‘Person of Interest’ Recap (Season 1, Episode 21): Reese Begins
Origin-stories can be hairy business — telling your new friends about how you disappeared some guys last year can be even harder.
Reese has become one of the most hollowed-out protagonists on TV. He’s a tragic, petrified tree of a man that has had his humanity stripped out of him. His wardrobe is binary and so is his personality, and it’s fantastic to not only have somebody like him on TV that has his own moral code, but also has the means and ability to swiftly follow through on what he believes. This week, we finally got the full-blast flashback to what happened to his ex-wife and how that changed him from a military man into simply, well, a guy in a suit that gives people concussions.
“I think I quit my job,” Reese wheezed to a kid on a bus in our opening flashback, bearded and color drained out of the world. Damaged and having done something seriously wrong (maybe murder, maybe not?), this is Reese on his fall down the ladder that Finch eventually rescued him from at the start of the series. The guy lacked a reason for being when we saw him in February 2011. Does the way the Machine goes back over old files and footage of a person seem really cool to anybody else, clicking back in the years into flashbacks? It’s sort of the Machine saying, “Oh, this dude’s trouble, let’s check if he was trouble in the past.” It’s a cool examination into how the thing works.
Two things happened in this episode. First: Carter shredded Reese’s past. After doing some decent policework on a random murder case upstate, she slowly discovered that it was indeed Reese’s first murder of his ex-wife’s manslaughtering old husband. Reese eventually ended up killing the guy in February 2011, but that wasn’t the significant point. After she got her hands on Reese’s file through some friends, Carter shredded it. What’s that say about her relationship with Reese? Did she see how happy he was, heard the testimonies from people involved with his ex-wife’s death, and how much he’d changed, and assumed the best medicine was the leave the past behind?
I suppose it was her way of watching out for him. It’s her saying, “Yes, it’s okay for you to find redemption.” But then when she catches him about to execute a similarly-abusive boyfriend that uses his job as a Federal Marshal to track his runaway ex-wife, Carter insists that Reese be his old, human-self instead of his new, vengeful-self. It’s mixed messages. Should Reese be the Batman that we need him to be, hollow, vigilante, operating on his own level, whether for recognizable good or ill? That kind of guy goes into a Marshal’s office and punches out three guys because he can.
Which is bad. But Carter doesn’t want him to suffer for his past sins, like murdering his ex-wife’s killer? Well, maybe he did kill her, but it’s also possible he ghosted the guy down to a dank prison somewhere. Still, chances are that Reese would be blamed for the guy’s death, so Carter’s protection makes sense, but it’s still odd.
Ambiguity gives the characters range though. Finch obviously cares about Reese, remembering his birthday (awww, they’re bros!), and not wanting him to get caught up in a case that was so similar to his wife’s death.
Which brings us to item number two: Reese went off the reservation for sort of no reason. He’s faced off with abusive-relationship cases before — why is this week so noteworthy? Was it because of the husband’s abuse of his position of power as a Marshal? I know that Reese always felt guilty about not being able to save his wife, but these sorts of stories are so frequent in shows like this, it’s odd that this particular one struck a nerve with Reese.
More credit to Jim Caveizel, as usual. He’s out of his mind and barely alive, which makes his violence all the more jarring. The poor dude is robotic and he hates being idle, and yet he’s also rather misanthropic about what he’s become — suggesting that, yeah, the guy’s still human.
Finally, kudos to Finch for giving him a key to a new apartment for his birthday, and goddamn, that’s a nice NYC apartment. That’s an unpredictable change, and as Finch said to Carter, “Once we become predictable, we become vulnerable.”
Series creator Jonathan Nolan received a story-credit for the episode. I’m hoping he’ll come back to work on the finale, given how sharp his script for the pilot episode was, and how much the show has grown. But he might be too busy making The Holy-Damn Dark Knight Rises, You Guys! into one of the best movies ever.
Still bored? Read my most recent Mad Men recap and my recent piece on the 9 Animated Movies That Secretly Traumatized Children Of The 90′s over on GhostLittle.com — and as always, you can keep up with my thoughts on Twitter. Til next week!
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