This week’s episode of Person of Interest took on a lighter tone than many of the recent episodes, as well as stripped back some of the shows newer elements (no Root, very little Shaw) and focused on the Reese/Finch dynamic that was the core of the show at the beginning. It dealt with Reese’s decision to leave, and gave us yet another interesting take on the Number of the Week.
The episode begins with Reese in an airport, unshaven and still clearly trying to deal with the chaos left in the wake of the HR scandal. He blames the Machine for Carter’s death, and feels that their efforts to stop violence has only made things worse.
Reese is attempting to leave the country. Suspiciously, however, every flight he tries to take is either overbooked or delayed. Finally, one opens up. Obviously this is the Machine’s doing, but whether or not it’s apparent to Reese isn’t made clear until he gets onto the plane and realizes that two Air Marshals are transporting a prisoner.
He immediately suspects Finch, but when Reese calls him to confront him, Finch denies any responsibility, which brings Finch to a realization I think he’s been on the brink of for some time now…the Machine is now fully autonomous, and capable of acting on its own to put people like Reese in place to do its bidding.
What follows is a rather humorous plot as assassins from several groups including a drug Cartel, a pair of Israeli ‘Newlyweds’, and Shaw’s former employers from the I.S.A. all try to take out the episode’s Number, a computer genius named Owen who has designed an online drug market.
Owen’s motivations for this reflect Finch’s motivations for building the machine…he claims to have cut drug related violence by half since his online market went live on the Darknet. This doesn’t sit well with Reese, who monologues about how people like Owen (and by extension, Finch) build these technologies without fully comprehending the consequences.
Another interesting aspect of this episode is the fact that the Number this week was “Relevant”, meaning Owen was considered a National Security risk. This is the first time the Machine has brought Finch and Reese in direct conflict with the government agency that uses the Machine, which raises the question…why would the Machine provide a number for ISA to silence, while also providing the same number to Finch to save? Considering a Machine intelligence would follow a completely different logic to our own, it’s possible the Machine deemed him both as a threat AND as a victim. Exploring this logic is something I hope the show delves into more in future episodes.
Things come to a head when one of the Cartel hit men takes control of the plane and tries to crash it. Reese subdues the hit man while Finch takes control of the plane and lands it remotely with the help of a flight simulator…one of the few times I’ve eye-rolled during the run of the show.
In fact, there was quite a bit of suspension of disbelief required to buy into this episode. Considering how small a plane is, the constant stream of people trying to kill Owen and getting past Reese became a bit laughable, considering nobody seemed to notice except for Holly, the stewardess (a small but refreshing character who had good chemistry with Reese and allowed him to be a bit more charming than usual), and kid. Given the overall light tone of the episode, it was forgivable, but only just.
The episode ended with Reese agreeing to come back, as I’m sure everyone knew he would. I liked the episode, the humor was good and the action well staged as usual, but I can’t help but feel that a more dramatic beat should have been taken in order to jog Reese out of his funk and re-join the team. On the other hand, another episode in this arc probably would have been overkill. Overall, the pacing of the season remains strong.