One thing that's become a trademark of Person of Interest's first season is a weird snowball effect as each episode progresses. From the pilot to last night's "Foe," Person of Interest has a habit of starting off slow and dumping a ton of info on our heads, but once the halfway point arrives and a twist is revealed, things get good quick and the puzzle comes together. It's a nice reward for sticking with each episode, and "Foe" gave us the gift of humanizing a man in Reese's line of work.
This week's number belonged to a former East German Stasi operative named Ulrich Kohl, but we're going to call him Charles Widmore because he was played by Lost's Alan Dale (POI's awesome guest-star streak continues!). Widmore had been off the grid since before old George Bush was president, and the intent behind his return wasn't clear until he started offing his former Stasi buddies, who'd all attained asylum in the United States to live the dream of being lawyers and construction foremen. After some incredibly quick research and investigation, Finch and Reese discovered that Widmore was after his old team because they'd turned on him and were partly responsible for the murder of his wife.
Despite all this, we weren't given any reason to sympathize with Widmore-Kohl—a move that would pay off in the end—as he'd become a real jerk. Widmore blamed the Stasi for turning him into a cold-blooded killer, saying it was the line of work that changed him. I can sympathize, as my job has turned me into kind of a jerk too.
But somewhere around the middle of the episode, things changed. The big twist was that Widmore's wife Anja wasn't dead, and that his thirst for revenge should have been quenched with a Diet Rite instead of the spilled blood of his old pals. Eventually Reese and Widmore met face-to-face, and wouldn't you know it, the old man took Reese out with a double-reverse Vulcan neck pinch. With Reese tied to a chair with needles in his ulnar nerve (editor's note: ouch), the two had a talk about what it means to be a soldier. Reese stared his bleak future self (minus the German accent) in the face, and suddenly both men became more humanized as each second-guessed his own career path. These men weren't always heartless, perfectionist life-enders; they once loved and had dreams of opening a soda shop on the corner before armed forces and government agencies buried their humanity in the darkest recesses of their psyches.
Widmore was dead-set on revenge, saying he'd waited for "today" his entire life, and Reese countered with, "What about tomorrow?" Widmore had no answer. But then he found out that Anja had a daughter—his daughter—and a glimmer of a human being returned. Of course, he handled the news in his own professional murderer way, which meant kidnapping his daughter and arranging an at-gun-point meetup with his wife. It was too late for Widmore, and he knew it. But his daughter told him the story her mom told her, about how he was a hero and helped them get to America to live a better life. This gave Widmore the opportunity to decide what legacy he'll be remembered by, and ended things relatively peacefully by being fatally shot by Reese. Reese discovered that Widmore's gun wasn't loaded, and Widmore answered Reese's question: "I never had a tomorrow."
Man, that was sad. After 40 minutes of making us hate him, Widmore made a turn and came to understand the errors of his ways. It was like Reese was seeing himself 30 years from now, like he still has a choice between turning back or following the same dark path Widmore took. The cold, lonely trajectory of an old man killing other old men.
This whole episode was studded with flashbacks (yay!) of Reese from 2006, when he was starting off with the CIA as an agent of mystery. We learned that the name John Reese was given to him by a sexy agent named Stanton, who taught him how to behave in situations that involve killing bad guys and becoming a super-agent.
The episode ended with Reese and Finch standing in a graveyard over Widmore's plot, practically seeing their future, and they had one awesome exchange that pretty much sums up their current situation.
Reese: "I always thought I'd die in a place that didn't know my name."
Finch: "You think anyone will care for our names?"
Reese: "After we're dead."
Finch: "I thought we already were."
Just another day in the life of two dudes who won't get any respect for keeping New York safe. Badass.
– That GUN Reese had. Wowza. Me want.
– We didn't really get that Ben-Widmore scene we had hoped for, as the two only met each other in the park. But it was still good to see them on the screen at the same time.
– Reese: "I lose my patience when I get shot."