Person of Interest "In Extremis" Review: Time for a Reboot

By Tim Surette

Apr 26, 2013

Person of Interest S02E20: "In Extremis"

Despite one of Person of Interest's best features being its surprisingly tongue-in-cheek attitude toward cleaning up the streets, the show can't always be about Reese's perfectly timed vigilante wisecracks and Bear doing tricks. Last night's episode, "In Extremis," was as dark as Reese's past. Or Fusco's past. Or Finch's past. Basically any character in this show's past. Even Bear! Things were bleak.

The past and paying for your sins was the episode's big theme, reflected in both the week's person of interest and the heavy Fusco story, for what I think was an excellent episode. I didn't always think that, though. "In Extremis" started rather mundanely, hitting the typical Person of Interest beats and setting up what looked like a filler episode, which struck me as odd given that we're down to two more episodes this season. But then Person of Interest did another thing it's so fond of doing: it kicked us over the head and shot us in the leg when we were least expecting it with a wallop of an ending.

We'll start with Fusco's continuing good cop/bad cop thing he's got going on that constantly haunts him. Since he's teamed up with Reese and Finch, his karma levels have shot towards the positive–a kiss from a supermodel, hubba hubba!–as he hopped over the line to join the good guys. But we all knew his past would come knocking on his forehead at some point, and Internal Affairs' snooping into the missing Detective Stills–who Reese killed in the pilot and pinned the murder on Fusco in exchange for his loyalty–just about buried him.

Though we knew Fusco was a dirty cop, we never saw how he got so filthy. It was the biggest mystery about Fusco. Was he really a bad person who was always headed down the path of a scummy cop, or was he somehow forced into it? Through rather depressing flashbacks, it was a relief to find out it was the latter. He was thrown out by his wife and welcomed in by the arms of cheap liquor and smoky bars, and Stills saw an opportunity to get that missing piece of his dirty-cop criminal enterprise: an inside man in the Homicide Department. Fusco resisted initially, and this is important because it shows how true of a man he actually is, but when a dreadlocked hippie junkie came pointing a gun at him at a crime scene that needed cover up, he shot back, and inadvertently signed his club membership with HR. 

It's a huge weight off our shoulders. Obviously we're all big Fusco fans (right?), and knowing he at least had some sympathetic excuse for why he got tangled up with HR was a relief. The writers have done great things with Fusco in turning him into a man looking for redemption yet still manacled to a sordid past. We've always wanted to implicitly trust him, but nagging doubts kept us from going all in. Now we know why he went dirty, and it takes Fusco from a man we're don't know is trustworthy to a man we have to learn to forgive.

That attitude passed onto Carter, who once again put her own sense of morals before the precinct's. The episode's most tense moment happened when IA dragged Fusco out to the site of Detective Stills' grave, but instead of bones all they dug up was a bunch of dirt. The body was missing. Someone intervened. The "Aha!" moment came when Carter left her desk with Bear, tracking mud on the floor to pin her as the grave robber. (Advice to Carter: wipe your feet after grave robbing. That's just common sense.) Whoa! We've seen Carter tested before, but it doesn't get much more serious than digging up a dead cop's body to save Fusco's ass. However, it looked like Carter had a bit of extra motivation. Before she left, she handed Fusco Cal Beechman's file, which tells me that Fusco will have to scratch her back by using his contacts and finding out who set up Cal. That could put Fusco face-to-face with Quinn and set up the next phase of the HR story.

This week's person of interest was Dr. Richard Nelson (Dennis Boutsikaris) who accidentally got involved with the worst kind of people in the world: hedge fund managers! And the episode literally lined up suspects immediately, with fancy dressed white guys waiting for him after his acceptance speech for his Professor Emeritus award, leading to that sense that "In Extremis" would be just another filler episode. 

There's not a lot to cover here; Nelson became a target for an investment group after the Securities and Exchange Commission learned recent profitable stock dealings by the money-makers stemmed from an info leak, which inadvertently came from Nelson. Thinking if the leak was plugged the investigation would hit a dead end, the investment group set out to kill Nelson. And they chose a particularly nasty, inefficient, and unnecessarily prolonged murder method in radiation poisoning. Radiation poisoning! Why not push him in front of a bus or, I don't know, shoot him? Answer: because if they did that, we wouldn't see him get revenge on his murderers or make up with his goth daughter. 

What really stood out about Nelson's story was that once again, Reese and Finch did not save the person of interest. Nelson kicked it with some fancy Scotch in his hand, always knowing that he was a goner. In fact, Finch notes that not saving their number "seems to be a common occurrence of late" as The Computer gets them information too slowly. There's something wrong with The Machine, and a convenient Virus Meter on Finch's desktop showed that The Machine is overrun with viruses uploaded by the mysterious Decima Technologies. So while Reese and Finch should be getting numbers, The Machine is just one giant spinning multi-colored wheel, and at the end, The Machine shut itself down with the warnings "SIGNAL CORRUPTED" and "FATAL ERROR." Holy crap, you guys. We're all going to die!

This leaves us in an incredible spot to wrap up the second season as the stakes are higher than they've ever been. The Machine has been bricked, Carter dug up a dead cop, Fusco needs to face HR, and Bear needs to go to the doggy wash. However, Reese and Finch don't appear to be in immediate danger. Can that last? I can't wait to find out!


– Once again, Elias comes through for our team by changing Detective Azarello's tune on Fusco. I love how he's become an asset to Reese and Finch, and it makes sense. Elias is always going to work with the people who benefit him most, and right now, that's Reese and Finch. There's great respect for each other, and a sense that as long as their business doesn't interfere with the other's, they'll leave each other alone.

– Who else almost jumped to their death when Reese asked where Bear was because you thought something bad happened to the pool little doggy? I swear, I was halfway out the window. 

– I love the dueling Plato quotes early in the episode. Dr. Nelson quoted the Greek philosopher with, "Knowledge is the food of the soul," but it was his knowledge that ultimately got him killed. Quinn, at Beecher's funeral, recited Plato's, "He who commits injustice is ever made more wretched than he who suffers it." Let's hope those words ring true for Quinn. Or maybe Plato wasn't that good of a philosopher at all. 

– We can all check off "Finch snooping around with a geiger counter" off our lists. 

– Did we really need the goth daughter sub-plot for Dr. Nelson? I guess it was nice to see him reconcile, but it had to be developed so quickly that all the writers could resort to were cornball lines like, "It was another mistake, but the one I didn't make was having a daughter," and "The thing I'm most proud of is you." 

– Can someone confirm that Azarello's line to Carter, "If you'll excuse me, I gotta date with a sock," means what I think it means? Because that's gross, dude. 

– Carter! Stay out of the Men's room! Have some decency, sheesh! That scene, where Fusco confessed to past sins and Carter was crushed, was really sad, though.

– I loved the snow in this episode! The director took advantage with some great shots. Person of Interest always does great things with weather. Well, maybe not that episode where they were all trapped in a storm. 

Follow writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom

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  • TomWayne May 01, 2013

    Who else thought that Simmons was about to put one in Fusco's back near the end when Reese asked FInch what other numbers they weren't going to get in time, and it cut immediately to Fusco standing in front of Simmons at the grave site?

    Tim--yep, as noted elsewhere below, the sock comment means what you think--surprised you didn't mention the fact that it was also a not-so-veiled threat as well as harassment, the clear implication being that interacting with Carter made him feel the need to do that, which he wanted to not just offend/gross her out, but also for her to be intimidated by the what-if there was no one around, say a dark alley someday?
    (And lest anyone think that's stretching it, remember that "dates" in prison lingo are not just socks, but victimized inmates. Something Azarello would have been even more aware of being a dirty cop in prison,)

    I actually thought Finch was going to tell Reese that Shaw had located Root and had come back for Bear to be her partner (you know, instead of Finch's "poorly socialized guard dog" (Reese). Glad he was just out playing ghosts in the graveyard with Carter.

    Looking forward to how you handle Root's "I'll show you mine if you show me yours" comment next week, Tim (preview). ::)

  • MikeUK123 May 01, 2013

    This was a good episode, although i feel we are in for too many answers in too short a time.

    I feel HR get away with too much in the open considering the capabilities of the machine (before the virus especially). I really hope the finale deals with Quinn because I think that story should come to an end.

    I thought the person of interest of the week was a good story, and powerful against the Fusco story. However, as a few mentioned, I really don't get Reese killing the money guy, or wanting this to be the last act for the doctor. I think having Finch wipe out his money would have been a far more powerful and true-to-character way to go..

  • GreyMinerva Apr 30, 2013

    The moral ambiguity and tricky ethical tango on this show doesn't quite know what it wants to do.
    Exhibit A: Reese is a killer. He's killed for his country, he's killed to protect people, and he's killed for revenge.
    While he regrets parts of his violent past, he continues to kill people for various reasons.

    Exhibit B: Fusco is a killer. He's killed for his "friends", for loyalty, for guilt, and to a certain degree for money.
    While he regrets most of his violent past, he continues to kill people to protect the innocent or his friends.

    Originally, Carter wanted to bring Reese in, but she saw that he was doing good, and that he had a strong moral compass - it just doesn't always turn in the same direction hers does.
    Now, after getting gradually more "shady" (less lawful good, more neutral good), she's finally ready to grant the same consideration to Fusco.

    Perhaps his dark past hits her harder because Reese's military background and dark backstory coincides better with her own Army days - she was clearly involved in some pretty heavy stuff that may or may not have been morally ambiguous in Iraq - while Fusco is a COP, which to her is the epitome of upstanding citizens doing everything to keep the streets safe while trying to follow the rules.

    And as if to drive home the fact that Fusco is far from the worst, most coldblooded killer on this show, we see Reese - who previously has been quite good about dropping off bad guys who are still breathing at a hellish prison south of the border - calmly killing a man with a slow-acting and painful poison.
    Not exactly toeing the line, is he?

  • Caviezelized Apr 29, 2013

    1. First of all, hats off to Chapman for a fantastic performance. As he's said, Fusco is the glue that holds this all together. I gotta say, I think Carter was harsh on Fusco in the men's room. I get her reaction, and maybe it is believable. But surely she should know him well enough by now to believe him when he says he made mistakes in the past, but he's genuinely repentant now. She should know the kind of guy he is too---that he follows the crowd, he's eager to please, he's not a cold-blooded killer. All things considered, she should have been a lot more understanding. But at least she got moving in the end.

    2. Can I just say this? John shouldn't have pinned that murder on Fusco. He should have known damn well it would come back on him some day. The problem is John and Finch are so busy chasing after strangers to rescue that they're distracted from making sure Fusco is covered. Fusco has proven himself over and over. Has Reese ever thanked him once for what he's sacrificed to help them? Friends should come first, strangers second. This time they were able to move the body and get Fusco off the hook. Terrific, but what if there's no similar loophole next time? IMO, the moral thing to do would be for Reese to come forward and admit that he killed Stills. Yes, we wouldn't have a TV show anymore. Yes, it would be the right thing to do.

    3. I liked this week's number and was sad to see him die. Reese shouldn't have poisoned the killer, even though he was a murderer, but that scene was still satisfying in a grim way. I kept thinking he had to be drinking poison from the wine glass because the camera kept shooting it over and over, but couldn't think how it had gotten in there. Then Reese was revealed and all was clear.

    4. I think they need to start coming up with more interesting cases. I'm so sick of the hedge fund/corporate/business plots. Boring.

  • Amongster May 01, 2013

    Reese’s talk with Carter pushed her into helping Fusco.
    Reese and Finch sought help from Elias re Azarello.
    Finch gave Bear to Carter to help her locate Stills’ remains. Reese would’ve had to have told Finch where to look.
    Fusco was the first thing that Reese inquired about when he arrived at the library.
    Just because we may not have seen Reese and Finch help Fusco doesn’t mean that they didn’t.
    Fusco was part of a gang of corrupt cops who stole drugs, cash and killed witnesses. If it wasn't for Reese, Fusco would still be a dirty cop.
    Reese thanked Fusco (and Carter) in Dead Reckoning.
    I think that Reese does value Fusco as a friend.

  • nemosnanny Apr 29, 2013

    Reese killed Stills in self defense--the guy Stills was trying to frames knows that and the cop in prison as well as the bad cop Reese shot in the leg should suspect it, even though they didn't witness it. I thought Fusco had proven himself loyal to John, but since Fusco is loyal to just about anyone who is nice to him, maybe John wants more proof that Lionel's heart has changed and not just his loyalty.

  • Caviezelized Apr 30, 2013

    Of course Reese killed Stills in self-defense. I wasn't saying that was wrong. What was wrong was making it look like Fusco did it.

  • TomWayne May 01, 2013

    Understood, but remember that Fusco had been driving Reese out to Oyster Bay the day before to use his own gun to shoot and bury Reese--which is why Reese probably never cleared Stills' death up with Carter for Fusco--he wanted Fusco to man up and own who he was before Reese and Finch came into his life. (While knowing all along that Carter would choose redemption over unforgiveness when it came down to it--which is why Reese ignored Carter's attempts to have him rescue Fusco. He wanted them both to stop avoiding their own hangups and baggage.)

  • bleumystique Apr 29, 2013

    I really enjoyed this episode. I loved having greater insight into Fusco, since he's been sort of put on the backburner for most of the season.
    -I too nearly had a heart attack when John asked where Bear was. I love that dog. I did not however have a problem with the Carter not wiping her feet thing. I thought it was a great way to show what had happened, even though we suspected as much the moment they said there was no body there. I loved that we seen that almost broken look on Carter's face.
    Speaking of, let me talk about Carter. I love how much she's grown in the past season in and a half. It was bothering me for some time that she felt distant from the boys since the whole prison break/snow/Stanton thing. I always enjoy the way she interacts with both Reese and Finch. Reese in particular because they have such an interesting bond. They both share things, but both lie on other sides of a spectrum in some ways too, and the respect and admiration they have for one another is just different than how it is with any of the other characters. Initially when I watched this episode, I found myself still kind of disappointed that we didn't see much of that anymore, but then when I thought about it, I realized it was actually better than I initially thought. Faced with another morality issue , it really struck me that the two people she spoke to were Finch and Reese. She sought there advice and perspective, darn well knowing that she's the most morally sound one out of the bunch. And Reese told her as much. Really great moment for them. I really enjoyed that, even though it made me a bit sad, and I was happy to see them have that moment because I felt like we've been deprived of such great Carter/Reese moments...since they've gotten closer after revealing themselves a bit more. Anyhoo, I loved, loved that she struggled so much with what was going on, because she serves as the moral compass of the show. She didn't come to her decision lightly. She crossed a line, and she's slowly but surely slinking towards the darker side, however, I still believe that she will always be their moral compass. She's the one that reigns the boys in. I don't think that'll change. I have faith that that will never change. It gives her both growth as a character and a steadiness that solidifies her role in the series. I've really, really enjoyed Carter this season. I'm already a Taraji fan, but this character has grown on me immensely, and I love what she offers to the show and to the other characters. I felt like this was a great episode for it. Even though I still feel like she and Fusco have been too distant from the boys, I think I'm dealing with that better now.
    -Thrilled about Fusco getting some much deserved time. I've been fearing that he'll end up killed off, I really have, and I didn't want to see that. I'm glad he got the focus. He really needed the focus. I didn't doubt that he was sort of dragged into what HR against his will but I appreciated the confirmation. I also love the development in the Fusco/Carter partnership.
    -All these people that they aren't saving. Interesting storyline. High stakes. Emotional impact. The machine corrupted. I can't wait for the final few episodes...or I can, becuase I don't want it to end.
    -Even when Elias isn't there...he's there. I loved it. He's quite the asset to have, and honestly I love Elias. I respect the guy.
    -But all the fun stuff happens in the Men's room!Who hasn't wandered in there for a quality conversation. Double standards totally suck, but I love a gal who can storm into a Men's room and demand some answers.
    I really enjoyed this episode! Also, fantastic review!

  • Hellblazer Apr 28, 2013

    And its too a wicked way to probe Carter's loyalty whole extension to the team. We all know what Reese and Finch cand do for the other (remember Finch with the granade launcher!) but the ultimate proof of Carter's loyalty is to commit a serious crime to help fusco against all her beliefs.

  • Hellblazer Apr 28, 2013

    In some wicked way, Finch and Reese used Fusco's thing to fully bring Carter to the grey zone in wich the tree men live since the series beginning. Now, Carter has lost his theoric moral superiority over them and the whole team, including allies like Leon and even Ellias, has its own sins to answer for. Master movement of the writers, in my opinion.

    And Kevin Chapman performance in this episode is of Emmy nomination, at least.

  • protonefrid Apr 28, 2013

    Unfortunately i think she not only lost her moral superiority she lost herself too as she defined herself by her morals, and that makes me feel sorry for her. The last scene as she walked out the precinct with Bear, all broken and devastated was painful to watch... it annoys me that the team put her in a situation that made her sink so low.
    And if there is a parallel between her story and that of Fusco's (they both started doing illegal stuff to help friends and were pushed by those so called friends to do worse and worse bad things) I just hope she won't end up in jail in the next season as Reese/Finch just proved how promptly they'd help an asset if they have a poi to deal with (at least Fusco might have her back if he doesn't die till then)

  • Writerpatrick Apr 28, 2013

    The line was "I've got a date with the sack" meaning he was tired and going to bed.

    I first thought Bear was just sick, not helping Carter. But it suggests that Carter could have been the one to find the body first and move it.

  • MikeUK123 May 01, 2013

    That certainly was not the line. He says "I've got a ...... with a sock". Their expressions clearly show it is something bad / disgusting / etc. Not simply tired. I would say that's pretty obvious.

    However, not sure if he says 'date' or if sock means sock (clothes) or is some term for a type of prisoner, policeman, etc. If Tim's interpretation is right, it would seem like a pretty weird line. But it would fit their expressions.

    By the way, the Carter / Bear scene clearly is there to show Carter moved the body. The muddy footprints help make sure this is no suggestion.

  • soniafilou Apr 28, 2013

    I loved this episode, the relationship between Carter and Fusco evolves into a real friendship.

  • JasoBridge Apr 28, 2013

    The thing that I'm interested in seeing next episode is the introduction. Person of Interest has always been creative with the intros when there's a change in the general plot. Now with the machine down, I wonder how the episode will start. It can't be "you are being watched" anymore...

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