Many mythology episodes of Person of Interest are as dense as a Christmas fruitcake in July, but that wasn't the case with "Beta," a busy objective episode that was also slow from a top-down perspective. The objective in question? To put Finch in Decima's hands. The move itself was huge for the overall story, but the process of getting there was merely fine. I know, I know, I'm a bad fan. But the fact of the matter is, there have been better Person of Interested episodes than "Beta."
With Finch AWOL from the team (watching Reese and Shaw attempt to do the Machine's bidding without Finch just wasn't the same), Greer had exactly 24 hours to accomplish two tasks: 1.) Show Senator Garrison that Samaritan can scoop up bad guys who threaten freedom. 2.) On a more personal level, bag Finch and take out any auxiliary mandates that might get in the way. Greer went straight for the heart after a Samaritan search revealed Grace (guest-star Carrie Preston) as an associate of Finch's. The Machine made a call to Reese and let him know that Grace was the new number, and the Race for Grace was on.
There were a few of "changes of possession" with Grace as Reese got to her first and took her to a police station to achieve temporary protective custody, and a bomb diversion from Root allowed them to take Grace out of Samaritan's all-seeing eye. But during their flight, a car crash spun them out and Greer's men nabbed their target. That's when Finch was located (he was moping on Grace's doorstep), and Finch agreed to an exchange with Decima: himself for Grace's safety. Like I said, busy, but also slow in terms of moving the story forward, as the point of finding and losing Grace was to get Finch into Decima's clutches.
One thing "Beta" did better was showcase Grace (and Preston) in a few fantastic tea-party scenes with Greer, full of heavy talk about painting the Sistine Chapel and serving God. The girl was realistically tough, not some wise-cracking ballbuster out of a comic book, and she showed believable internal strength as she sparred with Greer.
Likewise, Greer's whole interaction with Grace revealed more of that character than we've ever seen. Though he's a mean son of a bitch, he's got an air of dignity and respect (except for when he's asking his lackeys to shoot themselves). Greer's choice to not tell Grace the truth—that Finch wasn't dead, but had faked his death and abandoned her for her own safety—was effective for two reasons. First, it showed that Greer is not a total monster. And second, it set him up as an odd sort of mirror image of Finch. Oh, and it also poked at the wounds of Grace's naiveté with regard to the truth about Finch. When Grace snarled at Greer and accused him of being a liar if he thought Finch wasn't dead, because there was no way Finch could be alive but not in her arms, a lump jumped down my throat. Preston sold that conviction very well, and knowing she was wrong was taxing on the ticker. Ouch.
The wonderful mystery of Greer thickened even more during the exchange of Finch and Grace. Did he blindfold Grace to spare her feelings? Or did he do it to win Finch's favor for whatever nefarious plans he has moving forward? Those questions aren't easily answered, which is exactly right for our dealings with Greer. This man who materialized out of the shadows and disappeared into the subway crowds is now a character with dimension. I love the way Person of Interest has brought Greer into the fold.
"Beta" wasn't a total loss for the team, though. In the second-to-last scene of the episode, Root proved she was up to her own tricks when she unveiled a truck full of Decima's servers. State-of-the-art servers that were intended to help Samaritan speed up from a crawl to a run, to use Root's words. With extra hardware on her side, I'm guessing Root will be able to juice up the Machine for an epic finale showdown between these two mechanical monoliths. The question is: Where will Finch be watching the fight?
– I gotta say, Samaritan's UI looks pretty nifty.
– Why did Reese's last line to Grace, "All I know for sure is you loved him, and he loved you back," hit so hard? Something about the way Jim Caviezel delivered those words just worked so well.
– Blindfolded Grace bumping into Finch was one of those great so-close-yet-so-far moments that this show does well. Sad!
– Hey, Grace got a job and a house in Italy (and a free ride to the airport!) out of this whole ordeal, so I guess it was worth it!
– There were a couple great lines from Reese in this otherwise humorless episode. As he stopped an operative from injecting Grace with knockout juice: "A little early for the flu shot." And while busting down Decima's door: "Somebody call tech support?" Too good.
– Also earning some laughs was
Root's Grace's winking commentary on the police station that was infiltrated three times in the span of about a minute by three different people pretending to be others, while ZERO cops were around: "What is going on? I barely believe this is a police station." (Thanks for the correction, everyone.)
– There was a lot of bad coffee in this episode!
– Shaw and Reese took a cab and rode in the trunk together. I like to imagine it went exactly like this fantastic scene from Steven Soderbergh's Out of Sight.