Person of Interest "Lethe" Review: Controlling Interests
Geez, Person of Interest. Learn to take a break! The scheduling gods were not kind to the show, with a random single December episode scheduled three weeks after its epic three-episode "Endgame" arc and three weeks before the next new episode all the way in 2014. That's a year away for extremely literal people!
So of course I approached "Lethe" thinking Reese would solve the murder of some naval shipman wandering through town during Fleet Week or Finch would defend another Internet billionaire who found trouble by knowing too much. Something one off, something not too important, something that would just get 2013 over with so 2014 could start with another sweet arc.
"Lethe" used this lonely episode all by itself (It's the only December episode of the show, which doesn't return until January 7) to open up the next chapter of Person of Interest as fast as it shut the one on HR, instead of getting an early start on its Kwanzaa shopping. And only if you paid attention to casting announcements would you have a clue that "Lethe" was something more than just a throwaway to kill time between breaks.
Saul Rubinek and Camryn Manheim–who were previously announced as guest stars for a handful of episodes–served as our people of interest this week, Rubinek as Arthur Claypool, a former top dog computer geek for the NSA whose brain was rotting from a tumor, and Manheim as his wife, who desperately wanted Art to recognize her. Or so we thought. The whole first half of "Lethe" played out as a somewhat interesting standalone story about the emotional difficulty couples go through when one is suffering from brain deterioration, and it took advantage of our emotions to set up the big twist at the end. She wasn't his wife. She wasn't even his date to the NSA Sadie Hawkins Dance. She was an impostor! And not just any impostor! She was CONTROL, the mystery lady who made a brief yet unidentifiable appearance in the Season 2 finale and is the boss of Terminator Hersh and former employer of Samantha Shaw. Can we take a second to recognize how perfect the casting of Manheim as Control is?
She's still on the hunt for The Machine, and hanging around the week's number, Art, got her close enough to Finch to put her back on the scent of The Machine (ignore the fact that the super-powerful head of a top secret department was out on a field assignment by herself). But neither her identity or her proximity to Finch was the key to "Lethe." No, the wham-bam-slam-jam-a-doodle was the reveal of another machine called Samaritan, which was assembled (but possibly not completed) by Art to do the exact same thing as Finch's bag o' bolts. Thought to be discontinued by the government by anyone below Super Duper Top Secret Level Security (Art included), Control let us know that was B.S. and that Samaritan is most likely out there somewhere identifying baddies before they could drop chemical weapons on metropolises or greenlight a second season of Dads.
Guys, I don't know about you but the idea of a second machine out there turned my brain into a puddle. The soap-opera twist of a long-lost twin is garbage when applied to real people, but here it's a thing of beauty. Obviously it expands Person of Interest's universe on a technical level, but assuming it's out there and it works, it diminishes the power held by The Machine's co-admins Finch and Root, a power previously thought to be untouchable. It takes this powerful piece of unique technology and xeroxes it, spreading out opportunity for anyone willing to do whatever it takes to find it and master it.
And say it is used for evil, we're looking at a war of the machines. Could this be what The Machine has been preparing for? Is this what Root has been ominously warning us about? Does The Machine want Root and Finch to team up because it will need all the help it can get against Samaritan and the no-gooders that eventually gain control of it? DUH, YES. This has obviously been in the works for some time now, and it's even better than I could have imagined. A second machine! Imagine if Watson had a duplicate and they played Jeopardy! against each other, except instead of answering in the form of a question they were omniscient and omnipotent sentient AIs speeding through the global information grid trying to kill each other. It's like Real Steal, but with the world as its battlefield and no Hugh Jackman. Procedural, my ass. This is a serialized drama about the birth of Skynet. I'm excited.
But one part of "Lethe" was beyond weird and a bit on the emo side of things. Reese, still shook up from Carter's death, was out in Colorado drinking well whiskey and feeling sorry for himself. Fusco had eyes on him, and the two had a pretty boring talk about being a man or something. Honestly, it wasn't really interesting and was very out of character for the show. As much as I love Reese and understand that somewhere beneath the metal exterior is a teeny-tiny heart with actual emotions, I really don't need to see him being sad and drinking to forget. Reese should be in the mix shooting people in the legs, not sitting by himself at seedy bars as the broken weirdo. Fusco and Reese got in a fight together to work out some personal issues though, and if I'm Fusco, I'm rethinking that decision and counting my blessings that I still have an intact esophagus. They got picked up by the cops before Reese could deliver a Bolivian Toehold or whatever nasty trick he has, but that should be an easy situation to get out of unless Colorado cops are real dicks.
Much of the importance of "Lethe" comes from its revelations and surprise timing than anything else, but both were more than good enough to deliver a very satisfying episode. Those old Season 2 days of densely packing episodes with confusion by juggling disconnected storylines are starting to really pay off now as Person of Interest already has a head start on momentum when they touch on them again. Just when we thought we could catch a breath with the conclusion of the HR storyline, Control steps right in take it away again.
NOTES OF INTEREST
– I'm still trying to figure out the flashbacks to Finch as a young 'un. They seemed to point towards his potential empathy towards Art's situation by showing us Finch's dad as a man suffering from memory loss, but by the end revealed the motivation for Finch to get involved with artificial intelligence. It was a decent, but somewhat unnecessary, tangent.
– Vigilance returned! But only to serve as a momentary obstacle for Finch. They'll play an interesting part as the wild card in the second half of Season 3.
– How many naval shipmen, Internet billionaires, and Russian supermodels lost their lives while Finch ignored The Machine's phone calls?
– No Bear!
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