Person of Interest "Dead Reckoning" Review: End of an Issue

By Tim Surette

Feb 01, 2013

Person of Interest S02E13: "Dead Reckoning"

Excuse me, but have you seen my jaw? Last time I saw it, which was right around the ending of last night's episode of Person of Interest, it was dropping to the floor and burrowing into the Earth's core. Anyway, if you see it let me know. Reward: a hug!

"Dead Reckoning" played out like the second half of a two-parter (technically a three-parter if you include the episode John spent in prison) continuing the arc from the wonderfully tense and fun "Prisoner's Dilemma." At the end of that installment, Kara Stanton (editor's note: hubba hubba) took John Reese prisoner for whatever game she had planned, and in "Dead Reckoning," we saw it in action. Remind me never to play games with Kara because her games suck. If I were strapped to a bomb vest and forced to choose between the two episodes, I'd take "Prisoner's Dilemma" over "Dead Reckoning" by two lengths because that's the Person of Interest I love, with tension occasionally broken by bouts of pure comedy, but "Dead Reckoning" was a gem that accomplished some major heavy lifting. However, it was not without its problems.

But before we get to those, I'd just like to praise the show for knowing how to tell stories in this day and age of television dragging things out and viewers' suffering ADD and what was I saying? I really don't want to compare this show to Homeland, but Person of Interest's pacing, particularly in the last two episodes, can move just as fast as that of Showtime's hit. And that's because the writers have created a universe that they're not afraid to tear down a few times a season.

We've discussed the constant construction of a League of Supervillains to battle Reese and Finch's Justice League as a bonus to the series—it really establishes the show as living in its own universe. But in the last two episodes, Person of Interest killed off Agent Donnelly (you buffoon, I miss you already), Agent Mark Snow (now appearing on Netflix's House of Cards), and probably* Reese's former partner Kara Stanton (now appearing on The Following). Given their importance to the central story, that's a huge chunk to bury in the ground so quickly.

That would cripple other shows, but this series knows its bad guys have half-lives and to get the most out of them, it's best to have them stick around awhile before killing them off. It's satisfying because we know there's still so much left in Person of Interest to explore—Elias, Root, Quinn, to name a few—and the show can jump to the next story immediately. Or it can breathe deeply and run off a few standalone episodes and let us catch our breath. This thing is versatile.

I've made the comic-book comparisons before—I mean come on, the dude IS Batman—and Person of Interest continues to argue that analogy for me. This show LOVES its mini-arcs, two or three episodes strung together that tell a story that opens and closes, and dammit, I love them too. They really feel like issues of a comic, operating within the universe but telling completely satisfying tales with major stakes. The show has really proven that a series can feature standalone episodes, small arcs, and long, drawn-out serialized stories without losing its identity. And given that Person of Interest operates on 22-or-23-episode seasons, that goes a long way.

"Dead Reckoning" showed us what happened to Kara on her last mission with Reese—you know, the one with a thousand tons of explosive pink slips. After surviving the attack, she was taken under the wing of a nice old British man who just wanted to cyber-terrorize the planet. In true Person of Interest fashion we don't know his name, we don't know who he works for, and we don't know his plan, but we do know that he's fond of classic literature and thinks of himself as allied with the young gods to Kara's old god bosses. I'm not sure how literal we're supposed to take the Titan analogy (the old gods, fearing the young gods, ate their young... but were eventually killed off after choking), but it sounds like Old British Guy might be part of a group that splintered off from the CIA and is now a threat to them. Whatever the case is, it creates ANOTHER layer of bad guys for Person of Interest to play around with.

Working for answers about the people who tried to kill her, Kara captured Reese in the present day and strapped a bomb to his chest to form a two-man death squad with Snow, who was already Kara's bitch and had quit complaining about his own bomb a long time ago. We didn't know what Kara's plan was, but it was still fun to see Snow and Reese working together by beating up ATF agents in broad daylight in the parking lot of a busy diner and waltzing past security with a few stern words, all while Reese showed us how far he's come since being a CIA goon whenever Snow tried to kill someone. Our little Tin Man is really developing a heart! It turned out that Kara wasn't trying to download some government-grade super computer virus to wreak havoc, as Finch thought, she had the 2.0 version already and wanted to upload it to the government's mainframe! And after five months, the virus or whatever it was would do its thing and presumably take the global network hostage or 404 the government's operations.

Work done, Kara said, "Peace I'm out, but you stay here it's gonna be the bomb LOL!" and left Snow and Reese to go boom. The two managed to escape, with Reese sneaking up to the roof and moping about his explosive fashion accessory. That's no way for Batman to act, John! Scrotum up! Somehow, Finch was on the roof waiting for him and in a pretty contrived sequence dug up the universal unlock codes for the phone that was operating the bomb (there were five codes but only three chances to enter them before the bomb exploded, which sounds like a terribly designed app if you ask me). There was some genuine bro time, and believe me when I say I always enjoy the bro time between Reese and Finch, and on the third try, Finch guessed right and saved the series.

Snow, however, decided to go out like a pimp. As Kara got into her car to grab a celebratory Fanta, who should be in the back seat but Snow and his ticking bomb vest? KA-BOOM! Both of them dead, rather suddenly. I don't know how Snow beat Kara down to her car (maybe she took the stairs or stopped for a cigarette?) but given the results I'll let that slide. I had expected Snow to fall (haha) this episode, but I figured Kara would stick around for a while because she's such a unique nemesis for Reese. It just goes to show that Person of Interest does not mind killing off bad guys, or letting bad guys kill bad guys. Person of Interest has a whole closet full of bad guys, and more of them keep showing up at the door every week. Still, I was shocked—and, I admit, a little sad. I liked Kara (and Snow, too). At least she'll always live on in my Kara-Reese fanfic where they buy a house in the suburbs and become the adoptive parents of Finch.

But the real jaw dislocator came at the end, when the mystery of who sold the laptop that forced the Ordos mission that almost killed Reese and Kara was revealed. In the wreckage of Snow's bomb explosion, a piece of paper with the name of the perp gently fell to the ground and it read... HAROLD FINCH. DUN DUN!!!! The implication here is that Finch is partially responsible for the assassination attempt on Reese, but we're talking indirectly here, right? That laptop could have been sold to protect The Machine or under Nathan's orders. It was one of those things that was so shocking when you first see it, but after thinking about it for two nanoseconds, you realize that's more of Person of Interest trying to lead you down the wrong path. Worst case scenario, it's one of those misunderstandings that Reese and Finch can laugh off later.

If there's one thing that's not easy to swallow, it's how easily the FBI pursuit of Reese came to an end with the FBI figuring that Snow was The Man in the Suit. Two birds, meet killer stone! But with Donnelly out of the picture, that storyline had to be put to bed somehow. It wasn't entirely satisfying, but now we can move forward with other threats. Like, oh, I don't know, a cyber-terrorist attack that should go off right around the Season 2 finale?


– I really could have spent 3,000 words talking about Reese and Bear's reunion because it was ADORABLE x 3,000. So great my heart nearly exploded. (I would have sued CBS if it did, so I guess I lose.) However, look at that .GIF and tell me that Bear isn't trying to make love to Jim Caviezel. That dog has good taste.

– For all the "work" that Reese and Snow did to clear the way for Kara, Kara herself did quite a lot. And what was up with the security in that place? Reese just talked his way in, and who knows how Kara and Finch got into the building. This episode had some holes in it.

– Maybe I should check out Far Cry 3 if two trained CIA hitmen think it sounds like real gunfire.

– I loved how Snow just sat there eating his hamburger while Kara explained how spineless he'd become. And John's line—"You'll know when I fight back."—was great too. The diner scene was amazing all around."

– Some folks seem to think Kara might still be alive. I think she's dead, though the security footage DID glitch out a bit. (Could The Machine be protecting her for some reason?) What do you think?

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • abdulay31 Feb 06, 2013

    Another amazing episode, the three story arc from "2 Pi R" to Dead Reckoning was a joyful ride and i hope the series continue in that fold for the rest of the season. Sad to see Kara Stanton die cuz she brings about the intresting dark past of Reese.

  • GreyMinerva Feb 05, 2013

    Ok, so we never find out what was on the laptop? Could it be some code for The Machine?

  • Lyta_499 Feb 05, 2013

    I'm starting to sound repetitive by now but omg, what an amazing episode!! I had begun to get serious PoI withdrawal symptoms after the (way too long) hiatus, but PoI is back with a vengeance! Let's hope that was the last hiatus in season 2, because this is the best show on TV right now and nothing else can remotely compare to it, imo. End hiatus rant.

    I generally agree with the review except on two minor points, namely the supposed holes in the script on how Kara and everyone else got into the building, and how the Man-in-the-Suit investigation was shut down. These are highly trained CIA agents, they can certainly find a way to bypass security and get into the building, the episode just didn't waste time going through it because there were so many other things they needed to show us - it was a regular rollercoaster! Did anyone ever doubt Kara could get her way with practically everything and everyone? And regarding the second point, they explained the closing of the FBI investigation by the other agent's comment, that they believed Donnelly had started to get obsessed with the man in the suit and lose his objectivity. They didn't place such an importance on this case as he did. Plus, there was a bomb threat for that building, there is a security breach in the government facility and a little while afterwards a bomb explodes in a car right outside it, with two rogue CIA agents in it. Next day Donnelly is found murdered, the logical assumption from all of these is that the two agents were acting as terrorist elements and given the significance Donnelly had previously given on the Man in the Suit being rogue CIA and an enemy to the state, it's pretty much self-explanatory. If there was a questionmark left for me, it was how to explain the presence of a third person in the attempt, namely John who has been seen by Kevin the IT guy. Either Kevin won't say anything, which is unlikely, or the FBI & police will still have to wonder who the third man was.

    The scene with Finch and Reese on the roof was so wonderful! Their relationship has progressed so far since they first began working together, that at this point one would sacrifice his life for the other. They both realize that but none of them makes it apparent in his behaviour, which makes it so much more significant. Reese was reminded of his past by the return of Kara, who was his nemesis like Tim pointed out very correctly. So in a way his eagerness to self-sacrifice was perhaps an attempt to atone himself for his past, a bi-product of his guilt. It was very evident from his scenes with Snow, how far he has come and how much he has changed. Finch was luckily there to save the day and didn't leave him to wallow in his guilt and get killed.

    Kara is definitely dead, they found both bodies in the car and there's no way she would've had time to escape and plant another body there in a matter of seconds - because the place was swarming with police, and that's how long it would've taken them to get to the site of the explosion. That was a very exciting arc but I didn't like Kara, so I'm glad she's dead! I liked Snow a little more, but I still can't forgive him for framing Carter to get John killed in the previous season, so in a way he also got what he deserved.

    I think the British guy's speech about the Titans not only has to do with his own plan to infiltrate government electronic systems, but also with the reasons behind Finch's action to sell the laptop to the Chinese. Because he did give it as an answer to Kara's related questions, and the show generally never strays from its pattern of linking the past to the present. So perhaps Finch was trying also to destroy something from the inside, whether that was the government, the people behind Nathan's death who operated as a black branch of the government, or the Chinese who were trying to compromise the machine? I somehow believe there is a darker story behind this, that has to do with Nathan's death and Finch's role in it. A crazy theory of mine is that Nathan didn't die, and he is the super-wealthy, super-secret person behind Kara's employer, trying to regain control of the machine. It was clear he disagreed with the way it was used, and perhaps Finch played a part in his death that might have been a little more dubious. Finch is very secretive and we don't know what happened with Nathan. So in my theory he might be the mastermind puling the strings on the opposite site - there might come a time when the myth of their brotherhood will also be torn down.

    I don't agree that John would just laugh it off if he found out, as it is he has no clue about Harold's involvement in the Ordos mission, or Jessica's death that ensued. If he finds out he might not actually be able to forgive Harold.

    Carter and Fusco were kind of on the backseat on this episode, so there isn't really much to comment on that front, except how the scene with Fusco trying to pull Carter away from John was very moving. But with so many CIA agents running around it's kind of understandable that they would get less screen time.

    I'm sorry Donnelly is after all dead, I was kinda hoping he might have survived and we would see him again, he was a cool actor and a cool character.

    Overall another great episode, with tons of excitement, plot reversals, big reveals, dramatic moments, amazing acting and a tremendous amount of hints and background to start a whole new arc in the rest of the season. I love how unpredictable this show is, and how it never allows us to rest on our assumptions but always manages to surprise the hell out of us!

  • LeeCuttler Feb 05, 2013

    I'm sorry to burst your bubble on the breaks but there are only 9 episodes left of the season (or 10 if they get the nod for the extra one upon renewal) but 13 to 14 weeks left of the season. So yes, we will have more breaks. Probally in March during March Madness. ;)

  • Lyta_499 Feb 08, 2013

    Awhhh... bummer :(

  • shootingstar609 Feb 05, 2013

    Going into this episode I didn't think Reese was actually going to die, so the fun for me was seeing how he got into that situation and how he got out of it. I think Snow was secretly biding his time until he would have an opportunity to take Kara out and Reese came in with his cowboy attitude and messed everything up. But, he sped up his plan at the end and so everything worked out for the best.
    Regarding "Harold" being the name on the small, burned piece of paper that floated away from Kara's exploded car. IF Harold Finch is responsible for selling the laptop that led to Kara and Reese's China mission, he didn't do it on his own. My guess is that Nathan Ingram is somehow behind it. Only time will tell...
    And the scene with Reese and Bear was really good!
    The moments with Reese and Finch on the roof and Reese, Carter, and Fusco were good as well. I love how Fusco was willing to just walk away and leave Reese to explode because Reese told him to. Maybe there's nothing to that, but I found it interesting.

  • MikeUK123 Feb 04, 2013

    It all felt a bit too easy for me to be great episode. Like most others here, I loved last weeks episode. I think it could also be time for more good guys.......... There has to come a point when a good guy is killed off.... otherwise the lack of consequence of the risks they are taking is going to make the show too light, lacking in depth. I don't imagine that being Carter or Fusco. John got shot by a CIA marksman but was back in action almost immediately.

    I think the 'almost got killed but just saved in time' can only be done a certain number of times. I hope this episode will be the last for a while that does this.

    Personally, I would like to see more focus on them attempting to take down Elias. I didn't find it so believable that in the episode with the baby. after almost killing her, John would not have wanted to take him down, or at least being him under a certain amount of control.And then with Carter's son. It seemed out of character to some degree that the person we are getting to know better and better would not simply want to end that type of threat. So I am hoping this is where this season might go, before we get to cyber terrorism.

  • LeeCuttler Feb 04, 2013

    What is to take down with Elias? Currently he's in jail.

    As far fetched as the they always survive issue might be, when you have a small cast and you kill someone off and replace them you do stand the risk of your audiance not accepting the new character. Heck LOST was a huge cast and had several new people that wen't accepted and had to be killed off because of it. It's one thing if an actor decided not to renew a contract but I don't see them offing any of the 4 unless that happens any time soon. At least not in the first few years.

  • AdaHui Feb 04, 2013

    I love this show and usually, don't care to pick apart any bit pieces but I do find it extremely funny that going up to the DOD place on the 21st floor, they were talking about the security being Delta force and all it took was Reese and Snow hiding in the elevator and one quick shot each to take them down lol Not to mention if it's a secret 21st floor, Carter and Fusco could just take the stairs and walk right in.

    Still, another awesome episode. I was still getting over the fact that Kara ran into their car in the previous episode, taking out Donnelly and then Snow goes and BLOWS THEM UP! Seriously, how I adore this show.

    And Bear + Reese = <3 <3 <3

  • LeeCuttler Feb 04, 2013

    Reese took out both Delta guys himself so he could kneecap them and prevent Mark from killing one of them. And Reese could do that becuase he had the same black-ops training and he had the element of surprise.

  • AdaHui Feb 06, 2013

    No I get that. Still, the whole purpose of having Delta security should be to prevent breaches onto the floor. I just found it comical that highly trained guys were taken out with one bullet each. At least a bit of a fight would have been fun. But that's just me.

  • klotensen Feb 03, 2013

    Far Cry 3 is awesome.

  • almaferoz Feb 03, 2013

    I think POI it's a so so series, but it's fun. This is by far the worst episode in the series. Ok, maybe I lost some episode, but I don't know why Kara wanted to kill Reese, they both had been framed and he is a ghost. But she put so much attention in our heroe as if he was the bad guy. Kara spent two years in carrying a mission for a Titans fan who has more resources than a bad ex CIA agent. She is decided to upload information to a driver. But then, instead of killing the witness, letting DOD asking for years what happen in that floor she left the man in charge knowing her plans and two people with bombs in the same place the driver is in. That are some things I remember. About Finch, we all know there will be a missunderstanding or something. No one can take Finch as a villain after al his recent actions.
    I'm hoping Alistair Wesley (Julian Sands) to comeback, he was the only villain I care.

  • LeeCuttler Feb 03, 2013

    Kara took John because she enjoyed abusing him and abuser always want their prey under their conrol. She finally got to control him again. It didn't matter that John as set up with Kara. Kara is a psycopath and everything is about her need to control and to kill. She got to do both in this game of hers. Once the game was over she was done with him again.

    Kara did intend to kill the DOD guy with the bombs she armed on Reese and Snow. She knew that John would interfer if she tried to shoot him and that could set the bomb off while she was there. So she set the bombs for 5 mins and locked them into a room to give herself time to flee. But all three of them were supposed to die that night.

    And yes, knowing the character of Harold Finch, the fact that he has been accused of selling the laptop means that he probally didn't do it or if he did it wasn't intentional.

  • almaferoz Feb 04, 2013

    Ok Lee, I understand you bought the thing about Kara wasting time tracking and using John knowing still he will be a pain in the... I didn't bought it you did. It's fine by me. We agree on disagree.
    But your second point.. the bomb control it's in Kara's hand, there is no way John can detonate that bomb. Kara left them in the same place the driver and the computers are. I mean she uploaded information to that machine just to left two bombs in the same place, instead of just killing the three men and let DOD scratching his brains. He left them alive with a ticking bomb in the same room where the driver and the computers are. Sorry, I don't know if you understand my point.

  • LeeCuttler Feb 04, 2013

    I guess I don't because she was done with the computers by then and actually benifited from the whole room blowing up so that what was on the hard drive couldn't be discovered. But she needed time to get out safely. I completely understand what she did and why. You don't and that's ok too.

  • GreyMinerva Feb 05, 2013

    Well of COURSE she'd blow it up, she already used the room for her purposes, she doesn't WANT the government to see what she's done - it fits her plan perfectly if they don't figure out what she's done until the five months are up...

  • LeeCuttler Feb 04, 2013

    Almaferoz, how is it dumb? Kara had already uploaded her playload. Now it was time to destroy the evidence and the witnesses. But if she shoots them strait out she could set off the bombs while she is still there. So she armed the bombs to go off in 5 mins, giving her time to get to safety and destroy the room while also killing the witneses FIVE MINUTES LATER. She didn't plan on Reese and Mark getting the door open. She didn't count on Reese taking the hard drive and giving it to Harold to inspect.

  • almaferoz Feb 04, 2013

    This is what happen in the last part of the episode...
    John: What is this room?
    DOD Guy: Where we monitor the government's most secure networks against cyber attacks. From here she could reach...
    Kara: Everything
    And then she left two guys with bombs in that same room. Knowing it could take several months to reestructurate everything. Isn't that dumb?

  • ZeroCals Feb 03, 2013

    I don't want Kara to be dead, but I don't really see a way for her to be alive. I didn't see the glitch, and the last we saw of her was her attempting to get in her own back seat at Snow. Kind of hard to get out of your car from that position... but then again, I'm not CIA trained.

  • LeeCuttler Feb 03, 2013

    Even after the glitch (and you have to just watch the seconds count up in the corner of the screen to see it) the machine boxed two people inside the car, one all red one for a perp (Kara) and one red cornered with white dashes for a victim (Snow).

  • sleepy-sonic Feb 03, 2013

    Good episode which moved the story forward an gave us the deaths of two major enemies.About the question, I think that Stanton is dead for real this time.

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