Person of Interest "Lethe" Review: Controlling Interests

By Tim Surette

Dec 18, 2013

Person of Interest S03E11: "Lethe"

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. 


– 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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  • PaulTaylorPendor Jan 07, 2014

    I have only scanned the comments here, but has no one considered that the Machine talking to Root, and the machine giving numbers to Harold may not be the same machine? Harold's machine showed us at the end that it considered Samaritan to be deactivated but changed this to Unknown. Root said the machine has been preparing her for a big fight. Did the machine talking to her know about Harolds machine? Also, I find it odd that Harold went to such lengths to make sure no one could interfere with the machine (only building in a back door at the last minute) but Root can have free 2 way conversations with the machine. I think she has unwittingly been working with Samaritan, and Samaritan is aware of Harold's machine.

  • Copioli Jan 04, 2014

    Exactly. Bear was there.
    The most interesting thing, for me, was that Samaritan learns and develop, just what Finch wanted to prevent when he killed his machine everyday. We will probably see that this decision was correct someday, but I still hope Samaritan is not really evil (she will probably be out of control, wanting to kill everyone for being a slightly thread), I called the woman being not Art wife, but I never imagined she was Control. That was pretty interesting!
    Also, Lionel is a good friend.

  • ErlendJohanne Dec 31, 2013

    "No Bear" isn't exactly right. We saw he was out walking Harold in the beginning of the episode...

  • davidtodd520900 Dec 31, 2013

    Finch and Fusco being out of town while the other half of the team get caught means that they can conspire to rescue them, probably with the help of Root. Now there's an unlikely team if you go back a few weeks!

  • davidtodd520900 Dec 31, 2013

    Just realised this is not an original idea on this comments page. Sorry!

  • Amarnath_C Dec 29, 2013

    First thing: A great Episode!
    Query: False Gods: Pseudepigrapha in the Modern Age is this a proper book or as the name suggests: a psedo?

  • constablebob Dec 26, 2013

    Sorry my english. I'm a little bit surprised because many seem to think that Fusco doesn't know how to fight. Fusco vs Reese was a good fight on many levels. POI has several storyarc. One of them is the characters lines. The brawl between Fusco and Reese was not only a significant Reese's character, but also to Fusco.

    I have written the following text in another forum. Fuscos' character development has been an interesting. Fusco spoke boldly before but did not dare to rise against anyone. I think the turning point was when he strangled HR member after Shaw had saved his son. Because his son he had to take solution into his own hands. After that, he was standing on his own feet against Simmons which he should have done much earlier. Fusco certainly knew that Simmons is a good fighter. Fusco is unlikely to challenged Simmons if Fusco would not have trust his own fighting skills.

    This time, he did not give up not even in front of the Reese even Reese made the usual threats his own way. First Fusco tried to talk to Reese, but Reese hardly react to Fusco. Second, Reese barely glanced at the Fusco. I have noticed that Reese seldom glances at towards Fusco. Fusco is like air to him. When Reese gave the impression that Fusco to be pointless and irrelevant, Fusco had enough. Was the final remaining manly way to talk about feelings, brawl. Fusco knew Reese to be a great fighter, but Fusco had ready to try even if would lose.

    Reese looked really surprised when Fusco had hit him. Reese didn't seem to believe that Fusco actually dares to challenge him to a fight. Reese hit really hard and looked angry, but Fusco didn't give up. He's Lionel, lionheart. It will be interesting to see how their relationship will develop.

    In fact, fight reminded Fusco vs Simmons fight. Reese and Simmons had both height and reach benefit on their side. When Fusco got close to Simmons, Simmons lost. When Fusco got close to Reese, even Reese was in little trouble. Fusco hit a few good shot and big bodyslam. Fusco is a short, burly and strong. A typical tricky opponent if get glose. Fusco is good fighter but Reese, of course, is a better fighter,excellent.

    I fully understand Reese drinking. He behaved as it was in the past behaved. Reese is only human, his life has been three big events all seemed pointless to do good, father, Jessica and Carter.

  • ashtray4241 Dec 25, 2013

    So, control was getting it's "numbers" from Finch's machine or the Samaritan?

  • ILoveTVandDDsBB Dec 24, 2013

    The brawl between Reese and Fusco was amusing. Plus Camryn Manheim was good!!!!

  • ale00928 Dec 22, 2013

    I just heard a podcast about PoI ep 11 and one question came out that is very interesting:
    Are there in reality any phone boots left in New York? if there are, how many?
    Could anyone post a photo?
    Have a good Xmass everyone :)

  • dref22 Dec 21, 2013

    The idea of a second machine sounds stupid and feels like lazy writing, but since this episode was so perfect for many other reasons, I didn't care.

  • AustinMak Dec 22, 2013

    Nonsense. A second machine is the next logical step towards the singularity. The fact of the matter is: once the lid has been taken off on a technology there is no going back. Proliferation of that technology is inevitable.

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