Tuesday night saw the return of two of my favorite shows…the mid season premiere of Person of Interest, and the season five premiere of FX’s Justified. One premiere was strong, the other was a bit shaky, but both left me interested for things to come.
Person of Interest: “Aletheia”
First, PoI. The show continues it’s solid third season. One might think the show would lose steam after closing out one of its biggest story arcs earlier in the season, losing one of its most crucial players in the process and sending another into a spiral of doubt, but such hasn’t been the case.
One of the great things “Aletheia” did was put two of the show’s Big Bads (Northern Lights, the government equivalent of Finch’s team, and Vigilance, the privacy advocacy group) against each other, with Finch and Co. right in the middle (or down below, in a vault, as the case may be). It was interesting watching these elements come together, and how they played against one another. All the while, a third Big Bad, Decima technologies, hung about the fringes, making some big plays of their own. On top of that, you have the wild card Root, who essentially becomes an oracle of sorts as she gives the Machine a voice and delivers its ‘message’.
This message is unnerving to say the least. It is at once benevolent, and terrifying. “Trust me,” it says to a woman tied to a chair. “I’m here to protect you. By the way, I know where your child is.” The implications are chilling, and the exploration of what a machine mind may be like continues to be one of the more interesting aspects of the show. It also serves to re-enforce Reese’s reluctance to return, as well as Finch’s own misgivings of the thing he has created.
The past two episodes have been particularly good to Finch, giving us some great back story for his character, showing him to be a brilliant mind who only wanted to help preserve the memories of his ailing father. Also deserving of recognition was Saul Rubinek’s performance, whose condition mirrored Finch’s fathers.
The episode ends with Root once again unleashed, the Samaritan program in the hands of Decima Technologies, and Reese still reluctant to return. I’ve seen a lot of discontent on message boards among fans of the show concerning this (as well as Carter’s death)…have patience. The writers of this show know what they’re doing.
JUSTIFIED: “A Murder of Crowes”
Speaking of having faith in the writers of a show…the season premiere of Justified was a bit shakier as a stand alone episode. It mostly served as a prologue of sorts, setting things in motion for the rest of the season while wrapping it all up in a case of the week plot.
Justified has always been a complex show, however, and developments that might seem questionable at first usually make much more sense in hindsight. The heart of this show, I believe, is the dichotomy of Raylan and Boyd, whose stories often mirror each other in crucial ways. This week found them both leaving Kentucky to pursue their own, completely separate endeavors, but I have no doubt the two will crash into one another down the line, as is often the case.
Raylan found himself in Miami, pursuing a Cuban national wanted for smuggling. The main goal of the story however was to put him in the sights of the Crowe family, a developement which has been the thrust of the show’s marketing campaign. This is one of the elements I’m leery about–the only exposure we’ve had to the Crowes thus far is Dewey Crow, a character who has mostly been played for laughs. He’s a complete moron, to put it lightly. So I’m having trouble seeing how a clan of redneck gator farmers from Miami can generate much drama.
It’s easy to point to season 2’s Bennett family and say, “Well, a family of hillbilly marijuana growers managed to be captivating”, but a lot of the intrigue in that story came from the bad blood between the Bennett’s and Raylan’s family. It was also served by the strength of the characters Mags and Dickie, and the performances of Margo Martindale and Jeremy Davies, respectively. There is some promise in Darrel Crowe and his sister, Wendy, but the premier didn’t really offer much insight into their characters. Wendy had a pretty good moment, intentionally wrecking her car in order to get away from the fugitive Raylan was pursuing, but there’s still room to grow. Like I said, it’s still too early to tell, and part of the fun of Justified (or any show, really) is enjoying the ride.
Boyd, meanwhile, found himself in Detroit. Much of the last season involved Boyd’s struggle to gain a foothold in Harlan’s drug business, in order to provide the life he wants for Ava. A large part of that story involved making deals with a Detroit crime family that has been built up over the course of the show’s run. This build up is quickly and unceremoniously ended with a single bullet to the head of Sammy Tonin. The bad of this is that it apparently unravels seasons of plot seeding (keep in mind, however, that Theo Tonin is still alive, and in hiding). The good of it is that it puts Boyd up against the wall concerning his desire to get Ava out of jail.
Boyd returns to Harlan and makes a bid to buy off the judge set to try Ava’s case through Paxton, a character Boyd screwed over last season. Instead, he is given the chance to trade his freedom for Ava’s. Paxton tries to use Boyd’s professed love for her to convince him, which Boyd refuses, rather violently. It brings into question whether or not Boyd’s feelings for Ava are as deep as he believes, and ends the episode on a dark note. Boyd has been on a rollercoaster since the series began, struggling with being a criminal, trying and failing at redemption, and now just trying to survive. I think Boyd’s story so far holds the most promise, at least on the surface.