Person of Interest "Triggerman" Review: The Good, The Bad, and the Sorta Good

By Tim Surette

Oct 26, 2012

Person of Interest S02E04: "Triggerman"

Harold Finch and John Reese got back to business—and it was all business—this week on Person of Interest. "Triggerman" was the most rote episode of the season so far, ditching the high-altitude season-long plots for a purely self-contained episode that played around with our rigid notions of morality. But aside from that and a guest appearance from our old friend Elias, it was as plain as can be.

This week's number belonged to Riley Cavanaugh (Brotherhood's Jonathan Tucker), an up-and-coming hitman for a lousy Irish mob boss named George Massey. Naturally the thug with a gun was pigeonholed as the perpetrator, but we quickly learned that Cavanaugh was the one who needed protection after Massey ordered his own son to kill both Riley and a hostess at a local restaurant, Annie, who George had the sweets for. Because dammit, if he couldn't have her (which c'mon, he was old and his teeth were an Irish yellow and she was a cutie), no one could. Riley objected to being killed, turned the gun on the mob boss's son, and then tried to skip town with Annie because—DUM DUM—they were secretly an item. That's romantic and all, but there was a catch: Annie was the widow of one of George's former employees, Riley was the triggerman for his death, and Annie didn't know about it.

As complex as that sounds, it was a fairly routine procedural story in its execution, with a large chunk of the episode spent just looking for people. But that's not what made the case interesting. Person of Interest plays with morality a whole bunch, but here we had a known mob hitman whose rap sheet was filled with vile deeds. The computer would normally send his number to Finch and Reese along with Google search results for coffins or the nearest police department, but Riley got the call for protection from Reese because Riley was protecting an innocent woman in Annie. Clearly the computer has a soft spot for people trying to rectify their evil ways, because Riley was trying to find the righteous path. He just got sidetracked by working for the mob and killing people. It happens!

In the end, Riley was more concerned with getting Annie out of the mess alive than he was with saving his own skin, and it's good he came to terms with that because soon the life of Riley was OVER as he got blown away by one of the many assassins sent out to kill him. But he made sure Annie would be safe, and even though the plan was for both of them to take a train to New Mexico and eat green chile enchiladas in peace, he'd actually only bought one ticket. He knew his life and the truth he hid would be bad news for their relationship and thousands of dollars in therapy, so he opted to give Annie the fresh start she needed and stay behind where his line of work would lead to a shallow grave in a New Jersey junkyard. It was sad, but in the end he was definitely painted as the white knight for his efforts.

When you look at Riley's life leading up to the predicament he got himself into, it goes something like this: Riley works for the mob, Riley kills Annie's husband, Riley starts boinking Annie, Riley withholds the truth that he murdered Annie's husband. Can a man with such a bad history be redeemed by one honorable decision? Or is it too late? Forgive and forget? Reese, who's no stranger to that kind of life, seemed to think so. And the computer (which doesn't REALLY make decisions on protecting or stopping the people it sends to Finch) obviously did, too, otherwise it would have just spit out Annie's number. Are you going soft on me, Person of Interest?

Well-intentioned bad guys and bad-intentioned good guys are the norm for this show, and the biggest bad guy of them all returned last night to help out Finch and Reese. Jailbird Elias used his connections to help Finch call off the bounty hunters who were after Riley, and in return he asked for only one thing. We weren't let in on what that was until the end, but it was a moment that brought the charismatic Elias even further out of the dark. Cooped up with criminals of inferior intellect, Elias had grown bored, and he just wanted a man to play chess with. Finch had no problem sitting down on the other side of the table with him in the final moments of the episode. I frickin' loved that! Enemies with respect for each other. Reese and Finch know thay can't just shut down Elias, and Elias knows he can't just squash Reese and Finch. They let each other go about their business except when their businesses are at odds, which keeps the delicate ecosystem of crime lords and vigilante justice viable.

On the outside, "Triggerman" wasn't the most interesting episode of Person of Interest, but it did a great job of exploring the ideas of right and wrong that have been created for this world.


– Person of Interest beat Grey's Anatomy in the adult demographic last night, 3.0 to 2.9, for the first time this season. Take that, horny doctors.

– How did you like Finch's ability to find Annie and Riley's secret meeting spot from triangulating the location where her computer's desktop wallpaper photo was taken? That's detective work! Completely unbelievable, contrived, and bogus detective work, but detective work all the same!

– Next time I'm out in New York, remind me to sit next to Fusco at the bar. That guy was giving away all his drinks!

– Bear needs to get in on some action. Rip a guy's throat out, castrate a burglar, SOMETHING!

– Enrico Colantoli was particularly good as Elias. Seems like the guy is doing alright in jail.

– Reese is one of those guys who likes 100 percent completion on his missions, as he found the hitman who killed Riley and finished him off at the end. What a badass. And hey Reese, if you don't want the money, I'll take it.

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  • bluemorphotat Nov 01, 2012

    I liked the ep even if it was pretty much "self-contained". Reese one-liners are always excellent! I like the dog, I think it is therapeutic for Finch LOL!

    I find that now that all the cards are on the table the four of them work like a good oiled machine!

  • TomWayne Nov 01, 2012

    It wasn't purely "self-contained"--as noted in other comments below and in my review, it continued to set the pieces on the board, a few at a time. Last week we got Stanton and Snow, this week it's Elias and Szymanski. Next up are Simmons, Donnelly, and Zoe.

    Be patient, my friend. You know that Reese likes to take things "a step at a time"--and remember, no flashbacks yet means that the upcoming ones should be goodies.

    And besides, Root was still here--alive and wackadoodling in Finch's head. PTSD (both in the terror it induces and in the even darker fear that you may not be that different from the trauma-causer) can be such a pain in the tuckus, especially since it's, oh, round three or for at minimum for ol' Harold.

  • GreyMinerva Oct 31, 2012

    Not the best episode, but some solid work in there never the less.

    Loved seing Reese and Finch disagreeing a bit here, betraying there different backgrounds - the former spy/assassin being very much on board with the idea of redemption as a worthy cause, while Finch focused on the innocent vs. the guilty.

    I nearly cursed when Finch let the words "bad code" slip out, and wanted to take rolled up newspaper to his nose - nothing good will come of falling for Root's crazy ideas!

    Which means I was doubly chuffed when he changed his tune at the end of the episode, seing Riley's selfless sacrifice as a sign that everyone can change and shouldn't be written off too soon.

  • Ninjaandy Oct 30, 2012

    Of course you know that chess is Elias' way of evaluating Finch's mindset, strategic chops, and reaction to various types of attack? I'm imagining them playing pretty regularly, with all their games combining in their minds into a single epic struggle of feints, attacks, and responses.

  • PlatinumRosebud Oct 29, 2012

    Creepy smile of Reese at the end. :-)

  • johnnyutah Oct 29, 2012

    can someone, please, tell me what song is playing at the very end of this particular episode?

  • gilbz Oct 30, 2012

    "The Greatest" by Cat Power

  • thorswitch Oct 28, 2012

    George Massey didn't order Annie to be killed because he couldn't have her - it was because she was asking too many questions about her husband's murder and Massey couldn't risk having her find out he was behind it. It also seemed like Massey suspected something was amiss with Reily, If he'd been doing any digging into Reily's past, the machine might have picked up on that. It seemed like the decision to have Reily kill Annie was pretty much supr-of-the-moment thing, so the machine would have been able to only get Reily's name. At least, that's how I'm explaining it to myself :D

    From some of the true crime stories I've read, police actually HAVE been able to determine where a photo was taken from with that triangulation technique Finch was using. I don't know how common it is, but it's not unbelievable :)

    Overall, I thought it was a fun episode, though I really want to see more Bear :D

  • Shreela Oct 31, 2012

    I've seen either McGee or Abbie from NCIS use photo triangulation to figure out location many seasons ago.

  • nemosnanny Oct 28, 2012

    I love POI and will follow it to it's final episode (years from now, i hope), but this story and the previous one were just not up to the writing standard of the last four episodes of season 1, and to a lesser degree, the first two of this season. The reintroduction of Elias is interesting if what he really wants from Finch is revealed soon--as well as what Finch really wants from Elias. Info on Root? More eyes to search for her? Will Elias demand Reese in exchange? Their symbolic game should have a winner by the Christmas hiatus.

  • shootingstar609 Oct 28, 2012

    Loved seeing Elias again. As soon as he mentioned not having anyone smart to play chess with in jail, I knew that's what he would ask Finch for. From the outside it seems like a dumb thing to ask for since Finch has so much money and connections, but then you have to remember: this is Elias and he's not your average criminal. I liked the questions of good and bad but as mentioned in the article, it's a common theme on this show. I also liked the implied comparison with Reese and Jessica and how this time he did save the girl.

  • bluemystique Oct 28, 2012

    It wasn't a bad just wasn't nearly as exciting as they typically are. Honestly I can only name two episodes in over a season of POI that I found to be a trifle dull and that's this one and the one with the stockbroker dude. They always have great moments in them though, even if they are dull episodes and they always bring up all these little issues and things that still make it good. In this case it was the good vs evil and the grey areas that lie between it all. I enjoyed that aspect of things. I loved seeing Elias again. I know there has to be more to come for him!

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