Person of Interest "Masquerade" Review: Move Over, Kevin Costner

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Person of Interest S02E03: "Masquerade"

After the epic arc of losing Finch and finding Finch that spanned the incredible Season 1 finale and the solid first two installments of Season 2, Person of Interest finally settled into its well-pressed suit and newest incarnation in "Masquerade." With this most recent installment, the show returned to its case-of-the-week format (which is oddly comforting), and the new and improved formidable friendship of five: John Reese, Harold Finch, Joss Carter, Lionel Fusco, and Bear the attack dog who will eat your enemies.

Reunited and it feels so good! And we aren't the only ones who would say so. "Masquerade" almost felt like a party for Reese, who was so happy to have his friend Finch back that he just couldn't contain his joy and opened his robotic lips to set personal bests in smiles and number of jokes cracked. As compared to the dire circumstances of previous episodes, "Masquerade" was a hoot, its humor much more overt in a manner of celebratory gusto. I mean, come on! Reese's pickpocketing of his job competitors' wallets and passing them out to their owners in the waiting room was funnier than anything I've seen on Partners this season (though to be fair, someone should throw that show out a window).

This all goes back to Person of Interest's prime directive, which is to entertain. And it entertains from so many angles! Characters are never idle. By all means, Finch's scenes where he's sitting in his office in front of a computer should be as bland as unflavored paste, but the show always adds something extra to punch them up. Last night, it was his developing relationship with Bear, the cuddly throat-shredding dog, which went from cold and detached to playful and open to ball-tossing. But that wasn't enough; there was also Finch's desire to keep his fondness for Bear secret from Reese. The whole thing was arced perfectly. Finch called Bear an "it" early on and used a napkin as a germ barrier to touch the tennis ball, and by the end of the episode he was taking Bear for a walk. That kind of execution is what makes this show work so well. Not too hard, not too fast, just right. Plus Michael Emerson knows just how to underplay affection for maximum effect. The joy didn't come from seeing Finch warm up to Bear, the joy came from us being able to see the warmth peeking through Finch's cracks. It reminded me of a condensed version of Reese and Finch's friendship, which has grown to become one of the best partnerships on television because it's so adorably uncomfortable.

There was similar excellence with Fusco, particularly when he was introduced to this week's person of interest, the Brazilian super-model-quality daughter-of-a-diplomat Sofia. Fusco's eyes doubled in size when he saw who he'd be looking after, then his face went into a landslide when she started giggling at him. But that was instantly reversed when she said she was laughing because he reminded her of her uncle, who was nicknamed "Stud." It would have been so easy to play that meeting by painting Fusco as a shlub compared to Reese, but Person of Interest likes to hand out the little victories, and that's especially important for characters like Fusco who don't always get the respect they deserve. Fusco is well past his sketchy days, and has really developed into an alternate option for comic relief.

Sofia's case of the week managed to be both engaging and convoluted, but that's pretty much standard issue for Person of Interest. This week, the fake breadcrumbs led us to believe that she was the target because her dad was a political bigwig, when in reality she was the target because she partied with the wrong crowd of clubbers and small-time drug dealers and zzzzzzzzzz... As long as we're being honest, I miss the old cases where the fun was figuring out whether the person of interest was the victim or the perpetrator. Thankfully, Reese was able to carry the case as her undercover bodyguard, and Sofia's transformation from "hot spoiled bitch" to "just plain hot" kept things interesting enough. But by the time it was revealed that the bad guy was her boyfriend—who immediately fit the bill of the irredeemable sort of douchebag that Person of Interest is fond of using as villains—I just wanted to spend more time with Bear.

In other news, it appears that this Alicia Corwin case is going to be the season-long story, and maybe I was dropped as a baby or something but I'm having a hard time following along. The bad guys from Washington ripped a microchip out of her arm, Reese's old partner Kara wants information about her, and Agent Snow is being tasked as Kara's errand boy with an explosive fanny pack (which is pretty cold, btw) that keeps him in line!? I know we're not supposed to have all the details of this case, and that's part of the fun, but it all feels so distant from Reese and Finch at the moment that I'm finding it difficult to keep the details straight. However, I have no doubt that it will all pay off in a few weeks.

"Masquerade" was a perfect example of why Person of Interest is able to perform at high levels from week to week. The case was ho-hum, but the show's unique style of humor elevated it to a level of hypnotizing watchability. Jonathan Nolan and Greg Plageman have created a simple recipe that's hard to mess up, but then they add flourishes of complexity that reward those who are truly invested. Carry on, Person of Interest.



NOTES

– Reese, Finch, Carter, and Fusco are really working well together as a team and they all share the same goal. And it's Reese and Finch calling the shots. This can't last forever, but let's enjoy it while it lasts.

– That was The Black Keys' "She's Long Gone" as the end song. No one can complain about the music choices on this show.

– Reese: "My hands are full at the moment." Of shopping bags! Oh Reese, you kill us. But please don't kill us.

– Looks like Carter is really picking up some of Reese's techniques! First she shot a guy in the leg (yes!) and later she crashed her car into bad-guy Monty's car, sending him skidding across the pavement. She's learning from the best. But how does she explain all that to the police department? Maybe we just shouldn't think about it.