Person of Interest: Panopticon

“The world has changed.”

I had every expectation that this episode would end with Reese, Shaw, Finch, and Root rescued from their humdrum everyday lives with Samaritan hobbled (if not out and out destroyed). A complete status quo reset. Thank god those expectations were disappointed. It wasn’t a reset. It wasn’t a reboot. It was a transformation.

Let’s begin with Finch. What is going on with Finch? He honestly seemed defeated and even depressed for most of the episode. His boss (who is not given a name and will thus be referred to as “that condescending ass” in my reviews) bars Bear from the campus and instead of fighting him*, Finch gives the dog to Reese. He has totally given up on the Machine announcing that “I’m done taking orders from a computer.” Finch, don’t be like that. That’s not just any computer, it’s your baby. He tells Root that saving the lives of a few people don’t matter. That’s just...not Finch.

He started this endeavor because he knew that the people on the Machine’s irrelevant list weren’t irrelevant. That everyone matters and that if something can be done to save a life, it is worth doing. It took a pep talk from Root of all people to even get him to consider helping this week’s person of interest and he hesitated taking the phone from Reese at the end. Although, fortunately for my soul, he did take his dog back. I do hope Finch isn’t going to snap back into form next week. He needs at least a few episodes to go through whatever it is he’s going through.

Root no longer believes in subtlety (if she ever did) as she takes glee in flirting with and pestering Shaw who is clearly 100% done with her day job. Shaw’s annoyance increases exponentially with the knowledge that Reese gets to be a police detective while the Machine has limited her assaults to vigorous perfume spraying. I’m honestly surprised it took her so long to get on board with Reese’s mission to save Ali and Ben. Of course, in the end she was there to back him up. And it looks like she has a fun new night job.

Shaw’s desire to get back into the fray we are told in no uncertain matter has little to do with doing the right thing and more with getting her out of a name tag and heels. For Reese, it really is about saving someone. Has Reese actually become the gang’s moral compass? Who could’ve possibly seen that coming?

Even before the Machine booted back into gear and gave Reese and Shaw their number he was clearly having a problem with not helping people. He told Fusco “It’s just a shame we got here too late” and complained to Shaw that “New job’s got me chasing junkies and bagging bodies after the fact.” When the time came for him to let a murdering drug dealer get blown up, he didn’t hesitate to snatch the bomb out of Link’s hands, saving his life. He really has missed the good fight.

Having apparently inherited the mantle of ethical guidepost from Carter, it is fitting that he takes her old job as Fusco’s partner and her old desk. I love how he paused for a moment before putting his stuff down and looked at Fusco. No one mentioned her name but both they and the audience’s minds had gone to the show’s dearly departed Jocelyn Carter. Plus, having Reese and Fusco formally partnered up is the perfect way to bring Fusco back into the fold after he spent last season sadly sidelined.

So Finch’s “thesis” was written by the Machine with deliberate typos that contain an encoded message that leads Finch to a library book with information about a possible new base of operations. I am going to miss the library, though. I like libraries. Also conveniently set up for the team by the Machine: a way of communicating without Samaritan’s watchful eye. I kept wondering how in the world they were going to contact each other without constant peril. Neatly done, Person of Interest.

As for this week’s person of interest story, I don’t have much to say about it but that it was solid and well-executed. I very much liked how Reese kept justifying his actions publicly. He’s a cop now and he can’t just go around shooting people willy nilly and I’m grateful to the show for acknowledging that (although whether he’ll be able to provide the NYPD with explanations for all of his actions for the rest of the season remains to be seen). I wasn’t overly invested in Ben or Ali as there just wasn’t time to get into their characters, but the story wasn’t overly trite and made logical sense so it gets a passing grade from me.

Bits and Pieces

The word “panopticon” refers to a circular prison with cells arranged so that prisoners could be observed at all times. It also gives me relatively painful flashbacks to reading Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish in college.

Blonde femme fatale’s details are restricted on SPOV but her active alias is listed as Martine S. Rousseau in the opening scene. She later gave her name as Meg Watkins and claimed to be Homeland Security before tossing her badge in the garbage.

A whistler is indeed a kind of bird. You learn something new every day.

Fusco called Reese “Crockett” and Root referred to Reese and Shaw as “the mayhem twins.” Apt nickname.

He may look like a cop, but he’ll always be our Man in the Suit. He shot three kneecaps this week. Shaw got quite a few in too.

I’ll say it again like I do every time he pops up: I wouldn’t mind seeing more of Elias.

*Finch had Bear certified as a service dog and so cannot legally be kept out of 99% of places. I did some research and while service animals can be barred from some venues (like hospitals and zoos) their owners have the legal right to them in the vast majority of places.


Shaw: “I could stab you with my stiletto.”
I’m sure she meant her shoe and didn’t have a knife on her at work. Right? RIGHT?

Reese: “Well if it’s not about helping the numbers anymore, then what?”
Finch: “It’s about survival, John.”

Root: “And the thing we’re up against has virtually unlimited resources: governments working unwittingly at its behest, operatives around the globe protecting it. You know how many we have? Five. Six if you count the dog.”
A ragtag team of outcasts fighting for good against almost impossible odds? That’s my jam.

Finch: “In the face of such a struggle, saving one or two people? What difference would that make.”
Root: “Every life matters. You taught me that.”

Shaw: “What’s going on?”
Reese: “Beats me. Appears to be some kind of traffic accident.”

Reese: “It’s not just about the numbers, Harold. It’s about survival.”

Root: “They didn’t teach you knots in Girl Scouts?”
That’s where I learned them. And how precious was Shaw staple gunning a bow to a box?

Root: “She has a reason for everything. Even if sometimes it requires you to act like a well adjusted member of society.”

four out of four philosophy books that still occasionally give me academic stress nightmares

sunbunny, who will always put Bear in the lead in picture given the opportunity


Anonymous said...

A brilliant start for the season.

Josie Kafka said...

It also gives me relatively painful flashbacks to reading Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish in college.

Discipline and Punish should be painful. The title is not just the topic, but the desired result.

Finch had Bear certified as a service dog and so cannot legally be kept out of 99% of places. I did some research and while service animals can be barred from some venues (like hospitals and zoos) their owners have the legal right to them in the vast majority of places.

Yes, I wondered about this, too! The best explanation I can come up with is that Bear's cover identity is to not be a service animal.

I'm so happy PoI is back.

Mark Greig said...

I will happily admit to getting more than a little emotional when Reese and Fusco silently remembered their fallen friend.

Patrick said...

I thought this episode did a nice job of laying out the chessboard for the new season. They gave us a sense of the way the world works under Samaritan's oversight, and how Our Heroes are coping with the changes. And they gave us a story that got our team back in the fight, without completely resetting back to the way things were. A couple of random thoughts as I was watching:

* I think it's about time Fusco got let in on the big secret about The Machine, he's earned it.

* "Six if you count the dog."
DAMN STRAIGHT you count the dog, Root!

* Those scenes at the department store must've made the Root/Shaw shippers absolutely giddy.

* Hasn't John been in police custody a couple of times? What if he runs into one of the cops who busted him?

* Loved that moment when John took up residence at Carter's old desk. And I especially loved that they let the silence of the moment tell the story. Nothing needed to be said, anyway.

* So Harold got sent on a spelunking adventure. I'm assuming he was led to a new base of operations, but could it be something more? The look on his face seemed to indicate as such. My first thought was "did The Machine just lead him to its secret hideout?"

milostanfield said...

Ahh! It's back! and I love it: the dog, the shipping, the ridiculously choreographed gunfights, the repartee, New York City, all of it. The only thing missing: Carter (sigh). You're right, Reese is her replacement conscience.

This episode started me thinking about the relationships between each AI and the their associated humans. Ironically it seems to me that Samaritan is the tool of evil people, doing their bidding, while our Gang are the tools of The Machine, doing it's bidding.

Samaritan is more the traditional relationship between tool and maker: a hammer is a tool that you can build a house with or kill someone. The Machine has inverted that. It is practically invisible to our Gang. Now that it's loose they know as much about it as a hammer does about it's owner. Just a voice whispering to them through a wall (or an implant!). And The Machine has dictated to the Gang exactly what their day job lives should be. Yeah, it's for their protection but where's the freedom?

The Machine is as mysterious and unknowable as an old testament jehovah. Samaritan, although secret for political reasons, is more openly connected to the world with the Government(s?) feeds and camera access.

The Machine has a basic moral imperative built into it by it's maker. Samaritan is more like "Where would you like to go today?"

Seems like we are determined to create our own gods, heavens, and hells that we so much believe in, whether they really exist or not. Once these two gods begin to battle this show is gonna go off the charts. Buckle up!

Billie Doux said...

Of course we count the dog! Jeez! I was also thinking about the service animal situation. Did the writers drop the ball there?

I loved that moment when Reese stopped and looked at Carter's desk and then at Fusco. No need for explanatory dialogue. If a casual viewer didn't get it, there was no need for them to get it.

Loved the review, sunbunny. You are awesome.

Anonymous said...

Did anyone else think that fusco's new parter was going to be the blond assassin woman?

Glad they didn't do that.

Anonymous said...

hey everyone, i m on my first binge watch right now.

i have to way in on the service animal situation:

i think bear needs to be undercover as well. finch´s registration for the dog must have been under one of his aliases - all of them supposedly blown - so he could no longer use it. why he didn t just get a new one alludes me though. maybe he hasn t gotten around to it yet?

loving this show btw. :)