Person of Interest "Proteus" Review: The Forecast Calls for MURDER

By Tim Surette

Mar 09, 2013

Person of Interest S02E17: "Proteus"

There's nothing like getting all your friends together for a good old-fashioned home game of "Whodunnit?," a murder mystery where everyone is a suspect. The way I know the game to be played, everyone is under the same roof and a murder is staged, usually with someone flashing the lights on and off for dramatic effect. No one is allowed to leave, someone knows that they're the murderer but pretends they aren't, and everyone else plays a game of cat and mouse, rifling through clues until someone figures out who is simply pretending to be the butler. Then everyone has a laugh and a slice of cheesecake.
Person of Interest played that game last night in "Proteus," locking up a bevy of suspects in a sheriff's office near New York City during a wicked Nor'easter, and Reese and Finch had to find out which of these people were who they said they were, and which one was an identity-stealing serial killer. Except this was no game, this was for real, and there was definitely no cheesecake!
To be honest, you could call this script either a throwback to the classic days of television or just hackneyed filler, and you'd be right in both cases. In one sense, I expected Angela Lansbury to pop out of the woodwork and scream, "You're the murderer!" at someone. In another, I was checking my cable guide to make sure I was actually watching Person of Interest, because this was far from the show's standard operating procedure, and not necessarily in a good way like last week's perspective twisting "Relevance" was.

After three days of silence and a few dog-friendly movie matinees (love Bear as Finch's "handicapable" assistant), The Machine spat out six social security numbers in rapid succession, all but one of which belonged to a person who had gone missing or was digitally invisible. It wasn't long before Reese and Finch connected the dots and realized that they were dealing with a killer who murdered then took the identities of his victims until he got bored, then he killed again and repeated the process instead of doing Sudoku like the rest of us do to cure boredom. Early on in the episode, Reese teamed up with an FBI agent named Fahey who was also on the trail of the killer, and clues led them to a rental property on a sleepy vacation town called Owen Island. But when they got to the island, things were so stormy and wet that no one without gills was allowed to leave. The remaining inhabitants and visitors of Owen Island were forced to convene at the Sheriff's Office (plus Finch flew in on a plane posing as a storm chaser LOLx2 to join the fun), and thus the game of Murder Mystery began.

Immediately we were introduced to a couple handfuls of suspects as everyone on the island went to the same place: the cutesy local shopkeeper, the local bar owner who sampled his own goods plenty, a hotelier who didn't even like the island but was building a hotel there anyway, a grumpy fisherman who acted suspicious as all Hell all the time, a couple of oversharing newlyweds, and a shady drifter. Fists were full of ham to set this whole thing up, and as soon as the premise was well established I prayed to Batman that the show would trick us somehow and not make FBI agent Fahey, the obvious choice, the killer. But he was.

See, Fahey was actually Alex Declan, a former roommate of the first of the six numbers killed. He worked his way across the country assuming identities of his victims, and by the time he got to New York, the actual Fahey tried to catch him so Alex killed him and took his identity. And he was having so much fun with it that he got a little carried away with it. Hmmm... okay. "Proteus" placed a few weak decoys in there in the fisherman and the drifter, but eventually Finch caught him after using some semi-seismic gear to read heartbeats and I don't know guys, this wasn't exactly Person of Interest at its best. Reese didn't even put Alex/Fahey down, he was too busy trying to stop the fisherman from smuggling marijuana and exposing the drifter as an AWOL Marine. If you're going to give us a rather rote story, at least give us the satisfaction of Reese putting a few rounds in the killers' legs.

That wasn't the interesting part of "Proteus," though. What did salvage the episode were details on The Machine, which had been acting up lately. It went quiet for three days, it gave multiple numbers at once, it gave numbers of people out of state, and it gave numbers of dead people. The Machine doesn't do that! Well, a healthy Machine doesn't do that, and Finch suspected that the virus that Kara Stanton uploaded to the Department of Defense could have worked its way into The Machine. Add to that all the glitching the Machine has been doing as of late and it's a big cause for concern. Reese argued that The Machine was smart enough to send them the six numbers of the killer's victims as a new way to keep the world safer, and indeed, we've seen The Machine get a lot smarter since its infant days of calling Finch "Admin." But Finch was more concerned with the three days of silence, and pessimistically dismisses Reese's forecast that the literal storm is just passing because the metaphorical storm is just beginning. Spooky!


"Proteus" also dealt with Cal Beecher and Carter's relationship some more, moving the needle back towards "innocent" when it comes to Cal as he came in and saved the day by shooting Fahey. It wasn't particularly graceful and consisted mostly of Carter giving Beecher the cold shoulder after being warned of the continuing Internal Affairs investigation against him. The problem with this story is it's not really letting us think for ourselves, it's just telling us to be weary of him without much evidence at all. It's been part of a few episodes now, but all we're really doing is taking wild guesses as to whether he's a good guy or bad guy because we don't know squat.

– Though the episode mostly played it straight, there were some great lines from Reese. "Unbelievable, we're hunting a killer, instead we get amateur drug night in the sticks?" After annoying the local deputy who asks him if he needs anything else: "Yeah, how's your coffee?" After Finch asked Reese if last night was the first time he'd been shot at with a spear gun: "I wish I could say yes."

– Another Harold Finch alias: Harold Gull. Or has he used that one before?

– I thought the weirdest glitch The Machine did was zooming out of Owen Island and then zooming straight back into it late in the episode. Machine, you so crazy!

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  • 377221 Mar 14, 2013

    The machine glitches were a self-referential thing. See, the Machine is real. It spat out numbers for several years, including the irrelevant ones to two guys on the sly (or something like that - the true story is never quite the same), and was then retired, but allowed to be left on. The people presiding over it were surprised when, on the first day of its retirement, it wrote a screenplay, a fictionalised account of its own exploits. They changed some details that otherwise would have meant they would have had to kill everyone who watched the show and brought in Nolan and Abrams to as consultants. It was actually The Machine that suggested Michael Emerson for the part of Harold, based on a recommendation from a friend and fellow number-generating computer, the one that inspired the one that produced "the numbers" every 108 minutes in The Swan station in Lost. Anyway, The Machine has experienced glitches recently, which is why the latest episode wasn't very good.

  • TQB Mar 12, 2013

    I agree, not as amazing as last week, but still interesting. Reese being unavailable to shoot FauxFahey in the legs seemed to me to be a very deliberate choice, giving Finch, Carter and Beecher a chance to be the heroes. I suspect the intent of the episode was to make it jarring, unusual, a tempo shift, to illustrate that Not Everything is Alright, but layering on the Whodunnit was in that case a little silly. Incidentally, while I would also like to have more info upon which to judge Beecher, I felt like his last-minute rescue was intended to be some evidence for the "good but just in narcotics" argument.

    Am I the only person who wanted Finch's alias (after falling from the sky in a storm) to be Henry Gale again?? It's almost like I've forgotten Ben Linus.

  • protonefrid Mar 12, 2013

    Is it me or the machine is getting smarter? the info it provided was much more helpful and it provided it for that specific reason but this might be the first time it provided 6 numbers for 6 already dead people. It realized that with a serial killer such as this one (someone like Finch that leaves no digital footprint or evidence) it didn't have enough info to predict its next move and simply went to damage control, mainly to get the team to stop him before he kills again. Usually, the numbers are the intended victims or the perpetrator and they are always living people (like with the presumed dead girl in the second or third episode of the show... they had the number so it meant she had to be alive), so to me this looks like a new thought process from the machine because this time the numbers were CLUES not people needing to be saved or stopped (it didn't do what it was taught to do, it found a different way... that, in my book, is evolution).

    I was one of the people that enjoyed the show. But then again I don't watch for the mystery, I watch for the story and for it's entertainment value. Liked the case of the week, it was disturbing (especially the part when he started imitating Finch) and very clever (the killer sold the image of the paper pusher FBI agent, who hasn't been on the field for a long time when he met Reese, so well that it had me doubt myself and my ability to spot a killer in a show for a moment). Actually the killer was brilliantly constructed as a character (down to his motivations and his delusion of being able to stop once he found a life he liked) and that, alongside with the machine's weird behavior and the glimpse we had of Finch's true self made the episode more than ok for me. Lol..almost forgot Reese's one liners that never disappoint.

    What bothers me is that there was no interaction between Carter and Reese ever since the bomb vest scene (and not only that, but they don't even talk/ask about each other) and I can't figure out why. It has to be intended (Reese is the guy who found ways of being in touch with Carter even when she was chasing him, in the beginning of the show) but I don't know if it might be a plot line (avoiding each other) or the writers and producers are simply trying to pull them apart (to give the Carter/Reese shippers time to cool down) in which case interacting normally with each other just as before would have done the trick better (and i wouldn't have noticed anything... and it wouldn't have bugged me by now)

    I missed Fusco and hope he comes back next episode. Also, i don't get where they are going with the Beecher storyline but hope it ends fast (they started it ok, but since then the chemistry between Carter and him disappeared... the writers are capable of doing this so much more better but, for some obscure reason, they are not)

  • RobTheMonk Mar 11, 2013

    This is potentially a very clever episode in hiding (so to speak). I mean, the machine is out of sync of sorts and this episode was, well, not normal POI. Once Finch finds out what's up I predict a return to badassery again. Oh, and Reese's total lack of suprise at the harpoon inches from his head was awesome.

  • Vicky8675309 Mar 11, 2013

    Good review. I think I liked the episode more then you but I understand that it is hard to follow up from such a epic/awesome previous episode.

    This episode didn't ignore previous episodes and Finch/Reese conversation about the machine acting strange and commenting on Stanton's virus was great in that it tied the episodes together.

    Also this episode provided insight into Finch--his conversation with the killer and the reveal that he is also disguised (doesn't need glasses, etc...) was great. The entire conversation at the end between Finch and the killer was fantastic.

    The fake FBI guy as the killer was obvious but he had a white box so it threw me off. Now I know that the virus is causing the machine to act strange and the past two episodes had white boxes (should indicate innocents or non-threatening people) about the "bad guys".

    now to catch up on reading the comments...

  • ZacharyDecent Mar 11, 2013

    I don't think Finch doesn't need glasses. The guy took them from Finch to symbolise that he was going to assume Finches identity. In reality he needs the glasses to see because he isn't sure it's Carter who has come to save him until he puts his glasses back on

  • Vicky8675309 Mar 12, 2013

    that was just one example....another was the posture

  • JeremyStratten Mar 11, 2013

    Finch didn't have any trouble seeing the killer, and he wasn't afraid of him at all.Only after he knew Carter was behind the killer he started pretending that he's afraid of him and that he can't see without his glasses.

  • protonefrid Mar 12, 2013

    Also the killer didn't have any trouble seeing with Finch's glasses. With glasses that look so thick, anyone with normal vision would have a hard time seeing (he would have at least squinted till his eyes would have got a little used to the glasses).

  • fsyemogushi Mar 15, 2013

    If you'll recall, Declan removed some contact lenses from his eyes. They changed the color of his eyes and could also have been perscription. Thus Harold's perscription could have been close enough that he wouldn't have to squint.
    Harold's glasses definately have a near-sighted perscription in them as you can tell the way that the area behind the lenses seems smaller than his actual head.

  • abdulay31 Mar 11, 2013

    Great review as always Tim you captured my thoughts on this episode. The writers are trying a variety of stories throughout S2 but Proteus didn't measure up to POI standards worth its slow pace and cliche mystery, the only saving grace is the twists towards the end of the episode.

    PS: looking forward to your amazing Revolution recaps

  • AriSky Mar 11, 2013

    It's nice that they're trying to test the waters of what kind of episodes they can throw at us... but give us something familiar in between so we know the good ol' PoI is still the same at its core.

  • Glimmy Mar 10, 2013

    Oh yeah, I forgot to say, Harold can fly a plane, does his awesomeness know no bounds?

  • paintcan Mar 11, 2013

    Through the eyes of a few tornadoes no less. That was a weird scene that barely drew a mention on the show.

  • Glimmy Mar 10, 2013

    I thoroughly enjoyed this episode. It neatly illustrated how the Machine is starting to be affected by Stanton's virus. Not giving a number for days then it gives out 6 numbers when usually it would have whittled that down to just the killers number. It is definitely on the 'fritz' as Reese put it. I can't wait to see what implications this will have for our dynamic duo. Plus I loved how fearless Finch was when he stood up to the killer. First Root now a serial killer. Fearless badass Harold strikes again!

  • JustinJohnson9 Mar 10, 2013

    I for one definitely enjoyed this episode, even though it was filler. There was no "hackneying" to this episode at all! I never saw the FBI guy as the killer. I thought POI kept it well hidden. The conversation between the killer and Finch was simply great television.

    As for Beecher, his motives still remain a mystery, which to me is a very good thing. I see no reason why his true motivations need to be revealed now. It's called patience, people!!! You know this thing with Carter and Beecher will go somewhere.

  • MikeUK123 Mar 10, 2013

    Seriously...... you never saw the FBI guy as the killer?? As the poster below says, I thought it was obvious the moment we saw him. And I'm pretty sure POI were making it obvious, going for the 'we know but they don't' approach. The only thing was, I think they actually should have shown us it was him, rather than the obvious but not stated way. Because of this, like Tim said, I was really hoping for a twist that didn't come.

  • JustinJohnson9 Mar 11, 2013

    It was NEVER obvious!!! After the fact, people ALWAYS say "yeah, I knew it was him all along", when they didn't see a damn thing.

  • Vicky8675309 Mar 11, 2013

    Actually I thought he was obvious but then thought he was to obvious. He also had a white box so I started to question my belief that he was the killer.

    Basically he was to obvious so I started to over think it and then got misled by the machine's white box glitch.

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