Person of Interest "Critical" Review: Bring On the Bad Guys

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Person of Interest S02E07: "Critical"

My knowledge of the Batman universe is pathetic at best. Something about a guy who jokes or riddles or both? But I do know the Caped Crusader has a Christmas list-long dossier of villains built up over several decades spent foiling crimes. And as Person of Interest continues to venture toward becoming a televised comic series with a vigilante do-gooder and his billionaire partner, its roster of villains is growing, too.

But we have to ask ourselves how many villains is too many villains? Can the tried-and-true overpopulated world of villains in comics translate to television? This stockpiling of recurring bad guys is going to be an interesting experiment for Person of Interest, and Season 2 is showing no signs of slowing down on what was a curious idea in Season 1. Elias as a big bad was a breakthrough for the series. Suddenly our cyborg superhero had a person to wear the black hat. But one was definitely not enough for Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman; now there's also the crooked cops of HR with Simmons and recently unmasked boss Quinn, adorable hacker Root, Donnelley and his FBI goons, vengeful ex-partner Kara Stanton, and former foe but potential ally Agent Snow, not to mention mob bosses representing every country in the United Nations. And introduced in last night's episode "Critical" was our most comic-bookish villain to date: Alistair Wesley.

Played by the always enjoyable Julian Sands, who makes the act of talking an art form, Wesley is as close to The Riddler as we'll get in this real-world Batman series. Wesley, like Root, is a villain who enjoys the chase as much as the reward. He's into sick games, and he orchestrated an elaborate doozy of a ticking clock that Reese and Finch found their way into via their latest mystery social security number. This made "Critical" a slight departure for the series, but one that I think that, if it's done more frequently, will up the show's geek cred, really separate it from most of the procedurals out there, and give it legs for a long, enjoyable run. John and Harold can't just save randoms each week for seven seasons. They're an elite team fighting on the side of the good guys, and deserve worthy opponents they can have run-ins with on a regular basis. And how much more exciting will it be for Reese and Finch to every once in a while put these guys, built up over several recurring appearances, in jail or a wooden box? So I say bring on a whole League of Extraordinary Gentlevillains, and LET'S DO THIS!

This week's number belonged to Dr. Maddie, a brilliant surgeon (aren't all TV surgeons brilliant?) who had a powerful patient in Oliver Veldt, an energy tycoon worth a gazillion dollars. His ticker was having problems ticking and tocking, so Maddie was asked to rip open his chest and slap the thing around a bit until it was working correctly. But powerful CEOs and illness do not mix well, so Veldt wanted this operation done on the hush-hush so as not to mess with the stock prices of his company.

Stocks are games with winners and losers, and one player who stood to win big if Veldt croaked was Wesley, who played the Don't Pass Bar against Veldt with some risky investments that would only pay off if Veldt's company tanked. Wesley had a proposal for Dr. Maddie: Botch the surgery and kill Veldt, and Wesley wouldn't send his elite team of retired SAS agents to put a hole in Maddie's wife's (yes, wife, more on that later) head. This caused John to say that Maddie was forced to be the perpetrator in another twist on the show's basic tenet, but let's be honest here, in my log of Person of Interest victims vs. perps, this one is definitely going down as "victim."

What transpired after that was something straight out of the Die Hard series, as Wesley laid down some rules for his game (no telling the cops, no warning the wife, no telling Veldt, etc.) and Reese and Finch figured out a way to make sure everyone except for Wesley went home happy. There were double-crosses and switcheroos all over the place (I for one thought Veldt's assistant, Mr. Raines, was the mole, but he was just there to trick us—nice one, POI) and in the end the bad guys were foiled and Dr. Maddie didn't have to deal with all the paperwork that comes with a dead spouse. Things didn't come together all that smoothly, however, as Reese, Finch, and Maddie just decided they were done playing the game and the plan was undone with a few well-placed punches and kicks. It turned a potentially interesting case-of-the-week into little more than just a sloppy introduction to Mr. Wesley.

Meanwhile, Carter was chasing clues that led her to our old pal Agent Snow. But Snow was a broken-down man, running errands for Reese's ex-partner Kara Stanton—who is NOT dead, if you'll recall. The specific errand Snow was sent on involved shooting up a tech company for some reason (I assume we'll get more details later), with a bomb strapped to his chest as incentive for not goofing up the job. That Kara Stanton don't play around, I like her style. Carter got wind that this mystery woman had something big planned, and went to Reese to get to the bottom of it. Reese's reply was something along the lines of, "You don't want to know," and that's that. The plot thickens.

"Critical" was an average episode of Person of Interest that didn't take too many steps with the overall plot. Carter's storyline was the equivalent of a Post-It note reminding us that Stanton is still in the mix, and the case of the week was resolved fairly easily, without any mysteries unraveled.

But what I'm going to take away from this episode is the addition of Wesley and the potential for him to return with his sick games. He's the most unique villain we've seen on the show so far, and the most similar to someone who jumped out of a comic book. Reese and his opponents will never strap on capes or adopt nicknames, but they should be able to do everything else their comic counterparts do.



NOTES

– In my mind, Leon (Ken Leung) will always be welcome to come back. Leung is perfect for the series, and his ability to serve as a stand-in so Finch can go into the field is useful. I loved how much he enjoyed doing the work: "This is fun. This is what you and John do all day long?" Leon wants in on this operation, and I'll totally allow it.

– LOL @ a nauseated Finch saying "It's so squishy" when he had to assist in Maddie's open-heart rescue.

– Backwoods dopes might object to Maddie being in a lesbian relationship (an interracial one, too!) but dammit I have to give CBS and Person of Interest a big high-five for this. Not only did they include this progressive and totally okay detail, they did it without making any note of it. It almost makes up for Partners.