Person of Interest: Endgame

“How much trouble can I get in?”

In which Person of Interest pulls out all the stops, ramps up the action for their winter finale, and blows your mind with its crazy awesomeness.

It wasn’t “Relevance.” Nothing was reinvented here. In fact, some of the tropes the PoI PTBs used were as old as dirt. With the almost complete absence of the Machine, the show even lost its ever so slight science fiction feel and became more or less a conventional police drama.

Carter has sworn vengeance on the shadowy cabal of corrupt cops that murdered her boyfriend and seeks to bring about the destruction of their organization by starting a war between them and the ruthless Russian mafia. It’s not typical Person of Interest. The thing that separates this week’s episode from any random police drama? Execution. It was pretty damn flawless.

Despite the last week’s promo being Fusco-centric, this episode is all about Carter, whose recent record of badassery goes unblemished. What’s more, it looks like the much-hyped three episode arc will bring an end to HR and the plot line that never ends. The HR stuff works well when they focus entire episodes on it, like here, and not just insert a few lines here and there in a standard format episode. The next two weeks worth of episodes are shaping up to be very good.

Carter’s clearly been pushed too far. The flashbacks to Carter and her relationship with Paul (her ex-husband? ex-boyfriend? whatever) seemed like an odd inclusion at first, but I eventually got on board with the juxtaposition of younger, less sure Carter with current, completely self-assured and utterly brilliant Carter. Taraji P. Henson also gets a sunbunny gold acting star for the slight differences she made to her performance for the flashbacks. I missed the flashback date the first time around but I still knew it was a flashback just by virtue of the changes in her voice. Her movements were also stiffer and bouncier. She was less sure, but more enthusiastic and energetic. She was optimistic and happy; she had yet to discover that the NYPD had been invaded by decidedly unsavory forces.

The way she dealt with Paul made me like her even more, if it’s possible. She was compassionate, but firm. She was totally sympathetic to his struggle with PTSD (or a similar condition) but still refused to let any less than safe person around her young son. If there’s a right way to deal with such a difficult situation, this is it.

The flashbacks also served to remind us that Carter was a soldier, the role she took on again here. Carter wasn’t behaving like a deranged person out for justice. She had a plan. She had a really good plan that worked far better than anything that elaborate had a right to. Everything happened just like she wanted it to. She didn’t miss Quinn; she never meant to hit him. She didn’t forget about the collateral damage; she had the FBI arrive just in time. She didn’t walk into a trap; she set a trap.

The Carter alone vs. Carter and Team Machine theme was hit a little hard, perhaps. It also seemed a little out of the blue. I’m not sure they set up Carter wanting to do this alone adequately over the past few episodes. Of course, Carter inevitably realized that trying to do something crazily dangerous alone was not the best idea and maybe it would be better to have Team Machine there to back her up. It was an interesting choice to show her alone with different members of the team and explore their connections to Carter as person instead of their connection as a group. She has a ‘girls against the world’ thing going on with Shaw, a true partnership with Fusco, and a deep, complicated relationship with her Man in the Suit. The only character we missed was Finch. And Bear.

The one scene I wasn’t head over heels in love with was the phone conversation between Carter and her son Taylor. He just seemed way too clued in to everything that was going on. I’m not sure what he knew of her situation merited the gravity in his words. And his ‘you have people who care about you’ felt awfully convenient. It wasn’t the worst thing they could’ve done to get her to call in the rest of Team Machine, but I wished they’d gone with something a little deeper than a coincidental conversation with her son. It also felt a little odd having such a peripheral character deliver such an important sentiment.

We’re discussing the promo for next week and proposing crazy theories for the next two episodes in this thread, which Josie has retroactively decided should be named sPOIlers of Interest. Join us there!

Bits and Pieces:

My memory’s bad for this sort of thing, but I think this was our first episode that opened in media res. It’s an overused tactic of drawing the audience in, but it really worked well here.

Does Carter have Elias on a leash or what? I’m not sure his role in delivering her message was strictly necessary to the plot, but it definitely made for a dramatic scene.

The scene between Finch, Reese, and Shaw was a nice comic counterbalance. It was cute, but not overly light.


Reese: “Maybe the Machine blew a belt or something.”
Finch: “It’s not a lawnmower, Mr. Reese.”

Carter: “Tell me you didn’t use the front door.”
Reese: “I never do.”
How often does he sneak into her house?

Shaw: “Boys can’t have all the toys.”
Not enough Shaw in this episode; but what we got was great.

Finch: “A woman sets a car on fire and attacks a drug shipment wearing a gas mask? Who does that remind you of Mr. Reese?”
His tone here was hilarious.

Reese: “Wait, that’s my grenade launcher?”

Shaw: “One question. Once we save the bad Russians from the bad cops, what exactly are we gonna do with them?”

four out of four borrowed grenade launchers
sunbunny, Person of Interest and Bear the Dog fangirl


Billie Doux said...

My timing is good. I just finished watching the episode and voila, sunbunny's review is up.

I liked the backstory, too. As you pointed out, sunbunny, it not only highlighted the changes in Carter, but it also showed how well she handled a serious personal problem. I didn't mind the phone call to her son. She just needed to hear her voice since she wasn't sure she was going to live through it.

Even though she had obviously carefully planned the entire thing, I still honestly thought they were working up to Carter's death at the end. It all felt so final. And I don't want her to be the hero who falls. I still think it's going to be Reese.

Patrick said...

I'll likely have more to say about this episode later, but for now I'll just add my support to one of the points of your review, this show is all about Execution. The premise of the show is definitely clever. But it's the quality of the execution, in both the writing and the acting, that elevates this show. Plot teases are paid off months after they're set up. Characters are moved around the world like chess pieces. What would on other shows be very formulaic episodes are scripted with absolute precision. And none of the actors in the main cast or the guest roles EVER brings less than their A-game(and that includes the dog).

Freeman said...

Dynamite episode. Carter dropped the bamf card all over everybody here. And Reese kneecapping everyone in sight was magnificent. He even dual-wielded in a plausible manner. And I love the way Reese reacted to seeing his grenade launcher. The delivery was just gold.

I love that our protagonists often plan ahead and aren't always scrambling to untie their shoes after making a risky maneuver.

Things are certainly ramping up here. It's funny, in shows either the cops are corrupt or the FBI are corrupt. Though, of course I wouldn't be surprised is the FBI also had some sorta HR setup in the POI-verse.

Josie Kafka said...

I'll add my praise to the chorus: praise, praise!

With this episode (and possibly the next two, also?) titled "Endgame," I wonder if the producers are responding to the fan concern that there were too many bad guys who didn't get enough individual attention. "Endgame" might be their reminder to us that they do, in fact, have an end in sight for all the threads they introduce.

Mark Greig said...

Carter is a diabolical mastermind. Cross her at your own risk.

ChrisB said...

Like Billie, I was sure that Carter was going to be the fallen hero. I cheered when it became obvious that she had called in the Team. Great, great moment.

I don't want to think about who we are going to lose. Whoever it is will make me very sad...