finch isn't a particularly tall man, but his friend is... actually I would guess roughly of a height with Reese. (IMDB says yes. Damn I'm good.) We'll just leave the Freudian implications of that as an exercise for the reader. He questions Finch's choice of words, touches his face and gestures with his hands which for a man who's been in fairly good control of himself the little we've seen him speaks to the depth of his discomfort and unhappiness. So yes, Finch taught it the difference, and then we get another number! We like numbers. According to him, only eight people know the Machine even exists, and this is pre-Reese, so that leaves us with six unsubs, most of whom presumably work in the government. (This, of course, unravels over the course of the season; we have at least two hostiles or semi-hostiles who learn about it. But I get ahead of myself.) And it's very, very dangerous knowledge, and yes, there would be a massive public outcry if its existence were well-known. The US public is more genre-savvy than we sometimes give them credit for, and we all know how very bad Orwellian style governance goes in the end. (That's a whole 'nother essay.) Apparently there have been half a dozen terrorist plots already foiled because of the Machine, which in Finch's mind justifies its existence. Mostly because he's had to do some incredibly complicated ethical gymnastics to get to a point where his target fixation and his morals can live side by side with a world that holds the Machine, and because he of all people knows that he has created life, created an AI, and with as much emotional investment as he has in that the thought of turning it off is as abhorrent to him as murder. I mean, I may be overextrapolating here, but I'll lay some pretty good odds that that's part of what's going on for Finch. Not!Marty doesn't understand this, and is still focused on how the hell he can live with himself. Oh not!Marty. Honey, I love your idealism but you should also be more genre-savvy than to think dystopian sci-fi is a set of guidelines. I mean really. Finch has already thought of this! They don't have to live with this! They can stick their heads in the sand and ignore it! Because that works so well TOO. In short, guys, you are fucked. So fucked. So five years ago the Machine was already coded to delete the so-called irrelevant list, and Finch will now proceed to turn off the monitors - probably more so he doesn't have to face what he's done than in an effort to take it away from not!Marty, but it has both effects. (By the way, reader
tatw points out quite rightly that Jessica is on one of these monitors, which ties it neatly into whatever later scene it is where Finch discusses battered women coming up repeatedly as in danger, because domestic violence is like that. I do appreciate consistency and not flinching from horrific statistics.) Not!Marty will continue to give shocked and horrified face, like you do when you've just learned what a nightmare the thing you thought you were creating for the good of humanity is. Finch reminds him that they built the Machine to save everyone at once, not individuals, and adjusts his tie in a fidgety gesture of discomfort which is the only tell he has beyond the fanatic's eyegleam during this little speech. I facepalm over the not-quite Star Trek reference, and the Machine takes us back to the future present.

Where Uncle Derek is walking in the door to be confronted by the hitman, who's like to know where Theresa is. Well this can't end well. We'll leave the torture/interrogation scene to the imagination of the viewer and move back over to the Landale offices, where businessmen in expensive suits are being watched by our favorite spyssassin. Who is giving Finch the rundown on how dangerous this just became with the multiplicity of money involved. Theresa seems to be listening to the phone call, because the second Finch starts talking about the hit out on her she grabs her jacket and leaves. Oh honey, I know you think this is sensible but you really, really were doing okay right where you were. Sadly, she's more used to the street-level running than the upper echelons of assassins and people with more money than sense. (Finch, I'm including you in this. In case there was any doubt.) Calhoun is on the move, Theresa's on the move, which means our protagonists are also on the move! Reese has to be questioning leaving her with Finch at this point, but he doesn't have time to dwell on the past. Finch, quite sensibly, doesn't try to catch up to Theresa physically, instead talking her down from the metaphorical ledge. He would also like her to know that sooner or later she's going to have to trust someone, thereby echoing Reese from earlier and now we may all facepalm. Yes, thank you, we get it, this ep is about trust issues and Reese and Finch's inability to trust each other without testing the limits of their partnership at great length. Can I have my toes back now? Theresa seems at least marginally moved by this, but first we'll revisit Uncle Derek and the hitman. Derek is now utterly and completely broken, in more ways than one, and I know the dim lighting and suggestion of recently-inflicted torture is as much because of network censors as anything else, but that also makes it highly effective. Realistic gore doesn't have to be fully shown, everyone! It can be implied! And when it comes down to it, Derek won't knowingly send a hitman after his niece, so I guess he has something redeemable in him after all. Plus he has to know that no matter what answer he gives he's dead either way, which, indeed, we get the gun against his head and the gunshot and then a series of Machine pans.

Which takes us over to a meeting of Calhoun and an unnamed councilman, which Reese is of course watching. Waiting for the right moment, and the councilman may or may not be dirty but whatever he is he's not asking any questions. I snort about the good people of Brooklyn and Calhoun's general sleaziness, and hey look, Carter caught the Whitaker murder. How convenient. I have to go eye the Machine suspiciously now. There's some nice snark about the neighbors and their vigilance and hey, the hitman left a calling card of Theresa's picture. So not all that professional, because Theresa's already scared and knows they're after her, and it only takes a couple well-placed rumors to have the same effect without giving the cops such immediate data on the motive behind the murder. Carter reaches the obvious conclusion, and we pan over to the girl in question.

Who is calling her aunt on a fucking landline from the hotel. Excuse me, I have to go beat my head against the wall, why the HELL would you do that. In case we've forgotten about the wiretap, the hitman joins the call to listen in! Not that there's anything much to listen to, just a very scared-sounding silence and an annoyed/worried/sad aunt. But that's enough to raise plenty of suspicion for our hitman, who hits redial and gets the hotel, and his life just got a lot easier. So he informs Calhoun, in some of the most bizarre capitalization I've seen on a text in awhile, but sure, whatever. Who smirks as he rides away from his prized real estate just in time to get hit by... a literal Mack truck. REESE. JOHN REESE. Subtlety is thy middle name. Reese is once again all out of bubblegum (K: Reese is perpetually out of bubblegum.) (A: Yes, but sometimes he gets THEME MUSIC for it and we fall over giggling.) and has apparently been trained in how to cause nasty accidents that are still likely to leave your target alive, because that could very easily have become vehicular homicide instead of battery. Oh, look, the sunglasses are coming off! That means it's Serious. Okay, who on staff watched CSI: Miami? Seriously. It's too late to call off the dogs, Reese does not give two fucks about whether or not Calhoun survives this crash and will now go focus on the thing he can control, which is informing Finch of the immediate danger. And, alright, on the one hand buying up the whole floor wasn't a bad idea for ensuring no strange neighbors could turn out to be hitmen? On the other hand it sends a BIG RED FLAG to anyone looking. At least use different aliases and credit cards so it looks in the computer like multiple people are staying in the rooms. You even have multiple aliases and credit cards, Reese!

Cue the chase scene! Complete with multiple Machine's-eye views. We start with a quick sideways pan onto Finch, quick but not jerky but still emphasizing urgency as Reese gives his very terse heads-up, and the focus shifts from Finch to Theresa. Again, quick but very clean, so that we get a sense of efficiency to go with our urgency, and since the focus changes when Finch turns we associate the urgency with his point of view. Not that she likely feels it any less. Finch and Theresa head down the hall and notably while she's moving fast she's not trying to ditch him this time. Whatever she feels about these two strangers who are trying to rescue her, she's not prepared to leave them hanging in the wind. The hitman cuts the elevator camera, and our pursued pair reach the elevator bank just as it dings. Ooops. One ad break later and they've dived into what I can only assume is the nearest room on the floor, which that at least is a fringe benefit of having booked the whole thing. Still. Multiple aliases. Remember this for next time, John. The hitman continues to take out cameras as he goes, and if I could attach any emotion to the Machine at all I would say that static is kind of pissy. Finch realizes what's going on with the fuse box, they just barely manage to get to the lights and doors in time, and hey, that means he'll be looking next door first. Goodie. Quite logically, upon finding nobody obvious in that room, he goes for the connecting door, so Finch makes use of his greater ability with machines than with people to set up a nice trap! Which buys them enough time to get to the elevator, call for it - which might buy them fractionally more time as the hitman has to double-check it, though I wonder that it's been called away from their floor already, as little time has passed. Must be a relatively busy hotel and/or time of day. At any rate, Finch dismisses it as too slow, which I question for the aforementioned reason, though too open I definitely believe. Around to the freight elevator! Which has easily barred doors and more twisty passages in which we sincerely hope nobody will be eaten by a grue shot by a hitman. Except the hitman. I'm impressed by how they've made Theresa have the presence of mind to blockade the door but not the presence of mind to properly flee, it's a very untrained but non-standard civilian mindset and pretty believable, on the whole. I have a harder time believing that she's willing to stay with this strange man who's trying to save her, except that she has watched her family be shot to death before. I can buy it as a permutation of survivor's guilt, that she won't abandon anyone again. Finch has no idea of her motivations for staying and is duly shocked that anyone would do that for him, which speaks volumes about his own sense of self-worth. We get a couple seconds of terror and then gunshots! Not from the hitman, from the spyssassin. I have no idea how the fuck Reese got there in time and I don't much care; I strongly suspect they've taken liberties with New York geography for filming purposes. (Anyone who wants to weigh in in comments, please do so, because New York geography and the assorted cultures and subcultures associated with that are not something either of us is particularly familiar with. Except that the traffic can be hideous. But certainly not the current configuration, as opposed to Rent-era and earlier.) Reese kneecaps him first this time, on the grounds of knowing the guy was wearing a vest and still being unwilling to murder people deliberately. Again, either in deference to Finch's preferences or to keep the manhunt levels down to a more manageable level, or both. I would bet more on the former in this instance, coupled with don't kill people in front of kids, because overprotective spyssassin is overprotective. At this point Reese doesn't have enough of a sense of self-preservation (and we could argue about whether or not he ever really develops such until we're blue in the face, there's some evidence both ways) to try and avoid an NYPD manhunt.

Now the trick, of course, is getting Theresa to safety! For which Reese will shamelessly prevail on Carter's curiosity, speaking of NYPD manhunts. BAD Reese. No cookie. We get a still frame from the Machine of Central Park, and then a timestamp. I'm guessing that's just before 7 am, not 7 pm, there are almost no or possibly absolutely no civilians in the park which must have been a neat logistical trick to pull off, and much to absolutely nobody's surprise there's no Reese, either. Carter clearly suspects a trap too, just not the one she lands in. I would especially like to know how Reese got Theresa in there under her nose, but I think we can chalk that up to some combination of their combined natural sneakiness. Carter quickly ID's the girl as the anomaly out of the whole situation, hand on her gun in case there's still a trap. Which is fair, given that she could easily assume sniper training on Reese's part (and not be wrong, though she doesn't have confirmation on that yet). And Carter now knows that she's been sent by Reese because that's a nice to middling nice man's black suit jacket she's wearing, goddammit Reese. He might as well have hung a sign around her neck. He pretty much did hang one over her shoulders. With all the attendant emotional connection, however brief, that such a gesture implies. So! Theresa would like to know if this is Detective Carter, and her friend said she could trust her, and Carter gets this oh-you-bastard expression. Also a recalculating expression, figuring what her target's motives and priorities might be based on him giving her a girl in trouble to take care of. Oh Carter, you have no idea what Reese attaching to you is going to get you. The jazz music starts up for our closing, as we get a shot of Carter taking Theresa in, shot of Reese and Finch across the street from them exchanging a look of a job well done and walking off in opposite directions. Because they're not quite to the point of that much trust, but hey, this one turned out well enough. Fusco apparently gets the collar on Calhoun, I'm not quite sure why if he's working Vice, but it's a nice enough gesture on Reese's part assuming he was responsible. Then down to the station, where Theresa steadfastly refuses to give up Finch or Reese. I will be over here cackling, and Carter does a decent job of carefully but thoroughly interrogating her. Finch must've cleaned up the surveillance feeds already, nice bit of a nod there to how much work it is to keep removing their traces - assuming that's not the Machine itself fixing things for him. I wouldn't lay odds either way at this point. I love, LOVE Theresa's deadpan about a pretty traumatic experience, which is exactly the teenager tone of "I know you know something but I also know you have nothing to charge me with and I'm the victim here and not telling you a damn thing." God I hope she turns up again sometime. Then the tearful reunion between Theresa and her aunt, presumably engineered by Finch, and now we get the music turned up far enough that I can make out the lyrics and facepalm extensively. I'm just going to leave that link there so you can all stare at the anvils as relevant to Finch and Reese and the Machine.

Meanwhile, Reese goes stalking Finch at his nominal workplace some more, who continues to look for the truth about his employer. Who has abandoned his job, as we all expected he would from the second Reese invaded his territory! Reese probably expected it too, but he needed the confirmation, and hello Office Gossip/Flirt! Reese asks about personal days, which suggests he knows somehow that that's what Finch was using as an excuse to work the case instead of being at his cover identity. There are of course varying rumors about why he left - transferred and laid off being the two cited, but I'd assume at least one more for the sake of muddying the waters even further. Cue the phone ringing and gee, I wonder, hi Harold. Reese has snark about how he thought they were getting a little closer, with voice emphasis on the name to underline the alleged closeness, and no, you didn't, Reese, but you were hoping for some kind of additional data. And now we will have, for those of you counting, the third fucking iteration of "you're going to need to trust somebody [sometime/at some point]." Thank you, Rule of Three, thank you, boys, you are being stupidly prickly. And prickish. Finch was just on his way out, as it turns out, with his box of "personal effects" which he proceeds to dump into the trash can while delivering a lecture about how he has his reasons for being an untrusting soul. No, Reese, he's not going to tell you those reasons ever, you're going to have to spy for them. Which you already knew. Not that Finch says this so much as ends the conversation in uninformative/unhelpful secretive spyssassin handler style. Heh. BUT WAIT, what's this as he leaves? Why, it's a bust of not!Marty in the entrance lobby, with no name, just The Founder and 1962-2010, In Loving Memory. Which means that whatever happened to Finch's friend happened pretty recently, may have been the cause of his back/neck issues, and certainly was the trigger for the Machine to start looking for ways to improve Finch's mental stability, because fuck knows it would've taken a nosedive after that. Mutter grumble that's all the information we have for you this week, folks! Next week we get to find out about Reese's attitudes toward fellow veterans, even if they haven't been trained precisely the same way he has. Excellent.


  1. Thanks for your thorough reviews (recaps) of these two first episodes of PoI. I like them very much. But I have to ask you. Did you notice the picture of Jessica when Finch was turning off the monitors in flashback? Or you just didn't mention it?

    1. ...I will go back and put that in with due credit, thank you. I saw something familiar on the monitors and promptly forgot to go back and check because I was busy chewing on Finch and Ingram and their annoyingly large quantity of tells with insufficient context.

      That also ties neatly into one of the later eps (Many Happy Returns? I think?), where Finch mentioned women who turn up over and over in the numbers or, before, when he had the full datastreams to look at. Because domestic violence places battered women in danger multiple times. I love consistency. *pets show*

  2. Hot damn they make it hard to comment on this platform. Has google never heard of anonymous posting? But I love POI - when this show is on it's ON - and just found your reviews, which are really intriguing, so I wanted to comment as a way to say thanks for posting them. You've made me go back to some favorite scenes and find whole new things to love about them. I hadn't considered the way Finch doesn't quite look at whoever he's talking to unless he's faking it, especially in these early episodes, or the way Reese subtly threatens and tests Finch early on, or the way the show plays with the Machine as character and Fourth Wall right off the bat . . . all fascinating. In the "Ghosts" episode the power poses that Reese and the assassin assume in prison are especially interesting. One of the things I get a kick out of with this show is the little bit pieces that are beautifully cast and played to wring every drop of story and potential, and occasionally anvils of symbolism, out of every line and gesture. Thinking about the thinking behind all of these choices in storytelling and delivery gives added layers to admire and a level of geekitude that I am all for.

    The idea that Reese didn't understand why the hit man let 13 year old Theresa live because as a gov assassin he would have killed kids . . . wow man that is dark. I'd assumed on first watch that he himself would have let a kid live, but didn't understand why a typical criminal/civilian hitman would let a kid go because he thinks of typical criminals as ethically beneath him, or beneath his sanctioned black ops work at least. Now I might be persuaded toward your interpretation, because of the casual "that's how I would have done it" line, and his blank but kind of disturbingly excited face when interviewing the assassin, and also because it is delicious in terms of character. Your takes on the moral failings of Finch's past in his flashback scenes with Nathan (and possibly his button-pushing scenes with everyone else) and the probably forever shadowy monsters in John's past, give shades to the characters that make their evolution through the course of seasons 1 and 2 even more interesting.

    Finally, I live in the NYC area, so will attempt to answer the little geography question posed above: in my very informal estimation, the absolute speediest John could have gone from that borough building site to the hotel where Theresa and Finch were getting chased around is maybe fifteen minutes, assuming he didn't hit traffic or steal a helicopter, and the hotel didn't happen to be in an inconvenient section of Manhattan. Also, you've noted suspiciously quiet or empty streets in some of the show's city scenes. I'm sure the film crews do take over streets and make pedestrians grumbly about having to walk around them, but NYC parks and streets, depending on where you are, whether it's a weekday v. weekend, and the season, can be surprisingly empty and quiet. This is especially true early in the morning and a lot of film crews end up shooting just after dawn, when it's light out but the streets are quiet. Note the pale/gray light in a lot of those scenes. It's realistic that a side street or outer avenue in the dead of night would be empty, and that Washington Square Park - where John leaves Theresa for Carter to find her - would be very quiet early in the morning. Oh well, that's my two cents. Thanks again for these insightful recaps.

    1. Google has heard of anonymous commenting, but they haven't heard of a way to turn it on AND have spam filters on. It's very annoying.

      Thank you for the lovely long comment! This show is a bit more hit and miss in s2, we're finding, but s1 was AMAZING and it really, really shows that they have a thorough show mythology built up/thought out. And they're fond of telling stories with the kind of layers that reward but don't require the close watching we give it, which I think is a masterclass of writing and directing, personally. It can be really easy to bog down in the fine details, and they don't: they just know how to squeeze a scene for all its meaning.

      I really suspect that this show hints around things that are far, FAR darker than a network show is usually allowed to go, mainly by way of acting and directing choices and also by relying on genre-savvy viewers to fill in the blanks. Frankly, Losers (the movie and/or comic book, if you know it?) kept coming to mind with this episode and its morality.

      This is all very useful native knowledge! I haven't been in NYC in well over a decade, and I wasn't out at all hours of the night then, so we'll bear the empty streets possibilities in mind in future episodes.