Listening music for the article: Unkle's "When Things Explode," as featured in the final scene of "Number Crunch"
Confession: I didn't even know Person of Interest was airing a new episode this week until very late. I thought last week's "Get Carter" was the midseason finale, and that the episode had left the show in a good place heading into 2012: We'd learned more about Carter, and she and Reese had developed a weird form of respect for each other. Oops. Last night's "Number Crunch" was the REAL midseason finale, and shut down 2011 in a fantastic way by building on last week's episode and opening up a new can of backstory that will be sure to shape the series next year.
ComputerBot3000 actually played a huge part in the episode, something I've been really looking forward to ever since show creator Jonathan Nolan told me that the program Finch created would become a major character in the show itself. There was something interesting about the way the computer was portrayed in this episode, with its jumble of security camera POVs, phone snoops, and digital boxes around people's faces. I'm not about to say the thing is becoming sentient, but I feel that with each episode, it's doing more and becoming a bigger part of our experience watching the show. Here, we saw it watch a car crash slowly unfold, and witnesses—who would become our Persons of Interest—flock to the scene like broke moths attracted to a money lamp and take the victim's cash. And I'm sure Reese checking out the book Ghost in the Machine in Finch's library wasn't lost on you. ComputerBot3000 isn't quite like SkyNet, and it won't ever be, but it's becoming more than a device to assign Reese and Finch to cases, and the way it was portrayed in "Number Crunch" reflected that. Just a thought.
This week, Mr. Computer spat out four numbers, all belonging to the witnesses mentioned above. That meant overtime for our dynamic duo as they scrambled to get eyes on all the targets. There wasn't a whole lot to the case, so let's excuse the details and just say the good guys won after Reese did what he does best... which is kick ass and make appointments for haircuts.
But their victory was short-lived, thanks to a friend from Reese's past. There were actually two cases going on this week: the mystery of the missing million bucks from a coked-up car crash involving the four witnesses, and two spooks closing in on Reese. The latter carried major consequences! We first met the mysterious Mr. Snow (but you can call him Mark) after he caught Reese's scent on Carter and took his questions to Carter's superior. Mark and his partner claimed that they're CIA, they claimed that Reese murdered his old handler (the hottie who we met in a flashback a few episodes ago), and they claimed that Reese is just shy of a gun-wielding maniac who kills without discretion. In other words, we can't believe a thing they say.
But Carter was still unsure of what to think of both them and Reese. She bounced back and forth between who to believe, the man who saved her life but who's also operating outside the law, or the two goons who say they're CIA? Decisions, decisions! But in the almost-end, after thanking him for saving her life in goodbye fashion, she sold out Reese by giving up his location to Mark. SHOWDOWN TIME! Mark, with Carter in tow, stopped Reese in a parking lot and told him he was bringing him "back"—to what, we don't really know. Reese left his old life behind when he became Super Bum and had no intention of ever returning, so Mark's partner sniped him with a few gut shots. Oh my lordy, someone actually shot Reese! I'd just assumed he was bulletproof or could smack bullets out of the air.
A staggering Reese walked out the back door to meet up with Finch, and Carter caught up. And then it happened: Carter, Reese, and Finch all saw each other in plain sight, no cover-ups, no scrambled telephone calls, no hiding behind proxies or motorcycle helmets. It was like people from an internet message board meeting face-to-face for the first time and finally realizing there's someone real behind the screen. It was do-or-die time for Carter's true feelings on their unusual partnership, and she decided to holster her gun and help them escape.
Now we're left to wonder several things. Will Reese survive? Okay, I think we all know he will. Who are the people after Reese? What do Carter's actions mean for her future relationship with Reese and Finch? Where does Elias fit into all of this?
Person of Interest continues to exceed my snobbish expectations. The things we want to know (backstories, mostly) are being revealed at the pace of a man who's been shot in both his quadriceps, but those stories are surrounded by eye-popping action and interesting cases-of-the-week. The producers and writers know exactly what their show is: a modernized '80s action series that combines everything that made those programs of the past so much fun, with lessons learned from new serialized character dramas. I'm drawn in with a whole lot of gunplay and badassery, but I keep coming back to learn more about these characters. Person of Interest has nailed its formula, and that's why it's one of the most entertaining new shows of the year.
– This was Reese's most badass episode since the pilot. Why on earth would anyone go after him with less than a Sherman tank and a flock of angry ostriches? Do not fuck with Reese! He didn't even need binoculars this time, he just used the scope on his high-powered assault rifle!
– Finch got a real taste of what it's like to lose a target when his mark blew up in front of him. How will that affect how he works?
– I approve of Reese's choice to go after the redhead when they were splitting up responsibilities to follow their Persons of Interest. Smart man.
– Am I the only one who cracks up at this show each week? Between the intentional cheesiness (which works) and the unexpected humorous dialogue, I laugh more during Person of Interest than I do during most comedies. "Lionel, after all we've been through..."
– There are plenty of things to nitpick about in each episode. Wouldn't a bomb in NYC cause more of a ruckus? Couldn't Finch have discovered that the two POIs were foster sisters? Could Reese really just put on a CSU coat and walk onto a crime scene? But guess what? I don't care! Person of Interest has established its own plane of reality, so I'm just excusing these things and enjoying it.
– Whoever is doing the music for this show, pat yourself on the back. "Number Crunch" included Unkle featuring Ian Astbury, the lead singer of vastly underrated rockers The Cult (hit the YouTube embed at the top of this story to check it out).
Follow TV.com writer Tim Surette on Twitter: @TimAtTVDotCom