Our opening sequence is a fairly long Machine sequence, as these things go. A series of 911 calls, seemingly disconnected: someone with a flat tire, someone reporting a noise disturbance, and a boy pleading with the dispatcher to send someone for his brother who was shot. Oh honey. Then the automated "I'm sorry, all circuits are busy at this time," which I think wasn't given directly to the poor kid so much as intended to highlight how little the system cares about one black teenager. Which is very little. This show does not shy away from highlighting the race and class aspects of how badly the system fails the disprivileged.
From there we swing over to the usual South Cam that indicates the Library of Infinite Knowledge. Unlike most of our establishing shots, it's after full dark and the building itself has no lights on. Except for the flashlight held under the gun oh hi Reese and your classic Weaver stance. Like a good spyssassin, he's clearing a building that was previously home base and has since been compromised. Or at least, they have to assume this. This tells us that this is the first time Reese has been back since last episode, and gives us a pretty tight timeline since we can safely presume he'd go back there within a couple days, max, once he was sure Root wasn't going to make another move. So, Reese clears it room by room and then Finch comes up behind him - for once, I think making noise on purpose so he doesn't get shot by a jumpy spyssassin. Smart man. He CAN be taught. Nobody here but them chickens, I mutter "Aziz! Light!" until Finch pulls the lever, and Reese comments on his employer's own jumpiness. Because, yes, Reese knew it was him the second the air currents shifted, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. And he's more accustomed to having a constant stream of adrenaline in his system anyway, as Kitty pointed out last ep. We will now all facedesk over Finch's commentary on paranoia. Finch. You could have thought of that BEFORE hacking on your HOME MACHINE, you MORON. Oh well. No point swearing at him more, he'll be sacrificing blood to the computer gods and screws to the computer cases as he rebuilds his system. (It's not a real hardware build until you bleed on it and can't find all the case screws when you go to put things back together.) Yes, Reese, you can help by continuing to deal with the numbers! Yay! Which means, for those of us playing along at home, that Finch getting the numbers is in no way dependent on him having his home system up and running. Innnnnteresting. Very. Very. Interesting. Reese thinks so too! Not that Finch is going to volunteer a damn thing, just that he should get started on the 14 year old kid who is, we assume, in danger.
The Machine takes us down a few street cams, focusing in on Reese's car as he pulls up to the apartment building, and oh, hey, there's crime scene tape. That's no good. It's also, notably, just the tape, not the usual door seal, and our Mr. Reese has gotten a lot better about lockpicking with all the practice he's getting. Aww. Less aww is his nagging Finch about the Machine and whether or not it gave them the number late. I can only assume that all his pushing at this point is in an attempt to get some goddamn DATA from Finch, because the Machine has been seriously pushing on schedule (Number Crunch comes to mind) but has never given them anyone who couldn't have been saved because they were already dead. Plus there's probably a fair bit of resentment over having to trust non-human intel in a form he doesn't understand and can't physically see. We flip back and forth between Finch in shadows in the library and Reese in shadows looking around the apartment (hey, there's a Kurosawa poster, nice taste). Finch insists/reassures Reese that the Machine can't be compromised via the library system, alright, fine, but then what the fuck happened there? Home invasion, blood that looks tacky still, whatever happened it wasn't very long ago or nobody's cleaned it up at all. And along comes the super to inquire what the fuck Reese is doing at a crime scene. I'd be inquiring about all the lights off, but the badge and the fact that he's a white guy who looks used to violence in a predominantly black neighborhood? I wouldn't question further either. Anyway, Reese just wants information, which the super will cough up: Travis McGrady, older brother of Darren, was shot. Judging by the pictures on the fridge it's been just them for awhile, but they were close and he was a good older brother/semi-parental figure, best as he could be. Oh boys. The cops took the kid, like you do with a minor who's going to get dumped into the system, and the super hasn't seen him since. He'd also like to know when he can clean the place up and get a new tenant in, and kudos to whoever they got for this bit part for making it clear that the money concerns the super's talking about, while real, are also his shield against violence coming so close to him.
Next morning! Reese has a rendezvous with Carter in her unmarked, which she will snark about with respect to handcuffs and him in the backseat. Reese, stop flirting. Reese, be better. (I lie. Never change.) She's pulled the file on Travis McGrady's murder, three black males seen fleeing the building right after, Darren got home also right after, so there's a non-zero possibility he was a witness and didn't realize it until later. First we'll engage in some facedesking over half a fucking hour for first responders to show, yeah, standard for a poor black neighborhood but fuck standards. The point here is that the standards are broken. They were a single-parent home until their mother died; renal failure is one of those things that's code for "had shit for health insurance," and now Darren's all alone. Up to and including having been abandoned by child services overnight. That is a lot of epic fail all the way around. Well DONE, system. Way to suck. Reese would like to go find the kid now and make sure nobody hurts him (and/or that he's not put in a position of kill or be killed, as would be all too likely on the street) but wait! Carter has a question. Reese has a look for that question, which seems to say both "you know better than to ask for that kind of info" and "if I knew any specifics I'd tell you but my employer is a closelipped bastard." Both of which are more or less true, as it turns out; Reese may know about the Machine but proving its existence? That's a neat trick. Especially for someone like Carter. She lets it pass; this is only the first round of poking at that particular piece of information. And she'll check in with the detective in charge of the case!
Which is where we go straight from the squad car. Down the hallway, having a pedeconference which isn't something Person of Interest makes infinite use of, so I note it here. The detective would like to know if she doesn't have something better to do with her time, like looking for the guy kneecapping everyone, and it's a credit to her that she barely even flinches. Getting more used to lying with a straight face, the chief of detectives wants the CompStat numbers all shiny and polished and so the task force is jumping all over open cases. Plausible, even, and not something the lower-ranked detective would check! We will now highlight that no matter what book Carter's playing by, it's the one that includes remembering the victim's name, unlike her coworker. Heh. So reading between the lines of the cop's report, Travis was working late at a fast food restaurant, some guys were hassling a waitress, he tossed one of them out, presumably the three guys followed him home and shot him. And Darren reported that they took his work hat - I assume Travis' work hat? Which would be a nice identifying marker if so. Carter gets more and more pissed off the longer she talks to this guy, who's epitomizing the lazy cop that doesn't see the system as worth trying to fight against. The three thugs killed Travis, nobody'll testify, the kid'll manage on the streets and the cop can't chase after every kid. You're all heart, dude. Carter thinks so too, and she's going to go prove that she's better at your job than you are. Ass.
Reese is better at that detective's job than he is too! We cut over to the library where he's watching Finch work on the hardware and updating him on the case. Short version: people saw, nobody's talking, Reese has "ways" of getting people to talk. Reeeeese. I never like it when you say shit like that. It's nearly always followed by something illegal, of dubious morality, and even more dubious sense. In this case, it's followed by him lurking in a doorway down from the fried chicken restaurant where Travis worked and waiting for a likely target to question. At least this time he picks someone to be reassuring at! Namely, the young woman in the pictures on the fridge with Travis, who we can assume was his girlfriend, or at least a close friend. As much as Reese does reassuring, given Lisa immediately assumes he's a cop. There's an interesting mix in her of wanting to be belligerent and knowing it could get her in deep shit, indicating that whatever social conditioning tells her to keep her head down and not attract attention from the authorities, it's not completely stamped out her spirit. I like that. So does Reese, as a general rule. She's also, yes, tossing off fear-signals left right and center, particularly when he brings up Darren. Well, turns out (much to nobody's surprise, conservation of characters is in effect) that Lisa's the one who was getting hassled by the three assholes who killed Travis, and Reese will lean on that to get her to help him find Darren. Hey, Reese? All that Batmanning you've been doing? The writers brought lampshades to the party finally, because the three murderers are supposedly hanging out at a comic book store. I have to go die laughing at Lisa's snark now. And no, she doesn't believe he's really capable of helping, but it's not an unreasonable piece of information to give away, plus there's a good chance that he'll have to sort out his targets from a larger group. Plus if there is a larger group and the kids he's looking for are part of it, he'll either do some good by cleaning up the neighborhood or he'll get his dumb nosy ass killed. It's maybe not the win-win she'd like, but it's a win-break even, worst case.
Alright, then, to the comic book store it is! Reese, please tell me your coat is billowing? Oh fine, lurking behind a tree is pretty good too. He's much better at it than Finch, for all that Finch is smaller. And why do a bunch of kids come to a store like this? Oh right, because there's an older father figure type handing out free comic books and keeping in touch with the young'uns. Well, this won't come back to bite anyone in the ass later on in the ep. At. All. The owner delivers a lecture about how being a hero's about protecting your fellow man and not about a cape or a cowl and I have to go faceplant into my desk. I mean, comics, it was never going to be subtle, but SIGH. And a slightly older teenager jostles him coming out of the store, which could be rudeness and could be a handoff. We get a focus on the baseball cap he's wearing, but there's too much motion blur to read it easily; still, it's pretty clear that This Is That Hat as Reese calls it in to first Carter and then Finch. Carter, because arresting the perp is her job, Finch because touching base about the number of the week is his. And Darren's not safe for long, it's cute that you think that when Brick is the one hurtling down the street like he's going somewhere and Darren's the one lurking behind a parked car with one of his hands out of sight, Reese. I know you may not be used to the concept of child soldiers in the US, but I assure you, that kind of damage exists here, too. Regardless, he's in time to stop Darren from committing murder one, pretty much scruffing the kid by the back of the neck. We will now pause so we can all imagine Reese as a papa panther and snicker at the ep title again. Brick, of course, is ready to call in reinforcements and get Darren killed in revenge, but hi Carter! Thank you for being right on time! And drawing your weapon the second you see Reese has a piece out, though that .22 or whatever it is looks like a toy in his hand. Have a murder suspect, do not get the kid, because Reese thinks he can do a better job protecting Darren than the system can. Based on previous experience, he's probably right. If nothing else he'll be better at stomping on the kid's murderous impulses and keeping him from being a fucking MORON than your average foster parent. No, honey, you are not going to kill the entire crew. Not before you get dead yourself. Reese knows it, Carter knows it, Brick knows it, the only reason Darren doesn't know it is because he's too submerged in grief to know or care. Poor kid. By the helpless/cranky look on Carter's face as Reese drives off with her witness and now-criminal, she knows he has a better chance of keeping Darren safe and everyone else safe from Darren, too. She just doesn't like it. She particularly isn't too fond of Reese STEALING HER CAR to go do it. REESE. Be better.
After the ad break, we come to a residential street where Reese has parked the car. No knowing exactly what passed between him and Darren while he was driving, but he seems calm enough now. The police scanner reports shots fired somewhere that doesn't matter to Reese, 'cause he turns it off and gets lip about cops choosing which calls to answer. It's all bark, though, the kind you put off when everybody you've encountered recently has been at best dismissive and patronizing and at worst unfriendly and out to kill you. Reese knows how to handle that! First a comment on the nice piece, how'd he get it, leading up to talk of pawning stolen goods and then prodding Darren right in the soft squishy bits over the trumpet. Oh Reese. Your soft spot for kids is a mile wide. And this kid is badly, badly hurt and not ready to give over his claim to revenge for his brother's murder, not that Reese can quite bring himself to believe it. He will, however, deliver cryptic spyssassin assurances that he'll take care of it, making no comment on the rightness or wrongness of Brick wearing the hat like a trophy, and haul Darren off to a youth home. Where Fusco's waiting! Reese stumbles over the word "friend" like he meant to say "fucking moron" or something equally derogatory and I will go, um, kitchen. Yes. Darren immediately makes him for a dirty cop, which is either telling of how much Fusco's been in Darren's neighborhood or how streetwise the kid is. I'm betting on the latter, because yeah, Fusco, you still put out those vibes. I'm amazed he doesn't pick up on the fact that Reese is driving an unmarked, oh my god, but he's apparently too busy griping over babysitting the punk kid. Yeah, I can't entirely blame him, even if Reese does intend to take care of Carter. The point is, this is supposed to be a safe home with no paperwork to worry about and Fusco to babysit. Meantime, he's got a car to return! Pardon me while I facepalm. But not before skimming through Darren's sketches, hey, yeah, that's not half-bad. Aside from the focus on finding and killing his brother's murderers, only one of whom Darren got a close look at but that one is enough to put him in serious danger.
On the upside, Brick is currently in interrogation with Carter! So that's something. Not much of something, though, since all we get is a lot of posturing on both side; Brick would like his phone call and knows how the system works, Carter's not playing by the rules of the system anymore and she's pissed. Though I do love them for, for once, admitting that it takes MONTHS for DNA results to come back from the lab. That never happens! Unless it's a plot point, like it is here, although I don't think we've had more than prelim results back terribly early before now. More to the point, this is not a high priority case and the test would be dropped as last in the queue. Alright, well, Carter will see Brick at his arraignment and stalks out, having spent most of the last forty-five seconds or so pacing around the room to make him feel small and trapped.
On over to Reese surveilling a local pickup game of basketball. Two guys watching the game seem to match the rough sketches in Darren's notebook, well, that's what telephoto lenses are for! Though I severely question the quality of photos taken in black and white through chicken wire, but sure, we'll handwave that like we usually do. Say, one of them's got a phone call or text or something! And Reese has evidently already cloned the phone; I do appreciate that by now we don't have to see every step along the way of his spyssassinating. Well, Curtis is trying to reach Brick and has a series of increasingly worried sent texts oh hi, yes, business as usual? Cute. Someone who's not Brick is over at a nice car with cash that he's handing out from an envelope, for maximum shady dealings cues. Reese will take his photos and his knowledge over to the library and stick them up on the usual murderboard, expositing for our benefit as well as Finch's that these guys aren't your usual kind of street thugs, they've got some kind of an operation. Not your average gang, either, to have that kind of cash and discipline within the ranks. There is not, sadly, a way to run the plates because Finch is still rebuilding the system and... not actually at the office. Oh. Well, that's interesting, as is the closeup on him in an office chair with no visual cues as to where he's at. Clearly this will be significant later! Soon? First Reese has to check that everything's okay and receive his usual brush-off.
Finch is not just in any office, he's in a pretty nice little corner suite of an office. Probably a lower executive's, come to that. And he's going by Mr. Wren. Fiiiiiinch. What are you doing and how well-established is this cover identity really? Argh. But we don't get answers about that, we just get an assistant telling him there's a man named Mr. Ingram to see him and hi, Will! Nice to see they haven't totally forgotten about you as a loose end. Hugs, greetings, commentary on the office, commentary on the insurance industry and how it makes money which is disingenuous at best but alright, we'll take it. Speaking of tying up loose ends, Finch, your nephew is a loose end. He'll remind us of that when he talks about sorting through Nathan's stuff, mostly he's found things he thinks his father would have wanted Harold to have, but here's an interesting thing! Finch has a little hopeful smirk over "mostly it was boring stuff," no, sorry, you don't get off that easy. That is just strange, most people don't save crumpled up napkins unless they're... really important. Hey, day one of the Machine was 2-24-05! And there's a champagne cork. I assume that means it's the first day Finch confirmed the Machine was going to work, maybe the first time he knew it was an AI proper and not just a program that could do really good face recognition? Regardless, now we have a date to go on and one of these days we'll get a timeline page up for this show, we swear. Finch reads it off for us and his voice is too calm to be anything but controlled. Overly so, controlling voice and face and if he were a little less odd in general I would be more concerned about Will's ability to read his uncle's tells. Still, he disclaims any knowledge about anything, including Alicia Corwin who's the other person Will would like to ask about this stuff! Because her name appears in the files in that seven year gap, multiple times, oh my GOD who taught you about paranoia, Nathan? Because your partner surely didn't teach you well enough. Also, with talk of the seven year gap when Ingram shut down operations and they were working on the Machine, this February of '05 date seems to fall right in the middle. Which, if we take that as literal, puts the downtime between 2002-2009 or so. Useful to know, though not very surprising given that it seems like they started work on it shortly after 9/11 and the catastrophe that ended with Ingram dead was sometime in the '09-'10 range. At any rate, Corwin is listed as having worked for the White House, aww, that's so cute how they tried to hide her affiliation with the NSA. And now Will will be even more useful and tell us where the fuck she is now! She quit her job after Nathan died, about a year ago, which puts that actually more recent, not too long before Finch picked up Reese as a partner, and moved to a remote town in WV which has no cell phones or wireless internet. He claims it's the "only place in the US" that doesn't, which, um. Have you BEEN through the rural Midwest? Or Plains states? (K: Or any mountainous area whatsoever, she grumped from the Appalachias, which is more than just WV.) I promise there are parts that have no signal. If what he means is, was specifically designed not to and they want to keep that out for their radio telescopes or whatever, then I'll buy that. Finch knows why, of course; it's a great way to hide from the Machine! Probably the only way. But he looks up and manages a comment about chasing shadows, except the contract with the government for $1 went into effect the day after the champagne cork was popped. DAMMIT ALL OF YOU. Get better at your data spoofing/destruction/everything. Come on, Finch, you know better than this, unless there's some part of you that wants Will to learn all about this shit. That said, he's smart enough to know exactly how bad an idea that is, so he'll force pair Will's phone and make a truly awful subject change to lunch. No, you're not doing a very good job of playing the absent-minded insurance agent, Finch.
Fusco's not doing a good job playing the unobtrusive field agent, either. That is the opposite of subtle, standing and snapping photos of the pair, Fusco! You're supposed to at least LOOK like you're trying to take touristy shots in addition. Something. Anything. But no, and now he has a phone call to attend to, which is undoubtedly someone informing him that Darren's taken off. Yes, this is what happens when you're not glued to the kid's side, Fusco. You knew he was giving off I'm gonna run signals all over the place, and you left for the surveillance job anyway. Well, now he has to go 'fess up to Reese, who's doing his own spot of surveillance on Curtis and our as-yet-unnamed third murderer. Reese is about as happy to hear that as you might expect, though he saves the recriminations since he knows he's stretching his resources thin as it is. And Fusco was at least checking every hour on Darren, that's something, while he was playing PI for Reese. So indeed, it's tough to be too upset, and Reese wants all the data. All of it. Now. I can't blame him, but if he's not going to give Fusco a parabolic mic to eavesdrop on Finch with, he's only going to get partial data. More to the point, they've got a missing kid with stated intentions of killing some people much older and more experienced than he is, and that's an immediate problem. Over to a bar where Darren's demanding information from a couple of other thugs and not getting anywhere. Though it looks like he's picked up another gun, or wants them to think he has, by the way he's keeping his right hand in his coat pocket. Honey, you are FOURTEEN. And you look like you're twelve. You're not calling anyone out, and it's a damn good thing Reese has Batmanned over to save your ass. With his customary brutal efficiency, laying the one guy out on the floor and dragging Darren off. At least the kid seems to have gained some respect for Reese's abilities off that little demonstration, and none too soon.
The Machine gives us some very distorted noise that I can't make out, and then over to a diner where Reese is working on buying loyalty with food and time. Or so we would think by the staging. Darren is, yes, not just duly impressed but talking it up like the teenager he is. Young teen, at that. Oh kid. Reese is still looking through that sketchbook and I have to admit, if that were mine I'd be way twitchier about someone looking at it. He'll make the twitching happen in other ways, though, specifically by trying to order Darren off of his revenge spree on the grounds that it's too dangerous and Darren is too smart and talented to waste his life on the streets. We won't go into what that makes Reese, then. At least not directly. Apparently Darren's going to hire Reese now and this is kind of adorable except for that edge to his voice when he asks if he's not a cop, then he's a mercenary by default? Which is a nice reminder that yes, this man did devote his life to certain ideals and principles, and no matter how murky those got, he started out as a wide-eyed idealist who wanted to serve his country and ended up betrayed by it. And instead of becoming the mercenary he sneers at, he crawled into a bottle once he took care of some last business (which we still don't have confirmation on in this ep, but I think by this point in our watching marathon we knew exactly where the Jessica sub-plot was going) and didn't look up until Finch offered him a better way to serve. Still, Darren's not too far off the mark when he calls Reese a ronin and proceeds to explicate the traditional wuxia conventions surrounding ronin for the benefit of the audience that is less genre-savvy (about ALL the genres, I swear we just turned into information sponges) and offers to hire him. At which point something about this strikes Reese the right way, maybe the mention of how close he was to suicide and maybe the realization that Darren would have been 100% right a few months ago and now? Now he does have a new master to serve, whether he counts it as Finch or the Machine, and so he can give Darren at least the faux-gravity of adult to child that would be paternally appropriate. Oh Reese. Not that he's trying very hard to talk Darren out of this, but then again Darren's been a pain in everyone's ass for the past few days. Maybe it is time to show him what kind of a life Reese leads, and thereby keep him under someone's watchful eye all the time. The bit with the money is just fucking adorable, oh Reese, you probably should have left him a little more of his pride but at least you left him some of it at all. You're not very good at this kids thing, are you. And he lays out his rules and gives his name, after the manner of someone coming up with an alias on the fly. Presumably in the hopes that Darren won't look for anything more.
With that, we come back after the ad break to an overhead street view from the Machine, and a large SUV that immediately pans up from street view to show us Reese. Who's on the job for Darren! Oh Reese. He will now proceed to calm his junior associate the fuck down by reciting catechisms from the book o' spyssassinating. Or maybe that's the Agency book. Or Sun-Tzu? (One of these days I should really read his Art of War, because it's got actual sense in it, as opposed to Machiavelli's, where we go "oh honey you never saw a real battle, did you." Ahem. ANYWAY.) Regardless, he has a point: knowledge is power, get knowledge before you get into a fight, etc. etc. observe and parse your data. Emphasis on parse, Reese, have we mentioned that one lately? Down on the street, Curtis and friend are swearing at a homeless man trying to clean the car and then hassling some poor middle-aged to older gentleman for their protection money. We know it's protection money, because it's very easy for us to see what he's being protected from. In addition to that, though, they want "the rest," specifically some tickets that he doesn't want to fork over for fear of losing his license and, thus, the ability to actually pay the protection money. Suddenly I find myself somewhat in sympathy with Elias, because you guys are really bad at this. If you've got a cash cow, don't milk it dry. Or kill it. Because then you stop having a cow. Darren will play the part of "what the fuck are they talking about," which is one of the benefits of having a kid guest star on the show. Especially because he's a damn good young actor and I manage not to find him irritating except where he's supposed to be irritating. Well, in addition to the presumably legal lottery tickets the shopowner sells, he also is part of the local numbers racket, or is supposed to be. And the cops don't care as long as they get their cut, so, pretty standard for a numbers racket. We hear something about Andre, not that either Reese or Darren knows who that is, and he lets the kid rant on about how the cops let them get away with anything. Which leads him straight into the explanation of see, kid, this is how observation is useful! To Darren's credit, despite his emotional distress and lack of understanding the rules of this game, he does pick up on it pretty quick. For which he will be rewarded with another demonstration of Reese badassing around! Not, this time, through people; first he'll slimjim the SUV and then he'll hotwire it and you are a bad, bad man, Reese. Have I mentioned that? Alright, then, onto step two, which I assume is "piss them off and get them off guard." At least they already knew someone was protecting Darren, so I can't yell at him for revealing his existence to the bad guys this time.
With the meeting spot arranged, the Machine takes us through some more streets. Between the length of the Machine transition shots and Darren's presence for Great Exposition this ep, I can only assume this was written as an intro ep for people coming in after the midseason finale. By now Reese has enough of Darren's respect that he's exactly where he was told to be, back to as much of a wall as he can manage while not looking like he's loitering too much, it's not bad for a new operative. Reese can and will still Batman up behind him, because our favorite spyssassin knows no other way to be. The car is "strategically stored," I'm not sure if I like the sound of that or not though it will inevitably lead to hilarity, I'm sure, and now he wants the GPS on their cells! Hi Finch. Finch attempts to deliver a lecture about troubling arrangements and gets one right back instead, and I can't blame Reese. After having their security severely compromised last case, Finch is gallivanting off and not telling Reese a damn thing about it? I'd be at minimum worried, verging on freaking the fuck out that I was about to be betrayed. Still, Reese knows betrayal better than most, and he's not going to use his nervousness on his issues with Finch until such time as he's got more data. One problem at a time. I will fall over laughing at the definition of Finch as "tech support" while we move along to the park where the GPS leads. And then have urges to pet Darren and also tell him to stop asking intrusive questions, though in this case I'm pretty sure he knows they're intrusive and is relying on being a kid to get him some leeway. Reese visibly thinks about lying about killing people before answering truthfully, both that and the next one, and oh kid. You brought more lampshades to this party! This time it's from the book of Reese's Issues where we talk about betrayal some more, specifically of the being lied to in order to get him to kill people who were undeserving. Before we can get any kind of payoff from Reese other than that increased blink rate (oh honey), Curtis and friend show up arguing over the car and getting a new one and so on and so forth! Step three, evidently, is to impose your will on your enemy and even I can tell that's Sun-Tzu now. So can Darren, who's read it! Yes, Reese, you did say he was smart, right? Best kid is best. At any rate, it's agreed that they need to meet at the boss' tonight and hey, there's a boss! That's useful data! Reese thinks so too, and they're going to get the hell out of there before either of our lower-ranked thugs spots either the very large man who stole their car or the kid peering around him who can ID them to the cops. Darren, stop that. Seriously.
Meanwhile back at the precinct, Brick is making faces at the interrogation room camera and indicating that their time to hold him without charge is nearly up. Carter's captain wants to know what's up with him, maybe because he has been making such a nuisance of himself, and she pleads for more time, more evidence, waiting on a photo packet, etc. That would work better if he and his buddies weren't paying off the cops, sorry, Carter. I think your boss is dirty, or at best lazy and prone to self-aggrandizement of the why waste time on low-profile cases variety. Brick goes free by 5 unless she can get him arraigned on charges by then. Well, fuck.
Our next shot from the Machine tells us it's well after that when we come around again, this time to surveilling Curtis and whoever in grandma's beater. Hey, we're back at the comics store! That can't be good. Mr. Wilcox, thank you Darren for the name, is busy training up a young batch of kids to talk of protection and keeping our people safe and it's all the kind of language that could be well-intentioned or, you know. Not. Depending on what he's grooming them to do, and I use that term advisedly. Darren, as you'd expect from a kid into comics and in need of a male role model, immediately assumes the gangers are here to fuck with one of his favorite people. Right up until they call him Andre, and Reese already knew, or guessed, and he does not like this one bit. Not in terms of what Andre Wilcox is doing, and damn sure not in terms of what this knowledge is going to do to Darren. I'm not sure that comment about knowing the good guys from the bad was entirely intended to be out loud. The boys are fussing about Brick and why's he still with the cops and, yeah, that's a good question! Why is he still not around? Andre knows something he's not telling, he must have taught Curtis and friend his lying skills because his deflection skills are for shit. He'd also like to know what the fuck is up with the car, and you know, if it weren't for theirs having been stolen that wouldn't be a bad line of defense, but as it is yeah, dude, you have tells. Wilcox is apparently not the sort of man to tolerate mistakes, nor is he the kind of man to be creative or careful about how he threatens his flunkies, because the switch from sweet-talking the young ones outside to yelling at his underlings inside is classic abuser switch. As long as he's getting what he wants (the kids' attention, jobs well done) he's perfectly charming and charismatic and everyone's best friend. The second things start going bad, he blames everyone else and threatens them with death. Sigh. Darren, poor kid, has gone completely cold because that's the only coping mechanism he's got and it's also the one Reese is best at modeling for him, and he lists off what they know and wants to know what next. Reese. Give Michael Fassbender his teeth back.
The fun part will be delayed briefly by Curtis and Tremp, it turns out the other guy is, having a conversation in the car about if Brick will roll on them to the cops, and Tremp delivering assurances that seem awfully pro forma about how Andre will take care of them if they take care of him. Yeah, it's okay Curtis, I wouldn't buy it either. Especially not five minutes after being threatened with death by your sometime boss. Whatever he might have said to undermine Tremp's blind faith in Andre is forestalled by waitaminute, isn't that your car? Well, yes. Coming at you at what looks like top speed but in reality is just hard enough to leave the pair somewhere between dazed and unconscious. Which is, again, a very particular sort of skill and not one that's easy to master, on Reese's part; it's also a nice bit of camera work from the director to give us an angle that makes it feel fast and terrifying. Then it's a long pan of legs and coat (hey, there's the flapping coat I wanted earlier!) and the all out of bubblegum motif until Reese crouches at the shattered no-longer-window and, aww, he found their car. He's HELPING.
Not only will he help with that, but next morning we have a pair of uniforms getting into their patrol car down at the precinct! Well, that's interesting. They don't normally show us that - oh. Clinking of bottles, is it? Reese. You DIDN'T. You did. They only show us one in the back of a car, not both, so while on any other show we might assume synecdoche is in play, no, he only gave the cops one. Sigh, Reese. Sigh. From there over to Carter who would like a Word with him over his shenanigans. Again, HELPING. By, uh, by telling her tacitly about what he'd just done, and clearly the one in custody's talked and told his crazy story about a car coming out of nowhere. Not so crazy if you've been around the precinct and heard all the stories about the man in the suit, admittedly. I suppose Darren not being in the car when you staged an accident is sort of like better, Reese. Very sort of. She also knows there was a second man in the car and that he's not in lockup, so, Reese, where is he? Why, about to tell everything he knows! At which point we finally cut over to Reese and his prisoner in an abandoned warehouse in classic about-to-torture staging. Except... well, not. (And good man, with Darren nowhere in sight.) As he starts the interrogation, it becomes clear that Reese knows who's scarier than he is, at least in this specific instance, and what will make Andre the scariest bastard of them all? Losing his money. That blowtorch is, I'm sure, quite uncomfortable and quite threatening at less than 6" from the poor guy's face, but it's not going to do any permanent damage, either. And then the interrogation starts in earnest, lighting stacks of bills on fire and aww, you're adorable thinking Andre will believe you. Reese thinks so too. Reese thinks he's going to light all that money on fire if that gun isn't in your granny's building chimney. I think you're a coward and an asshole, bringing all this potential trouble down on your grandmother, but that qualifies for film at 11.
Next stop is Finch dropping some eaves on Will and Alicia! (Insert your Good Wife jokes here.) She'd prefer it in the open, where there are fewer cameras and microphones, for one, and for two, she looks wrecked. Not at all the smooth NSA agent/director that we saw of her before. Almost frumpy. Definitely bundled up to keep the outline of her body hidden somewhat, loose hair might help evade facial recognition somewhat, and in general we can only assume she's doing this as a favor to Will Ingram and in memory of his father, a belief borne out by her first substantive words being an apology for not coming to Nathan's funeral. Whatever they started up as, she ended up respecting him, then. Maybe not being friends, but respect, definitely, at bare minimum the respect due a worthy enemy. Finch still can't surveille to save his life; Finch, I know you're skinny as fuck but trees are not actually good cover. Will hands over the napkin and cork and oh dear god THIS? This is how to spin a brilliant, brilliant lie and how to be a good field agent. Alicia's obviously been waiting for this sort of question for months if not years, planning and spinning layers of deception. She gives him a story of IFT failing, the government buying some patents and bailing the company out, and how that was all it was, how he'd come to her for help. I kind of want to hug her for being a competent badass despite whatever happened to her to make her so sure she's a target now, and whatever she did in the service of the government. Lord knows we want to hug Reese on a regular basis, too. I don't think she expected Nathan to have been such a fucking moron as to keep anything referring to the Machine by name, because she sounds a little more hesitant and unsure when she spins this lie, seizing onto Will's offer of "crushed by the machine" as an explanation and continuing on with a variety of things that was weighing his father down at the time. Divorce, company failing, etc. And then he proceeds to tromp all OVER her paranoia triggers by mentioning Harold (who, we will note, he knows as Harold Wren - which makes sense with the insurance adjuster alias, but the confirmation is nice) and how she sounds just like him! His dad's best friend! Who Alicia somehow NEVER KNEW. Goddamn, Harold. You do a good job of staying the fuck off everyone's radar when you want. How long have you been legally dead for, by the way? Interestingly, she conflates Nathan's last days (which seem to be ~2010) with the date on the napkin (2005, let's not forget), and I'm not sure how deliberate that is or if her memory's just gotten screwed up in the intervening months. Or if she's working on high-order obfuscation with Will, fling enough data at him and he'll get too turned around to know what's true. At any rate, the mention of Harold trips her up and if he's alive and knows about the Machine and has been trying to keep secrets from Will then there's at least one other person who might know anything about who she is and what she's done and what the Machine is, and that is one too many. She doesn't make Finch behind his sneaky sneaky tree (I'm going to start making Dunsinane jokes every time he does this, I swear), mostly because she's too fucking scared to do more than bolt out of there. Leaving Will on the park bench wondering what the fuck just happened. Yeah, way to ramp up his suspicions further.
Hey, later that night! Rooftop! Andre's reporting to a captain oh tell me that's not a literal capt - it IS. In fact, it's the same captain Reese dangled over a very similar if not identical rooftop when he wanted the hit on Carter called off! Oh goodie. So, Wilcox reports to this captain who's at least publicly heading up HR, which makes the payoffs to the cops both more personal and more difficult for Reese to handle than we originally expected. Yay! No, wait. Andre would like Captain... Lynch, says IMDB. Really? Lynch's help with this problem he's having, and they report to someone else again, who's surprised? Nobody? Alright then. Lynch and his superior(s) are hanging Andre and his crew out to dry, not that I blame them as sloppy as this has gotten. I will go laugh in the kitchen over Reese being called a force majeure, which he certainly is, in multiple senses of the term. Well, could the dear captain at least get Brick out of custody, since he's being held without charge and at this point Carter's seriously stretching her limits to keep him off the streets. I'm not sure how she managed it in the first place when she talked to Reese earlier in the day, other than shuffling some paperwork around. Sure, he'll see what he can do. If by that we take that to mean stalk into the precinct and throw his weight around at Carter's captain, after nodding at Fusco. Hey, that ups your dirty cop cred, Fusco! Hold onto that. You might need it some day, even though you really don't want it anymore. Carter is duly suspicious, and then proceeds to look like a kid with her hand in the cookie jar. Because despite her willingness to break the rules and go behind her superiors' backs, she doesn't much like doing it. Doesn't like living in a world where doing it is necessary, and doesn't like, probably, that she's so good at it. So her "I was just about to" comes off rather like a teenager, and she needed another reason to be up shit creek with her superiors and HR? But she's got one now.
Over on another rooftop, Reese is rummaging for that gun. This time he did bring Darren, which might not have been the brightest move but there is, I will admit, only so much you can say "you can't be here, you're too young/it's too dangerous" to before you find yourself with a pint-sized tail. I can see the rationale for it, I just don't have to like it, and I don't think Reese is too fond of it either. Still, he's making the best of a bad situation by trying to argue for cops in the face of Darren's apology. At least the good ones. Like Carter! Who he will take this here gun to and she'll put Travis' killers away and that'll be an end to it, right? Right, Darren? Dammit, Darren, you weren't supposed to get a taste for the vigilante business, and Reese is damn sure not going after Andre for you. Reese delivers a fairly bog-standard revenge is bad for you and once you get started there's no stopping point, everyone is just as guilty as the next person, corrupt cops and politicians and so on and so forth. It only works in this context because we do know that Reese has seen enough to know the truth of this speech. Viscerally. With viscera and stuff. (What.) No, that is not what Travis would have wanted, his brother in jail or dead, and Reese is only not in jail or dead because of some truly batshit training, doing his worst work under the aegis of the government, and a series of truly astonishing events. He is not a role model, kid, he's an object lesson. Not that it's taking. And now it's time to call Carter with the good news so she can deliver the bad news while I shout at him not to TURN HIS BACK on the kid. Bad Reese. Especially not when you're repeating just enough info on your end of the conversation to make it clear to Darren that Brick is out, his life's in danger, and Reese isn't going to let him take revenge so he's going to play sneaky ninja. GodDAMMIT, Reese, learn to read people better. Although frankly, this scene read to me like the writers were dumbing Reese down so we could have the final confrontation for Darren's benefit. I really hate when that happens. Anyway, Reese relays the bad news, and we cut to commercial.
We come back to Reese being a good spyssassin and filling in his handler on the situation. To predictable snark from Finch and less predictable commentary from Reese, who has a BAG LABELED PLAN B? That he keeps in the library? I love you, Reese. I love you too, Fusco, for wanting to be a good partner to Carter in addition to wanting to know what the fuck she's up to. It's standard cop banter, but it's good standard cop banter, with solid emotion behind it and all kinds of layers. Alright, then, we know all our players are in action, we know Reese might have some fast talking to do to handle Carter and Fusco being at the same crime scene and both knowing him, we hope this will be the reveal (but alas, it won't; we're going to keep hoping that a few more eps) of Carter and Fusco to each other. Let's visit the back room of the comics store again! After a quick pass through the front of it where a couple of what I think are Andre's flunkies are counting money. Hard to be sure, what with the baseball cap and the barely looking up, but counting money. Not who Darren's after, and kid, you are too short for the door kick to have any real effect. At least he knows it and doesn't do more than shoulder/kick it open with some swagger. He has, notably, lost a LOT of the swagger he began the episode with; now he's got an idea (not a full one, not a good one) of what it'll take to see this through. Extreme grief and anger have passed into cold determination, or at least a good front of it. Oh Darren. Brick's out! Andre knows Darren's face by now too, which means, yeah, he is in danger now if he lets Andre go free. Which in his mind equates to let him live. Sigh. Also, Brick totally recognized that gun even when it was pointed at him. (Maybe especially. I'm told your world narrows down to the barrel, though maybe not if you're trained like Reese is.) Yeah, they have things to talk about. Andre, you'd do better to look a little more concerned right off the bat, even if your endgame is manipulation and breaking Darren.
Lots of quick cuts now, to emphasize the urgency of action. Reese's bag of plan B! I want a bag of plan B like that. Even if it's a rocket launcher with beanbag rounds. I will be over here laughing, between that and the "that was a signal." Yes, Finch, go be tech support. Meanwhile inside, Andre starts talking down to Darren and this, really, is his biggest mistake. Talking to Darren like being part of his crew is something he wants. Something they both want. Andre lacks conviction here, weaving a pretty net of lies to catch Darren in, and we all know it's lies. He might want Brick dead - probably does, for this clusterfuck, it's simpler than trying to clean up the mess and a helluva lot easier than being a good commander who takes responsibility for his men's mistakes - but the rest? Lies. He doesn't want a partner. He doesn't want anyone smart running the streets with him. Darren knows it, too, nor does he, in the end, want to be like Brick. Which is what Andre's just told him he will be if he shoots Brick. Almost in so many words. It's a masterful bit of manipulation, but it also ends with Darren not killing anyone, so I'm really okay with it. Especially because for a second there I was a little nervous he'd turn around and shove the gun under Andre's chin. Brick, throughout, looks like he wants to protest more than he does but also like he kind of knew this was coming. Smart enough to know that there's no easy way out, not smart enough not to have come back to Andre's place to begin with. I feel a little sorry for him, yeah. I even can muster some sympathy for Andre, who was probably raised up by someone similar to him on the street, and we know he's under similar pressures from HR: do this or he's hung out to dry. Hell, he might be hung out to dry regardless. Nobody's faultless in this situation, and nobody's wholly guilty, and they make an extended point of emphasizing that this episode. Even down to the parallels in the B plot, showing us what Alicia Corwin's become in the intervening years. At any rate, when Andre starts monologuing with gun in one hand and child hostage in the other is when the lights go out. Thank you, Finch. Beanbags, people go down, but not Andre and not Darren.
No, they make it outside, to be met by Carter and Fusco and oh my god, Darren, I think I love you. That's a beautiful little detail, having him reaching up and trying to throw Andre's aim off. GOOD kid. Good, fast thinking. Doubly so for the elbow to his gut? nuts? it's too dark to tell for sure, but there's lots of soft squishy bits in there, and as dumb a move as that might be right now, getting some distance and some potential cover is a good idea. Be a better one if he'd made for the cars, but presumably he was trying not to fuck up Carter's line of sight. Oh kid. Oh Fusco, who promptly performs a flying tackle that gets him shot. In the ass. Well, Reese will avenge your ass, Fusco; those sure as fuck did not sound like beanbag rounds though apparently Andre's not dead. And that is one pissed the fuck off spyssassin. Yeah, Carter, your partner's okay, just not looking forward to the infinity of jokes he'll be getting while his ass heals up. She takes immediate maternal charge of Darren, as is only right and proper for a woman with a son not much older, and after a brief segue from the Machine we get the montage of everyone being hauled out of the comics store and locked up. And the requisite thank you for saving my life from Darren to Fusco, though I would have appreciated it more if he'd made the joke about saving his ass. It's not in his nature, quite, and he's still rattled from how close he came, so alright, we'll take it as read and move on. I also like that they've made Fusco the kind of prickly sensitive that comes with a lifetime of jabs and teasing that he doesn't actually enjoy but has learned to make it seem like he does. And I think he might, from very close friends or family, it's just he doesn't really have any of those right now.
Some passage of time shots later, let's go on over to the insurance building where Harold Wren works. Sigh, Finch. Sigh. Will's leaving for the Sudan! Finch, could you be a little less openly gleeful about getting him out of your hair? Though at least it's tempered by genuine concern for a nephew going off to the freaking Sudan to be a doctor. I'm not surprised Will's leaving. I am surprised they decided never to bring him back, though at least some of what he set in motion, with Alicia, plays out throughout the season and into the finale. Speaking of Alicia, and again, Finch, take some lessons in lying from Reese (Alicia what's-her-name would be more believable, or what's-her-name Corwin, or near-sound matches to either of those, come ON), Will didn't learn anything useful. At least not that he's admitting to Finch. For all his adrenaline junkie fix the world mentality, he's not the sort to chase down a rabbit hole and find out how deep it goes, for which we will all be grateful. That's one complication they didn't need. So Nathan Ingram is knocked off his son's pedestal somewhat, and Finch does his best to put him back up there with the comment about proudest achievement. I'm not sure that's true, but if it's a lie it's a better one than any of Finch's previous lies to Will, so we'll take it. Maybe the second proudest achievement, after the Machine? Hard to say.
In a parallel so direct my toes hurt, Reese is the one dropping Darren off at his new foster family's! Or the appointment to meet them and file paperwork, or whatever. He's done the research, of course he bloody has, after all that work he's put into saving the kid's ass. And yes, he plans to keep checking up and take care of things if they turn out to be not so good, though I question Reese's ability to tell natural family friction from a genuinely bad situation. Maybe he'll ask Carter first? We can only hope. Aw, he gets presents! Nobody believes you want a sidekick, Reese, except maybe in that comics 'verse where everything always comes out all right in the end. I assume that's the one he's thinking of when we get the almost-smile. Or maybe it's just that he's thinking of his present for Darren! Which is a trumpet, possibly the trumpet? Back, along with placement at a charter school for the arts which also has drawing classes oh Reese. That's not something the foster family could likely have afforded on their own no matter how much they wanted to, and that means Reese and Finch are probably paying for it. Aww. Fusco knocks on the window, hi Fusco! Which makes it time for some snark in his direction, now that Darren's feeling more like himself. He even tosses off an attempt at a real salute! I can't decide if that means he's pegged Reese for ex-mil or if that's just the closest equivalent to a samurai bow he can come up with. At any rate, the woman who takes him into the youth home does look grandmotherly and well-intentioned and also like she's not going to put up with too much crap from him. Fusco has commentary on cutting it close with Carter, heh, yeah, good thing you were down on the ground and couldn't see her and Reese standing there like buddies. Good thing Reese is as good at Batmanning out of there as he is. Hey, we get a report from Fusco now! I can't decide if Reese has taken precautions again Finch listening or just doesn't care. I think I'm going for just doesn't care and has decided it's all part of the game. At any rate, Harold Wren is the oldest alias Fusco could find; insurance underwriter for a company for a long time and before that top of his class at MIT, which is supposedly where he and Nathan Ingram met, graduating in the same class, yadda yadda. But wait, there's more! Harold Wren doesn't exist in any records prior to 1976, and our beloved billionaire is clearly older than that. So, what gives? Well, for starters, an impressively photoshopped (unless that's a real college photo of Emerson, in which case AHAHAHAHA) young Finch and for finishers, someone who's been using aliases longer than either of your itinerant bloggers have been alive. Jesus hitman, Finch, you are really paranoid. But hey, with reason! As Fusco ribs him about bad choices, because snooping on Finch is an epically bad choice, we pan out to Machine view. And while I'm sure a lot of the emphasis on the Machine this ep was indeed to bring in new viewers, it's also a reminder that hello, this is an AI talking. And that AI has put little red boxes around Reese and Fusco and would like the sysadmin to know there's been a security breach. That'd be Finch, of course. There are multiple options available to the Machine; the three it shows are mitigate, subvert, and monitor, and it settles on the last. For now. With an ominous crescendo of its motif. Yes, even the fucking Machine has a motif in this show. Or is that especially?