Vicarious Viewing- Person of Interest “Nothing to Hide”

Person of Interest continues its third season with another “Number of the Week” episode. It was much tighter plot wise than last week’s, giving us a much more complicated moral dilemma concerning data-sharing and information privacy.

The Person of Interest this week was a man named Kruger, the founder of a data-collection site that advertises as a way to help people find long lost friends and relatives, but is really about helping marketers gather data on how users behave online–what they buy, what sites they visit, what they’re searching for, etc. It’s topical stuff that I believe most people are aware of, and probably bothered by, but have come to overlook. It’s a particularly fitting foil for what Finch’s Machine does, and the comparison does come up in the episode.

Even more interesting than the questions raised by the plot, however, is the character of Kruger himself. The show has featured shady PoI’s in the past, but few if any have been flat out unlikable. Kruger is a womanizing hypocrite with plenty to hide, despite proclaiming that he doesn’t.

“Look!” he says (after giving a potential investor a baby rattle whose wife is expecting, information gleaned by Kruger’s data-mining) “I even have my profile up!”

Not soon after his introduction do things start to go awry; first his credit card is rejected, and later, at a party celebrating his anniversary, a video made to celebrate his marriage is replaced with video of him with another woman. Things spiral out of control from there.

It turns out that a class action lawsuit was brought against his company and squashed, and that the person hunting him is the father of a young woman killed by a stalker enabled by the information on Kruger’s site. In a great reversal, we begin to feel for the perpetrator more than the victim. There’s another layer involved, but to write about it would be to spoil the reveal. I will say, however, that it introduces a new player or group of players to the game, one that could have dire consequences for Finch and Co.

The B-plot once again dealt with Carter, who has grown tired of working nights on patrol and has agreed to take on a trainee to get day shifts. The scenes involving Carter and the young recruit are humorous, but never silly. It’s also pretty obvious that there’s more to the rookie than initially meets the eye by the end of the episode. More than likely he’s an HR plant, sent to keep an eye on Carter, who’s actively investigating the death of a fellow detective.

An early scene finds Shaw trailing Finch, an echo of an early episode in which Reese did the same. And, just like before, Finch managers to lose her before making a phone call, basically taunting her efforts. Shaw wasn’t given much to do this week, besides act as Reese’s eyes and ears inside of Kruger’s company. They made a few more jokes about her itchy trigger finger, and she verbalizes the question of whether or not Kruger is worth saving. Based on her presence early in the episode I was hoping she’d take more of an active role, but such wasn’t the case. The preview for next week’s episode, however, promises a Carter, Zoe, and Shaw team up, so maybe we’ll get some much needed development on Shaw’s front then.

Fusco, unfortunately, was pressed farther into the background this week, only getting one scene. As much as I like Shaw, I hope it doesn’t mean that existing characters get phased out. It’s still early in the season, however, and Fusco has surprised in the past.

Root was missing in action this week, as well, but her presence wasn’t missed. The story simply had no place for her, and she would have taken away from the reveal of the new organization lurking on the horizon. I do worry, however, that the introduction of new conspiracies might start to over weigh the show’s already sizable mythology.

All in all, “Nothing to Hide” was a solid episode that continued to play on the topicality of the show’s premise, and did so without getting too in the viewer’s face about it. The action was low key this week, substituted by well executed twists and turns, and an interesting Perpetrator versus Victim dynamic. And, for once, the team wasn’t completely successful.

On a side note: I was little irked that Kruger was able to get past Bear with only a few pieces of cloth from his pants leg missing. Bad dog!

Vicarious Viewing- Person of Interest “Nothing to Hide”

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