Saturday, February 2, 2013

We Told You What To Dream (Person of Interest S1E01 Pilot)

Well, you voted! Overwhelmingly, too, in favor of Person of Interest. In the interests of full disclosure (since you're sure as hell only getting that from us, on this show), we've watched most of the first season already. It's safe to say that we'll be well ahead of watching as compared to our recaplysizing, on account of this show. We devour it like mind candy. Which it isn't, but that tells you something about how skewed we are! Fair warning; this is likely to be a much longer recapalypse while we set out all our premises for various characters' tells and interesting bits of cinematography, which we will then get to shorthand a bit in future posts! Yay! So without further ado, we give you Person of Interest: the pilot.

For a show that's all about a broken stone killer and the equally broken mathematical genius who operates him, two very cold subjects, we open on a surprisingly and deceptively warm scene. The colors are highly saturated, plants and clothes and skin tones. It's a flashback, shot with warm lights to contrast the cold wash of most of the rest of the show and through waving curtains and at angles designed to give us a good emotional impression of the scene but not give us much in the way of detail or a clear picture of either person. We're not supposed to empathize with the person Reese was, we're meant to get a glimpse of what he either used to be, or had, or both, something to contrast with the scene 25 seconds later. Again, the lighting is yellow, but instead of being a warm and natural-toned yellow it's sickly, dirty, the kind of yellow that comes out of poorly maintained lights and is at least half reflections off the seat around him. By the voiceover we know the scruffy looking bum on the train is the same person even before we get a good look at his facial structure. His clothes are a traditional mish-mash of styles and states of cleanliness, although overall he's still more scruffy than unclean indicating that either the costuming department slacked on distressing the clothing or he hasn't been living on the streets long; either is possible at this point in time. 

The voiceover also gives us a clue as to how the character sees himself and therefore how we are supposed to treat him, at least initially. Obviously this is a lover, possibly a spouse but maybe not, who has died or who he thinks has died. Underneath that, however, because of the words he uses, we also know that he does not think of himself as a good person to say the least. He also does not think of himself as, in his words, "connected to the world." While this sort of detachment could be innate and some of it probably is, the fact that he's so conscious of it indicates that it was trained or taught, either by design or through therapy to compensate for some imbalance or problem with his interactions with the world. From the premise of the show, we know it's the former. The fact that he refers to himself as a "what" rather than a "who" is also a dehumanizing element found most often in training facilities of the military or paramilitary kind, or as depicted in fictional versions of the darkest depths of the CIA/NSA/other black ops/off the books government organizations.

So within the first minute we know we have someone who is capable of deep emotion and connection but has lost all of the ones (or one, singular) he had, and who has been systematically broken to be a dehumanizing machine with one to three functions. The two may or may not be connected. As far as introductions go it's well-structured and compact, giving a good sense of one of the primary characters in under a minute.

The bum on the train is sharing compartment space with two people running down a deal of some kind, we don't get a good sense of what they're dealing but we can infer it's casually illegal. About five guys come in from one of the other cars (you know, the cars you're not supposed to go between while the train is in motion, not that people listen) and the one in the lead has his necklace in his mouth. The blocking/camera choice tells us that this guy is the leader, since he's the one they lead off with and the one being the most aggressive, and the fact that he has a supposedly silver chain necklace in his mouth tells us that he's both conspicuous and casual about his wealth, without clinging to the usual kind of dignity wealthy people have. He wants people to look at the shiny dangling from his mouth, but he doesn't exactly grok that this makes him look either as though he's got a bunch of corrective dental wear or he's a drooling moron. Our bet is on drooling moron since he immediately goes up to whatever deal is taking place and interrupts it, getting a gun shown to him for his pains. Drooling Moron doesn't seem impressed, and tells them to clear out; there are five to two, so the deal-making pair beat it, presumably since it's not worth shooting up a subway car for ego's sake. Apparently Drooling Moron's given name is Anton, and even his buddies (brother?) don't think he's being that smart; his buddy or brother or whatever the similar-looking young man in the red shirt (aheh) is to him calls him out on challenging another guy with a gun. Reminds him that everyone's carrying these days, and their father wanted them to take the car home. Again, tight, informative dialogue in a well-written script, this time telling us that there's a father who either approves of their attitudes in general or at least cares about the son. More likely the first, given what Drooling Anton says next, about new hardware and restoring order. It doesn't quite have the die-hard ring of a cult, but it's not a stretch to think they have an agenda or at least a half-assed ideology in mind. This also serves as a possible indication of white-supremacist thinking from the part of our five boys led by Drooling Anton, given that they're all aggressively Caucasian, the pair they scare off are both black, and frankly, the amount of dirt they've got caked on Caviezel makes his ethnicity dubious.

To continue the pulling-it-out-and-waving-it-around theme first introduced by Drooling Anton's bullying of the innocuous dealers who were, it must be noted, quite happily coexisting on the train with our significant bum, hey, Drooling Anton spots the bum and feels the need to go kick him around. We can guess how this is going to end even knowing nothing about the show, which we didn't when we started watching. Drooling Anton even reaches in the bum's coat for the bottle he can see poking out of a pocket, only to get his hand grabbed and held firm. Bum/broken guy has good reflexes, as again one might expect. Drooling Anton doesn't so much yank his hand away as he is allowed to step away, and while he probably knows it, he won't admit it even to himself. The bum looks down, because this shit just ain't worth it and besides, he has more important things to do. Like drink himself to death. (Yes, there will be a bit on that later, but not right now.) Drooling Anton, however, has now been embarrassed in front of his buddies and, well. That just can't stand. So he leans into the bum and makes what San Angeles Police called a scornful remark. The bum takes a breath, sighs, and the tension in his face indicates he is resigning himself to either taking or laying on a beat-down. Given the lack of witnesses or any reason not to, it looks like it's going to be laying on the beat-down. He doesn't, however, move until the guy in the burgundy shirt lifts his shirt to reveal a gun tucked in the most idiotic of places: the front of his pants.

This might be the first button of ours that this show found, because the fight choreography is beautiful and tells us a little bit about our bum, as well. For one thing, it's not nearly as easy as it looks to fight in a moving subway car, but he does it swiftly and with precise, unerring strikes. For another thing, with one or two exceptions and at least one of those exceptions being the initial set of strikes to disable the arm going for the gun, all of his hits are to the soft places: throat and groin. This is not a man who wastes time breaking joints or limbs, which involves making contact with hard bones, he goes for nerve clusters and cartilage hits which hurt and distract (groin, nose) or the airway. And these are disabling shots, not killing shots. It's efficient and over before they or we have much of a chance to register what happened other than someone got schooled. Then he gets Drooling Anton by the throat and, well, we don't see much of what happens after this because he appears to get a blinding headache right before the camera pulls back into a Deus Eye View. Also noteworthy: the music goes into the Reese Is A Bad Motherfucker leitmotif, which we hear often when he's doing his Implacable Man walk, usually with a gun in one hand. Hey, he's got a yellow box around his head! We have no idea what this means! Well, no, we do, but as this is a pilot it's not meant to be clear or explained just yet, so we'll pretend we have no idea what this means. The Machine goes all up into the police station's business, which practically speaking means we get a couple of surveillance camera shots, and we're over to our next scene.

Drooling Anton and his cronies look particularly aggrieved as we get an abbreviated walk and talk from Carter and a uniform. We start off with Carter talking about needing a statement from the bum, dressed all in black so we know she's badass, nothing too form-fitting so sexuality isn't an issue but also nothing too high-collar or covered up so we know austerity isn't a thing either. She's got her shield and her gun snapped up on her hip, or at least it should be. The uniform tells her the bum declined treatment, we know why, but she looks surprised. Clearly she hasn't seen the video the uni's about to show her! We've seen it, but we'll get another not-so-good look just in case because, hey, surveillance video isn't exactly shot like an action sequence on a TV show. This surprises Carter; well, it would surprise most people, too. Bums don't tend to be capable of that kind of controlled violence, either because they lack training or because they lack the mental and physical togetherness to carry it out. It's actually a little surprising that Reese himself has the physical and mental togetherness to carry it out, given what he's been implied to have spent the past few months doing. But we'll go with it, because Reese is also a badass. As Carter is about to point out.

Instead of trying to deal with the Drooling assortment, Carter heads on into the break room they've stashed Reese in. Where he is, as we might expect out of someone with his levels in Badassery, assessing the situation as it unfolds. That beard makes him look a lot older than he really is, though a lot of men do go gray in their beards long before their hair starts to go salt-and-pepper. We take a moment to laugh, because I'm quite certain if any of those punches did land it was so that Reese could use their momentum against them. He flicks a glance down at the cup and back up at Carter, which may indicate that he's aware of having given the cops his fingerprints and right now he doesn't give a damn. There's a very slight widening around his eyes when Carter calls him on having served that might be surprise, reassessing what her background is, and now he can guess that she's served, or was close to someone who did (both, as it turns out much later this season) and that she knows a reasonable amount about the military. This is an excellent interrogation on Carter's part, given how little she has to work with by way of reactions from Reese. She begins as defensive badass and drops that immediately to come over and perch on the table, within his personal space but not so near as to mark herself as a threat. Leaning over and building rapport, and the hell of it is that Carter is at base a good person who has a skillset uniquely suited to this kind of interrogation. Which, in a way, mirrors Reese who thinks of himself as a bad person who has a, well, a very similar skillset. I would say very little of this is consciously calculated and either always was or was trained to be instinctive behavior around someone needed for questioning. She's right, too, you don't learn to fight like that without specialized training, and it's good expo-speak for the audience that might not know that as well as jabbing at Reese's soft bits. He shifts uncomfortably as though she's hit the mark with one or the other of those, which I'm pretty sure (and she's pretty sure) she hasn't, but it's enough of a reaction to let her move onto another line of questioning.

Note what Reese says about names. This Will Be Important Later. The comment on its own speaks to a loss of identity and sense of displacement, which we already knew but it's interesting that he's either willing to show that to Carter or incapable of hiding it from her. Given how much of a wreck he is right now, I'm betting on the latter. He's trying, sort of, to give Carter puppy eyes, and it's damn hard for a stone killer who's been out on the streets for however long to do effective puppy eyes. Reese, honey, that would work better if you cleaned up a little. Carter's not even trying to disguise what she's doing with the cups as she talks, either, and Reese rather pointedly curls his whole hand around the new cup. After all, he's been wiped from the system. He is a non-entity, which he's tried to tell her subtly but she'll learn it directly in a few minutes. She goes through a nice little spiel about what kind of broken veterans come back as, and yeah, those would be the primary two types. Difficulty adjusting and needing help, and difficulty adjusting and refusing help on the grounds of unworthy to receive it. Reese does a lot of eyeflickering, up and down Carter and up and down the screen, at a guess, as she flips on the surveillance footage of him beating up Drooling and his cronies. He doesn't answer her question, but then he doesn't need to, either, since she can read him like a book. At least, right now she can. Once she has her answer her stance shifts to treating him as something of a threat, and we move along from interrogation to the requisite fingerprinting montage! Just in case we weren't sure what was going on with carrying that cup by the inside.

It speaks to how anxious this case makes Carter that she stands over the poor lab tech while he takes and runs the prints, and while she's doing that we have a large man in a trenchcoat and what looks like an expensive suit show up to talk with his client. Hello, guy who Reese assumes is a CIA-hired lawyer to get their former operative out of there! We learn that Reese's prints were found at a lot of crime scenes and he has warrants in four countries, to which I say WHAT THE HELL HOW SLOPPY ARE YOU PEOPLE. Jesus H Christ. (The H stands for hitman. Yes, we're going to make infinite jokes regarding Caviezel's past role starting now. We never promised you reverence, and if we had you wouldn't be here.) Sigh. I mean, we can take from this that they assumed Reese was either dead or never resurfacing to anyone's radar, but my god that is no excuse to allow foreign countries to track one operative's missions via his goddamn fingerprints. You are bad spooks and you should feel bad. Continuing the trend of incompetence, the big black car is waiting for Reese right outside the station! With a pair of flunkies who seem designed to try and keep Reese from walking away. Uh-huh. They're probably not competent to do so, and the nervous glances they dart at him say so. Reese is spectacularly annoyed by all of this, but not so annoyed that he wants to deal with whoever they have on sniper duty. (Which is probably assigning Finch more credit or malevolence than he deserves, but Reese didn't live this long by not being paranoid.) Carter runs out the door just in time to see Reese disappear into the car, which takes off, and this must have been either a very long drive or near dawn already, since it's full daylight if very gloomy once the car pulls up to the park by the river. They're meeting under a bridge, and Finch is offering Reese a way to bridge the gap between old and new lives. Aww, obvious symbolism is obvious! Rousing chorus of Red Hot Chili Peppers optional.

In a sense, our first introduction to Finch is when the Machine first shows up, since the Machine is a product of Finch's mind and world view. Our first physical introduction to Finch is a distance view of a man in, wait for it, a nice suit and coat. Also, a man alone not-quite-but-almost centered in a vast landscape, the panoramic view implying emptiness around him. The camera is angled to show the city above him, which could mean he supports it, lifts it up, or it could mean he feels the weight of it, or it could just be part of the vastness around him. Either way, Harold is a man alone in the middle of a whole lot of space. Interestingly, there appear to be no distinct or immediately visible value markers to this; his solitude is neither positive or negative, it just is.

So, Reese walks out, not at all like a bum. Not with the purposeful stride characteristic of him later in the episode, but definitely not like someone who is either hesitant or beaten down, he's almost sauntering. And cracking jokes. Sarcastic, potentially nasty ones, too; he's on the attack. Finch's voice doesn't waver (more than usual) or inflect when he tells Reese he doesn't owe him anything (and that's a theme we're going to see a lot of in this show, the sorts of debts that aren't counted in numbers and currency signs), but we don't get a look at his face, so we can't chew on his tasty microexpressions. The first glimpse we get of his face goes back and forth from between ¾ and profile and, again, he's put in only half the screen, with the other half of the screen taken up by the city. Basically, this sets up New York City itself and, by implication, the Machine as the third and fourth (fifth and sixth?) main characters of the show, with panoramic shots and sweeping flyovers. Other than that we don't get much of Finch, not even his name although he does give us Reese's favored alias, remember that name thing a bit ago?. We don't have anything namewise from Finch, yet, just a face with glasses and not even a height reference since he hasn't even been put up against another actor. It takes us a while, compared to most other characters, to get information out of Finch either by words or by posture or facial details, and every bit of it is like pulling freaking teeth. Finch would like Reese not to worry, because he's not going to tell anyone about him. Reese isn't worried because Finch doesn't know anything about him, despite the fact that his inflection goes up a bit on 'know' and the word is emphasized in volume, giving a subtle uncertainty indicator. Apart from that being a valid thing to say to a stranger for an ordinary person, it goes double for the former spyssassin. Or, you know, so he thinks. Reese is still bracketed by goons, but since he's stepped forward he looms larger in the camera's eye than the rest.

Finch would like Reese to know that he knows exactly everything about him, and turns his profile to the camera again. Apart from being infuriating to people who would like to profile the shit out of the reclusive bastard, Finch is displaying both verbal and physical cues of dominance over Reese, albeit subtle enough that they might be subconscious for one or both me. Turning his face away from Reese while Reese is doing his predatory saunter indicates Finch is either stupid (hah) or considers himself to be capable of handling whatever threat Reese presents. Using the additional qualifier of 'exactly' onto the everything underscores that he has the advantage of information over Reese, which as a former spyssassin Reese would recognize as power and danger. Finch then proceeds to describe his everything, not only in terms of facts but in terms of Reese's sentiments, which give a rounded view of Reese's life. Note: this is only Reese's more recent life, not his past in the army nor his childhood, so Finch's everything is either not as complete as it should be/he'd like it to be or, more likely, he's showing off the secret things Reese assumes he wouldn't have. Reese, of course, doesn't like this at all. Possibly he assumes Finch is government, possibly he had that in his mind as a likelihood when he saw the car outside the police precinct, probably he's ratcheting up Finch's threat level several notches as he quickens his pace towards him a bit, and most likely intending violence. Or at least that's what the mooks behind him think, since now they're approaching. Finch isn't concerned, waves them off, and makes eye contact. Again, indicating dominance or at least equality in their status, and also setting up a relationship or emotional connection because now he brings out Reese's current state of mind, as he mentions drinking himself to death. So there's that moment of connection there, and then, in a good tactical decision, there's a moment of allowing Reece some conversational privacy when he turns back to profile again and obliquely mentions active suicide, "I know you're contemplating more efficient ways to do it." Cut to Reese for a reaction shot; Reese doesn't seem to know what to do with this. But it hurts. Quietly, because Reese is a spyssassin who doesn't know how to feel loudly anymore. Well, except for one or two circumstances, but we'll get to that eventually.

So, knowledge is not Mr. Finch's problem. We could offer some suggestions as to what Mr. Finch's problem is! And because this is important and central to Finch's character, now we get fuller shots than we did before, three quarter shots, Finch is still unflappable and incredibly masked. And now, after all of this, he gives... an alias. Casually, tossing it off as an epilogue because it's not important. Which, to Finch, it likely isn't. The man changes themed last names like a pro. Like Reese, in fact, so, Reese, if that wary look is for Finch giving out his name it's well deserved. Finch keeps talking in the soft, nigh-on-paternal voice. It's not working, Finch, honey. As anyone would know from Reese's tone and almost-sneer of "what do I need", well, you both need your heads knocked together, but since I can't reach into the computer screen... Finch thinks Reese needs a purpose, a job. He's not wrong, either, remember those dehumanizing aspects we mentioned earlier? Part of that is to train their operatives to think of themselves as part of a unit, to improve unit cohesion and functionality. To an extent, it works. Whether or not it's worth the sacrifices of other psychological aspects, well, that's up for debate. And as always, in fiction, the more dramatic manifestations are blown up past the average. So, yes, Reese does need a job. Put simply, he's like a knife without someone to wield it. But he doesn't know Finch from a completed target in the ground, so Finch gets the skeptical look with the potential for some teeth.

Back into the city! The second everyone steps out of the car the scene is shot with bustling, walking extras people around them to convey busy-ness and activity, with the underlying added effect of conveying being lost in a crowd. For Reese, that's an asset; for the people Finch is talking about and trying to save, it's a strong liability. The long, long list of relevant metaphors includes one number in a sea of data about the Number who's been drawn, one person in danger in a city, one crime amongst the half dozen serious crimes that happen every day (and that's just the serious ones), one caseload on one detective's desk in a city full of detectives with busy caseloads, etc etc. There's a lot of ways in which one-amongst-millions is a theme in the show. 8 million, as Finch helpfully tells us. As a capper on that, it also goes to the crowd in which, as Reese is fond of saying in the recent past of the show, "you're all alone, and no one is coming to save you." So. I pause to roll my eyes at that and Finch and Reese have a discussion about the purpose of the Machine, stopping crimes before they happen, the pre-meditated ones at least. I do like that he tosses that in about things happening in the heat of the moment, because a lot of violence does happen in the heat of the moment. Bar fights, domestic fights. But the Machine can't (yet, I wouldn't bet on the future) predict the crimes of passion, so, pre-meditated ones it is. And look! There's a convenient example. How nice, Finch. He points her out, we get a couple clear-focused shots on her as she's smiling, buying a cup of coffee, doing perfectly ordinary businesswoman about her day things, before we lose her in the crowd again. Finch has no idea what's going to happen to or around her, and it's interesting that, while he gives preferential weight by order and inflection to her being the victim, the stronger of the two conditional words goes to her being the perpetrator.

Reese is singularly unimpressed. Really, I would be too. Most people would be. That wasn't a very convincing speech, Finch, you suck at this. How did you make all your fortune, because it wasn't convincing investors and doing other such pitching exercises. (Though I'm not sure if that's a bit of background the writers discussed when this was being written out, dialoguewise, it'd be a nice bit of character development if Finch is bad at this precisely because he's never had to practice selling an idea to someone.) Reese offers two highly entertaining possibilities for who Diane Hanson is to Reese, then attempts to leave. I have no idea who the goon who gets in his way is but either he's walking on boxes or he's really fucking tall because he's got a couple inches on Caviezel, who is a lanky 6'2", himself. Possibly more; from the back view Caviezel's eyes are slightly above his chin. Fucking hell. The goons get in his way, Reese makes short work of them with a very "bored now" expression, and leaves to disappear in the crowd. Not too lost, though, the Machine has him! Boxed in yellow, again. Finch's expression is in profile so it's difficult to say, but he looks a bit startled and a bit thoughtful. More startled than thoughtful, here, initially. A few shots of movement in the city, people going from place to place, for a transition.

Over to Reese's no-tell motel room, where he's managed to at least get a shower and change his jeans, since he was wearing blue before and these are a pair of store-new, very carefully preserved, or recently re-dyed black jeans. Seriously, black is hard to keep in denim over the years, and those are some very black jeans, or at least they look it in the low light. Now that both the cops and some wacko billionaire have taken an interest (heh heh) in him he's trimmed his hair and shaved his muskrat, and he's shirtless so we get a decent look at his musculature and posture. There's a lot of tension in his back, putting him at some funny angles as he lifts his head and looks over his shoulder at a news report, although that might also be whatever angle the television's at relative to where he's standing. He's got significant muscle definition, most of it most likely residual at this point since he's been living on the streets and drowning himself in booze for a while now. Not so much body fat, either, but enough to avoid the super-cut gymbunny look; this is a man who's used his body as a tool or weapon, is used to taking care of his body as he takes care of all of his tools, but hasn't done so lately. Sort of the body structure version of that scraggly beard. The television informs us of the existence of a street man who beat up some thugs, who police now consider a 'person of interest' in a number of crimes nationwide. First of all, I thought that was worldwide, but then the police don't have jurisdiction over the whole world. Second, aheh. Aheheheh. Where would you like me to put that lampshade? It's enough to drive a person to drink. No, wait, that's just Reese. Next scene Reese is wearing the (probably) same gray shirt as he was earlier in the day, the jeans again, and the bottle is still present. There's some samurai movie on in the background as he rolls over, drops the bottle of something or other Pure Rye (as we see from the back), and passes out into the bed. He might be cleaner for a shower and a shave, but his habits haven't changed. Oh Reese.

Just to emphasize how far he's come from where he's been, let's have another flashback. This time the contrast is from dim to bright, since the motel room was reasonably full of warm colors. Laughter, smiling, and Jess is watching something on the TV that brings a look of quickly dawning horror to her face. Reese's voice asks her what's wrong, and then, interrupted by screaming phone! We, of course, have a pretty good idea of what's wrong because 9/11 is now A Trope in backstories of this nature, but we'll get to that in a bit. Reese is so out of his habits and so inclined to drink himself to death that he's let himself get tied up AND moved to a different hotel. Fucking hell, Reese. Tied by just the one hand (and not even his dominant), but it's with a ziptie, which is a helluva lot harder to get out of than handcuffs. For all that, it's not very tightly zipped, which is a good indication of how thoroughly soused Reese is. The spyssassin we come to know and love over the course of the show is a far cry from the man so hungover and/or still drunk that he has difficulty hauling his ziptied arm down the headboard just to pick up the phone, to say nothing of our facepalming over his having let himself be tied up because he was so passed out from drinking. Much to absolutely nobody's surprise, Finch is on the other end of the phone, and it's a marker of how desperate he is for help with the numbers he's been getting that he's gone to these lengths to get Reese's attention. This is a highly manipulative scene, but it's effective; Finch somehow knows how to push Reese's buttons. Probably because they're not too dissimilar from his own, they're just buried more deeply and Finch has more compunctions to hurt others in order to deal with the numbers from the Machine. Not that we know that at this time, since he heavily implies that he's either staged Reese being present for a murder or is committing a murder himself, more likely the former than the latter based on the word choice and on the fact that Finch has already been set up as the ultimate observer, passive and giving direction but preferring not to take direct field action himself. (We will now pause to snicker over exactly how long that doesn't last.) Finch hangs up, the recording of the murder starts from next door, and at this point the screams and banging seem to kick Reese's hypervigilance into full swing. He's been only barely aware that he's been moved as well as restrained up until this point, focusing more on the latter than the former, but now he becomes as animated as we've seen him. Reese isn't inclined to put up with your petty sit there and listen to a murder bullshit! Reese is a man of ACTION! Ahem. Which is Finch's entire point, give Reese a direction to work in and he will attempt to save people, because that's what his training says he should do and he's been so hollowed out of anything that's not his training that he doesn't have any other purpose in life. (You may make your own comparisons to Reese as the goddamn Batman and Finch as R'as-al-Ghul if you like.) So, fine, there's screams and so on, and if Reese were a little more aware and capable of processing he would know this is a recording. Because while fights sometimes do start like this, what he's seen of Finch should tell him that Finch is unlikely to be a party to arranging to have someone killed, and if Reese has been placed here he should have heard something other than the very culmination of the fight. This recording sounds a great deal like the ending to a long, protracted argument - probably a series of them - between a battered woman and her partner. But Reese isn't thinking about that. Reese is unable to haul his hand out of the ziptie without injury, so instead he goes for the shards of mirror solution! Not a bad one, on the whole, though as much as he's been drinking I'd be leery about the potential for tremors.

And then it's through a pair of doors, and we see that Finch has booked a suite for these purposes. Possibly the entire floor, given it's Finch and he likes his privacy, but the suite does just fine. Reese falls flat on his face (probably because the second door wasn't unlocked, but also because he's still out of practice) and comes face-to-speaker with a recording device which is spewing out filing and datestamp data, 0138X and 12 August 2008 1:37 am. Which I note here out of a sense of completist orneriness, not because I expect it to be highly relevant later. What I do expect to be relevant is that that doesn't sound like Finch's voice on the recording - it sounds like an automated voice, actually - and now I wonder if we just got the first spoken lines from the Machine. Which is, yes, a character as much as anyone else in this show, we're going to go ahead and stipulate that all our recaplyses will try and take into account the Machine as an AI with motives and inclinations. (For starters, who do you think found Reese? I bet you dollars to donuts it was not Finch, not directly.) Reese staggers upright and comes to stand wide-eyed over Finch, who is still not impressed or expecting violence, at least not of the kind that will cause him long term damage. Finch has picked one of the biggest shiniest reddest buttons Reese has with domestic violence, and since we find out later that he's not actually terrible at social engineering when he wants to be, this is another indication of how desperate Finch has gotten. (He's not good at it, but he's passable.) Reese is panting and possibly on the verge of a panic attack as Finch calmly elucidates what happened and draws the direct parallel to Jessica, just to hammer that button some more. He also calls Reese the one who was too late for the woman in the recording, mainly so that he can draw the parallel, because we can see by his desperation to bring Reese in on this that Finch blames himself. Not that Reese is thinking about that; he'd like to know what Finch knows about Jessica and/or the mission he was on at the time she was killed. I'd go with "and," judging on later episodes, and also because Finch's immediate reaction to Reese slamming him against the wall and demanding information is to say he's only telling the truth and lead with why Reese got out of government work. In an utterly unsurprising not twist, the government lied to Reese! Which never ever happens with ex-spyssassins, and in just a few lines of desperate dialogue we get further confirmation that Reese joined up in order, yes, to protect people and serve his country and was broken and tossed aside. And how does the government toss people like Reese aside? Oh right. Which nicely sets up foreshadowing for the continuing CIA/FBI/Cara plotline!

On "protect," Reese lets Finch go, stepping away with the reminder of what he wanted to be and how far he's sunk. He looks about as defeated as we've seen him; before this he was resigned to his eventual death via alcoholism or possibly more direct suicidal methods, now he feels as though he's been run through a meat grinder. Which he has, with the reminders of his past preceded by some vague hope that he could stop a murder in progress. Finch has very neatly put Reese in a position of feeling obligated to listen to him at least for awhile, which is exactly where he wants him. Reese comments that the recording seems like government, but Finch isn't government, is he. Well, no. The government would have big obvious backup shaped goons, and/or obvious observational facilities be they electronic or one way glass. Also government goons don't usually have ties like Finch's. Finch, for his part, is mildly disgusted at the notion of being government, and keeps straightening himself up while Reese glares balefully from under those eyebrows. I would, too. Finch gives us an impassioned speech about getting to be there in time, and this is as much emotion as he's shown so far, indicating how hard it's been on him to know and not have the skills to act. Plus with the disability, in a lot of respects he can't act in ways that would be useful, and that goes double for his (admittedly self-imposed) isolation. He hands over a photo of the woman in question, and I rather think it's no accident that she looks a bit like Jessica, and this time Reese doesn't tear it up or stalk out or anything else. Just looks resigned to dealing with this crazy man's delusions and extremely, extremely wary of believing that they're not delusions at all. I don't blame you, John. Not one bit.

Do I even need to go into the symbology (A: The word you're looking for is sssymbolism.) (K: Thank you, Smecker.) of two shadowy figures filmed from the back walking through a dark tunnel shot so almost everything is in darkness except the light at the end of it? No? Good. We will now pause to snicker and nod sagely at the fact that Finch equates the closing of libraries due to budget cuts with the decline of Western Civilization. I'd disagree except, well, we really don't. And now let's hang a big fat lampshade on Finch's little ways in which he punishes himself, such as making his home base in an abandoned building up several flights of stairs. Come on, Finch, really? I also have to wonder about all the books lying all over everywhere, because somehow I don't think Finch would want to treat books that way. Probably this is because he can't bend over to pick them all up and Finch can be lousy at pacing himself. The lights still work, though, and just in case we didn't get that Finch is stupid rich already, he refers to the building being in a kind of limbo due to the bank that bought it having declared bankruptcy. And while I could be reading into it, I would not be surprised if Finch orchestrated either the bankruptcy or buying a bank that was on the verge of failing anyway just so he could put and keep his chosen base of operations in limbo. Because that's how he rolls. Hobbles. Whatever. Reese points out that the building and Finch have something in common! Because he did a little digging into Finch's background, like you do when you're recruited by an eccentric frillionaire. Finch attempts to appeal to his better nature by saying what a private person he is. Reese's utterly priceless look of "are you kidding me?" is directed at Finch's back and the sentiment is, once again, shared by all.

Oh, let's have a few more reminders of how rich and connected Finch is. Let's have six of them. Because Reese now has six cover identities with credit cards and funds to be replenished from a dummy corporation and the whole time Finch is explaining this as though it were a "there's the bathroom and there's the break room" lecture Reese has this slightly wide-eyed "is this guy for real?" expression. Sadly. Yes. The driver's licenses we can see are from Illinois, Alabama, and New York, and the passports all appear to be American, which is interesting considering Reese can probably speak several languages, with at least a couple of them at native fluency. Either Finch doesn't expect a separate country cover identity to be necessary or he really isn't used to this covert ops business, either one is plausible at this point. Especially when Finch says it's "just like when [he] was with the agency," with this note of demonstrative pride in his voice that makes me suspicious that he's showing off for Reese. It'd be cute if it weren't so misguided, Finch, you know better than to think any government agency is an example to be followed. They are an object lesson to be learned from, Finch, you know this. And Reese isn't paying attention to that, he's distracted by Finch's wall full o' crazy. Excuse me, wall full of social security numbers and information. Aw, Finch has his own murders-board! Though the structure of this one seems a bit haphazard, over-cluttered, and useless. So, just like the agency, then?

Reese's comment that when he was with the agency he knew who was picking up the tab indicates that he doesn't believe Finch is the man behind the shadowy whatever, or at least, that he doesn't believe Finch is acting alone. It's a good, quiet lead in to him asking Finch to tell or show him where he gets the numbers from, claiming that he'd be a lot more use. Well, and he probably would, except the Machine isn't designed to give out anything other than the social security number, so, sadly, it won't be much more use than it already is. And Finch isn't interested in discussing where he got the numbers, anyway, although Finch please tell me you at least know better than to use the phrase "need to know" on a former government spyssassin. Former government, that is. Telling Reese he doesn't need to know something is just going to make him stop telling you when he's poking at it. Then again, these two take (or will take) great enjoyment in gamesmanship with each other. But, yes, the relevant part right now is that Diane Hanson is the next number up, and so we close in on her picture and pull back on the woman herself. And back, and back, and oh look, Reese and Finch are following her. It's cute that you think you need to teach a spyssassin how to surveille someone, Finch. Reese thinks it's cute, too! Wait, no, he's just staring ahead and clamping his mouth shut like he's keeping himself from telling you to limp off elsewhere you're being conspicuous while he tries to tail the woman you've got him tailing. They're totally the same thing. Seriously, the fact that they're directly following her about 30 feet behind with absolutely no one between the two of them and her is the most egregious lack of basic surveillance skills ever. Reese has his back half-hunched and tense like he's thinking this exact thing, only with more swear words. Finch will not shut the fuck up and do his briefing through an earpiece like normal mission controls. The narrative saves me from an aneurysm by ceasing with this Mickey Mouse bullshit and letting Reese give Finch a lesson in basic trade. Because yes, cultivate a relationship is pretty much the basic outline when you have the time. But since we don't, bring on the spy montage! Which has a nice bit of consistency with Reese's hand bandaged up, since he did apparently manage to slice it on the mirror shard earlier. We won't talk about the symbolism in that, because if we do I'm going to spend awhile bashing my head into the wall and giggling hysterically.

Break into her place! Go through her stuff! Follow her! Use her cell phone to track her! Which is a relatively modern technique since, cell phones, it used to be you'd have to have rotating surveillance shifts. Thankfully in this modern age he doesn't need to, so we have a two-man core crew on the show rather than a full-on team. And now we get another moment when I bang my head on the wall because while Reese is an excellent spy and can teach Finch a great deal about getting close to and gathering information on a mark, neither of them are profilers. Or psych-whatever-ists, or apparently capable of reading body language in enough detail to note that the source of Diane Hanson's stress and tension isn't fear. Hard to say what it is at the moment, but it's not fear. They're expecting fear and so when she paces back and forth and talks about being able to handle things, that's what they fill in; then again I doubt they remember having awkward and annoyed conversations with well-meaning but overprotective mothers. In the pause in the middle of the montage Reese obligingly puts on his Master of the Obvious hat to talk about how hard it will be to narrow down a suspect out of a list of people who might hold a grudge against an ADA with a high conviction rate. Ya think? The current best suspects, in Reese's opinion, are the current person she's prosecuting and her co-worker and ex-boyfriend which, all right, for the information they have these are solid theories in the absence of anything pointing to someone specific, especially with the fact that Reese does know his statistics on violent crime. Since they conclude with the person she's currently prosecuting and the possibility that his gang is targeting her for reprisal, as they put it, over to the trial it is. Oh, hey Fusco!

It's a very understated way to introduce someone who's about to be one of the main characters, too. Understated, but a good showcase. You have the specificity of detail in his testimony which, though probably coached, also shows that he's meticulous about things that matter even if he doesn't sound consistent with the usual perception of meticulousness. He's a bit of a wiseass and, to conclude his testimony, he goes just a bit over what was expected of him and manages to get himself into trouble. Oh Fusco. Not through any direct fault of his own, just by being overenthusiastic. And we see that he does this a fair bit. It's also the first time we see Diane Hanson rattled, as Reese notes with a half-tilt of his head, so we also get Fusco getting overenthusiastic, tripping himself into trouble, but also getting something for our heroes out of it in the process. Which also comes into play later! In the meantime Reese will eavesdrop on a conversation in which Hanson reams out Fusco for editorializing and potentially clearing Pope, because it's her responsibility to make sure that the wrong people don't go to jail. So, equal parts reaming him out for editorializing and for not telling her about the conversation with the defendant. So far, so good for Hanson, she's a driven and fierce ADA who's committed to her job, sure, it could be Pope. Reese makes a smooth turn as she walks by, not overcorrecting or making a big gesture that would draw attention, not giving her the opportunity for eye contact or making eye contact himself. Just another guy in a nice coat at work talking to someone on an earpiece. Which he is. Just not quite the usual guy in a nice coat at work talking to someone on an earpiece for this particular establishment. So, now she's calling county lockup and arranging a meeting with the defendant, alone. Which is, as far as I know, fairly unusual for an ADA. Also possibly against protocol.

As said defendant points out! Because then we get a brief establishing shot of a corrections van going into a parking lot and there's the guy from the courtroom sitting on a bench in his nice prison orange jumpsuit with his hands cuffed wondering why his lawyer's not there. Well, she doesn't think he needs to worry about his lawyer, because she doesn't think he killed those people, and right here is where Finch and Reese should start wondering just what the hell she's playing at. Because if this guy really is taking the fall for someone, the first phone call she should have made would have been to his lawyer, to work out a deal or stall for time or something. Okay, granted, she could believe the public defender is in on it, I'd buy that too. But something is definitely hinky. Her posture is still very courtroom for this scene, very much in charge and in control, directing the narrative or, in this case, line of questioning. Prosecutor posture. Outside, Reese is pacing. More agitated than we see him when listening in on phone calls, which is most likely residual nervous energy from how Finch dragged him into this. That button labeled Jessica, once pressed, has a hard time coming unstuck from the console. His face, when he comes into the light enough for us to see it, is also more concerned than his usual stoic Vulcan act. Hanson goes and sits down next to Pope, making a show of going through her file, bringing up Pope's brother Michael. Speaking of stoic faces, hers is awfully calm and flattened as she's talking about exonerating a man she almost sent to jail for life, despite her voice and agitation indicating a certain level of passion about it, earlier. See again, prosecutor posture, and the oft-repeated bit of wisdom that during a trial you never ask a question of a witness that you don't know their answer to. Pope tells her that she should leave things alone, he can do the time, but there are bad people conspiracy blah etc. We've heard this before. So has Hanson, who provides the appropriate response of We Can Protect You.  With a healthy side order of doubletalk, because apart from the 'you can trust me', everything else she says is ambiguous at best. Or at least, if I were that paranoid, I wouldn't trust anyone who said they could take care of me, would you? No, you wouldn't, I wouldn't, and he doesn't, so she gets fed up, stands, and says that she'll/they'll find the killers whether he helps her or not. And then, just for a moment, there's a sharp tone difference between the "or not" and "It's my job," where she drops down from impassioned ADA trying to save someone from prison to, almost, someone conducting an interrogation. The switch is immediate and hostile, and most likely meant to provoke exactly the kind of reaction she gets from Pope, which is aggression of the sort that requires interference from prison guards. Her easy out before she has to promise anything that would be followed up on. Which he gives her and, a quick series of cuts to Reese (with an extendable baton, aw, that's so cute, he's going to try not-immediately-lethal methods as a lead-in!) to the cell to Finch and back to the cell again, and the prison guards are taking Pope down. Which, Reese has been out of the world apparently long enough now to forget that even in a one-on-one solo interrogation, there are cameras and guards in place to prevent exactly that from happening. Or he didn't trust that they would be in place, again, I'll go for that. In this case Hanlon's razor only shaves about half the chins. But, for the moment, the target is okay, and now Reese and Finch are leaping to the conclusion that whoever framed Pope is now after Hanson for unraveling their frame job. It's a great theory except for the fact that when the Machine picked up her number, Hanson was prosecuting what sounded an awful lot like a slam dunk case, which means the patsy was going to jail all according to plan, which means she shouldn't have been in any danger at all. Guys, I know you want to play Batman and Alfred, here, but can we stop and think this through a bit? Guys?

Apparently not! First we'll go back to 2001 with Jessica and John (because here, now, he's John Whoever, not John Reese). She's on the phone with her mother and says she's in Mexico with one of her girlfriends, Cindy. Uh-HUH. Cue some standard giggling and laughing and cuddling from our pair of lovers, and while this soft lighting is getting kind of irritating they've also established it as A Sign by now, so okay. John is mild and calm when he comments that it's been six months and Jessica hasn't told her mother about them, but we can guess that that grates some. Maybe not as much as it might, in most of a season we haven't had any indication that John has parents or siblings he was attached to even as long ago as 9/11, but he knows that telling your parents about a new boyfriend is something normal people do. Some pretty standard talk from Jessica about not liking being a military girlfriend, which suggests by its tone that she's not used to the military's schedule in any way, so probably John is her first experience dating a soldier. Speaking of, let's take a look at that jacket over the chair with all the useful data on it! Thanks, guys. We'll start with the easy bits, the tabs: Special Forces training, Airborne training, AND Ranger school? Plus a brigade insignia that's generic Special Forces, preventing us from tracking John back to any particular unit; whether that's for Doylist or Watsonian reasons, or both, we're not sure yet. That alone sums up John Whoever as a grade-A badass, plus it indicates that he probably went straight into the military from high school, to be 30-something (at a guess) and have successfully completed all of that. Then we have the shoulder knot, which indicates special forces again and tells us that he's not an officer, or at least he can't be ranked any higher than colonel, which is interesting for someone who's career military. Sadly, the shot doesn't go down far enough to give us the full sleeve with the bars. Starting with the ones on the left and going down, we have a Purple Heart, an Army Commendation, two uncertains which I think are Army Good Conduct and Southwest Asia Service, and an Army Service. On the right we have two uncertains which are possibly a Bronze Star and a Meritorious Service, and then Joint Service Achievement, National Defense Service, Armed Forces Service, Army Overseas Service, and Kuwait Liberation. Roughly summed up, the ones we're certain of translate to he's served for a damn long time, been wounded, was in the Gulf, and has a fistful of NCO-level awards to show for it. The ones we're not certain on emphasize his Gulf veteran status and essentially proclaim him a team player. Of these, the Bronze Star would be the most interesting if it's accurate. John has been a model Army boy for a good long while, minimum ten years and probably closer to fifteen.

So, given that, six months is long enough to get pretty thoroughly wrapped up in each other (assuming that's the date of the actual beginning of the relationship and not some other significant marker) while also being long enough to have worked through some issues. It is not what I would consider long enough for what happens next. Hold that in mind while we digress, because right now John's saying "Ask me to stay, and I will," which, hey, you know what she up and says in a flashback a few episodes later? That, "Ask me to wait for you, and I will." Now that is one hell of a heartbreaking theme, there. Neither of them can manage to do it without the reassurance of the other asking for it, and there's all kinds of clinging going on in there. Clinging and needing reassurance, as well as teasing and implying promises they can't necessarily make, and they know that, both the staying/getting out of the military and the waiting for someone who might not come back at all. Oh John. Oh Jess. Oh everyone. At any rate, this being the slightly more light-hearted flashback, Jess coughs up the needed magic words easily and John says he's quit the military and won't be going back in, in the manner of someone presenting a loved one with a gift. Which pulls both us and Jessica up short, because what. This is a man who's probably spent all his adult life in the military, devoted himself to his country, and he's quitting now? He's admittedly relaxed more because he's around Jessica, but he also doesn't show any strong signs of being done with the military. Plus, leaving isn't that easy, especially if you're a valuable asset and presumably in the middle of a tour of duty like John is, so this can't have been as spontaneous as he makes it sound. I say again, John Whoever what the fuck happened to you. (Most of a season later, we're still waiting to learn what made Jessica so special he would up and quit for her. Or his situation in the military so untenable. The only other possibility is that he arranged to transfer into the reserves for a more gradual departure from the military, but all we have is what he says, which is that he quit.) At any rate, we know this can't possibly last, and John reaches to order some more tea while Jessica flips on the TV. I don't know if that's an actual Spanish-language recording of the news from 9/11, but the words I can hear translate right! Our once-happy couple sit up and take in the dawning horror of the WTC going down, and we know right there that John's making a really hard decision. Probably in a flash, judging by the look on his face, but that doesn't make it an easy decision, just a quick one. I will say, given all the use of 9/11 as a vehicle for personal horror in various spy/assassin/other shows with Serious Themes About Government, this is one of the ones I balk least at. A soldier who wants out and decides to go back in because his country was just attacked, but isn't shown to have lost anyone directly? Yes. I can accept that. I can also accept the premise that the Machine was a custom order as a result of this, because we all know what came with the PATRIOT act, having lived through it.

So having established some grounding for the discussion of long term surveillance and sudden decisions that turn out to be really destructive ones, we go back to 2011! April 14th, late morning, I could be more precise but for this I don't really need to. It is incredibly useful that they're using this precision, though, because it means we get to analyze the hell out of anything that's on a time crunch and anything that might be on anniversaries of personally significant events for any of our main characters. Reese is surveilling from the top of a building with some nice binoculars now! Hi Reese. He's also still not profiling Hanson or Wheeler right, since Wheeler's concern about her is genuine and her lie to him is, well, blatant. Also Wheeler is jittery in the manner of someone afraid that something bad is happening rather than the manner of someone doing something bad. I'm afraid there's going to be a lot of this "get yourselves a profiler" grumbling in these recaplyses. (Bonus points if it's Zoe!) Wheeler sees Hanson out of her office and then slips back in to check on Pope, like you do when you're afraid your ex-girlfriend is making sure certain criminals stay out on the streets and certain patsies take the fall. Though in this case I will sort of allow for how thoroughly Reese misinterprets it, because there's a lot of data that's ambiguous and open to interpretation, and Reese is used to thinking of people (like himself) who go through others' personal effects as bad people. Oh John. Standard expo-speak about getting to the brother before anyone else does, and 45 minutes later we're over to a basketball court outside a school! Reese, you don't stand out at all in that suit waving that phone around, oh no. He pretty obviously knows it, too, since he approaches and asks to talk to Michael for a second and does not look even a little surprised when his target takes off down the street. Well, there wasn't a good way to work on a clock of unknown but short duration and get the kid's trust, but Reese isn't so out of practice that he can't win a simple foot chase. Michael looks like he's going for someone's cell phone to call the cops, like you do when a random crazy dude is tearassing after you down the street, and Reese tries to deliver a message which mostly serves to make Michael bolt harder. On the other hand, Michael knows the ins and outs of his neighborhood best, so that could have been highly effective! Bonus points for the quick thinking and getting the construction workers involved, which I assume Reese turns into something of a diversion without actually getting into a fight. And that cell phone won't hurt Reese's chances of helping the kid, either!

We head back to Finch's hacker lair, where Reese is poking at the computer and Finch is poking at the board. Reese would like something more than a cell phone (and his extendable baton) to deal with these guys, and I can't say as I blame him. Then we get one of the more hilarious exchanges in the ep which highlights the fact that Finch doesn't like violence (probably something of an understatement, considering how he programmed the Machine) and Reese doesn't much either but he'd rather be the one doing than the one done unto. Finch, honey, you just don't like DOING the violence, or you wouldn't have hired a spyssassin. Stop lying to yourself. You could have hired some retired cops, you have the capability to ensure they're clean, or gone through other channels, but no, you hired someone who has by our best estimate done nothing but violence and training to do morebetter violence since HIGH SCHOOL. Ahem. I will stop ranting about that, especially since it's highly probable that the Machine pointed him at Reese (though considering he BUILT the Machine that's only different insofar as the two have diverged mentally since it became sentient), because we're about to go talk to Drooling Anton! Remember him? This is an excellent conservation of characters but also showcases Reese's ability to retain data even when he's not intending or trying to do so (and drunk), since he would have had no reason to believe that he'd need to remember anything the five of them babbled out in the subway.

They don't look all that much the worse for wear at the moment, aside from some healing scabs and bruises, but apparently word of Anton's poor decision-making skills has made it around the neighborhood. The older man gives him shit, and whatever it is that they might or might not be here for we don't get a chance to find out, because Reese will now provide us with witty quips and educational snark worthy of Michael Westen. There's a second where he takes a step in to ensure that he doesn't get shot due to range of efficacy, probably more because better safe than sorry than because he was too far away. Also because it helps the intimidation factor for a guy to step forward into a roomful of armed people who don't actually know what the fuck they're doing with their firearms. When I recover from laughing my ass off at the poor dumb idiots who think hauling out guns on someone who kicked their ass once and that was before he cleaned up and apparently acquired enough money for a decent I Am A Spyssassin suit, he's busy shooting out kneecaps. For probably several reasons: he doesn't want the hassle that a multiple homicide would cause, he's deferring to the delicate sensibilities of his putative employer, and by Reese's lights these guys are idiots but they haven't actually done anything to merit death. (Yet.) They can actually count bullets on this show! That's a Glock, probably 10 in the clip and 1 chambered, and a series of extremely well-placed shots. None of those ribbons from Reese's jacket were for marksmanship, but it'd be hard if not impossible for him to have gotten out of Ranger school without ridiculous marksmanship with a wide variety of firearms. All the camera angles on this are fairly smooth, as combat cinematography goes, emphasizing the well-trained and well-executed aspect to this scene. I will quietly sit here giggling about god being dubious on the subject of kneecaps, Reese will take his sack o' guns, and we will cut over to NYC at night! Yes, Mr Arms Dealer, we would all like to know who the hell that is, though our version of knowing is I think a little different from yours.

One establishing fade-to-night shot of the city later, Reese is ready to go after Pope the younger again. Finch would love to help him! But Reese is a bit too late, because Michael Pope's been picked up by the Bad Guys. Oh noes! Finch patches Reese into the conversation they're eavesdropping on via Reese's former phone, because Finch has a need to underscore everything with horrible audio I guess? He's very agitated, which is a good sign that he doesn't know Reese as well as he thinks yet, or at least, not in the sense that we would use the term. Reese, on the other hand, is sitting serenely in the back of a cab with a plan, a pair of black gloves, and a tear gas grenade gun. I will give him the giving the address to the taxi driver because he doesn't have the grenade gun out yet, but I have to wonder why the taxi driver is just dropping a guy with a grenade gun off on a street corner and not freaking out. Is it because it's New York? Is it because acting alarmed around the grenade launching guy might get him shot and better to make a note of his drop-off point and call the cops? Yeah, I'm going to go with that, because otherwise I might pee myself laughing at how Reese can get away with this shit. Anyway, the taxi drops Reese off at a street intersection that has the common decency to be deserted, and Reese puts on a concession to common sense, also known as a ski mask. This is also his only concession to common sense because now he will step right out into traffic and shoot the oncoming SUV with his tear gas grenade gun. Just to show what a badass he is, he will only take two steps back from the SUV as it swerves wildly back and forth and crashes into a parked car. Like you do when you've been gassed in the middle of trying to drive. Reese will now switch to a hand gun for up close work, grab his bag o' guns, and go take care of business. Not the kneecaps this time but definitely the leg for one guy, and a pistol whip to the face for the other. One of these days we'll stop drooling over how smooth and efficient Reese is, but today is not that day. Tomorrow's not looking good for it, either. Reese will now grab at least one guy's ID, why he didn't go fishing for the other while he was at it I don't know, but the car accident and tear gas make for a very pliant Michael Pope at least! This absconding with the soon to be victim goes much smoother than the last. He'll also take off his mask way earlier than he should be, Reese. Reese. You do know the cops will pull all surveillance cameras within a block or three radius, right? Don't unmask until after you're oh never mind. Pope is panicking about zomg do you know who these guys are? Of course he does. They're cops. He says, looking down at the badge he just stole. For those of you just joining us, we have a surprised face for moments like this. We keep it in a jar on the desk.

When we come back from the break, the cop Reese pistol-whipped is coming out of a diner looking not much worse for the wear with, hey, it's the detective from the witness stand! We get to put the jar to use again already! They're shaking hands and because we see them through the viewfinder of Reese's camera, we know this is a Shady Deal Going Down. A brief Machine-assisted glimpse of 42nd and Lexington later, and Reese is passing over the pictures to Finch and wanting to know what the hell the other man got him into. Finch is a little bitter, a lot upset, but not upset enough that he loses control over his voice. Definitely upset enough that it shows in his voice, in the catch-laugh on the second sentence, in the way he hunches over with his hands in his pockets, pulling in on himself just a little bit. Reese passes him the photos and summarizes what we know of the operation thus far, fairly accurately, too. Finch goes straight to the next victim being Hanson, which highlights Finch as being really attached to this save the damsel thing. Which is also interesting because as far as we know, Finch never lost a damsel, so why is he so fixated on this while Reese, who did lose a damsel, is the one cautioning that they don't know who the next target is for certain. Followed by some bitching about not being told anything. We sympathize, Reese. Insufficient data is a bitch.

Finch responds to Reese snapping at him by leading off with reminding Reese of a terrible moment in his past, thanks for that, Finch. In retrospect made even more terrible not just by what terrorists did to a country Reese clearly feels strongly patriotic about, but also by it being the moment when he set aside his potential life of peace with the woman he loved in a decision that later got her killed. It's a sting Finch has to know Reese will feel, although how accurately he judges how much it would sting is hard to say because Reese is a stoic bastard and Finch is enigmatically blank. Reese does do the tight-faced lips pressed together and pulling down thing, so it probably hurt a fair bit to be reminded of the last time he was really happy. Finch continues on as though nothing happened. And the way he describes working in New York City on 9/11 and not being aware of it until that evening goes to underscore how absorbed he can get in his work. Not that we didn't know that, but just for emphasis. As 9/11 was a catalyst for Reese (and we see him continuing to struggle with that in the jaw-clench, though that might also be for Finch spending his considerable mental resources at doing nothing but making himself very rich) so too it was a catalyst for Finch, who put his thinkmeats to the government's service. Sort of. We now will have a brief pediconference about how he built the Machine, and, hey, it's another dark tunnel with blackness and light, this time with children playing around and running past them to be lit behind them for emphasis. Your clever symbolism, guys, I have decoded it. And now we segue into the Machine's priorities, which is to say, the priorities the government wants for it. And how Finch repurposed it to obey the government's priorities and the two lists and etc, etc. I'm less concerned with Finch's mistake in dismissing hundreds if not thousands of violent acts (which he is clearly atoning for, by his behavior over the course of the season) and more concerned with the fact that it looks like they're being followed by a man in a blue suit and atrocious tie, who on rewinding the episode turns out to be Finch's driver-cum-bodyguard. I have no idea if this whole Finch-has-a-crew-of-mooks thing will be Important Later, but it amuses me. Reese would like to know where this Machine is, possibly because he's developed an itch between his shoulderblades as most spyssassins do when told they're constantly being surveilled. (Sorry, Reese, that's just the driver.) Finch has no idea where the drives are, but the Machine is everywhere. It is Borg, resistance and evasion is futile. There's a nice moment here when we see another Machine's eye view of the park, this time with audio transcripts, and we see the Machine correct itself in real time based on contextual information, from 'years' to 'ears'.

Reese calls him on building in a way to communicate with it that, they both know, was not government sanctioned. Finch points out that an off switch was probably necessary for a Big Brother Machine, and while I can't fault his logic I severely fault him for having the hubris to think he should be the one with his hand on the off switch. Though I suppose it turned out all right, I disapprove of Big Brother machines on general principle. Governments should have to work for their information like the rest of us, dammit. It makes them value it more, pay more attention. Though that isn't saying much. Ahem. Anyway, back to Diane Hanson, for us and the dynamic duo. No, Finch has no idea what's going on, but the Machine wouldn't have coughed up her number if something weren't going on. That's a brilliant idea, now let's apply some logic to it, guys, please? Reese is trying, at least. He's aware that there's something he's not seeing, and it's upsetting him. Which is also interesting because presumably as a Ranger first and a Spyssassin later he was encouraged not to worry about the whole picture, not to ask questions, just to go and do what he's told to do, shoot what he's told to shoot, retrieve what he's told to retrieve. That he's worried about seeing the big picture here is probably a good sign that he doesn't trust Finch yet, either Finch's abilities or skills or Finch's intentions and motivations. Finch gives no fucks for Reese's worries. Finch, that's just rude. Reese is giving you all the dubious faces now. All of them.

Back over to the precinct, where Carter is hauling back from, what, lunch? Somewhere. Another detective corners her because she has got to hear this story about Drooling Anton, because it's fucking hilarious. Apparently he and his buddies got shot up and beat up and thoroughly embarrassed by one guy in a suit. While the guy in a suit isn't a Thing for Carter yet, Drooling Anton and his lackeys being slapped around by one man definitely rings a few bells. Speculative Carter is speculative, and smells something fishy.

From the precinct to a Machine's eye view of what it claims is Cell Block 4 at about quarter after 11 at night. Obvious setup is obvious and if I were that prison guard, I would have fucking rigged the cameras before I let myself be caught on tape putting a prisoner in a cell where he'd be stabbed to death. But that's just me. And then Reese is back up on his Bat-ledge with his Batnoculars (because you seriously can't tell me they didn't put him up there for the broody mcBatman imagery, at least in part, considering whose name is on the splash page for this thing) watching Hanson in her office. Reese also seems to have fully jumped on the Hanson is about to die bandwagon. Guys? Um, guys? Sigh. Reese will now demonstrate his casual relationship with the law by stealing some poor bastard's car. I love how they never make mention of Finch making reparations for all the people's crap Reese breaks or steals, and yet somewhere I want a line reference to Finch leaving an envelope of cash or something on some poor bastard's doorstep with a note that says "Sorry about the window." I'm just saying! Fandom, get on this right now. While I'm giggling over this Reese is loading for bear. No bears today, Reese, not even street gangs. Not even with the plaintive (which is intended to read 'fearful' and maybe does a little bit, but not enough) calling out she's doing. Enter three bad cops doing the badass walk thing and the music swells and....

... her posture relaxes instead of tensing up. She stops just short of rolling her eyes at their lateness because, dun dun DUNNN! She's the perpetrator! Where's the damn jar. Reese looks about as surprised as he'd allow himself to be in the field, which is to say there's a slight shifting in tension around his eyes and that's about it. Hanson will now proceed to treat the dirty cops like errant children, berate them, and outline her plan for covering up all their dirty deeds, just so we the audience know. How considerate! John prepares to back out of there and reassess, and we see the gears creaking into action in his head since, hey, it's been a couple years, he's rusty on how this whole conspiracy and backstabbing thing works! Unfortunately he also seems to be rusty on how the whole paying attention to your surroundings thing works, because he backs right up into Fusco holding a gun to his head. Hi Fusco! Holding up his hands so Fusco knows he's not going for his gun we get a nice view of how that cut on Reese's hand is healing. Ow. Fusco marches him up to the rest of the group to present him and his heavily armed-ness to their boss. No one seems to know who he is, as well they might not, they didn't exactly get a good look at Reese's face when he stole their prisoner. Rifling through his wallet gets him a fake driver's license, which on freeze frame has a birthdate two years earlier than Caviezel's, a name of James J Manzione, and the customary bad DL photo. So they still want to know who he is, and guess on the cartel. Does he look like car-- no, wait, don't answer that. Reese offers up 'concerned third party' with almost a giggle, certainly a grin, that says he's getting real sick of everyone's shit. (And enjoying echoing Finch's words back to him, perhaps on the very safe assumption that Finch is listening in, voyeuristic bastard that he is.) For which he gets punched in the face by an injured hand, not very well, because he barely rocks back. Hanson gives orders for Reese to be taken care of and offers a few last and very unnecessary threats, capped off with a "I can take care of myself, you know that." If that's meant to be macho or badass or in any way intimidating, hon, you've come straight back around to looking like a poser. None of the dirty cops look too impressed, either. But Reese is still in the way, so, gun butt to the face! Aaaand lights out.

Reese comes to in the back of a moving car which we swiftly and correctly deduce is a police car, with the beginnings of a nice shiner and his hands cuffed in front of him. Because these are not the sharpest dirty cops in the drawer. Long pan out over the surroundings, by which we know we're out of the city proper, certainly out of Manhattan, and Fusco helpfully gives those of us without much NYC knowledge a location: Oyster Bay! Which is east of Queens out on Long Island, for those of you playing along on Googlemaps. Reese looks pretty unconcerned about the whole thing, as well he might be given that Fusco is driving alone with no backup, and Reese always has a trick or three up his sleeve. Fusco tosses out a tough-guy line which is clearly for form's sake more than any enjoyment of the necessity. And despite Reese's fogginess, his old skills are coming back to him now, so he starts out with a bit of a softball about when did Fusco decide he was a bad guy, which nets him a story that is blatantly a story but which Fusco seems to have told himself often enough to almost believe it. Only, well, not quite. Reese being good at turning already dirty assets, he calls him on it and says that it's loyalty rather than belief that's keeping Fusco on this path. Which is why he'll let Lionel live! Fusco takes this as bravado on the surface of it but that laugh has more than a trace of fear, it's too long and too loud and generally over the top. Yes, you should be afraid right now. Reese clearly has Plans for this guy already, and there's a touch of glee about him as he conducts this interrogation that Fusco was the one tasked with cleanup duty rather than any of the other dirty cops. Fusco he can use. Any of the others he'd have to kill, and that gets messier. Speaking of killing people, Reese will now lay down his rules about not hurting people. Apparently only Reese gets to hurt people in this relationship. Uh-huh. We already know he's very good at being a spyssassin, emphasis on the latter half of our new favorite portmanteau, so this is all for Fusco's benefit and intimidation. I have no idea where he was stashing the flash-bang (possibly literally up his sleeve! who knows!) that he then hauls out during the lecture about being more careful, but sure, let's cause a single-car accident! Reese is good at surviving all kinds of nasty things like that, and the back of a cop car is actually a pretty safe place for those. (If anyone cares, that was a commercially available flash-bang, by the way, not military grade.) Indeed, he's barely stunned any further than the concussion from being gun-butted in the face earlier left him, and the rear window is an excellent avenue of escape. He's just damn lucky the car overturned in the right manner for it. One sequence of hauling Fusco later and Reese has handcuff key and gun and an officer with a vest. He even calls Fusco "officer," aw, he can be vaguely polite when he's about to shoot someone in the back multiple times! I really, really love that they start us out like this, because Kevlar, while it will save your life, does not make you invincible. Being shot while wearing a vest fucking HURTS, and the closer the range the more it hurts. Fusco's attitude here is very much knowledgeable and resigned; probably he's done similar things before either as the patsy or as the shooter.

Because he is a good operative, Reese calls mission control! Finch has an almost Jewish-grandma tone to that "where the hell have you been" that he opens with, thank you Reese for forestalling the lecture. Finch seems to have taken the radio silence for a chance to do some tidying, possibly? But Reese gives the five-second synopsis of what's going on for Finch's benefit while we get to watch him hotwiring a car for ours. This multitasking, I like it! Another! We close this scene with a candid shot of Wheeler and from there cut to one of the dirty cops outside his apartment. Stills explains the setup for everyone's benefit, including the rat-faced dude who's been keeping watch. No cameras, no doorman, poor Wheeler is an easy target. And Stills has a manila envelope with a gun in it, just so I can facepalm. Presumably that's an evidence envelope. Hey, they also kidnapped an ex-con that Wheeler put away, though frankly judging by the poor guy's look of terror I'm not at all sure he was convicted of a violent crime. Assumed he was rightly convicted in the first place, considering the themes of miscarriages of justice which run through this series. It's not a bad plan, though! Grab ex-con, grab gun that was probably used in other crimes already, grab real target, combine into a clusterfuck of epic proportions. Shaken, not stirred. It would be a better plan if they could coerce or manipulate an ex-con into actually doing the dirty work, but it'll do. Doyle is on stairs duty and just to complicate this clusterfuck further there's a kid. (Also just so we can see Reese's protect-children button get hit. It is also big and red.) Neither of the other two cops seem particularly thrilled by the notion of going forward with the plan, but a) Stills is in charge and b) they've already brought an outsider into the plan, if they don't go through with it now they have to dispose of their patsy. Which is a pain in the ass and leads to increased risk. If I were Stills I would also be considering that the kid being killed will make other cops even less inclined to look for someone other than the patsy for a perp, though Stills is enough of a bastard that he seems to be taking pleasure in this.

And now it's time for Reese to come and save the day! He'll start by grabbing Rat-Face and as much of his hand as is covering that guy's face I'm not sure the cop can even breathe. So now we have one hostage and minimally acceptable cover for Reese and Stills, and Wheeler and his son coming out of the elevator, which leads to a Mexican standoff yay! Presumably Doyle hasn't hauled his ass down the stairs yet, so he's out of the game for right now, and whoops the kid dropped his baseball. Cue an awkward comic/aww moment wherein Reese tries very hard to pretend that everything is perfectly normal here no that's not a gun in my hand at all please go away now son. Oh Reese. It works, or at least the kid picks up on the "I'm not going to hurt you just get out of here" vibe he's putting off, and they get out the front door so that we can have our Mexican standoff, part two: negotiations! Which consists of "let him go no YOU let him go" like we're on a playground. Because Reese is quite certain he has the upper hand, and because Stills is too much of a dumbshit to know when he's outclassed. (Seriously, dude, where do you think this guy came from? Fusco's not so much of a fuckup that just anyone could manage to take him out.) Hey, there's Doyle! There's Doyle's kneecap! Bye Doyle's kneecap! Reese, because he doesn't really want three cops bleeding out all over the lobby and because frankly Rat-Face is more of a liability than a useful hostage (hostages are only useful when someone cares what happens to them, and if anyone here thinks Stills gives a shit about his men when they're not being useful to him I'll be over in Brooklyn hawking a bridge), he shoves the two off to go outside. Which gives him a chance to take slow and steady aim at Stills, and find a nice solid stance. Stills, you are a fucking moron if you think you're getting out of this, though that speech does have a nice tinge of bravado to it. It would be more effective if Reese had any of those friends or family things, and it's notable here that though Stills puts family first and then friends, as most people would, Reese immediately leaps to not having any friends (because he hasn't in a very long time) and then specifies that he doesn't have any family left. Really, family left? I'd love to know who if anyone besides Jessica he considered close enough to be family, and what the fuck happened to them, though I have a bad feeling the answer is Cara Stanton and/or Mark Snow. We don't see the headshot happen, because this is network TV and all they'll give us is the muzzle flashes, but I think it's safe to say both shots connect, assuming both are fired by Reese. It's not double tap back of the head execution style, but it's almost certainly done in the interests of ensuring the target is really dead. Our poor ex-con who so did not sign up for this crazy shit comes tearassing out of the front door, like you do when a spyssassin just saved your life and you're not entirely sure he won't shoot you next. Particularly with a line like "plenty of you [bad guys] right here."

We get some transitional shots from the Machine, one a pullback onto the ex-con and two on, I think, Reese, before we move over to the courtroom. The prosecution is getting skewered and I'm not entirely sure what is going on in this case but it involves a female defendant, a parking lot, and a 911 call. Which is probably about all Hanson's getting because she's preoccupied with getting ahold of Stills, who's gone radio silent. Still, she recovers pretty well from the absence of information, only to be punched in the face by the presence of very incriminating information in the form of her voice vividly describing a hit request. Against the guy who was sitting next to her a moment ago! Awkward. Presumably she'll try to squirm out of it since she never actually used any of the words 'murder' or 'kill' or 'harm' or derivations/variations thereof in any context that would make it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt what she meant. And yet, arguing on that basis would not fool a jury in the slightest. Particularly not one who'd watched any Law & Order or The Sopranos at all. We get one moment where she looks across the courtroom and meets Reese's eyes, and Reese doesn't have the cat that ate the canary look so much as he seems satisfied that the person who deserved to get caught, did. Then he slips out the door and she's left holding the bag. Aww. Couldn't happen to a nicer crime boss.

Back over to Fusco, who seems to have made his way back to town reasonably intact. and is now walking to his car. Or another motor pool car. And he must be tired because even I can see Reese in the back of the car before Fusco gets in, although admittedly Reese is a fairly large man. Still, when you're a dirty cop who's working with the kind of people Fusco's working with, not checking your back seat before you get in the car is just sloppy habits. John warned you about those, Fusco. He is very disappoint. Also has a gun to your head. Fusco attempts to convince Reese that he's not any good to him, using a surprising amount of logic for someone who's been shot four times in the vest and had to walk his tired ass back to town or at least to where he could hail a cab after being in a car crash caused by a flash bang going off under his legs. Poor guy. Reese abuses him so. Fusco thinks everyone will blame him for the clusterfuck. Reese doesn't so much attempt to reassure him as flatly state that he took care of that and everyone will blame Stills, filling in their version of events as it suits the situation from their point of view, and it's up to Fusco whether or not to believe him. Witness protection isn't a bad guess for someone with no apparent enemies who vanishes from the criminal grid. But, Fusco, come on, you've seen Reese in action, do you really think he'd turn Stills over to witless protection? That said, Caviezel's quiet deadpan delivery of "No, Lionel. He's in the trunk." is the hilariousest ever. It's a setup, of course, so that Fusco is blackmailed into doing Reese's bidding. I can't think Finch would approve of this if he knew, and I have no idea what Reese told him. Really, no one is behaving conspicuously well or friendly-like this episode. It's also an interesting call ahead, though, because later on it's going to happen to Fusco again.

Reese suggests, you know, at gunpoint, that Fusco take Stills out to Oyster Bay, they have a bit more of an exchange where Reese establishes dominance over Fusco some more and goddammit, Reese, give Fassbender back his teeth. That's just creepy.

And we conclude in the place where not the episode but the core of the show started, on the green under the bridge (sing it, folks!) by the river. This time Finch is sitting on a park bench, he's in the center of the shot and Reese comes up into the frame with him, so we know the conversation is focusing on the relationship between the two of them, and the city is sort of quietly watching from the background. Finch tells Reese he has a decision to make, which, nice of you to leave it up to Reese, Finch, after all that button pushing. Reese is not surprised that Finch has another number for him, and Finch makes a gesture in the direction of letting Reese know what he's getting himself into. To be fair, I don't think either of them has a clue what they're getting into or how it will affect them, they're not the kind of person who is either self-aware enough (in Finch's case) to make that kind of prediction or aware enough of certain aspects of the world around them (in Reese's case) to put it into perspective. But still. Oh you two. Why him, Reese asks. Which is somewhat justified, especially since Reese has already been told he's been compromised, and under circumstances where he might eventually have come to believe it. Too committed to the service in one form or another to leave, too committed to Jess to fully commit to the service and not be distracted  which, of course, results in him getting shot and nearly blown up. It's not likely that he bought his superiors' story about him being compromised in the way they intended, but the term applies, in his mind. And why would someone with Finch's goals want a compromised asset, not to mention someone who pretty much exists to do violence when he's already stated he abhors it? Because Finch isn't as pure as he pretends to be, is the answer, Reese. But Finch's answer is that they have things in common and to humanize him/appeal to his humanity by calling him John, even odds whether it's meant as an appeal or a reminder. The world thinks they're both dead, all right, that answers exactly nothing about you, Finch, thank you. That little smile is not amusing anyone. And for that matter, saying you've been watching him for a long time is not entertaining or reassuring, it's a Sting song. It's not romantic, either.

Reese sits down and if Finch won't give a satisfactory answer to why him, because that face is not a satisfied or answered face, he'll ask another one: what changed Finch's mind about the irrelevant list? Well, apparently Reese isn't the only one who's lost someone. Ooh, ooh, I'll take Nathan Ingram for the Daily Double, Alex. And now we have the out, because Finch likes his appearances of choice and options even if he'll hammer all the buttons he can find to make sure Reese makes the right choice. Or, well, he has done. (Yes, I did that on purpose.) Reese's question is most likely rhetorical about what happens if he stays and does the job; he's been an operative long enough to follow this assignment and course of events to its most likely conclusion. Finch will go on and say it just so the audience is crystal clear on the average lifespan of a covert operative, even one working on the side of the alleged angels. Though if you watch any of half a dozen shows you know the angels are assholes, too. The problem, Finch, with telling someone who you recently diagnosed as suicidal that a course of action is going to wind up with them dead, is that you haven't actually done anything to change their minds. Now he's just given Reese a purpose, a chance to do some good before he dies. Which is, in a way, even worse. It validates his end goal of suicide by painting it in the rosy picture of self-sacrifice and encourages it because his risky life-threatening behaviors are now in the service of what he perceives to be a greater goal. And because this is all taking place in one city, Reese has the ability to see a lasting greater good form. Meanwhile what Finch thinks of as giving Reese a purpose is only providing a more acceptable outlet for his skillset, thereby also reinforcing Reese's belief that violence, deceit, and murder is all he is capable of and what he is good at. Saving lives is almost a side effect for Reese at this point, for all that it might be the end goal for Finch. No wonder there's a little smile on Reese's face there at the end; none of this has dissuaded him in the slightest and all Finch has done is provide Reese with the same pretty lie that the military and the government did: by doing evil things, you are creating a better world for your people. A world in which, still and ultimately, Reese will have no place at the end.

The fact that it doesn't actually turn out that way seems to be incidental to both of their initial goals. Possibly inevitable (we strongly suspect Machine interference), but also incidental.

Let's go away from the under-bridge of depressing for now, though, and back over to Carter. Oh Carter. I would postulate here and now that this introduction isn't setting up Finch to save Reese, it's setting up both of them as lost in their own ways and Carter, Fusco, and the Machine to save both of them. Carter has got the bit in her teeth and is hunting down the man in the suit. Who is, in true dramatic form, standing right behind her. He stays long enough to see her shove the guy she's going to interrogate into a car, then walks off. Again, lost in a crowd. Only this time he doesn't stay lost. We draw in on him as he's looking up at a street camera, with its red light blinking, and I am reminded of nothing so much as, well, two things. Firstly and most obviously being one's deference to one's sensei in a martial arts dojo, but secondly and perhaps more fitting at the conclusion of the episode, one's reverence to one's ballet mistress. Reese acknowledges the Machine and accords it respect, being the first time we see anyone, even Finch, treat it as a true AI. There's not a wealth of evidence for that yet, but the way Reese and the camera both treat the Machine it's damn well leaning that way. Off goes Reese again, lost in the crowd but not entirely lost and, for once, not entirely alone, either. The Machine is watching him, and tucks him in with his yellow box and the text non-relevant to investigation for the purposes of its putative masters before going back to the task to which it was assigned.


  1. From one Kitty to another, well done. Snarky and comprehensive and insightful. While I disagree with two or three of your interpretations, you certainly defend them well.

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  3. Aww... such a nice ending (I'm full of fuzzy feelings now). Nice machine
    BTW, in the scene where Carter is getting the perp in the car and asking about the man in the suit (towards the end of the episode), Reece is not right behind her, he is first in front of her, going towards her, he passes her by, then turns around to look back at her(or the scene) before leaving for good. lol...he literally gets to a few inches from her (almost bumps into her) and she still has no clue, at all.