Despite one of Person of Interest's best features being its surprisingly tongue-in-cheek attitude toward cleaning up the streets, the show can't always be about Reese's perfectly timed vigilante wisecracks and Bear doing tricks. Last night's episode, "In Extremis," was as dark as Reese's past. Or Fusco's past. Or Finch's past. Basically any character in this show's past. Even Bear! Things were bleak.
The past and paying for your sins was the episode's big theme, reflected in both the week's person of interest and the heavy Fusco story, for what I think was an excellent episode. I didn't always think that, though. "In Extremis" started rather mundanely, hitting the typical Person of Interest beats and setting up what looked like a filler episode, which struck me as odd given that we're down to two more episodes this season. But then Person of Interest did another thing it's so fond of doing: it kicked us over the head and shot us in the leg when we were least expecting it with a wallop of an ending.
We'll start with Fusco's continuing good cop/bad cop thing he's got going on that constantly haunts him. Since he's teamed up with Reese and Finch, his karma levels have shot towards the positive–a kiss from a supermodel, hubba hubba!–as he hopped over the line to join the good guys. But we all knew his past would come knocking on his forehead at some point, and Internal Affairs' snooping into the missing Detective Stills–who Reese killed in the pilot and pinned the murder on Fusco in exchange for his loyalty–just about buried him.
Though we knew Fusco was a dirty cop, we never saw how he got so filthy. It was the biggest mystery about Fusco. Was he really a bad person who was always headed down the path of a scummy cop, or was he somehow forced into it? Through rather depressing flashbacks, it was a relief to find out it was the latter. He was thrown out by his wife and welcomed in by the arms of cheap liquor and smoky bars, and Stills saw an opportunity to get that missing piece of his dirty-cop criminal enterprise: an inside man in the Homicide Department. Fusco resisted initially, and this is important because it shows how true of a man he actually is, but when a dreadlocked hippie junkie came pointing a gun at him at a crime scene that needed cover up, he shot back, and inadvertently signed his club membership with HR.
It's a huge weight off our shoulders. Obviously we're all big Fusco fans (right?), and knowing he at least had some sympathetic excuse for why he got tangled up with HR was a relief. The writers have done great things with Fusco in turning him into a man looking for redemption yet still manacled to a sordid past. We've always wanted to implicitly trust him, but nagging doubts kept us from going all in. Now we know why he went dirty, and it takes Fusco from a man we're don't know is trustworthy to a man we have to learn to forgive.
That attitude passed onto Carter, who once again put her own sense of morals before the precinct's. The episode's most tense moment happened when IA dragged Fusco out to the site of Detective Stills' grave, but instead of bones all they dug up was a bunch of dirt. The body was missing. Someone intervened. The "Aha!" moment came when Carter left her desk with Bear, tracking mud on the floor to pin her as the grave robber. (Advice to Carter: wipe your feet after grave robbing. That's just common sense.) Whoa! We've seen Carter tested before, but it doesn't get much more serious than digging up a dead cop's body to save Fusco's ass. However, it looked like Carter had a bit of extra motivation. Before she left, she handed Fusco Cal Beechman's file, which tells me that Fusco will have to scratch her back by using his contacts and finding out who set up Cal. That could put Fusco face-to-face with Quinn and set up the next phase of the HR story.
This week's person of interest was Dr. Richard Nelson (Dennis Boutsikaris) who accidentally got involved with the worst kind of people in the world: hedge fund managers! And the episode literally lined up suspects immediately, with fancy dressed white guys waiting for him after his acceptance speech for his Professor Emeritus award, leading to that sense that "In Extremis" would be just another filler episode.
There's not a lot to cover here; Nelson became a target for an investment group after the Securities and Exchange Commission learned recent profitable stock dealings by the money-makers stemmed from an info leak, which inadvertently came from Nelson. Thinking if the leak was plugged the investigation would hit a dead end, the investment group set out to kill Nelson. And they chose a particularly nasty, inefficient, and unnecessarily prolonged murder method in radiation poisoning. Radiation poisoning! Why not push him in front of a bus or, I don't know, shoot him? Answer: because if they did that, we wouldn't see him get revenge on his murderers or make up with his goth daughter.
What really stood out about Nelson's story was that once again, Reese and Finch did not save the person of interest. Nelson kicked it with some fancy Scotch in his hand, always knowing that he was a goner. In fact, Finch notes that not saving their number "seems to be a common occurrence of late" as The Computer gets them information too slowly. There's something wrong with The Machine, and a convenient Virus Meter on Finch's desktop showed that The Machine is overrun with viruses uploaded by the mysterious Decima Technologies. So while Reese and Finch should be getting numbers, The Machine is just one giant spinning multi-colored wheel, and at the end, The Machine shut itself down with the warnings "SIGNAL CORRUPTED" and "FATAL ERROR." Holy crap, you guys. We're all going to die!
This leaves us in an incredible spot to wrap up the second season as the stakes are higher than they've ever been. The Machine has been bricked, Carter dug up a dead cop, Fusco needs to face HR, and Bear needs to go to the doggy wash. However, Reese and Finch don't appear to be in immediate danger. Can that last? I can't wait to find out!
NOTES OF INTEREST
– Once again, Elias comes through for our team by changing Detective Azarello's tune on Fusco. I love how he's become an asset to Reese and Finch, and it makes sense. Elias is always going to work with the people who benefit him most, and right now, that's Reese and Finch. There's great respect for each other, and a sense that as long as their business doesn't interfere with the other's, they'll leave each other alone.
– Who else almost jumped to their death when Reese asked where Bear was because you thought something bad happened to the pool little doggy? I swear, I was halfway out the window.
– I love the dueling Plato quotes early in the episode. Dr. Nelson quoted the Greek philosopher with, "Knowledge is the food of the soul," but it was his knowledge that ultimately got him killed. Quinn, at Beecher's funeral, recited Plato's, "He who commits injustice is ever made more wretched than he who suffers it." Let's hope those words ring true for Quinn. Or maybe Plato wasn't that good of a philosopher at all.
– We can all check off "Finch snooping around with a geiger counter" off our lists.
– Did we really need the goth daughter sub-plot for Dr. Nelson? I guess it was nice to see him reconcile, but it had to be developed so quickly that all the writers could resort to were cornball lines like, "It was another mistake, but the one I didn't make was having a daughter," and "The thing I'm most proud of is you."
– Can someone confirm that Azarello's line to Carter, "If you'll excuse me, I gotta date with a sock," means what I think it means? Because that's gross, dude.
– Carter! Stay out of the Men's room! Have some decency, sheesh! That scene, where Fusco confessed to past sins and Carter was crushed, was really sad, though.
– I loved the snow in this episode! The director took advantage with some great shots. Person of Interest always does great things with weather. Well, maybe not that episode where they were all trapped in a storm.
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter if you want to: @TimAtTVDotCom