Vicarious Viewing- Person of Interest “Liberty” Review

Season two of “Person of Interest” ended on one hell of a dilemma: the “Machine”, a supercomputer that could take all of the nations surveillance from around the world and predict the possibility of violence before it happened, had become self aware. So much so, that it had taken measures to protect itself by arranging to have its physical components moved to an undisclosed location: not even Harold Finch, the Machine’s creator, knows where it is.

It’s an interesting set up for a show that started out as little more than a high-tech police procedural, and season two expanded the show into one of the better science fiction shows on TV at the moment. How many other shows have explored the idea of a benevolent AI? And in light of recent events concerning government surveillance, the show seems more relevant now than ever.

It’s surprising then, that season three begins with such a low key plotline. “Liberty” was a standard number of the week episode that had Reese, Finch, and Shaw (now a regular cast member), working to protect a navy petty officer on shore leave who has run afoul of a group of diamond smuggling Force Recon Marines.

First, an aside: I served in the Marine Corps, and something I’ve noticed in movies and tv is that when it comes to Navy versus Marines, Marines are always portrayed as the bad guy. It’s getting old, Hollywood. While there is a rivalry between the branches of service, it tends to be amicable, especially when said members of different branches are part of, what I’m assuming, the same detachment. That’s been my experience, anyway.

Military pedantry aside, the episode had some great moments. It begins by catching us up with the team. A man gets kidnapped and thrown into the back of a van. It looks like he’s screwed until one of the kidnappers realizes that one of their own is playing a game on his phone. Surprise! It’s Reese, and before everyone can react, he kneecaps them all and the van crashes. The victim runs away, telling Reese “You’re crazy!” Reese laments the fact that no one ever thanks him as a patrol car rolls up. Out steps Carter, no longer a detective after the events of the season two finale.

Meanwhile, Shaw is on a date with scum bag who tried to put one over on the mob. As he tries to sweet talk her, Shaw informs him that she knows what he did, and the only reason she agreed to go out with him was because he had a price on his head. Cue hit team, Shaw jumps up and kills them all, using Fusco (disguised as a horse cart driver, with a fake chin strap beard for some reason) as a shield.

These scenes were pretty silly, but they re-introduced the new team in an entertaining way while also setting up the friction caused by Shaw, who’s proving to be a bit of loose cannon. Later on in the episode, she gets a hold of new sniper rifle and laments not getting to try it out at first. In the episode’s climactic scene, however, she gets to use her new toy, covering Reese from a nearby rooftop. “I’m hungry,” she says once the smoke has cleared. “You’re gonna buy me a steak.” I’ve always found her to be a fun element of the show, and I look forward to see how her character is developed.

I’ve called PoI the closest thing we have to a Batman tv show, and if Reese is Bruce, and Harold a combination of Oracle and Alfred, then Shaw is kind of like the Jason Todd Robin, a young hot head that doesn’t see eye to eye with Reese’s more non-lethal approach.

I had a few problems with the episode. First, while Fusco has been used as comic fodder in the past, the way he was used in this episode was troubling. Reese pretty much leaves him in a room with an active bomb, and then goes to confront the man holding the detonator, having no way of knowing if Fusco was able to diffuse it. This not only puts Fusco in danger, but the young petty officer the bomb is strapped to as well. Fusco does manage to diffuse it, of course, just as the Big Bad presses the button. It was sloppy story telling for the sake of a cheap thrill.

Another problem, during the same scene…when this week’s Number goes to sell the smuggled diamonds to a Russian broker, the Force Recon team just kind of pops up from behind the counter, resulting in a stand off. Perhaps I need to watch the episode again, but right now I have no idea where they came from. Were they already there? That would be odd, considering the Russians had their own team waiting on the floor above. Not to mention the store where they met was owned by the Russian broker. And why send the Number to make the deal when they were planning to pop up anyway?

Now, the good stuff. Carter was a highlight of the episode, as we learn that she’s keeping the show’s super villain, a crime lord named Elias, in a safe house after saving him last season and using him for information. It’s also revealed that she’s actively investigating the murder of a fellow detective in her own time, still working to bring down the criminal conspiracy that killed him.

Another nice element was Reese seeing of bit of his younger self in this week’s Number. When the petty officer expresses a desire for a normal life outside of the military, despite being a candidate for the S.E.A.L.S. and wanting to do some good, Reese suggests that maybe he’s meant for something more than an ordinary life. He also says that the CIA may one day come calling, but if they do, tell them no. It’s a small, but very telling bit of character developement from Reese that the show does very well.

Also strong was the B story involving the hacker Root. Amy Acker continues to deliver in this role, as we learn that she has begun to deify the Machine and is currently in the middle of a debate with it over how she is going to deal with the criminal psychologist who is treating her. “God is eleven years old,” she tells him at the end of the episode, in a chilling scene that raises some interesting questions. What is the deal with  the Machine’s continued interest in Root? If it’s making it’s own decisions now (and those decisions are based in altruism…it’s still choosing to send out numbers to save lives, after all) why does it continue to communicate with a violent psychopath? Does it enjoy being worshipped? Has it developed a split personality? Does it plan to use her as a contingency plan? Or perhaps it sees her as a victim that can be saved? Is the machine truly as benevolent as we believe? I look forward to this season exploring these issues further.

Vicarious Viewing- Person of Interest “Liberty” Review

A Little Preview…

I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like to lately, and it looks like my posts will be scarce for a while. I’m about to start my final quarter at the Art Institute of Houston, and I need to focus on polishing and putting together a sizzle reel for potential employers. I’ll also need to focus on my upcoming internship (a requirement for graduation).

I’m also trying to focus on wrapping up some rewrites for a novel I hope to publish by the end of the year, so most of my writing energy is going into that project. As a result, The Shroom Job will be going on hiatus.

The Shroom Job was my first attempt at doing a serialized story, and so far I feel like I’ve failed at it. I was posting as I was writing, and as a result, the story wasn’t as polished or developed as it should have been. It also spun out of control a bit…I intended a five or six part story, and it has gone way past that. Any future endeavors I take in serializing a story will be completed before hand.

In the meantime, I’d like to share some of the first line art and a text template from a new motion graphics project I’m working on, a book trailer for the novel I mentioned above.

Early line art featuring the character of Pixie Sinclaire:

PixieThe completed shot will be painted digitally and feature Pixie, sitting behind a cluttered desk with her feet up. On a separate layer will be a background shot of her office. The shot will feature a slight parallax to give it some dimension, and various animated effects will be composited into the scene to give it some life. Pixie’s an adventurous sort, and a bit of a rogue. I’m aiming for a bit of a noir feel, except in this case the femme fatale is also the private eye.

Proposed template for text inserts (I need to update the map):

vlcsnap-2013-09-15-11h45m19s228These text plates feature animated text over a moving background (the map). The clouds are animated as well, using a turbulent displace effect. I’m unsure of the typeface, as in some shots it looks a little thin and hard to read. I’m open to suggestions if anyone has them.

A Little Preview…

The Shroom Job Part IX

Eli had no way of knowing how long they’d been in the air. The sun had gone down long ago and showed no signs of rising anytime soon, as far as he could tell.

The two pirates had brought a lantern and set it up on the crate between them. It cast just enough light to see the cards by. Moths swarmed around the weather beaten thing, trying without success to get to the tiny gas flame inside.

The pirate with the pipe reached out and plucked one of the moths out of the air. He crushed it in his palm and looked at the powdery white carcass.

“Ay, Gola,” the pirate said in an accent that indicated he was from somewhere in the southern provinces of Crowndon. “Ya think I’kin smoke this buggy?”

Gola gave the pipe smoker an exasperated look and said, “Don’t know. Don’t care. If you’re so curious, why don’t you put it in your pipe and try it.”

The pipe smoker regarded the carcass a bit longer, removed his pipe from his mouth, and tilted the moth’s remains into the bowl. He took a pinch of leaf from a pocket on his shirt and packed it in good and tight. Gola watched all of this with a vague amusement as he shuffled and dealt the cards.

The pipe smoker struck a match and lit the pipe. One, two, three puffs of smoke. He sat there, as though deciding what he thought. After a few seconds, he began hacking violently.

Gola laughed at his comrade. When the pipe smoker vomited, Gola laughed even harder. The pipe smoker regained himself and tapped his pipe out on the floor. He kicked the remains toward the open cargo door.

“Nawp. T’aint smokable.”

Gola shook his head and continued dealing. A gust of wind blew in through the door. This had happened several times through out the night, and every time the cards scattered about the car. This was the first time, however, that the wind blew one of the cards up to the top of the crate wall, a few feet down from where Eli lay.

Shit, he thought to himself. The two pirates went about picking up the cards. They checked the cards as they did. Gola paused.

“There’s one missing,” he said. “The Whore of Rains.”

“Ah, that’s no good,” the pipe smoker said. “I quite favor the picture on that one.” The pipe smoker did another quick scan along the floor, while Gola started back to the crate.

“Come on back, Pabyo,” Gola said. “The cards gone.”

Pabyo, who had moved to the side of the car opposite of where Eli lay watching, turned and started back toward the crate. He was about to sit down when another moth flew past his face.

“Ay!” he said, swatting at the insect. His eyes followed the moth, darting up and down. And then, they stopped, fixed on a point at the top of the crate wall. Eli felt like Pabyo was looking straight at him.

“There she is!” Pabyo said, pointing.

“Huh?” Gola said, and looked up. “I don’t see nothing.”

“Right there!” Pabyo said, hurrying toward the wall with his bony elbows bowed outward, working tirelessly as he moved. He stopped at the base of the crate wall, where one of the boxes had fallen earlier. He stepped up on it, and Eli saw his head pop up over the edge.

Long, gnarled fingers reached up and grabbed the card. Eli tried to fold in on himself, as if such a thing was possible. Pabyo was so fixated on the card, however, that he didn’t notice Eli. He just stood, grinning at the card, teeth gleaming with a yellow-brown sheen in the faint gas light.

“Yup!” he said, “That’s her–”

He stopped. Now he really was looking at Eli. The dumb look on his face twisted into a horrifying mask of fierce wrinkles, his dull eyes flashed with violent intent. Pabyo the stupid pirate had become Pabyo the blood thirsty monster.

“Who’s you?” he demanded. Eli didn’t reply, struck dumb by the shock of being spotted and the sudden change in Pabyo’s demeanor. Pabyo’s thin arm shot over the edge of the crate wall and grabbed Eli’s collar. His grip was like a rusty bear trap. He pulled Eli out and Eli fell, hard, to the ground. His broken ankle banged against the floor and the pain brought bright spots in his vision.

“Pick him up and toss him!” Gola snarled. Pabyo picked Eli up and dragged him over to the door, but he did not toss him.

“Well, what are you waiting for? Throw him and be done with it!”

“Nah, not yet,” Pabyo said, and brandished a knife. “I wanna smoke his right eye.”

Eli saw the point of the blade move toward his eye and turned his head. He waited for what felt like an eternity for the knife to bite into the soft flesh of his eye, but it never did. Instead, he heard Gola shouting.

“Stop, Pabyo!” he said, rushing forward. “Look at his hip.”

Eli opened his eye and saw Pabyo’s gaze move down. The dumb look returned. What were they looking at?

“He must be the guy,” Gola said. “Pull him in, set him down.”

Pabyo pulled Eli in and pushed him toward the crate. Eli stumbled toward it and sat down. When he did, the revolver in his right holster scratched against the wooden surface of the crate.

“You a cartographer?” Pabyo asked.

“Y-yes,” Eli said, straightening himself up and trying to sound assertive.

“Kind of young for a Cartographer, ain’t you?” Gola said. “Or at least, young for a traitor. Usually only ones go bad are the ones been around long enough to know every thing they been told is a crock.”

Eli didn’t know how to respond, so he didn’t. He could only hope that his surprise about being right didn’t show.

Well, perhaps being “right” wasn’t the best descriptor. He’d just been speculating about rogue Cartographers based on rumors he’d heard.

However, if Hester was a rogue agent, wouldn’t they have been expecting a woman?

“How much do you know about me, and how I operate?”

Pabyo and Gola shared a look. Pabyo raised his shoulders.

“Captain Delamore didn’t say nothing to us, ‘cept that he has a Feral Cartographer in his pocket,” Gola said. Eli nodded, satisfied with this answer, but Gola went on.

“Come to think of it, he didn’t say nothing about you being here.” Gola’s eyes became suspicious. Pabyo’s hand worked around the grip of his knife.

“Wasn’t supposed to be,” Eli said. “I came back here to check the cargo when you all attacked, so I decided to wait. It took you idiots so long that I got bored and fell asleep.”

Pabyo and Gola’s heads snapped back as though they’d been slapped.

“B-but, we didn’t know you’d be here!” Pabyo said. “Knowing might’ve given us the proper motivation!”

Eli fixed him with his eyes and smirked. The speed with which he was constructing and falling into the character of a rogue agent didn’t surprise him. He’d always been a good liar.

“Motivation? Do you really need motivation to do the best work you possibly can? Don’t you take pride in your work, man?”

Gola snickered and said, “I’ve been telling him for years, ever since we was kids in Dux-”

Eli snapped to Gola, shutting him up.

“Since you were kids? And he still doesn’t listen?”

“I, uh…”

“And you still put up with it? What the hell does that say about you?”

Gola’ s mouth worked up and down, but no protest came out. He put his head down and walked away, muttering to himself.

“It ain’t his fault,” Pabyo said. “He’s like a big brother to me. I’m a bit slow in the head.”

Eli responded only by pulling the revolver and giving it a quick inspection. Pabyo got the hint and moved over to where Gola sat, his feelings hurt.

The surface of the revolver was flawless, with nothing to distort his reflection except for the shape of the gun. It had been Violet’s. He wondered if she’d somehow survived, and if she did, would he? This was a game he didn’t know how to play.

Pabyo cried out from where the two pirates had been sitting. Gola stood over him, yelling in Monteddorian, and reached down. He grabbed Pabyo by his hair and dragged him to his feet. Pabyo’s pipe fumbled out of his hand. Gola caught it and jammed it bowl first into Pabyo’s mouth. As Pabyo choked on it, Gola hauled him over to the open cargo door, grabbed him by the front of the shirt, and threw him out of the car. Eli watched in stunned silence as Pabyo disappeared into the night, trying to scream and unable to.

Gola turned and said, “Been waiting to do that for years. I guess I just needed the ‘proper motivation.'”

To Be Continued…

This is part nine of the The Shroom Job. The rest of the story can be read here. The Shroom Job updates on Saturdays.

The Shroom Job Part IX