Person of Interest "Dead Reckoning" Review: End of an Issue
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 TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom
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