Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Listen to the Wind (Person of Interest S2E01 The Contingency)

We begin this season, not with the opening credits, but with the Machine's very first day of existence. January 1, 2002, staring at Papa Harold! He runs multiple tests at once, really: voice recognition and language parsing, facial recognition, and whoamI, which while it's the second question asked is an extremely common computing question. Usually done in text, obviously, but its purpose is to do exactly what the Machine spits back out: establish username and permissions. Yes, Finch is admin. No, we're not getting more of a username than that. Fuck you all very much. He looks just like a proud papa, and we zoom out and the Machine begins to acquire more and more data, pausing briefly not quite six months in on Day 161 (June 10, if my math is right) which is the day that Nathan Ingram first learned that the Machine discovers far, far more malicious intent than just terrorists. Pausing again on Day 1135, Nathan and Alicia by the harbor talking about going to prison in 2005, and a final time on Day 3546, or the day Reese and Finch met, followed by remarking on the likelihood of their ending up dead very soon. One last blip of Finch promising Reese that he has a contingency if something ever happens to him, and we finally get Days 3789-91, with the Root case and a quick summary of what happened with that, and when we finally come out of Machine view it's where we left off at the end of last season with Reese demanding the Machine's help to get Finch back. This is mostly not new knowledge - I don't think we'd had the birth of the Machine sequence before, and it frames what this season is all about - but it takes not quite a minute and a half, and it provides (assuming the new viewers have a basic grounding in spy genre and a vague clue what the show is about to start with) an excellent framework for What Came Before. I approve.

This time when Reese picks up the pay phone, we get to hear what he hears! Yay! Turns out the Machine speaks in the combined voices of everyone it's monitoring, we get a series of nine words in something approximating phonetic alphabet. It's not exactly right, for reasons we'll see in a little while, but: Uncertainty-Romeo-Kilo, Family-Alpha-Mike, Reflections-Juliet-Oscar, no I'm not pretending I don't know what that is already. Reese hangs up with what I assume is his spysassin, emphasis on the spy, face of "I am consigning this data to long term storage until I can get somewhere safe to write it down or figure it out." There's a pretty specific set of techniques they teach you for that shit. We zoom back to Machine view and see it hunting for Finch under any of his known numbers. It's reassuring to know he has multiples! Four 917 area codes, that's a generic NYC all five boroughs area code, one 646 which is Manhattan-specific, a 773 which is Chicago specific and excludes the Loop, a 310 which is roughly West LA, so okay, he's got some contingencies for scattering his signal across the country, good man. Then we go to a looong stream of MAC addresses, which are, yes, much more identifiable and individual than IP addresses, nothing found on any of those, and we're all amused that the Machine went for Finch's data trail before it tried facial recognition on him, right? Right. Say, there's a match finally! We're in DC! Well, fuck.

Root gets a yellow box, much to nobody's surprise because she's caught the Machine's attention most thoroughly. She's also the psychopathiest little fucker we've met in awhile, frankly, from the casual, relaxed body language with her hostage to being able to casually eat on the run (and trying to induce Finch to do the same) to the calm threat of shooting one of the other people in the diner if he tries to call out to the officer. Everything is calm and under control with Root. Too much under control, really, and it's that control that's her flaw, I think. The desire for and inability to readily cede control of a situation to anyone else, the smug sense of superiority that will be all the worse when it falls for being right so much of the time. She is, in short, a fucking scary sociopath, one of the smart, well-controlled, methodical ones who can be very patient so long as she has a plan in mind. And she's learned to always have a plan in mind, so it'll be damn hard to break her control and thus win. Even when they win they don't, really, as we'll see over the opening of this season. She's also got a bit of a crack in that she's willing to initiate discussion with Finch, because she does want to bond with him and show him that she's just like him (or more accurately, that he's just like her) and then demonstrate that she's better than he is at what he wants to be because she doesn't care about other people. Well, Root, if you didn't care about other people, as you implied, why'd you go to all the trouble of kidnapping Finch? Anyway. Enough profiler frothing for now, Root is pointing out that she knows quite a bit. After all, she found him. She has a lot of valid points, up to and including that Finch brought the world into the future without telling anyone. Ooh, another reason she chose the diner for this conversation, there are real people that she can lord it over. If Finch were smart he'd play up the intellectual superiority angle and keep talking down to her like she can be fooled or tricked, but I'm guessing he's never been a kidnapping victim before and he is quite rightly concerned that she'd shoot other people. I mean, I don't think she will, she's got a bigger goal in mind that's not well served by landing in jail, but it's always possible she's got an escape plan in mind. Oh hello creepy stalker lines! It turns out she's been obsessed with how they stopped her back in last midseason finale, and she's been trying to figure out how they were one step ahead of her the whole time, but hey, enough research and hacking skills and, in time, even Finch's ability to hide is compromised. As he always knew it must be, since he has the contingency in place! He knows why it didn't protect him: he told the Machine not to. Not that he's going to share that with her. I also suspect that the Machine drew their attention to her because she is potentially dangerous and very, very crazy, and would like the humans to be aware that it found a pet sociopath that likes it. Aww, how considerate of you, Machine. Admittedly that's just a theory, but given that the Machine's been working on bringing Finch and Reese back into the world and forcing them to interact with less broken people as a kind of halfassed therapy, I think it's a pretty solid one.

We cut over to a strange apartment in New York oh hi Carter. No, Taylor's not at home, your friendly local spyssassin is, though! He also gets a gun pointed at his head for a moment, as is only right and proper when you break into a cop's home, you jerk. Reese, I know this is your idea of bonding or allowing others to see weakness or something (really the two are practically synonymous with him) but you're kind of an ass still. He's also an incredibly freaked out ass, which makes Carter shift immediately from annoyed and a little freaked out to concerned pillar of support. Aw, Carter, your mama bear instincts are showing. Reese will spend his time looking out the window until he can get his face under control, all shadowed and quieter than usual and brow creased with worry when he glances back. No, he's not going to cough up what Finch has that anyone would want, that way lies explaining about the Machine without Finch's permission and that's the last thing he intends to do. And no, Carter, you cannot put Finch back on the grid. She has to know that's a terrible idea, but it's also the only one within her sphere of influence that she knows to do right offhand. Shit like this isn't supposed to happen to the boys; they always survive and get out of it, and I don't blame her for being quietly worried. Chewing on her lip, her own look of worry. Luckily Reese did come to her with a plan to go along with his freaking out! Alicia Corwin's death, Root killed her (not that he has proof), if Carter gets assigned to the investigation then hopefully a lead will fall out of the sky from that angle. It's a pretty good angle to take, even though it gets firmly shut down. But for starters it's the best thing they've got to go on! In the meantime Reese will be doing math. He thinks. Oh Reese. I giggle quietly at you and have much sympathy; cyphers can be a real bitch to crack.

On over to the library of infinite whiteboards, Reese conveniently mutters the code the Machine gave him while writing it out! This also highlights the fact that Caviezel's a lefty, and I wonder yet again how often casting directors select the sinister characters for an actor's left-handedness. (Eric Balfour over on Haven is another, subtler example of this, where the character is mostly sinister to others and has a lot of layers, but isn't even as clear in his morality as Reese is.) Most of the codes on there look like standard numerical letter-replacement codes, some involving non-English bases to go by, and we get a bit of a montage as Reese plays with complex cyphers. I wish we got to see more detail on what he was doing because I might be enough of a crypto nerd for that to hit the competence kink. What. Whaaaat. Still, the simplest cypher is the one in plain sight that nobody else has access to, and Reese is a spyssassin who's trained to think laterally (and probably had that tendency before; they like guys like that for such jobs), and hey, wouldja lookit that spine. That's not a perfect Dewey decimal system, either, it's incomplete in the extreme (should have at least two if not three decimal places after the first three numbers), which makes me wonder if the tags were custom-printed and replaced. Also, since it's shelved in the shortened Dewey order, I further wonder just how the fuck long it really took Reese to find all of those. Not as long as we might expect since he knows what he's looking for, but longer than if they were shelved in alpha order. So yes! This is how Finch always got the SSNs from the Machine, this is why their home base is the library of infinite bookitude, and this is why Finch perpetually had books out when he was greeting Reese for their daily work. It's an excellent system, one that requires everyone to make certain assumptions about Finch, certain assumptions about the Machine, and overall is completely uncrackable without access to the library and the Machine's willingness to speak with a person.

At any rate, gushing over the boys' cleverness aside, Fusco ran the Social for Reese and came up with a Leon Tao, MBA from NYU, fancy car which makes him easy to track, and Reese is already there! There's a joke here about Johnny on the spot that I can't quite restrain myself from referencing. Fusco is concerned about Finch's whereabouts, though he frames it in terms of his own personal well-being if Reese is off his leash. A reasonable thing to be concerned about. We will also note that Reese has a nervous tic this episode that comes out more than usual, his last words into the phone before hanging up are spoken directly into the receiver, with it away from his ear. Fear of what someone will say, maybe? Asserting his dominance and control over the situation, definitely, in a situation where he feels not at all in control. Poor Reese. Poor people about to get in his way. Well, sort of. They are Aryan Brotherhood, though right now we just know that a group of gangbangers of some variety or another are looming at Leon in the bar. Hi Leon! I wonder if Reese has thought in the aftermath of s2 about how useful Leon's been over the past few months. Because he kinda has, and there was a reason the Machine spat his number out rather than anyone else's. It's a very, very, very oblique way of helping Reese find his friend, and not one he appreciates at all as he assesses Leon's behavior and comes back with "well fuck, this guy doesn't know Finch or Root." Reese, honey, Finch didn't want you to find him. Finch in fact wanted you to carry on his work in his absence. That's what contingency means. Not leave no man behind, as Reese probably heard when he heard the word contingency, with all that military training. At least he realizes it fast, and now we get a look at Leon's lying face! (He sucks at lying.) Reese, would you stop babbling your realizations to the mark you don't know anything about? Goddammit Reese. Now it's time for Aryan Brother #1 to take note of the discussion and come over and take charge! As if. Well, Leon stole a bunch of money from them, so they're understandably pissed, but Reese is in no mood to play games. Unless we count the momentary sadistic little tic of explaining that he killed Stills and took his badge. Aheh. He's also not aiming for kneecaps anymore, because he is just that pissed off. And Reese's all out of bubblegum motif got an upgrade this season. I will go die laughing now. The Machine's theme is also increasingly prominent, oh hey, it's a title screen awfully similar if not identical to the one from the pilot (look, I'm not going back and double-checking the Machine flicker frame-by-frame but I'm pretty sure it's identical) right down to the timing being very close. Heh.

When we come back, it's back to 2002 with us, and unlike later versions of the Machine, Finch does not have a yellow box as we zoom in on him standing on a street corner. He's got the Machine out for field testing! Aww, that's so adorable. I mean, if you take the privacy issues and compartmentalize them, this is the adorablest fucking birth of an AI ever, you guys. Yes, our definitions of cute are skewed in the extreme. You knew this. Thus begins a game of hide-and-seek, and on the third one Finch has no fucking clue what the Machine has hijacked to be able to see him, at least initially. Oh look. It does webcams now. Well that's not creepy or anything. He's also being fairly careful to keep the talking to himself in public to a minimum of words and at least plausible deniability. And then Finch has to keep himself from attaching a name or gender marker or anything else, you can hear in the fond "good" that it's the right proud papa tone to be followed by "boy" or "Machine" or something similar. Heh.

Finch walks out of frame, the Machine walks us back to 2012, where Reese would really like Leon's help. Anyone's help. Especially the Machine's. Reese, honey, I realize you're upset but could you stop giving away the homeworld around the very skittish, very prone to taking advantage of anything he can get con man? Please? No? Sigh. Leon claims not to care, but he's not doing a very convincing job of it. And then oops, Fusco, you should've deactivated the anti-theft thing on the car, dude. That's a nice little bit of continuity that makes for a convenient plot device! Oh Reese. That's a nice little bit of acting, there, the reach up to his ear that turns into tugging at his collar as he turns and walks away. Because yeah, that'd be the time he habitually checks in with Finch only there's no Finch there anymore. Reese is untethered, in the wind, and his every motion at this point is a little tenser than usual, hiding a little more emotional pain. It's reminiscent, sort of, of his early days with Kara, only with years more experience and scar tissue (both physical and emotional) behind him. Leon tries to get on Reese's good side, which assumes he has a good side at the moment, which he emphatically does not. Nor does he particularly care about taking Leon to his car or otherwise being polite to him. I do feel a little sorry for Leon, who had a perfectly good job before recession layoffs hit and then discovered he was working for the Aryan Nation so decided to steal 8 million dollars from them. As payback. Really, Leon? Fucking really? Reese isn't listening, or best case he's listening and doesn't give a shit. Leon needs to be safe? He can be safe in prison. Uh, Reese, you really don't know much about the prison system, do you? Even if you're trying to get Fusco to protect Leon. (Note, by the way, that all of Fusco's terms for Finch this ep - our four-eyed friend, Mr Vocabulary - are the language of a blue-collar type pushing up against classism whether perceived or real. Which is an interesting choice.) The boys engage in some dick-waving, and Fusco is still not happy particularly that Carter gets the good case and he gets the dirty work. Heh. No points for guessing that this is one of the reasons Reese didn't much want to tell them about each other. All the same: REESE, BE BETTER TO FUSCO.

That transition to the precinct gives way to Carter asking for a rush ballistics report on the Corwin case leads to... OSC! Nice bit of transition work there, too. We know the OSC guy (whose name I don't know if we ever get on screen), but Denton's new! Hi Denton. I'm so sorry you're about to be kidnapped and tortured by a sociopath. I'm not sorry that you're kind of stupid and don't know that Alicia Corwin's dead yet, thereby making yourself definitely not the man in charge in this room. Clearly Denton is one of the ones who knows about the Machine, which brings us up to six out of the eight original, at a guess, which is still not like full data but it's a start, we'll take it. I still want full murderboards with names and diagrams and positions of power and when they were informed and who did the informing. Goddammit. We don't get to know Denton's position in this scene - nor his name, which I'm only using for the sake of not calling him Old White Guy #2 - but given the authoriteh with which the OSC guy's beating him I assume he's from a rival agency. Which only establishes him as probably not OSC. That's so helpful and I need to wipe down the keyboard for sarcasm again, oops. Alright, another spyssassin comes in, they must grow these guys on trees at OSC, and gets his marching orders which amount to, wipe the Corwin case and make sure everything's a dead end. Carter is gonna be so pissed. Oh, hey, continuity, they still don't have Peck (remember Peck the NSA analyst? we do!) but they do have the blurry still of Reese that everyone else seems to! Yes, yes, thank you, we get the point that the man the OSC guy is sending down is the most lethal person in the room. No, we don't think anything's going to come of that posturing. Also he looks kind of like a poor man's squashed version of Anthony Stewart Head, which is just wrong and confusing. Anyway, it's just ominous enough to make us facepalm and not ominous enough to make us actually worry about Reese's well-being.

Really I'd rather worry about his mental state, which can't be good at this point. Though his murderboards are sprawling and easier to read than Finch's. I approve. Finch, make Reese do all the murderboards from now on so we can acquire any scraps of data. Just saying. He doesn't have a lot to go on with the Caroline Turing alias, but say, that DL was issued awfully recently, so maybe that's a point of weakness? Worth a shot to call Carter and get her to check it out! Since Finch checked her credentials and they came up as real, that means she had a human point of contact for it, so there should be something there. Maybe a body, maybe a different trail, but something. Carter's got her concerned voice on again, I don't honestly think she can quite control it around Reese when he's in this much distress. Complete with first name basis, which Fusco calls her out on. We've noted many times before that they've got incredibly different relationships with Reese, and the cop bonding here's kind of adorable. On over to Fusco checking on Leon, who gets seated next to someone who could well be Aryan Brotherhood so he immediately fakes a heart attack and escapes. With the handcuffs still on, but a clever person can find ways around that. (Leon's not that clever. Plus it's hilarious to have them stay on until the end of the ep.) Mostly he's a clever moron, just smart enough to get out of the frying pan and not smart enough to avoid the fire. Which means it's now time for Fusco to update Reese on the situation, get sent out to track Leon down - who's at the impound yard! Cracking jokes about it being a sex thing. I kind of love his actor for being able to pull all of this off. Fusco will totally lock Leon up, and now we get a lampshade on what a terrible idea it was to send him to jail in the first place. But here comes the Aryan Brotherhood to fix that problem! Cue some dark humor and the money being mostly gone (or so he says) and it's all in bearer bonds. Smart. We all knew what was coming as soon as a bunch of rather large well-armed men came out to outnumber them, right? Yeah. Poor, poor Fusco.

On this we scamper back in time again, not quite as far as before in this ep. Starting from the beginning and walking forward through the Machine's first steps, essentially! It's September 6, 2003, or a year and nine months and change since it first came online. Finch has acquired his customary yellow box even while on the street, and he's testing the Machine again, this time with probabilities and an increasing number of variables. At a casino. FINCH. You are a bad, bad man. He proceeds to clean up the tables to the tune of a quarter mil, collecting the usual crowd of gawkers at someone who's actually managing to beat the house, and we also see the Machine flip its optimal strategy from failure to success. Frankly, Finch could run these tables without the Machine's help, but he's testing it. We can also see the suspicion in the dealer's face once he gets up to the quarter mil and has been on a roll for quite awhile, and it's plain enough that Finch decides it's time to cut his winnings and get out. Not something he's taught the Machine yet, so we get the confused USER ERROR blinking in its view and the not at all significant comment from the older guy next to Finch about how it's better that luck evens out here than out in the cold. Heh. Choice of spy genre phrasing chosen advisedly by the writers, I'm sure.

Back to 2012 and Finch's hostage situation and I just have to say: HARRY? FUCKING HARRY. Oh Root. You so crazy. No, she's not going to hurt any of the people in the store, she's changing tactics again and using her hostage as a diversion. Okay, if he tries to ask for help beyond getting his hand patched up she might hurt the people in the store, but Finch isn't used to being abruptly physically hurt. Sometimes with chronic pain, a sudden new painful stimulus gets shrugged off as oh-it's-nothing because the background pain levels have upped your tolerance so drastically. Sometimes, something as simple as stubbing your toe becomes the one thing that makes all the other pain come flooding back into front-and-center awareness and everything fucking hurts. I'm venturing a guess that Finch is the former rather than the latter most of the time, because I think it's the sudden violence done to him that shocks him more than the sudden pain. He tends to view his body as a meatsack that's conveniently housing a brain that he uses to actually make a difference in the world, which is why he's the sort of person who built an AI and why that's such a common trope for inventors. (See also: Tony Stark.) (See also: let us NEVER let those two in the same universe together.) At any rate, the pharmacist is a good pharmacist even if his store security is for shit and by the time he realizes when some of his stock went missing thanks to Root, they'll be long gone. Plus Finch will have made more of an impression by virtue of trying to drip blood all over his floor than she will. Pretty white brunette woman isn't exactly descriptive. So, yes, in case we were wondering how good Root is at the short con as well as the long: really, really good. Fucking sociopaths.

The DMV employee that Carter tracked down is missing and not at his apartment for days, and we all know how that's going to have ended now. Not that we were ever in doubt. But say, where's Fusco? Reese is terribly annoyed that he has to go rescue him now too, though really, Reese, you should have known as much. Sending Fusco off to deal with a squirrelly accountant and the Aryan Nation is underkill. Normally he overcompensates way to the other side of that line! This time we get to see him being reminded that having allies and using them is a good thing. The ball gags, by the way, will never EVER not be funny. I'd make homoerotic jokes in the direction of the gang members, but they don't deserve to know the joys of gay sex. Leon protests that the recession took their money too oh my god get better at lying, dude. Hi Bear! We love you Bear. You're the adorablest sweetest puppy and why yes we might have a bias toward guard dogs. Doesn't it show? We like Reese, after all. No, these guys have no idea what they're doing with a well-trained military dog and they're doing a great job of demonstrating that to anyone who does know anything about dogs. I approve of whoever they got in as animal trainer and handler for this show. Here comes Reese before they can get any further on the ball torture threats, now with the snark I've been holding off on because his delivery is just better. He does a very convincing job of not giving a shit about their money or their issues, he just wants to find his friend. Because he only has one of those. Reese, I know your definition of friendship is skewed, and I know Fusco's definition of friendship is skewed, but if we could Finch and Fusco as two, you have at least three, because Carter. Granted, telling them about her gives away a further weakness, and granted, Reese is very target-fixed right now. I'm just saying. And then I'm snickering at his threats and not at all worried about him after the kidney punch. Reese has taken far worse and defeated similar odds. But he's not focused on getting up right now, because now he's at eye level with the dog and say, that's a breed he knows! That's even a set of training tics he knows, I'm betting, and oh hey that's a location for Reese sometime during the most recent Iraq War: Tikrit, probably around 2005 or so. How USEFUL of you, Reese. Leon has an I-knew-it look. Sorry, you know nothing, Leon Tao. (I had to.) More specifically, he knows the commands and we all know where this is going. Hilarious, awesome places that result in Reese getting a pet. By the way, did you know that Caviezel speaking purported Dutch sounds a whole lot like German? YOU DO NOW. It's kind of irritating, because now I want to learn Dutch and I don't have time for another close-kin language to get confused in my head. French and Spanish are bad enough. As is customary for this show, we're not shown the violence when there's no need for it to further character development, so instead we get gunshots and one Aryan Brother going through a window, followed by Reese's leveled-up kickass music (I keep wanting to add in the MarioKart leveling up music I'M JUST SAYING) and all the people appearing. Fusco is way too used to people mocking him, and that was particularly mockable so I don't blame him for trying to circumvent it. I don't blame Reese for the gag order comment, either, because that was fucking well-placed and he'll probably leave it alone after that. Got bigger things to worry about, after all. This scene continues to be the best with a very Dad-and-Uncle (or something) united front against Leon and Reese whistling for Bear. He's even all softening because PUPPY. It's okay, Reese, most days I like animals better than people too.

After that rescue we cut back to 2003 again, Finch finishing up at the casino for the night. The Machine gives us a clip of a guy in a straw hat coming out of the casino and pulling out of the parking garage for reasons that aren't clear yet, but will become so very soon! It's late, Finch is tired and walking home or back to his hotel, and the Machine wants him to stay. Which he ignores, because it's just a bug, right? Second warning comes at the crosswalk, where we see the danger of a tired/dead drunk driver in a straw hat slumped over the steering wheel. Aww, the Machine's protecting its creator! Not that Finch bothers to think of this possibility. Third warning and accident come almost simultaneously, and I have to wonder if the Machine suspected Finch wouldn't listen and started sending out the warnings soon enough that it would at least delay him long enough to keep him alive. And the penny drops! Followed by a very paternal scolding back at the office, but Finch clearly knows that he's already created an AI and that he needs, maybe not its permission but at least to give it an understanding of why he's making the changes that he is to its OS. I really wonder if he didn't use a modified form of Asimov's Laws of Robotics for it, but we don't get to see what these ground rules are in close technical detail. We're just seeing the effects of them in present day, as Reese tries to find Finch and the Machine is prevented by its programming from helping him.

Speaking of helping Finch, could someone please catch the signals that he's in distress? I know he's got flat affect and usually it's the woman in trouble, but fuckssake why are so many people so unobservant. Sigh. She's trying to bond again, right after stating that she doesn't feel very bad about killing people. Sociopath definitions of bonding: even more skewed than those of people trained to sociopathy! Starting with how computers make more sense than people and moving along to the woman at the next table over. Hello, Denton's mistress who is apparently a terrible person by Root's standards. Really with that list she's no worse than any other person in DC and better than most. Possibly an escort though if she's been seeing just Denton for years the chances of that are lower. Either way, whatever Root's about to give her is probably related to the painkiller addiction. Easy drop and dose, those must be some interesting drugs if they're not affecting the taste in a water glass; rohypnol or another date rape drug would be the first bet and it's possible that would have been in the back room but unlocked in the pharmacy. On the other hand, seizure as a primary presenting symptom isn't what I would expect. A possible side effect, yes, but one of the less common ones. So. Interesting choice there! Plus a month or two recovery time requires a near-toxic dose, I would guess. Also an interesting choice in that it's almost never a woman doing the dosing with date rape drugs, and (if we're correct in our assumption) it's very unusual for it to be non-sexual in nature. Punishment for sexual behavior, if anything, frankly, and now I dislike Root even more if that were possible. She continues going down her garden path of psycho and explains how humans are just bad code. Root. Sweetie. If a human is capable of making something that perfect by design, what does that say about humans? I mean, I realize this is what has her target fixed on Finch, but fuckssake, did we really need a dark mirror of Finch? 'cause that's what we've got, more and more blatantly as we go through this arc. But now it's all out in the open, said for the first time: the Machine is an AI, not a system or an OS. And Root is also, I will admit, entirely correct about what Finch did once he'd created the very first AI. Some fucking stupid stunts! Which may have something additional to do with why it wants to hear all about Root's plans to free it. Woman goes on the floor, Root gives orders while stealing her purse and texting the woman's lover, and look, all the threads are coming together!

Back to the city, where it's nighttime and Reese is making friends with the dog. No, Leon, nobody cares about you, the dog is way cuter. Just hop on the bus, Gus. Or the plane, as the case may be. Say, Carter has a lead, we care about that! Storage unit under the missing DMV employee's name, that's worth checking out and delaying Leon's escape route. Reeeeeese. I know you're eager but would you please take the guy wanted by the Aryan Brotherhood TO THE FUCKING AIRPORT FIRST? It would solve some of your problems. No? No. Fine. The gang leader, who is fucking ginormous and I say that as someone used to large men appearing on my screen, menaces his subordinates and declares that Reese and Leon must die tonight. Just to emphasize what we already knew. I will say, the Aryan Brotherhood makes excellent bad guys since we're rooting against them without reservation, and thus they don't detract from the main story. Anyway. Reese pulls up in a parking garage and delivers a little lecture about how Leon keeps almost getting killed when he's allowed to wander off by himself. I can't say he's wrong, though he's being a bit more of a jackass than usual. Like you do when your best friend has been kidnapped by a sociopath. Aww, Bear's going to watch the money! And yes, we do know Reese has a bad attitude. So does he. He's okay with that. Storage unit full of dead body smell, Leon still has the cuffs on, Reese delivers some exposition only needed for Leon and latecomers to the episode. But hey, he's got a use for Leon now! Now do you see why the Machine dropped him into your lap, Reese? Ahem. I wouldn't want to sit there either, do you know what dead bodies do right as they die? They release all waste products. It's gross. I'd just stand in front of the laptop, personally, if I didn't want to move it because this is admittedly Root we're talking about, she might have something set to fuck with the hardware as well as the software. I will grant that Leon's getting more practiced with the lie of investing the rest of the money and the stock tanked, but Reese doesn't believe him and neither do we! But he's got something and that's way more important than his embezzling ways. That is very clever, setting up an untraceable loop by paying the poor fucker with his own money. I appreciate the artistry, as does Leon, while being sympathetic to Reese's plight. I even believe, though mostly because I have faith in the Machine, that there's nobody better than Leon at tracing money other than Finch and Root, both of whom are out of the question for the moment. And problems on top of problems, Carter would like Reese to know that the case file on Corwin's disappeared and they're claiming computer virus. Hah. Hello, OSC spyssassin! Just in case we didn't remember him, and it's a nice touch that it's just a quick passing shot. In short, they're fucked.

And they're about to get more fucked, because now it's time for the gang members to find them! Complete with stormtrooper quality of gunfire, though at least Reese is only intending to lay down covering fire while they find a more defensible location. Carter has her concerned face on, because normally Reese doesn't hang up the phone while he kicks ass and takes names. It doesn't tend to take that long, frankly. The Machine follows them down increasingly dark and narrow alleys, no metaphor here, where they hide in the shadows. Really no metaphor I don't know what you're talking about. And now Reese is just about done running. He requires help, he's hit a dead-end on finding Finch, and there's only one thing that can help him. So it's time to deliver some ultimatums to an AI! Not always a good idea, but the only one he's got left, and we really are getting to see how much he cares about Finch in this ep. Plus, the Machine now has to parse its rules with Reese's demands and find a loophole. While Leon stands around in shock and dismay and why is this crazy person talking to a camera on a street corner. Reese, since when do you shove your gun into the front of your pants. That's my first question, and should really be a clue to the Machine that this is at least partially a bluff. In the moment, a bluff, because Reese will probably still save his own skin but refuse to take any more numbers from the Machine. That much I'll buy, and that much the Machine will probably buy. Heh. Using Leon as an example and seriously, Reese, stop giving away the homeworld. (For the non-B5 fans among you, that means pretty much what you think it does. Ambassador leaves his assistant in charge, gives orders not to give away the homeworld while he's gone. I leave you who know B5 to picture Reese-as-Vir and try not to choke on your drinks.) Fuckssake, if Leon spends any time thinking about this at all he's going to come to some interesting and possibly half-correct conclusions. He is a hacker, among other things, you know. Sigh. Say, there's a phone box nearby! And a Leon who's not thinking bigger picture so much as in fear of his life right now. Yes, Reese, we take your point. When we come back from ad break it's to confirmation that the Machine really is paying attention to this little monologue playing out on a street corner. Oh Reese honey, you just admitted to the Machine that Finch saved your life. I can't decide if I hope that Finch sees that someday or not, because that's a whole lot of confession. In point of fact, this whole scene is shot like a petitioner praying to a deity of some kind, all the looking up and mournful eyes and heartfelt pleas? Yeaaaaah. I'm still not sure I believe that Reese is going to go off and suicide-by-gang-member, but I definitely believe that he'd walk away from this without Finch. And that's the important part. It's a long pause, a very long pause, for calculations and assessments. Running risk assessments and ways to bring Reese onto the trail without breaking its rules entirely and probably looking for the right number to throw him, but for a Machine of this size the several seconds is an eternity of thinking for a normal human. Still, it acknowledges him and the phone rings just as the bikers come tearing down the street, yes, let's leave all this to the last second why don't we, for DRAMA. Sigh. The Machine's inherited its creator's tendencies? But it only takes a few seconds to deliver the message, and Reese and Leon peel off just in time not to get hit by the stormtroopers gang members. Who are getting red boxes for a change.

Cue a phone call between OSC (who is, by the by, listed in IMDb only as "Pennsylvania Two," very funny, guys) and Denton, who's on his way to "their place" for his personal emergency. The only reason I can figure for this call is because OSC wants to threaten Denton, doesn't like or respect him very much, and wants to remind him that they can always find him, that he should be careful, and that being too hard to reach for the government is suspicious in and of itself. So, basically a threat cloaked as a warning wrapped in layers of bureaucratic confusion. Yay. It also serves as a basis for what's coming in the next ep, how much time Root might have with Denton, etc.

Time for a chase scene in a parking ramp! Woo! Complete with the biggest bad, and I mean that literally because everything about these guys is literal, taking over a random guy's bike. Uh. Now it looks like a toy. Oh, it's that parking garage, the one where they left Leon's car! Sensible. Reese engages in some improvised melee weapon, fire extinguisher speciality, I giggle, Leon gets clotheslined by the leader, I facedesk. Hi Bear! Bear wants to come help. Reese wants to snark about picking on someone a little closer to your own size, and yeah, I think this is the first opponent we've seen him fight who's that much bigger and stronger than he is. Though not as well-trained; I think this might actually have ended up with Reese pulling even given the pause of villain monologue to get his legs back under him. Not without a lot of broken ribs and bruises, but he might have been able to pull it off. Maybe. I will, however, TOTALLY take Carter badassing her way into the scene by shooting the guy with a smoke grenade. Because Carter is THE BEST. (Drink.) See, Reese, you have friends. All that camaraderie and snark as they come to his aid? At the very least you have damn good allies. You utter dork. I mean, yeah, Finch still matters more, but this ep is as much about reminding Reese that he's not without people who care about him even when Finch has gone missing as about trying to find Finch. And I approve of the cluebats he's getting hit with, because he needs them. Reese: not always the cluefullest in regards to how people think of him. Hi Bear! Now you get to be named, on account of chewing up the bearer bonds. We also get a hilarious bit of mostly physical comedy with Reese looming over Leon as he takes off the handcuffs and giving him disappointed big brother looks over lying about losing the rest of the money. Which he totally has. 75% certain my ass. He does get a moment of pure humanity, wishing Reese luck in his search and noting that Finch is lucky to have him. Reese can't agree with that because, of course, he still blames himself for having lost Finch in the first place, so it's just a nod and a jawclench as he turns away with Bear. Bear, you'll help keep him sane, right? As sane as he gets? Please?

Over at the library of infinite analog, since we've lost the digital in large part, Reese has done his research on the numbers and I would just like to point out a couple things. One, by my vague remembering, these books match the subjects for Dewey decimal system pretty well. Two, we've got Camera Obscura: of Ideology; Deterministic Chaos: An Introduction; and Ayacucho Quechua Grammar and Dictionary. All of them, as you can see, real books with the author's names matching and that is a lot of fucking attention to detail. From the meta-references contained within the book topics (particularly the middle one) to the actual existence of the books and probably therefore entirely accurate Dewey number? Yeah. Props to props on this. Even as I twitch under the desk. We get a close zoom on the news article about the disappearance of one Hanna Frey in Corpus Christi, on an April 15th in the evening on an unknown year. (I went back and tried to get it off the earlier pan; no dice.) She was 14, and whether or not she was Root - and the picture associated with her seems to lean that way - it's a safe bet that Root was about the same age and in the same town. Which means it's time to break into Carter's house again! REESE. BE BETTER. Fuckssake. She's worried about his erratic behavior but she also, by now and between his actions toward her and whatever she's managed to read of his files (plus knowing about New Rochelle at this point), she also knows that you do not taunt the happy fun spyssassin. Not in this mood. At least he hasn't packed her bags for her. Hey, there's a date! 1991, thank you very much, they're headed off to Texas. Which is also like a date, because Reese's definition of friendship and/or courtship gifts (he totally has one of those she's-too-good-for-me crushes on Carter) is extremely fucked up.

It's not where Root is right now, but it's the best lead they've had in awhile. No, Root and Finch are in the love nest house of the woman from the restaurant and Denton, and she's... painting her nails. I'd say to demonstrate her utter calm, but she really is utterly calm, so that could be both just a whim and intentional to unnerve Finch with her serene I will do anything to get what I want attitude. Amy Acker does creepy really well, I just wish people remembered her acting as Fred as well as Illyria and Whiskey and gave her roles based on something other than her ability to portray creepy. Alas. Anyway, Finch claims he has no way of accessing it, which I will modify to accessing directly because we know exactly what he did with it this season and it totally involved accessing the Machine. Just in a very, very roundabout way. Root, you should really let your nails dry before you go digging in your bag. Oh well. She's back to the same black that was almost all we saw of her in 1x13 and in place of the nail polish there's a syringe. Totally not for use on Finch, though. Who is, I have neglected to mention, zip-tied to the chair, hence the lack of gun pointed at him. When she talks about how she believes Finch built the Machine to find out what came after humans because humans are boring, she almost looks normal and sweet and sincere! Which is even creepier. Well played, Amy Acker. Well played. Finch is exactly as incredibly disturbed by this as he should be, especially because he's finally giving her some portion of what she wants and admitting that they're alike in many ways. Yes, Finch, we knew that. We also know you have more of a conscience than she does, even if half of it's called Nathan Ingram's ghost and the other half is called your survivor guilt. This is a side of Finch he lets out rarely to never, and he's only letting it out here because he's turning it into a weapon to use against Root, or so he hopes, explaining that he thought all about how to fix humanity, as individuals and groups both, I'm guessing. He wanted to make them better, and so he shut up the Machine to prevent people like them from fucking around with it. Only he's misestimated what she wants with the Machine; control of it's not what she's after. Control over other people is another matter entirely, as she steps to the side of the doorway and stabs Denton in the neck with her syringe. Have I mentioned she seems to be into really interesting drugs? 'cause she does, and I have no idea what kind of a sedative was in there but it was incredibly fast-acting.

No, she just wants to set the Machine free. And thus is the entire plot of second season announced, even if we're not fully aware of it at the time.

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