Person of Interest: Relevance

“Control called. We got another number.”
“I guess it’s like you said. They never stop coming.”

You’re a show of middling popularity on a network known for being entertaining but predictable. So what do you do for February sweeps? Throw your audience a crazy curveball that shifts the entire premise of your show, of course.

During this episode, I kept flashing back to “Epitaph One,” an unaired episode of Dollhouse that pulled the curtain back and changed the way the audience (or at least this audience member) watched the show. “Relevance” definitely did that for me. Thus far, Person of Interest’s perspective has been relatively claustrophobic. We focused on Reese and Finch and their work with the Machine. It looks like we’re branching out.

Shaw and Cole are the official, government-sanctioned Reese and Finch. They are the ones who continually save the world from official terrorist actions. They take care of the threats the Machine was designed to detect. They’ve been told their information comes from Guantanamo Bay. But, there’s a problem. Cole’s beginning to suspect that the duo’s somehow always infallible information comes from a different source. Enter Pennsylvania Two. As we’ve seen, PT isn’t the kind of man to let anyone so much as suspect the existence of the Machine. So we must say goodbye to Cole and Shaw. Or Cole, at least.

The plot wasn’t that creative. Someone involved with the Machine is feared to know too much, is targeted for destruction, and saved by Reese and Finch? “No Good Deed” already went there. This episode was unique in its approach. Person of Interest has a formula and there’s no use denying that. This episode ripped us out of the usual pattern and tossed us into uncharted terrain. This episode was bold. Directed by EP Jonathan Nolan, it pushed pretty much every limit the show had. The show didn’t jump the shark, it blew the shark up à la Jaws. It really takes some guts to do an episode this confusing largely without your regular cast. I am seriously impressed. This was a big risk.

At first it was jarring not seeing Finch and Reese. Reese popped up not long into the episode, but we saw him through Shaw’s perspective. Now we know what it feels like to be one of the numbers. A random man in a suit pops out of nowhere, stares at you, and then disappears. It’s creepy. Carter and Fusco only entered at the very end, to help Finch and Reese fake Shaw’s death.

I’m loving Samantha Shaw (Sarah Shahi). We need another kickass female spy (RIP Stanton) and she seems like she’s going to be tons of fun. I hope we’ll be seeing her again soon. Speaking of returning characters, I think we set a record this week. We got PT, Leon, and the ever-fabulous Root.

If I had a complaint about this episode, it would be that the episode was too dark, both thematically and visually. PoI usually mixes in some humor with its doom and gloom. There wasn’t very much this episode. I also had some difficulty watching because it was just so dark and my TV is old. Was this just me?

Bits & Pieces:

Interrupting the saga sell was simply inspired. It was like a flashing siren screaming at us, ‘Pay attention! We’re doing something different here!’

I love that nothing was explained and I spent the first ten minutes or so confused out of my mind. This show really treats its audience like adults.

All the strong female characters on this show (Carter, Root, Stanton, Shaw, Zoe) are brunettes. Finch and Reese’s significant others are redheaded and blonde, respectively. Just a thought.

Root’s comment about “a sad taxi driver” was a reference to Dilawar, an Afghan taxi driver who was held and ‘interrogated’ at Bagram Air Base, where he subsequently died.

Quotes:

“Always trying to be the hero, huh?”
“Just yours.”

“Ever have a staring contest with a fish? No eyelids. Kind of pointless.”

“Figured I was better at killing people than fixing them.”
She’s like a less broody Reese! Love her.

“I have what’s called an Axis II personality disorder.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“It means when I kill you and your friends, I’m not really going to feel anything.”

“You weigh what? 100 pounds?”
“9 mm round weighs about a quarter of an ounce. It gets the job done.”
“But your gun’s a .45, little girl.”
“I was talking about my backup piece.”
I can’t wait to see her and Reese get to know each other. They’re gonna get along just fine.

“You should know torture almost never produces good information. Well, almost never.”

“One of the things I left out of my file. I kind of enjoy this sort of thing.”
“I’m so glad you said that. I do, too.”
For some reason, this exchange really reminded me of Faith torturing Wesley in Angel. No idea why.

“Can you do me a favor? Can you not shoot me this time?”
“Give me a good reason.”
“I don’t know. I’m a really nice person.”

“The world looks like it did ten years ago, but, underneath, it’s become very strange, indeed.”

“I so don’t get paid enough for this crap!”
“We don’t pay you anything, Leon.”

four out of four syringes for sheer nerve

18 comments:

TJ said...

Yes, this was Epitaph One-esque indeed. And I found myself smiling throughout the episode, loving the way I had to look at Reese from "the other side".

But when Carter and Fusco entered at the end, I realized I've missed them throughout the episode. So, although I liked it the whole time, I'm not sure that the whole thing worked. Maybe I need to watch it again to get some perspective...

But it sure was bold, and I'm glad PoI are taking these risks...

Mark Greig said...

I'm still only on season one, but I am really tempted to skip ahead to this episode simply because of Sarah Shahi.

percysowner said...

This was a great fun episode and I love the Sam Shaw character. BTW, it is an Axis II personality disorder. That is an actual psychiatric diagnosis that include
Paranoid Personality Disorder
Schizoid Personality Disorder
Schizotypal Personality Disorder
Antisocial Personality Disorder
Borderline Personality Disorder
Histrionic Personality Disorder
Narcissistic Personality Disorder
Avoidant Personality Disorder
Dependent Personality Disorder
Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder
Personality Disorder Not Otherwise Specified
Mental Retardation

Obviously we are not talking Mental Retardation for Shaw.

Billie Doux said...

This episode got me thinking about the fact that so many of the episodes this season were light on Jim Caviezel -- like that whole prison arc in the beginning. Is he perhaps having trouble doing all the action on a one hour action show? It's incredibly demanding, and he's not in his twenties. It wouldn't surprise me if they were trying to add another character who does what he does in order to take the load off him.

And if it's this particular character, count me in. I thought she was fascinating.

sunbunny said...

Good God, you guys are speedy.

TJ - Great to see your comments! :)

percysowner - I've corrected it. Thanks for catching the error! I've never heard of Axis II personality disorders before.

Mark - Don't you dare! You'll be confused, I promise.

Billie - Interesting thought. Season 5 of Angel much? Haha

celticmarc said...

After the white and yellow dotted squares, the blue ones. What next ? (cool, cool, cool)

The "big risk" they took paid off : this was a mind blowing eppy. It is becoming Lost's little brother with each passing week : I just can't enough of this show. The music score was particularly good as well. Blissful watching.

Quoting you : "I hope we’ll be seeing her again soon." Ditto. Great character. Quoting you a second (actually a third) time, yes : "this show really treats its audience like adults." There is (plenty of) room for some intelligent TV out there.

Great review, as always. Blissful reading. (and I really need to go through Buffy and Angel) (!)

celticmarc said...

percysowner

huge smile on my face; you really know your DSM-IV...

I forgot to mention that the last five minutes of the show put a huge smile on my face.

Josie Kafka said...

I think Person of Interest just became my favorite currently-running show. This was incredible.

"You’re a show of middling popularity on a network known for being entertaining but predictable. So what do you do for February sweeps? Throw your audience a crazy curveball that shifts the entire premise of your show, of course."

Exactly! While this may not have been the most inventive strategy on another network (and felt a bit like a back-door pilot), on CBS it's astonishing.

In the commentary on the first episode of the first season, one of the showrunners mentioned that we can think of the Machine as the show's "narrator." (That's been mentioned a few times in the comments here.) I've heard some internet chatter that the disruptions to the narrator's style--as we see here--relates back to that thingamabob that Finch said would "break the internet" (or something) a few episodes ago. Fascinating possibility.

And such a fun idea! The Machine decided to give us a different story this week, or a similar story from a different point of view.

Although the credits, which listed Ken Leung, made me think of our discussion about spoilers. I wish he'd been a surprise!

Nick said...

What a way to introduce a new character - keep the main cast on the backburner for most of the episode, and just let the new one do some serious kickass scenes. And it totally worked.

I tried imagining this episode done the usual way (from Reese and Finch's perspectives) - it seems more boring. We'd see Shaw, not know who she is first, and then eventually Reese or Finch would go "Aha! She must be working off the relevant list!"

So they made a possibly formulaic episode interesting AND got a new character fully introduced and fleshed out at the same time. Great stuff.

celticmarc said...

The more I think about this episode and with the comments adding up, the more I think this was an astonishing episode. Consider this as slightly higher than mind blowing.

(but if so, I'd have to rewrite 90 % of my Lost comments.......)

TJ said...

Yes, I think celticmarc is right.
I've just re-watched it, and it truly is an astonishing episode. And I should have known, as I immediately had the feeling I had to watch it again. Sometimes I'm a bit slow...

celticmarc said...

TJ

the "problem" with JJ Abrams' shows is that we're going to need new superlatives to describe what we see...

Although I've watched Alias WITHOUT commenting here; this one plus Lost and POI would need NEW words not yet invented...

Blissful watching.

PlatinumRosebud said...

Immensely enjoyed this ep, too.
Would be great if Sarah Shahi continues to be a recurring character.

I agree with you, Sunbunny that the "legitimate" side of the numbers team is too serious and without the bits of banter that we enjoy watching between John and Harold.

It's also refreshing to see Sarah Shahi without a ton of make-up.
Minimal make-up brought out her natural beauty.

I was a little sad when Coleman died.
He seemed like a stand-up guy (character).

And again, there's Root.
The enjoyable evil that always throws in the wrench in chaotic situations. :)

Josie Kafka said...

Just re-watched it, and loved it just as much. Two new thoughts:

[This post contains minor spoilers for The Dark Knight]

1. The first Finch and Shaw encounter, with the cityscape behind them: does anyone know New York well enough to be able to say which direction they're looking, from where? I ask because I suspect that part of what we were looking at is the empty space where the WTC used to be.

2. I'm not sure Shaw was telling the truth about the Axis II personality disorder (drug dealers), or about enjoying torture (Root), or about not having many friends (Finch), or understanding the importance of the "program" (PT).

I think Shaw was doing the same thing the Joker did in The Dark Knight: telling a different version of herself each time to everybody but Coleman (and possibly Reese, Finch, and Bear in the final scene).

Her chat with Coleman about torture and dark rooms made it fairly clear that she didn't like the idea, but thought it was necessary. That tells me she's a pragmatist, but not lacking in compassion as much as she pretends to lack compassion.

With the drug dealers and Root, she revealed something about herself (true, false, or exaggeration) in order to buy time--and both times it worked.

With Finch, she picked up on the idea of "friends," introduced moments earlier by Reese, who asked her if she wanted to meet one of his friends.

With PT, she told him exactly what he wanted to hear: the program is important, she's a good soldier...and she reminded him of Wilson's failure just before killing Wilson, which would have predisposed PT to not be upset by Wilson's death.

In all those situations, she let the person she was speaking to think they were in control, either by parroting their basic ideas back to them (typical strategy for "managing" a difficult conversation that I learned back in my customer service days) or by letting them think they were getting insight into her personality. Throughout, though, she's really the one in control. A sort of CIA Black Widow.

sunbunny said...

Awesome analysis, Josie! It didn't occur to me that someone with an Axis II personality disorder probably wouldn't have qualms over torturing prisoners for information on terrorist plots.

Josie Kafka said...

I hope it's true, Sunbunny! I want to root for Shaw without worrying she'll turn out to be a creepy borderline-sociopath. :-)

Josie Kafka said...

Is it shameful if I admit I just watched this episode yet again?

In case anyone is wondering: still excellent the third time 'round.

ChrisB said...

Astonishing. I spent the first ten minutes confused as well, but simply loved how well it worked. Bring Shaw back, please. Loved her.

And, Leon. I missed his name in the credits, so I was surprised when I saw him in his EMT uniform. He always make me laugh!