Person of Interest "Triggerman" Review: The Good, The Bad, and the Sorta Good

Person of Interest S02E04: "Triggerman"

Harold Finch and John Reese got back to business—and it was all business—this week on Person of Interest. "Triggerman" was the most rote episode of the season so far, ditching the high-altitude season-long plots for a purely self-contained episode that played around with our rigid notions of morality. But aside from that and a guest appearance from our old friend Elias, it was as plain as can be.

This week's number belonged to Riley Cavanaugh (Brotherhood's Jonathan Tucker), an up-and-coming hitman for a lousy Irish mob boss named George Massey. Naturally the thug with a gun was pigeonholed as the perpetrator, but we quickly learned that Cavanaugh was the one who needed protection after Massey ordered his own son to kill both Riley and a hostess at a local restaurant, Annie, who George had the sweets for. Because dammit, if he couldn't have her (which c'mon, he was old and his teeth were an Irish yellow and she was a cutie), no one could. Riley objected to being killed, turned the gun on the mob boss's son, and then tried to skip town with Annie because—DUM DUM—they were secretly an item. That's romantic and all, but there was a catch: Annie was the widow of one of George's former employees, Riley was the triggerman for his death, and Annie didn't know about it.

As complex as that sounds, it was a fairly routine procedural story in its execution, with a large chunk of the episode spent just looking for people. But that's not what made the case interesting. Person of Interest plays with morality a whole bunch, but here we had a known mob hitman whose rap sheet was filled with vile deeds. The computer would normally send his number to Finch and Reese along with Google search results for coffins or the nearest police department, but Riley got the call for protection from Reese because Riley was protecting an innocent woman in Annie. Clearly the computer has a soft spot for people trying to rectify their evil ways, because Riley was trying to find the righteous path. He just got sidetracked by working for the mob and killing people. It happens!

In the end, Riley was more concerned with getting Annie out of the mess alive than he was with saving his own skin, and it's good he came to terms with that because soon the life of Riley was OVER as he got blown away by one of the many assassins sent out to kill him. But he made sure Annie would be safe, and even though the plan was for both of them to take a train to New Mexico and eat green chile enchiladas in peace, he'd actually only bought one ticket. He knew his life and the truth he hid would be bad news for their relationship and thousands of dollars in therapy, so he opted to give Annie the fresh start she needed and stay behind where his line of work would lead to a shallow grave in a New Jersey junkyard. It was sad, but in the end he was definitely painted as the white knight for his efforts.

When you look at Riley's life leading up to the predicament he got himself into, it goes something like this: Riley works for the mob, Riley kills Annie's husband, Riley starts boinking Annie, Riley withholds the truth that he murdered Annie's husband. Can a man with such a bad history be redeemed by one honorable decision? Or is it too late? Forgive and forget? Reese, who's no stranger to that kind of life, seemed to think so. And the computer (which doesn't REALLY make decisions on protecting or stopping the people it sends to Finch) obviously did, too, otherwise it would have just spit out Annie's number. Are you going soft on me, Person of Interest?

Well-intentioned bad guys and bad-intentioned good guys are the norm for this show, and the biggest bad guy of them all returned last night to help out Finch and Reese. Jailbird Elias used his connections to help Finch call off the bounty hunters who were after Riley, and in return he asked for only one thing. We weren't let in on what that was until the end, but it was a moment that brought the charismatic Elias even further out of the dark. Cooped up with criminals of inferior intellect, Elias had grown bored, and he just wanted a man to play chess with. Finch had no problem sitting down on the other side of the table with him in the final moments of the episode. I frickin' loved that! Enemies with respect for each other. Reese and Finch know thay can't just shut down Elias, and Elias knows he can't just squash Reese and Finch. They let each other go about their business except when their businesses are at odds, which keeps the delicate ecosystem of crime lords and vigilante justice viable.

On the outside, "Triggerman" wasn't the most interesting episode of Person of Interest, but it did a great job of exploring the ideas of right and wrong that have been created for this world.



INTERESTING NOTES

– Person of Interest beat Grey's Anatomy in the adult demographic last night, 3.0 to 2.9, for the first time this season. Take that, horny doctors.

– How did you like Finch's ability to find Annie and Riley's secret meeting spot from triangulating the location where her computer's desktop wallpaper photo was taken? That's detective work! Completely unbelievable, contrived, and bogus detective work, but detective work all the same!

– Next time I'm out in New York, remind me to sit next to Fusco at the bar. That guy was giving away all his drinks!

– Bear needs to get in on some action. Rip a guy's throat out, castrate a burglar, SOMETHING!

– Enrico Colantoli was particularly good as Elias. Seems like the guy is doing alright in jail.

– Reese is one of those guys who likes 100 percent completion on his missions, as he found the hitman who killed Riley and finished him off at the end. What a badass. And hey Reese, if you don't want the money, I'll take it.

Comments (37)
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I liked the ep even if it was pretty much "self-contained". Reese one-liners are always excellent! I like the dog, I think it is therapeutic for Finch LOL!

I find that now that all the cards are on the table the four of them work like a good oiled machine!
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It wasn't purely "self-contained"--as noted in other comments below and in my review, it continued to set the pieces on the board, a few at a time. Last week we got Stanton and Snow, this week it's Elias and Szymanski. Next up are Simmons, Donnelly, and Zoe.



Be patient, my friend. You know that Reese likes to take things "a step at a time"--and remember, no flashbacks yet means that the upcoming ones should be goodies.



And besides, Root was still here--alive and wackadoodling in Finch's head. PTSD (both in the terror it induces and in the even darker fear that you may not be that different from the trauma-causer) can be such a pain in the tuckus, especially since it's, oh, round three or for at minimum for ol' Harold.

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Not the best episode, but some solid work in there never the less.

Loved seing Reese and Finch disagreeing a bit here, betraying there different backgrounds - the former spy/assassin being very much on board with the idea of redemption as a worthy cause, while Finch focused on the innocent vs. the guilty.



I nearly cursed when Finch let the words "bad code" slip out, and wanted to take rolled up newspaper to his nose - nothing good will come of falling for Root's crazy ideas!

Which means I was doubly chuffed when he changed his tune at the end of the episode, seing Riley's selfless sacrifice as a sign that everyone can change and shouldn't be written off too soon.
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Of course you know that chess is Elias' way of evaluating Finch's mindset, strategic chops, and reaction to various types of attack? I'm imagining them playing pretty regularly, with all their games combining in their minds into a single epic struggle of feints, attacks, and responses.
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Creepy smile of Reese at the end. :-)
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can someone, please, tell me what song is playing at the very end of this particular episode?
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"The Greatest" by Cat Power
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George Massey didn't order Annie to be killed because he couldn't have her - it was because she was asking too many questions about her husband's murder and Massey couldn't risk having her find out he was behind it. It also seemed like Massey suspected something was amiss with Reily, If he'd been doing any digging into Reily's past, the machine might have picked up on that. It seemed like the decision to have Reily kill Annie was pretty much supr-of-the-moment thing, so the machine would have been able to only get Reily's name. At least, that's how I'm explaining it to myself :D



From some of the true crime stories I've read, police actually HAVE been able to determine where a photo was taken from with that triangulation technique Finch was using. I don't know how common it is, but it's not unbelievable :)



Overall, I thought it was a fun episode, though I really want to see more Bear :D
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I've seen either McGee or Abbie from NCIS use photo triangulation to figure out location many seasons ago.
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I love POI and will follow it to it's final episode (years from now, i hope), but this story and the previous one were just not up to the writing standard of the last four episodes of season 1, and to a lesser degree, the first two of this season. The reintroduction of Elias is interesting if what he really wants from Finch is revealed soon--as well as what Finch really wants from Elias. Info on Root? More eyes to search for her? Will Elias demand Reese in exchange? Their symbolic game should have a winner by the Christmas hiatus.
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Loved seeing Elias again. As soon as he mentioned not having anyone smart to play chess with in jail, I knew that's what he would ask Finch for. From the outside it seems like a dumb thing to ask for since Finch has so much money and connections, but then you have to remember: this is Elias and he's not your average criminal. I liked the questions of good and bad but as mentioned in the article, it's a common theme on this show. I also liked the implied comparison with Reese and Jessica and how this time he did save the girl.
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It wasn't a bad episode...it just wasn't nearly as exciting as they typically are. Honestly I can only name two episodes in over a season of POI that I found to be a trifle dull and that's this one and the one with the stockbroker dude. They always have great moments in them though, even if they are dull episodes and they always bring up all these little issues and things that still make it good. In this case it was the good vs evil and the grey areas that lie between it all. I enjoyed that aspect of things. I loved seeing Elias again. I know there has to be more to come for him!
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I really enjoyed the episode, kinda suprised at the negativity, but whatever...to each his own
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Once again, another great, and stand-alone, episode. Every episode doesn't have to tie into the main storyline to be good. Reese was his usual badass self, especially at the end, Finch finally got out of the cave, Fusco and Carter were very helpful, and that dog is just so awesome to see every time lol!!! Please tell me what went wrong here, cause I didn't see it! That was a pure adrenaline rush from beginning to end.
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Most disappointing episode for a long time. I was looking forward to finding out what else the machine could do but now it doesn't even seem to know who's at risk. Also the dog needs to get out more, he needs a word (in Dutch) with his agent.

Still love the show, hope this was a one-off.
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When has the Machine ever exclusively given the number of someone specifically at risk? If you learned nothing from Season One, it was that the number was as often the victim as the perpetrator.
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Locating a place from a photo isn't far fetched. It's been done a few times on Time Team. Doing it on a computer is also possible if you select a specific buildings that you know the location of then work out where those buildings would be visible at specific angles. It's really quite simple when you think about it. You don't even need a computer, although Google Earth would help to get the street address.

It would have been interesting to see how the chess game played out. I suspect we could see more chess games playing out in the future if Finch needs to talk to Elias again.
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Not bad but not great either. It had it's moments, a few good lines, Reese kicked some ass, but I didn't really care for the main plot of this episode. I never liked the actor who plays Riley and this episode didn't change my mind

The brief appearance of Elias was better then everything else that happened. Finch, Reese and Elias have an genuinely interesting relationship going on. Now that Elias and Reese are even and "the gloves are off" I can't wait until the next Elias-centric episode, though it's probably gonna be a long wait.
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Nice to see that you were trying a weave a positive spin for such a terrible episode there, Tim. Except for a few bright spots, like Elias (never mind that his storyline was laughable), Finch using 'bad code', Fusco and the beers, this was the most boring episode (never thought I'd say that for POI) and will be my least favorite. The writing was sloppy, the execution was horrid and contrived, and the actors!! OMG the actors, especially the Reese-wannabe was so bad I wanted to knock him to the ground and kick him repeatedly! I understood where the writers were coming from, but that doesn't excuse them from coming up with this mess! They did this a 1,000 times better with Reese's own backstory, culminating in my favorite 'Many Happy Returns'.

P.S: I've no love for that show, but POI had a 2.9 and Grey's had a 3.0 in the rating.
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Really?? No mention of the utterance of "bad code?"

Oh man, that was my adrenaline moment of this episode. It was smoothed over at the end in that little bit of banter between Reese and Finch, but damn was it heart-stopping when Finch spit it out. It shows how deeply Root affected him, because until now, he's just had the terrified face on. Even if he was against the situation and claims to be against her, something stuck, whether he likes it or not.

Now, I think it was executed a little sloppily, but for what it's saying, I'll take it.

This episode was a basic case of the week, with a lot of convolution, so it was nice to have that little teaser bit of character development we're accustomed to with the show. The obvious one that we know must come to pass (going out of the library on his own) and the less obvious and more substantial (calling Riley bad code). Keep bringing the awesome episodes!
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ooooh! how could you miss out on the part where Finch says Riley's "bad code"???!!! Is he beginning to buy into Root's philosophy?

And the part where Reese asks Finch whether bad code can't be redeemed.... it was AWESOME!!!
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I loved this episode..when Riley was fighting with Reese i shouted NOT YOUR SIZE MR!!!



Its the emotional side of this story that worked for me. Why Reese understood Riley. Remember Jessica? (Reese said in pilot episode: "When you find that one person who connects you to the world, you become someone different, someone better. When that person is taken from you, what do you become then?") .



Annie was Riley's Jessica. In fact Riley described Annie to Reese in almost the same words ..As someone who makes Riley better. When Reese found just a single ticket on Riley, he knew why Riley never bought two, he explained it better to Annie. This was such a homage to Reese's story which is why i understood at the end when he knocked at the hitman's door. That guy had to go, six feet under or the Mexican getaway!!. He killed a man who was trying to do good (breaking good????), a sort of young version of Reese. They were both killers that found ladies that saw something good in them, and made them try to be someone better. Because as Finch got to realize at the end, we are humans , we are "redeemable", Bad code only apply to machines!.



Lets not have the DNA discussion, but from the morality angle, Riley was a "bad code" that was re-writing himself coz as humans we have the capacity to reinvent, re-write our mistakes, to redeem ourselves , To become someone better.
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yeah... that`s what made his episode so damn depressing for me... i hoped that at least this guy would end up with his "Jessica" but we had no such luck.

i wanted to hope that there could be a happy ending for someone like him (and Reese too) but it seems the writers want to keep such characters far from the possibility of a positive outcome
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I loved this episode. Especially the last couple of scenes where Finch was explaining what he meant by "bad code" to Reese, but it didn't apply to people.

Didn't apply until the last scene where Finch shows up at the door of that killer {who was holding a bag of blood money} and said to him, "I'm not here for the money."

That voice, so calm, so deadly. Terrific acting. I would give this eppy more than two thumbs up if I had more than two thumbs!
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On the surface, it was mostly "back to business", but it had a lot going on under the surface. Reese related to the bad guy trying to redeem himself, Finch showed that Root got under his skin by using her term, Bad Code, which caused Reese to bristle. Finch really wanted to save the lady -- I'm sure there's a past show that this relates to -- enough to risk a face to face with Elias to save her! And Elias wanting to play chess with Reese's "boss" seemed amusing at first, but Elias knows he'll be able to use this "bond" to his advantage in the future.

A few comments about sleepy-eye going to Mexico, what episode do I need to rewatch to understand this?
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You need to watch Many Happy Returns. It's the 21st episode in season one.
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Thanks phonzee101, much appreciated!
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Like I mentioned before, POI is pure Premium entertainment. It has heart and is believable in its characters; their strengths, fallibility, loyalty, integrity, morals, fears and instinctive desire to do good, regardless what may actually turn out. Great episode !
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I liked most of this episode. The one aspect I may not have liked very much was maybe the first 15 minutes or so of the episode, where nothing really happened. We get some background on the bad-guys, but Finch was quietly at his computer, Reese was quietly following Riley, and neither Fusco or Carter had gotten involved yet. It was kind of boring. I liked everything else.

As for Riley, I think he'd have been worse if he just liked boinking her and was just afraid of how she'd react if she found out he killed her late hubby. As he was, I was okay with him and the morality of "saving" him. He killed her hubby, but because he was one of their own, stuck around to help her out with things. During this time, he fell for her... she seemingly fell for him... I'm fine with that. Not the greatest guy around, but not too bad either.
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"Take that, horny doctors"

"Next time I'm out in New York, remind me to sit next to Fusco at the bar. That guy was giving away all his drinks!" Tim Surette, I love you!

I liked the episode, perhaps didn't love it like others, but the ending was great: Did Reese act a la Riley and killed the guy that had killed Riley or is he increasing the population of those dungeons in Mexico? His face at the end was most intriguing. Loved it ;)
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Actually I really liked the episode. I always like the ones that provide the person who has the number and it the one with is it a bad guy or a good guy. Or in this case a good bad guy. Plus I liked the random amount of bad guys Reese got to whup on. However, Riley was a moron, Reese just shot 7 guys and Riley says get out of here I got this, with his little 6 shot .38. Kind of lame.



The one thing that I did notice was Finch's use of Root's word of "bad code" and the Reese's defense of Riley. Which leads me to think that eventually Finch and Reese are going to disagree on one of the numbers.
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Another great episode for this show. I loved how they had an episode which was basically a stand-alone story and tied it in with the main storyline. And no, I'm not talking about Elias (although I did like seeing him again). I loved how they worked in the idea of a "bad code" into the episode, showing that Finch is still thinking about what Root said, and even believed her to some degree. With John, he said it was "different," but didn't explain how it was different. In all honesty, I think it was simply because John is his friend, and he hates to think of John doing terrible things, when in reality it took Finch's trust in John to turn him into what he is now. Reese wanted to give Riley the same chance he was given, even if Finch did. I think the "bad code" idea will end up playing a bigger role later on in the season, and this episode could be more important than it seems, because Finch seemed to change his mind about Riley by the end of the episode.
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I'm surprised you didn't mention anything about the "bad code" remark. Other than that I liked it. I mean it wasn't particularly groundbreaking and the twist of the perpetrator or victim was kinda spoiled by the promos giving a lot of it way but it did explore some very interesting avenues of reese and finch. I must have missed the episode when elias was sent to jail but I gotta say Enrico Cantolioni (sp?) deliciously evil and somehow respectable as a bad guy. You're right about Bear, its adorable to see a vicious attack dog domesticated and cute but he's gotta get in on the fight more. I mean why can't finch take him out more? One last thought... while I am a fan of overarching plots to shows, Im kinda glad that this episode didn't have any of it. Am I alone on this?
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nope i'm totally with you on that one....while i love ANY episodes with Elias and the over-arching plots are entertaining, i love the occasional episode like this where it's simply about the number, mostly b/c when that happens the victim/ perp is engaging, like this one. at the beginning i was like "just kill the evil hitman" then had tears streaming down my face when he died. POI managed to, in 40 minutes mind you, go from wanting him gone to completely rooting for him....
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If you want to see Elias head to jail watch the season one episode Flesh and Blood.

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HAHA thanks for the funny notes Tim. Also great review. I think that hit man is soon going to be in Mexico.
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Good one! I forgot about Reese personal Guantanamo across the border so I was left a bit unsure about the fate of the hitman.
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