It’s a question that fans and producers and actors alike get asked: If you could only watch “X” number of episodes, which ones would you watch?
It’s hard to answer that. If you’re an actor, you may pick those episodes that illumine your character. If you’re a producer, you refuse to answer, because if you do, you’ll alienate writers, actors, fans…everybody. We fans don’t have it any easier, especially if we’re trying to get caught up and depending upon other fans to provide the assistance. See, we all like different aspects of a show; and that informs our preference.
If someone asked me which episodes to watch from Person of Interest so they can get caught up quickly, there are a number of ways I can answer that. For example, get caught up on what: Reese? Finch? The Machine? How the show operates in general? There is really no right or wrong answer.
If you want to know Reese’s story, especially as it pertains to Jessica, then I recommend the following: “Pilot,” followed by “Mission Creep,” “Matsya Nyaya,” and “Many Happy Returns.” There, that was simple: four episodes. But, if you want to flesh Reese out a bit more, unveil the CIA aspect as well, then you need to add in “Foe,” “Number Crunch” and “Blue Code.” If you want to add in some of his more vulnerable moments, throw in “Root Cause,” “Wolf and Cub,” and “Baby Blue.” Things got tougher, didn’t they? We haven’t even touched upon the second season.
In the second season, I would absolutely watch “The Contingency.” Granted there isn’t any Jessica in there but you do see Reese solidifying his partnership with Finch. For more Reese insights “Shadow Box” is a definite – even as I do believe the young Reese flashbacks are MIA, and they would have revealed more character insight. You need “Shadow Box” because then you need to jump to “Prisoner’s Dilemma” and “Dead Reckoning” to finish, for now, the CIA drama in Reese’s life. “In Extremis” and “God Mode” are added in because we see Reese in all his many moments, dark, deadly, loyal, vulnerable. These episodes will give you everything from his CIA past to Jessica to his concern for kids and the future he once envisioned for himself, even if that is only seen through those lives he intersects with. It also gives you the Reese of today, who he is and what he does, as well as where he is going.
However, if someone wants to know what episodes to watch to understand Finch, and by proxy the Machine, well, that list is different; even as there are some similarities. First off, the “Pilot”; it all begins here. After the “Pilot,” “Ghosts,” “Super,” “No Good Deed” and “Firewall.” If you want a bit more background on Finch, add in “The Fix,” “Legacy” and “Root Cause.” In the second season there is “The Contingency,” “Bad Code,” “The High Road,” “Til Death,” “2’pi’R,” “One Percent,” “Zero Day” and “God Mode.” If you want to have some fun with the character, I recommend “Baby Blue” and “Identity Crisis” as well as “Trojan Horse.” Through these episodes you’ll see the creation of the Machine, his partnership with Nathan, his romance with Grace, as well as the introduction of Root, and how Finch’s and John’s paths are intertwined.
What about if you just want to enjoy some of the best episodes that focus primarily on the case of the week? Well, there the lists will vary greatly, because we fans vary greatly. Some of my favorites from the first season include: “Pilot,” “Cura Te Ipsum,” “The Fix,” “Super,” ‘Wolf and Cub,” “Blue Code,” “Flesh and Blood,” “Matsya Nyaya,” “Many Happy Returns.” Why do I like those? The person of interest is interesting, either they expose an aspect of the characters, such as “Wolf and Cub” is a lens into Reese and “Blue Code” is just amazing for that Fusco scene at the end – and Kevin Chapman is extraordinary here; or perhaps they have a twist that is unexpected, or at the very least very well done, such as “Cura Te Ipsum” and “Matsya Nyaya.”
As for my favorites in Season 2, primarily around the case of the week, well, there’s “Triggerman.” I love Jonathan Tucker as Riley Cavanaugh; and “The High Road” is great for the fish out of water aspect for Reese and Zoe. “Prisoner’s Dilemma” is like “Many Happy Returns,” there just isn’t a bad moment, so they make any and all lists I can possibly think to put them on. “One Percent,” “Booked Solid” and “Proteus” all make the list for me because I enjoy episodes that have a ‘bottle-like’ quality to them, as well as “One Percent” is a winner because of the always excellent Jimmi Simpson as Logan Pierce. “Relevance” makes this list because it gives us the other side of the Machine; and I like Shaw, thus she is an interesting person of interest. “In Extremis” also makes the list because while its ending is predicted at the beginning – the doctor dies – he is an intriguing character for his fortitude in the face of death.
How about if you want episodes that give more time and attention to the characters of Carter and Fusco, well, there aren’t a lot that focus directly on them, although “Get Carter” and “In Extremis” focus, respectively, on Carter and Fusco. But, there are fine moments in many episodes for each of them. For Carter, “Number Crunch,” “Super,” and “Legacy” are the turning point moments for her, after “Get Carter,” when she decides that Team Machine is one she ought to join. Later on she has fine moments in “Blue Code,” “Baby Blue,” and “Flesh and Blood” where she not only works closely with Reese but also confronts what working with him means for her as a cop, and “Firewall” shows her finally discovering that Fusco is working with Finch and Reese alongside of her.
In Season 2, “Bad Code” has Carter heading to Texas with Reese to find Finch, and definitely risking her career in the process. “2’pi’R” shows Carter breaking many rules, drugging an innocent man for his DNA, breaking into a Federal lab, all to protect Reese. “Prisoner’s Dilemma” is a standout performance as she lies repeatedly to Donnelly, all under the guise of working with him. “In Extremis” finally shows Carter breaking all her bonds to her moral compass as she saves Fusco by moving the body of Detective Stills and in “God Mode” Carter breaks Elias free from police custody. Where she goes in Season 3 is anybody’s guess.
As for Fusco, I definitely say the “Pilot” is a must. His time with Stills and Co, his intent to kill Reese and subsequent turn of events that puts him under Reese’s thumb; it all starts here. On to “Cura Te Ipsum” to understand how and why he ends up at the 8th Precinct with Carter is a must as is Witness – the first time Fusco learns of and works with Finch, plus he shows some actual concern for Reese. I definitely recommend “Blue Code” as Fusco goes undercover at Finch’s urging, and then ends up undercover with HR at Reese’s urging. “Flesh and Blood” is critical because of how he interacts with Carter and so many of his dirty secrets get revealed, and let us not forget Firewall, not only is he brought deeper into HR’s circle, but he also learns of Carter’s partnership with Reese and Finch.
In Season 2, “Bad Code” has some great Fusco as detective moments, plus he keeps Bear! Masquerade gives us more heroic Fusco moments and “Til Death” shows us his romantic side. “All In,” “Trojan Horse” and “In Extremis” bring Fusco’s Season 2 to a close as they deal with his HR connections and the threats Simmons holds over Fusco. Once again, Kevin Chapman shines as he brings us the conflicted man that is Lionel Fusco. Fusco is loyal, first to Stills, now to Reese. Fusco has found what being a cop means to him, and much of that is through working with Finch and Reese. Fusco needs help but Reese isn’t available and Carter, at first, is unwilling. Ultimately, he is redeemed by a most unlikely ally: Carter.
As you can see, there are really no easy answers. My best advice if you want to get caught up on a show, watch all of the episodes. Someone may tell you a particular episode is bad – I’ve seen comments that deplore “Wolf and Cub” and “Baby Blue,” however, I love those two, and I’m not alone. A particular person of interest may not be to your liking, I find the doctor drama of “Critical” uninteresting, but Carter following Snow and then confronting Reese at the end is fantastic, as is the introduction of Alistair Wesley played by Julian Sands. Plus Leon returns, the first of several appearances. “2’pi’R” and “Relevance” have very little Reese and very little of the rest of the team (in “Relevance”) but both are excellent episodes on their own. “2’pi’R” is a deep study of Finch and “Relevance” introduces Shaw and showcases the “relevant” side of the Machine. “Ghosts” may be a typical second episode of a series, a bit wobbly, but it has fun moments between Reese and Finch as they learn to work together, and it begins to peel back the layers of the Machine. “Risk” is all Wall Street and FTC investigations, but then there is Joan. Some may wonder at “Identity Crisis” so late in Season 1, no HR, no Elias, no CIA, no FBI, but then there’s Finch hopped up on Ecstasy and Reese taking care of him at the end, and not delving into his secrets even as he wants to.
Person of Interest has many facets: character study, case of the week, government conspiracies, corruption in the police and in the government, good guys/gals, bad guys/gals, humor, sorrow, splashes of the ridiculous, great fights scenes and car stunts, quiet moments and more. Watch all of it. You’ll find something to enjoy.
Thanks for reading. Elle2