‘Person of Interest’ Recap (Season 1, Episode 19): Mostly-Robot
It was kinda silly when Reese’s partner was shot and killed by an AC-130 gunship in China two years ago. And LIVED! #MostlyRobot
Person of Interest managed to expand its mythology in one of the silliest scenes imaginable. It also asserted itself as a two-faced show whose equal halves cannot exist without the other.
We have cop-drama. We have paranoid spi-fi. It’s the basic and the bad-for-you. It’s bananas and Nutella.
Watching Reese and his old CIA lady-training officer-cum-partner skulk through a supposedly-abandoned Chinese corporation-city (think FoxConn for the most apt comparison) was a tense and appropriate way for the show to show just how global the Machine’s presence truly is. The zoom-out from New York City in wireframe-mode showed major server hubs in London, Seoul, and Beijing, making us all feel very small on a planet that’s already feeling flattened. Creepy sentient-Machine is watching you travel the world, Reese! Likewise, the always-present and startlingly-clever security-camera transitions that have been part of Person of Interest from the pilot episode demonstrate the Machine’s omnipresence. Even in China, it’s there. The show’s static shots do some lifting for the show’s mythology, reminding us that the Machine is always working, always thinking, always calculating and waiting.
Reese and his partner went into China to get a laptop that evidently held a Pentagon-designed virus that can shut down China’s nuclear weapons infrastructure. Naturally, this was a lie, it all had to do with a prototype version of the Machine, and Reese and his partner have predictably been given separate orders to kill each other after the mission was done. You could tell that Reese was becoming fatigued with doing CIA black ops by then (this flashback was taking place in 2010) — alarming that his partner was also showing signs of weariness to the scheming, lamenting how someday that they, perhaps meaning government agents, perhaps meaning people altogether, will be obsolete, replaced by designed and refined technology.
Person of Interest has dabbled in fatalism but this is the first that it’s gone so far to hint at The Singularity — the moment when human communication becomes so flawless and interconnected that progression will become unrecognizable to basic cognition.
As usual, the show is itself divided. Half cautionary tale about heavy Thatcher-Administration-style surveillance (the world that series creator Jonathan Nolan grew up in) — half police procedural.
So while the flashback had Reese’s partner being shot by a night-vision equipped AC-130 gunship, the rest of the episode was filler about some douchebags robbing armored cars for platinum in New York City. I understand that the truck guard ripping off the load would have a chip on his shoulder because he puts his life on the line every day to protect somebody else’s wealth, a thankless task, which runs with the show’s theme about the haves and have-nots, but why have him be betrayed by his girlfriend/accomplice? It’s grating, and yet the show’s cop-half adds a necessary simplicity and familiarity to the equation to cleanse the pallet. If it was just the globe-trotting conspiracy-hunting, it would devolve into the spy-fi psychosis that plagued Alias’ later seasons.
The cop-drama stuff is like the opening band to warm up the audience. It’s goofy. It does its job.
Meanwhile, more credit to Reese, as usual. At first, he seems mostly-robot, but at the same time, he always looks like such a sad, sleepy, murderous clown when he threatens people. He always reminded me of a sort of good-guy version of The Dark Knight’s take on the Joker, making him an engaging, if lethargic, character that’s easy to root for. Especially when compared to the snarky goodie-good-guys in network police procedurals.
Oh, as promised, Reese’s partner somehow lived through that aerial-attack incident in China! Jesus, lady (in a bunch of ways)! She shoots evil mucky-muck CIA agent Snow, prepping him for some fun hotel room interrogation. Shocking? Not at all. Zany? Yeah, it’s bonkers and gonzo and laughable. But you know what? I’m cool with it.
See, if the show was completely about double-crossing, mostly-robot CIA agents spontaneously respawning when it’s convenient for the plot, this would just be Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: The Television Saga. Instead, it also has some bubble-gummy cop drama to bring things back down to the comfort-food reality that CBS does so successfully.
Still bored? Read my most recent Mad Men recap and my recent piece on the 9 Jobs That Do Not Exist, But Should (And A Few That Probably Do) over on GhostLittle.com — and as always, you can keep up with my thoughts on Twitter. Til next week!
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