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Person of Interest S03E03: "Lady Killer"

In its first two seasons, Person of Interest was, for the most part, a dude show, covering the full spectrum of men in just two people: the brawny, shoot-first John Reese and the brainy, tech-genius Harold Finch. Yeah, men! But as the universe of the series has expanded and the show has grown up a bit, women have played a bigger part in the equation. Sure there was always Joss Carter, but she's been more of a silent partner in the grand scheme of the series, often relegated to tapping on police-computer keyboards to look up valuable info that Reese and Finch can use in their clubhouse adventures. 

But since Person of Interest came to the understanding that it has a long life ahead of it, the show has focused more on its female supporting players, or at least on Person of Interest's idea of what it means to be female. Zoe Morgan has been on call when a job requires a sexy cover, yet she's as strong willed as an old oak; Root has developed into an intriguing psychopath who's willing to do whatever she needs to for a her current cause; Samantha Shaw is even more Reese than Reese at his most emotionally detached. And it's this take on feminine behavior that allows a silly gag like Zoe, Shaw, and Carter comparing tiny firearms and pulling stun guns out of their handbags to be much more entertaining than it should be. The women aren't portrayed as damsels in need of a knight who shoots people in the leg, they can take care of themselves, whether it be as a sharp detective, a well-informed woman with a Rolodex full of "mutual friends," a hacker maniac with empty eyes and a mischievous grin, or a bloodthirsty grump who eats steak off a knife and whines about men having emotions. So excuse me for finding Shaw pulling at her thigh-high skirt or Carter lighting up at the sight of Shaw's purse gun amusing. For as serious and tough as Person of Interest is on the outside, it sure likes to have fun.

But thankfully, Person of Interest knew when the joke had run its course, and the ladies'-night-out portion of "Lady Killer" didn't last too long, allowing Shaw and Carter to get back to shooting thugs within minutes. Things are usually more than what they seem on this show, and indeed, "Lady Killer" wasn't just about the Ms. February, Ms. May, and Ms. October of the Person of Interest Calendar roping in a ladies' man by showing off their lady bits at a club, as the episode description and promotional images indicated. 

Instead, "Lady Killer" had all the elements of a classic crowd-pleasing story: a perpetrator who actually turned out to be a victim, a rich old dude we could all hate, and Hallmark movie morals that we could get behind. But it was also full of Person of Interest's trademark surprises. The number of the week belonged to Ian Murphy, an investing whiz who went from bartender rags to business-partner riches and spent his downtime seducing as many woman as he could bait-and-switch from dating websites. Reese decided to send Carter, Zoe, and Shaw out on the town in form-fitting sleeveless dresses to catch a predator, and a quick date with Carter later, we realized Murphy wasn't really a bad guy, he was just a horny guy filling the hole of a broken relationship with meaningless sexual escapades. 

From there, "Lady Killer" took a sharp turn, opening up Murphy's story to reveal—not only to us, but to him—that he'd fathered a child with the now-deceased daughter of an annoying rich guy who didn't like Murphy's lack of a mouth full of silver spoons, and who was doing everything possible to keep Murphy away from his son. And faster than you could say "ironic facial hair," Murphy became the most sympathetic character on television, a father who just wanted to meet and raise his kid. Awww! Or maybe Ugh. You choose.

I love it when Person of Interest attempts switcheroos with its number-of-the-week formula by going from good-to-bad or bad-to-good, but Murphy's flip felt unnecessary, and it didn't have the kind of impact other turns of fortune have had on this show. I don't even know why they made him a womanizer in the first place, other than to intentionally mislead us; he could have been a circus rodeo clown or a Subway sandwich artist and the second half of the story wouldn't've had to change one bit. Maybe it was just an excuse to get Shaw, Zoe, and Carter in a dance club together, or someone really wanted to use that stun-gun joke at all costs (which, fine, I'll allow it). Whatever the case, I don't have to tell you that Reese ended up punching the rich guy in the face on behalf of us poor people, the team found proof that the kid was Murphy's, another citizen of New York was saved, and now the Big Apple can live in peace until next Tuesday at 10pm.  

But honestly, why are we talking about Murphy when we should be talking about what made "Lady Killer" truly great: a return to our Root! We all knew it was a matter of time before Root skipped out on that loony bin (nothing short of a Carbonite mold is going to hold her), and her escape was magnificent. The Person of Interest writing staff is so smart with their handling of Root; they know to just let Amy Acker do her thing. It's so much fun to listen to Root talk that she doesn't even have to follow through with her threats; if she says she's going to do something, she does it. Her tongue and her soulless eyes (like a doll's eyes, a salty sea captain might say) are her weapons.

So when her doctor staggered into the hallway dazed and saw it littered with the unconscious bodies of hospital security and a few innocent bystanders, it was more effective than actually showing Root go through with the plan she promised a scene earlier. She did punch him in the carotid artery, the thermostat did kick up to 75 degrees and vaporized the knockout gas than went into the ventilation system, and she was walking her ass out the facility just as she said. (But just to make sure we know she is a real threat, she stared her doctor in the face while she took a no-look shot to debilitate henchman Hirsch. Chilling! And while we're at it, entirely badass!)

Root's deliberate demeanor is so effective because Root is the closest thing we have to a machine in this show other than The Machine. She's incredibly calculated and cold, and in many ways, more mechanical than The Machine itself. It's another example of how much Person of Interest enjoys flipping the script on so many conventions that we've inadvertently acquired through decades of television watching. Women on Person of Interest aren't helpless, victims can be perpetrators and vice versa, and the relationship between a crazy chick and a super computer can be flipped so that The Machine is using her more than she's using The Machine. Person of Interest can at times be as predictable as any other show on CBS, but most of the time, it's ahead of the curve and playing with preconceived notions.

We can file the Season 3 premiere under "predictable," but the two episodes that've followed have been much better. And now, with Root finally on the run with her computer overlord calling the shots, Mr. Finch is right, we do have a problem.


– I'll let the "Is Shaw messing up the dynamic between Reese and Finch?" debate continue in the comments, but I for one am enjoying the running joke that she has to be the one who drives. She wanted to row the boat on the lake in the opening scene on her faux-date with Reese, and Finch knew her well enough to include her driving clause on her fake dating profile. That little detail is such an efficient way to show off her character's personality.

– If anyone knows Amy Acker's home address, please forward it to me as I would like to send her all of the TV.com Awards we have available because she's an absolute joy and no I won't stalk her too much just a little and hey are any of you out there lawyers because I might need your help at some point. 

– Finch was on fire in this episode. My favorite was when Shaw said, "The guy went from blue blood to hipster faster than you can say ironic facial hair." Finch replied, "I don't understand anything you just said." He also couldn't bring himself to use the word "sexy" with Carter, choosing to say, "Wear something... less than conservative" instead. And about that giant bone that Shaw says Bear likes so much? "His intestines beg to differ." Finally, his "You're welcome" to Bear when the dog just devoured his food bowl was great.

– Fusco paying five bucks for club soda, ha! But it would have been nice to see more Fusco. This show has a good problem on its hands... too many characters we want to spend time with and not enough screen time for all of them.

– Is Shaw really taking Bear from Finch, too? Sheesh, lady, cool it! And does Shaw really seem like the dancing type?

Previously Aired Episode

AIRED ON 5/5/2015

Season 4 : Episode 22

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