Person of Interest "Critical" Review: Bring On the Bad Guys

By Tim Surette

Nov 16, 2012

Person of Interest S02E07: "Critical"

My knowledge of the Batman universe is pathetic at best. Something about a guy who jokes or riddles or both? But I do know the Caped Crusader has a Christmas list-long dossier of villains built up over several decades spent foiling crimes. And as Person of Interest continues to venture toward becoming a televised comic series with a vigilante do-gooder and his billionaire partner, its roster of villains is growing, too.

But we have to ask ourselves how many villains is too many villains? Can the tried-and-true overpopulated world of villains in comics translate to television? This stockpiling of recurring bad guys is going to be an interesting experiment for Person of Interest, and Season 2 is showing no signs of slowing down on what was a curious idea in Season 1. Elias as a big bad was a breakthrough for the series. Suddenly our cyborg superhero had a person to wear the black hat. But one was definitely not enough for Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman; now there's also the crooked cops of HR with Simmons and recently unmasked boss Quinn, adorable hacker Root, Donnelley and his FBI goons, vengeful ex-partner Kara Stanton, and former foe but potential ally Agent Snow, not to mention mob bosses representing every country in the United Nations. And introduced in last night's episode "Critical" was our most comic-bookish villain to date: Alistair Wesley.

Played by the always enjoyable Julian Sands, who makes the act of talking an art form, Wesley is as close to The Riddler as we'll get in this real-world Batman series. Wesley, like Root, is a villain who enjoys the chase as much as the reward. He's into sick games, and he orchestrated an elaborate doozy of a ticking clock that Reese and Finch found their way into via their latest mystery social security number. This made "Critical" a slight departure for the series, but one that I think that, if it's done more frequently, will up the show's geek cred, really separate it from most of the procedurals out there, and give it legs for a long, enjoyable run. John and Harold can't just save randoms each week for seven seasons. They're an elite team fighting on the side of the good guys, and deserve worthy opponents they can have run-ins with on a regular basis. And how much more exciting will it be for Reese and Finch to every once in a while put these guys, built up over several recurring appearances, in jail or a wooden box? So I say bring on a whole League of Extraordinary Gentlevillains, and LET'S DO THIS!

This week's number belonged to Dr. Maddie, a brilliant surgeon (aren't all TV surgeons brilliant?) who had a powerful patient in Oliver Veldt, an energy tycoon worth a gazillion dollars. His ticker was having problems ticking and tocking, so Maddie was asked to rip open his chest and slap the thing around a bit until it was working correctly. But powerful CEOs and illness do not mix well, so Veldt wanted this operation done on the hush-hush so as not to mess with the stock prices of his company.

Stocks are games with winners and losers, and one player who stood to win big if Veldt croaked was Wesley, who played the Don't Pass Bar against Veldt with some risky investments that would only pay off if Veldt's company tanked. Wesley had a proposal for Dr. Maddie: Botch the surgery and kill Veldt, and Wesley wouldn't send his elite team of retired SAS agents to put a hole in Maddie's wife's (yes, wife, more on that later) head. This caused John to say that Maddie was forced to be the perpetrator in another twist on the show's basic tenet, but let's be honest here, in my log of Person of Interest victims vs. perps, this one is definitely going down as "victim."

What transpired after that was something straight out of the Die Hard series, as Wesley laid down some rules for his game (no telling the cops, no warning the wife, no telling Veldt, etc.) and Reese and Finch figured out a way to make sure everyone except for Wesley went home happy. There were double-crosses and switcheroos all over the place (I for one thought Veldt's assistant, Mr. Raines, was the mole, but he was just there to trick us—nice one, POI) and in the end the bad guys were foiled and Dr. Maddie didn't have to deal with all the paperwork that comes with a dead spouse. Things didn't come together all that smoothly, however, as Reese, Finch, and Maddie just decided they were done playing the game and the plan was undone with a few well-placed punches and kicks. It turned a potentially interesting case-of-the-week into little more than just a sloppy introduction to Mr. Wesley.

Meanwhile, Carter was chasing clues that led her to our old pal Agent Snow. But Snow was a broken-down man, running errands for Reese's ex-partner Kara Stanton—who is NOT dead, if you'll recall. The specific errand Snow was sent on involved shooting up a tech company for some reason (I assume we'll get more details later), with a bomb strapped to his chest as incentive for not goofing up the job. That Kara Stanton don't play around, I like her style. Carter got wind that this mystery woman had something big planned, and went to Reese to get to the bottom of it. Reese's reply was something along the lines of, "You don't want to know," and that's that. The plot thickens.

"Critical" was an average episode of Person of Interest that didn't take too many steps with the overall plot. Carter's storyline was the equivalent of a Post-It note reminding us that Stanton is still in the mix, and the case of the week was resolved fairly easily, without any mysteries unraveled.

But what I'm going to take away from this episode is the addition of Wesley and the potential for him to return with his sick games. He's the most unique villain we've seen on the show so far, and the most similar to someone who jumped out of a comic book. Reese and his opponents will never strap on capes or adopt nicknames, but they should be able to do everything else their comic counterparts do.



NOTES

– In my mind, Leon (Ken Leung) will always be welcome to come back. Leung is perfect for the series, and his ability to serve as a stand-in so Finch can go into the field is useful. I loved how much he enjoyed doing the work: "This is fun. This is what you and John do all day long?" Leon wants in on this operation, and I'll totally allow it.

– LOL @ a nauseated Finch saying "It's so squishy" when he had to assist in Maddie's open-heart rescue.

– Backwoods dopes might object to Maddie being in a lesbian relationship (an interracial one, too!) but dammit I have to give CBS and Person of Interest a big high-five for this. Not only did they include this progressive and totally okay detail, they did it without making any note of it. It almost makes up for Partners.

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  • ohjeans Nov 21, 2012

    I am amazed that Finch and Reese turned Leon loose in the library with all that equipment. Leon is a loose cannon with poor judgement and a shaky grasp of right and wrong. I won't be surprised if we learn in a future episode that he has hacked into some of Finch's billions, or blithely messed with something else.

    On another topic: Every time The Machine does something Finch refers to as a "bug," it is apparent that Finch himself doesn't understand what he has created. And was it really a whole year between the time The Machine first brought Grace to Finch's attention (2004) and the time that Finch actually for the first time said "Hello" (2005)?

  • saxgod Nov 20, 2012

    So who's hoping by season 5 they have to put John as a famous billionaire and Finch becomes his butler and John starts wearing a suit that looks closer to Nightwing and they start doing that kind of stuff lol. NAH show looks great as it. They have new threads though that make you wonder where it's going. First the psycho bitch who wants to free the system, which I think the system already is free, but she doesn't realize it. Then theres anti John who does equal to what John does but does it for money and doesn't care who he kills. Interesting. Just realized what if anti John and anti Finch, aka crazy bitch, hook up. YIKES. That would be scary shit.

  • LeeCuttler Nov 21, 2012

    I never understood the "free system" thing anyway. Like what is it suposed to do? Pick up a gun itself and start offing people? lol How can it get any freer if it (and only it) updated itself and patches itself?

  • gilbz Dec 03, 2012

    The movie "Eagle Eye" gives an idea of a "free system".

  • bluemorphotat Nov 20, 2012

    Enjoyed the ep very much. The dog was great, as usual! LOL! :-P

  • Suncatcher1 Nov 19, 2012

    All sorts of news to report this week!:
    - Ken Leung has been signed by NBC for their new pilot, "After Hours" about doctors working the late shift. If it succeeds, Leung will be the series regular. (No more POI???)?
    - Good news - Jim Caviezel was included in People Magazine's current issue of their sexiest men 2012. Bad news - he's a tiny little photo on page 136 of a group of graying men who are still sexy. Did I say "little photo?" He was in good company BUT, he's probably the hottest property on TV today! People should be arrested for trying to write - under the influence of blindness!
    - TV Guide this week has an article on BEAR!!! Not sure what page, but he's there! Good boy! Michael Emerson is in the photo taking Bear for a walk.
    (Michael and Bear should have been included in People's 2012 Sexiest Men)!!! ; )

  • NeeUyank Nov 19, 2012

    "Played by the always enjoyable Julian Sands, who makes the act of talking an art form, Wesley is as close to The Riddler as we'll get in this real-world Batman series." Now, this is what I call proper reviewing, with great writing skills.. other than that, I do not think this is an average episode.. the number of elements involved in the plan, the diversions in the flow of the plot, and return of a previous poi, to help the guys, nope this was not average.. I truly love when previously saved guys do stuff for the team in return, and I wish we had seen this more often.. and it was really, really nice that Leon repeated twice that "he would not let them down".. I don't think any of them would let our guys down and it would be great to see them paying back.. also, as we have waited quite long for that story to come back, I like that they keep reminding us about kara, and making that cocky, snobby snow a poor puppet.. also the way fusco backed carter up, was another nice touch to add.. and finally the loveble lesbian couple, presented in a very subtle way, without any, any clichés.. this is great writing, great filming and great acting, altogether.. I am following quite a lot of stuff on tv, but POI is by far the best..

  • LeeCuttler Nov 19, 2012

    I don't know, for some reason I wasn't impressed with Sands character like I was with Elias, Root and even Quinn. I was just kinda "meh" on him. I have not see any of the actor's other work.

  • NeeUyank Nov 20, 2012

    I am not that much impressed with sands either, I am impressed by the way he was described by Tim:) other than that, as Tim very well stated, he maybe is the most comic-bookish villain in the series, so far.. maybe because he reminds me of Bond villains:)

  • PolarisCarver Nov 19, 2012

    My only problem with this otherwise great series is, as always, how little love Carter gets. Love both the actress and the character, but she went from being the good cop/moral compass of the team to being, as you said in one of your previous reviews, the eternal gopher. I get that John respects her principles and tries to keep her out of the most ambiguous jobs most of the time (that's what Fusco is for), but except for a handful of episodes, she just comes around for about three minutes per episode to say "oh no tell me you didn't!"/"your request is a pain in my ass but I'll help you anyway" (to be fair, she's had a few pretty funny scenes with John, like the "stay in the car" scene, but they're rather rare). Really hoping that she gets a little more action after this episode's ending.

  • bluemystique Nov 20, 2012

    I agree. I think they do an ok job with her character certainly better than they did prior to Number Crunch, but there is always room for growth.

  • LeeCuttler Nov 19, 2012

    I agree. She has become totally under used and I love her scenes the most. Which is why I cringe when others state they want to see some of the recurrent actors bumped up to regular. They can't even write well for all 4 of the ones they have now. :(

  • bluemystique Nov 18, 2012

    I love that there is more than one "Big Bad" lurking in the shadows and ready to strike whenever. It makes things just that much more intense! Higher stakes and all that good stuff. I like the idea of Reese having someone out there with his type of experience...makes for a bigger challenge.
    -Leon should always return. Clearly...or rather hopefully, he'll be sort of like Zoe, a great recurring character who pops in when a case allows for it. I love his burgeoning relationship with the always lovable Bear, and the fact that his extensive knowledge allows Finch the opportunity to step out into the field more, but he's still completely in the dark. I love that the assets are just as awesome to watch as the dynamic duo.
    -I noticed the casualness to which they threw in the interracial homsexual relationship, which was awesome. Hats off CBS.
    -Plus the diner scene with Carter and Reese was a highlight. Sometimes so much goes on that its hard to really think about this house of cards they have going on with all the characters. They're all throwing their trust into the ring but its fragile and tenous at best. Everyone is always guarded no matter how much closer they all allow themselves to get. The relationships and dynamics evolve just enough to be realistic and make for progress but not too much where this intensity isn't lingering over it all.

  • hockeyrick Nov 18, 2012

    Even an average show is fantastic! So many little nuances!!!

  • sandorxian Nov 18, 2012

    Quote "aren't all TV surgeons brilliant?" Well Jack Shephard was anything but brilliant.

  • Wattakitty Nov 17, 2012

    It stands to reason that some Bad Guys will be responsible for a lot more numbers than your average thug, and I find it both reasonable and good plotting that Our Heroes don't vanquish these Big Bads in one episode. To start with, if they did so, the writers would perpetually have to keep upping the odds with more preternaturally invincible Bad Guys. As the Good Guys gain in contacts and confidence, they'll rattle a few cages. (And "It's so squishy!" I'm in love!)

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