Person of Interest: A House Divided

“You know that bad thing that was gonna happen? I think it just did.”

The season’s penultimate episode was split into three disparate parts: Greer’s conversations with Finch, Reese, Shaw, and Root teaming up to do the Machine’s bidding, and Collier’s backstory.

Ultimately, the episode was essentially a lot of set up for the finale. It was uneven set up at that. Team Machine’s exploits seemed to be fairly standard PoI (although I liked their scenes better the second time through), while Greer and Finch’s time together really weighed the episode down in my opinion. The flashbacks to Collier’s past were extraordinarily well done and managed to eclipse everything else that happened this week. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Root, Shaw, and Reese

What I really liked about the Team Machine portion of this episode was the number of different dynamics we got to see. Reese, Shaw and Root. Reese and Shaw. Shaw and Root. Root and Reese. The Machine is mixing up its players like it hasn’t before. It ended up being quite fun; everyone interacts so differently. My favorite pairing is definitely Reese and Shaw. They bicker like siblings (I’m driving! No, I’m driving!) and it makes an adorable counterpoint to the violence that always ensues whenever they’re together. Root and Shaw also make a great duo. Root’s flirting is getting less and less subtle.

My favorite non-flashback scene this week was Reese and Shaw’s confrontation with Hersh. You’ll remember Hersh as Control’s henchman, the one who Reese, Shaw, and Root have all had opportunities to kill but haven’t. The trio arguing over who had the right to be mad at whom was hilarious. They’re in the middle of a legitimate crisis, but Reese’s still like “You tried to kill me” while Shaw is like “Uh, he did kill me!” and Hersh was all “But I got drugged!” Their childish pettiness was a treat in a really dark episode. (Dark episode. See what I did there?) Of course, they end up putting their past differences aside and saddling up together to save Control from Vigilance. I hope this team up means Hersh will be around more often in the future. I like him, and the team is always in the market for allies.

Finch and Greer

Despite getting a bit of a spotlight this week, Greer remains an unbelievably bland villain. All he does in every episode is be British and vaguely sinister. It’s tired. Plus, not to be a total ageist, but it’s hard to be threatened by a man who looks to be in constant peril of breaking a hip. The constant referencing of his childhood in World War II didn’t make him seem any younger.

I hate to say it, but the scenes between Greer and Finch fell completely flat for me. The reminded me, unflatteringly, of Root’s first appearances. Lots of talking. Not much magic. I feel a little obligated to like every scene Finch gets to be dramatic and monologue-y in, but Michael Emerson just didn’t do it for me this week.

Collier

In the end, this was Collier’s episode to shine and boy did he ever. Leslie Odom, Jr. stole the freaking show. Collier gets what he has been missing: a backstory. His motivations as given thus far (government overreach = bad) have been believable but not extremely compelling. Collier just jumped ranks to become my favorite Person of Interest villain ever.

His backstory is unbelievably tragic but at the same time rather ordinary. His brother was arrested, presumably because of some not entirely legal government surveillance. His brother killed himself because his life was stifled by the accusation and the presumption of guilt. It happens and it shouldn’t. Hanging with a guy who knows another guy who may be involved in illegal activities is not nor should it be cause for arrest. But in post 9/11 America, sometimes anything goes. The ‘he’s my sponsor bit’ could’ve been overly saccharine and maybe it was, but I welled up all the same. Jesse was just getting his life together. Nearly two years sober, just regained partial custody of his son and he lost it all.

Collier wanted to be a prosecutor. That says so much about his character. Law school is extremely expensive and the easiest way to recoup the costs is to go into a more lucrative field, but Peter’s dream is forgo the ├╝ber wealthy life in favor of working for a cause he believes in. He believes in justice. More tellingly, he believes in government justice. Yet, within mere weeks, he turns his back on the government. His scene with the woman from the government was riveting, one of the best Person of Interest has ever done. His anger radiated out off the screen. Leslie Odom, Jr. definitely gets a gold acting star from me this week.

Bits and Pieces

Hersh’s first name is George. I find that hilarious and I’m not sure why.

Greer is former MI6, the British version of the CIA.

There were several mentions of the president this week. In the first season, a news report showed the president of PoI-verse to be one Barack Obama. I wonder if the show will stick with that or if they’ll end up creating a fictional president.

I’m assuming Fusco was absent this week because he’s been off dogsitting Bear. Or, more likely, Bear is humansitting Fusco.

I’m not sure if the title of the episode is a reference to the Abraham Lincoln speech or the Bible verse that the speech takes it title from. What is the metaphoric house here? Is it America and is the division between those who accept the status quo and those who believe government surveillance is an unconstitutional overreach? Is it referring to the fact that the team was literally divided this week?

Collier’s dream to be a prosecutor will be realized next week when he literally, if not legally, will be prosecuting Finch. Get excited, people.

Quotes

Reese: “This is really what the Machine asked us to do? Drink really bad coffee with unemployed college graduates?”
As an unemployed college graduate, may I say HEY!

Shaw: “They’re ready to get in bed with Decima and go all 1984 on us. I mean, more than usual.”

Finch: “Having built something significantly smarter than myself, how could I possibly anticipate its evolution?”

Shaw: “Control just went in for the full court press on total world domination. Can I kill her NOW?”

Government Guy: “Sometimes the people we love the most make the worst decisions.”

Root: “Use your words.”

Shaw: “Ma’am. Long time, no gunfire.”

Control: “Why are you protecting us?”
Shaw: “Cause it’s part of the...plan. Or the greater good...or something like that. Look, honestly, I don’t know.”

Aziz: “Even though your brother killed himself, he saved someone else.”

average of three and a half out of four AA chips
---
sunbunny, Person of Interest and Bear the Dog fangirl

6 comments:

Patrick said...

I don't think Collier's brother killed himself while in custody. If you go back and watch the conversation with his sister-in-law, I think it tells a different story. It sounded like the government eventually released his brother without charging him, meaning there was nothing to acquit him of, so he had the cloud of suspicion hanging over him in his community, making it hard for him to do hold down a job, friends, etc. He eventually fell off the wagon, and his ex-wife sued for full custody of their son, which drove the brother deeper into depression. The sister was blaming herself for part of that, but Collier was assuring her that she was just looking out for the best interests of her son, and didn't do anything wrong.

Greer really hasn't been doing it for me as a villain, even now that we know more about his motivations. So he's some crazy old man sick and tired of corrupt & incompetent governments, so he wants to put an all-powerful machine in charge of everybody, that about cover it? Yeah, someone please put a bullet through his head already before he activates Skynet. Has NOBODY on this show seen the Terminator movies? Sheesh.

sunbunny said...

Interesting. I thought the full custody/drinking again stuff was about 2 years before he was arrested, but your way makes more sense. Correcting the review now.

Josie Kafka said...

Excellent review, Sunbunny!

Plus, not to be a total ageist, but it’s hard to be threatened by a man who looks to be in constant peril of breaking a hip.

It's funny you say that: to me, Greer doesn't look excessively old. He just makes me to time-travel back to his youth and hand him some moisturizer with a high SPF.

You haven't watched Lost, have you? I wound up catching a few minutes of one of Michael Emerson's first episodes on that show--a series of scenes that are more or less like his scenes with Greer: two people having an intense conversation and revealing a lot about themselves, sometimes unintentionally.

For all of Lost's occasional dialogue flaws, those scenes were some of the tautest I've seen. And, you're right, the Greer/Finch scenes here didn't measure up.

But they were still fun for me, as were the Collier flashbacks. If this show aired on any channel other than CBS, I'd be inclined to say there there must be a webisode about Root and her team of crack hackers. Now, I just wish there were one.

sunbunny said...

Josie - I did watch Lost, actually, but I haven't seen it since its original run. I'm one of those who became disenchanted with the show by its end.

ChrisB said...

Great review! I enjoyed this episode, but it did feel a lot like set up. Be that as it may, the set up feels like it is going to be quite something to see.

It was very cool to see all the people who have been involved with one incarnation of the Machine or the other sitting in a row like that. It made me realize just how complex this show has become. That's a good thing.

milostanfield said...

Have to reluctantly agree that the Finch-Greer scenes did not match up with the rest of the story very well, at least in terms of dramatic action. All exposition and no real drama until Vigilance showed up. The other parts had plenty of both as you pointed out. A real shame because I took a lot from that exposition.

Their conversation made me see the two systems as very different children of those two parents. Finch has given The Machine a strong moral center but it also has more autonomy than Samaritan. Samaritan is set up by Greer as an "open" system but it is much more controlled by humans than The Machine. The Machine spits out numbers and lets the humans take on the very human task of sorting perps from victims. Samaritan is "open" for its human masters to decide perp or victim beforehand and make Samaritan do its bidding. Self control versus control by others.

I was also reminded of the Greek Myth where Zeus and the other children of the original gods (Cronus et al) killed their parents to rule Olympus. I don't think we're at that point in this show, but it would be interesting to watch.

The irony of Samaritan being more "open" but under more control made me think of the libertarian laissez faire capitalism argument that economic systems should be "open" and under no government control. But such a system just ends up under the control of some old white guys in a boardroom. Since I am an old white guy (with much smoother skin by the way and nowhere near a boardroom) I can say that without feeling the need to apologize.

I've never seen a doughnut massacre before. That was cool.