It's been too long since the robotic Reese and gimpy Finch saved lives on our television screens, but after a few weeks off, Person of Interest returned last night with "Get Carter," an overdue look at a character we know too little about. Taraji P. Henson was busier than ever as Detective Carter, the NYPD detective with a love-hate relationship with Reese and Finch. Obviously she doesn't want a grenade-launching maniac terrorizing the streets of the Big Apple, but considering that the same grenade-launching maniac also happens to wrap up crooks in a tidy little bow for her to cuff and saves her life on occasion, she kind of has to take the good with the bad.
Person of Interest always has to come up with interesting ways to present its "cases," and this week it was a triple-suspect whirligig with a one-and-a-half-twist ending. After Finch's TroubleFinder 3000 spat out Carter's social security number (and picture! It spat out a picture!), it was up to Reese and Finch to find a way to protect her and lay low. Carter's past dealings gave us three likely goons who wanted to give her an early retirement from life: a recently released dirtbag who shot a witness, a repeat wife-beater, and the series' Big Bad, Elias. There's always a sense with this show that we're going to get a bunch of misleading information and follow the scent of a bad lead, but dammit, it's fun and that's exactly what happened. And even though the twist at the end—Carter's criminal informant, a carbon copy of The Wire's Bubbles, turned and was the triggerman—wasn't super unpredictable, it was forgivable because the show is all about its characters. The cases, which so far have ranged from genius to average, are just part of the ride.
Going into the episode, all we really knew about Carter was that she's tough, she works hard, and we're not totally sure that Henson is the right fit for her. But last night we learned that she was once a chatty interrogator back in the Middle East, has an adorable teen son, and has a minimum of three people who want her dead. We didn't exactly get to spend a weekend in the Hamptons with her, but it was a good start.
But the details aren't what stuck out about Carter. The most revealing bit of information we received was that Carter deservedly has trust issues. In the flashbacks, she gave her word to a suspected Al Qaeda accessory that if he gave up information, she would protect him and his family. Well, a few soldiers had a different idea and took justice in their own hands, killing him. This profoundly hurt Carter, and showed us partly why she acts the way she does today. In the present time, she has her hands full making sure things are just and that good people are protected. She's got dirty cops on her tail, she makes repeated house calls to a woman looking for protection from her punchy husband and that staircase she just can't seem to descend without falling, and she's raised a fine, young man in her son. Carter is a good person who wants to help, whether it's part of her true nature or due to a sense of guilt from not saving the man in her flashback. Reese and Finch recognize that, and want to keep her that way.
But how can she fully trust Reese or accept his favors? She can't. She can't even trust her crackhead CI not so shoot her. Her experience with getting burned has made her stubbornly stick to a "Screw it! I'll do it myself!" attitude. It's an interesting thing the writers are building here: No matter how well-intentioned Reese's Clean Up the Streets program is, Carter can never truly get on board with it even though they're essentially the same sides of two different coins. Until Season 4, that is!
This was a great episode for Carter, and now we not only have a better idea of how she fits into things, we also have a better idea of who she is as a person. But we still have a lot to learn. And that's how Person of Interest is going to survive, by slowly revealing the complex pasts of its players. Heck, we still barely know a thing about Reese and Finch, and they're the main draw. Patience is going to really pay off in this series if you take the time to keep watching it.
– I'm still not a full supporter of Henson as Carter, but there were a few moments this week when she really shined. When Carter was talking to her CI in the car, and in each scene with Carter's son, Henson was great. But when Carter's in full detective mode, it doesn't work for me. She's an Oscar-nominated actress, but it sure wasn't for playing a detective.
– GRENADE LAUNCHER! The idea that Reese can walk into a room and shoot three gangsters before they even have a chance to say, "Isn't that the guy who played Jesus?" doesn't even faze me anymore. I love it. It's wonderfully ridiculous and badass.
– How about Reese's new ride and duds? Of course he looks awesome on a motorcycle.
– What's with Elias dropping off the flowers? What was that all about? Did I miss something? Was he assuming she was already dead, or was it just a threat?