This is part one of two, so all is not revealed and the full impact can’t be evaluated until both parts air, however, Lethe is a great episode. “Lethe” sets our assumptions on its ears. Who thought there was a second machine? Did the Machine know? What does it want with the other Machine? A friend? Will this be a frenemy akin to Elias? Is this Machine more along the lines of Leon: gets into trouble and needs assistance – a lot? I have no idea, but I’m eager to find out.
Again, the casting choices are superb. Michael Emerson and Saul Rubinek have an instant familiarity that has me completely believing their past friendship. Camryn Manheim is always an excellent addition to any cast, and she was believable in both roles she played. On my PoI wishlist: Cristine Rose. But that’s for another time.
With HR gone, it’s time for Control and Vigilance to step to the forefront. Decima can’t be far behind. Root will be stepping up as well. I’m wondering if we’re in for a Root and Reese connection. He’ll wish that they could have been more proactive in saving people and will find that Root’s access to all things – well, all things, will work just fine for him. I have no idea, but I’d love to see that.
Back to “Lethe.”
As great as the mythology elements were, it’s the character moments that will grab me and hold me every time. Characters are what draw me to a show. If I can identify, mourn, and rejoice, with the characters, I’m going to stick around. Journeying around the fandom this morning, while sipping my morning coffee, I found quite a few commenters who were displeased with the character aspects of this episode. They felt Finch’s flashbacks were unnecessary and that Reese was boring as he sulked in the bar. I say, what?
Don’t misunderstand. Those commenters aren’t wrong. I just disagree. That’s okay. They’ll probably disagree with me. That too is okay.
Person of Interest likes to reveal the layers of the characters in such a way that with each revelation it actually shifts what we had known before. Let’s look at the pieces we have of John Reese. We knew in the Pilot that he joined the military to protect his country; however he felt he was extinct; then 9/11 happened. He gave up the happiness he envisioned with Jessica and selflessly gave to protect his country. It’s not until Season 3’s Liberty that we learn that Reese actually chose the military because a judge gave him a choice, military or prison/probation. Reese chose the military, likely because – as we now know definitively, his father had been in the Army.
I don’t think Reese sees himself as the hero that he sees his father. We know from Foe that Reese came to recognize that he was being used. In Liberty he told Rey Valentin, a promising naval man, that when the CIA comes calling, say no. We know from the Pilot that Reese doesn’t like killing people, but he’s very good at it. In “The Devil’s Share” he said that killing people never really bothered him – not the same as liking something; however he never liked people suffering. In “Cura Te Ipsum” he contemplates the reality of a world that needs men like him, men that can do what others can’t; in that situation it was kill someone. He would not, however, allow Dr. Tillman to kill Benton because he knows what it takes, a piece of one’s soul. Reese sees himself as damaged goods, no wonder that working with Finch gives him some degree of happiness. He’s a Ronin, after all (Wolf and Cub).
John doesn’t have many friends, thus the loss of any is a massive blow. Finch gave Reese a purpose, but it was Carter that showed Reese his direction. With Carter gone, Reese is rudderless. Also, his vengeful and violent path after Carter’s death no doubt weighs heavy. As such, Fusco is the perfect choice to send to Reese, because not only was Carter his partner too but Fusco did find his path as a cop again through working with Reese. With Fusco’s presence, Reese is confronted with a real life success story authored by him. But all of that is not enough to move Reese from his current path.
Reese needs action. Reese needs to be propelled back into living. We saw this in the Pilot. Homeless, drunk Reese on the subway was for all intents and purposes dead, until some punks decided to take something that wasn’t theirs. Same thing in Many Happy Returns when Reese was sitting in the dark in Peter’s living room watching video after video of Jessica, it wasn’t until Arndt reached for the fireplace tool which was an act of aggression that Reese began to move. Fusco employs the same ‘persuasion’ here: he challenges Reese to a fight. At first Reese resists saying he won’t fight Fusco, but then, after Fusco lands some choice hits, Reese gets down to business.
It’s a great sequence. I have no idea what direction it takes in part 2: Does Fusco pull his shield and explain away the difficulty? Does Root somehow engineer an escape because she and the Machine need help rescuing Finch? Whatever the outcome, this is the dawning of a new day for Fusco and Reese.
As for Fusco, we’re told of a new direction for him as well. He not only has stepped fully into the moral center position for the team, he is clearly a friend to Reese, and will also be a mentor for new faces in the precinct after the fall of HR. It’s a great new direction for this character.
And what of Finch and his – some say – unnecessary flashbacks? Oh, how I adored them. They add to the layers of Finch, and provide some shading so as to make the picture more defined, more interesting.
In Season 1 we learned that Harold built the Machine to save lives; however, Season 2 reveals that it was Nathan who first embarked upon saving the so-called irrelevant list. We discovered in Season 1 that Finch was engaged, but it’s Season 2 that reveals that Grace, the love of Finch’s life, was never privy to the many secrets of Harold Finch. Season 3 has revealed that Finch’s altruism comes from a completely pure genesis: he loved his ailing father and desired to help him. This revelation helps explain why in 2001 Finch first conceived of building a machine to save lives. The altruism of that little boy in Lassiter, Iowa still lives today. Despite all the pain, the loss, and the paranoia, Finch does still desire to help people. It is at the core of who he is – no matter what his real last name may be. And yet we saw him turn his back on all that at the beginning of Lethe, until Root – of all people – pulled him back.
Was “Lethe” a proper follow-up to “The Devil’s Share?” I think the question is: Was “Lethe” a proper way to open the new chapter of Person of Interest? I say, yes. Person of Interest continued its exploration of the mysterious and sorrowful psyches of Finch and Reese, while opening the chapter that had been promised in “God Mode” and again in “Nothing to Hide.” “Lethe” is masterful in its quietness after the dark rawness and violence of “The Devil’s Share.” To those commenters who decried the character moments I say this: Don’t mistake Fusco and Reese’s quiet, short moments as worthless, don’t fling Finch’s childhood memories away as distraction all while thinking the only worth in this episode is the revelation of a second machine; it’s all good stuff.
Notes of Interest:
- That Comic Con poster of Washington’s Crossing doesn’t seem so ‘out there’ with Vigilance in the game.
- “If they don’t want you to get inside, they should build it better.” Finch took that to heart when he built the Machine.
- “Don’t lose it. We need every piece.” Are you listening, Mr. Reese?
- “Not everything that’s broken is meant to be fixed.” Some things that are broken work better that way: Finch, Reese, Carter, Fusco, Shaw, Root, all broken. All worked extremely well – especially together.
- Great continuity work, PoI team! February 25th, 2005, is the day the Machine went live, and the photo of Finch and Nathan from MIT showing a younger Finch…well, the actor in the flashbacks is quite a good match.
That’s all the reviews for 2013. Next new PoI episode is “Aletheia” on January 7, 2014. We can make it, can’t we?
Thanks for reading, Elle2