Person of Interest’s stunning first season comes to a close with an episode that is huge in scope, while largely contained to a high rise luxury hotel.  PoI has a penchant for ‘bottle episodes’, albeit with a twist.  Ostensibly, bottle episodes are constrained in location to save money, money that can be used on special effects, among other things.  Over two seasons the show has used such episodes to varying degrees of success.  “Witness,” “Super,” and “Prisoner’s Dilemma” are my standout favorites, along with “Firewall,” because the geographic constraints in these episodes are utilized to heighten the suspense – successfully.  “Critical,” “Proteus,” and “Booked Solid” do not carry off the suspense as well (although, of the three, “Proteus” is most successful) but that has more to do with how the episodes as a whole worked, or didn’t.

My two favorites of all these type episodes:  “Firewall” and “Prisoner’s Dilemma.”  “Super” is a very close runner-up.  For now, I’m here to talk about “Firewall.”

“Firewall” keeps the action running from the second the episode begins.  There are so many different elements at work that this episode, despite being largely in the hallways, stairways, and basement of a hotel, feels huge.  Root is finally revealed, Alicia Corwin catches up to Finch, Zoe returns with her invaluable assistance, Carter and Fusco discover they’re both working for the same team, HR is delivered a crushing – but not fatal – blow, Donnelly is very close to catching the mysterious Man in the Suit, Reese in therapy, Finch showing his formidable computer skills and everything at the end hinges on a phone call on an outdated – and rapidly disappearing – public phone.  Part of the irony of this show is that it showcases sophisticated technology, yet that same technology’s communication hinges upon the utilization of such an archaic device as a public telephone.  In fact, such a device is critical as we come to learn going forward.

Per usual, titles of episodes have multiple meanings.  A firewall is a construction term – barrier inside a building designed to limit the spread of fire; in automobiles it separates the engine from the passenger compartment; in computers it is a barrier to prevent unauthorized access to data.  In this episode there are firewalls galore that are breached.  Root, masquerading as Turing, quickly and astutely diagnoses Reese – paranoid, hyper vigilant:  a threat behind every corner.  She breaches his mental firewalls with ease.  The FBI breaches Finch’s and Reese’s communication network, enabling them to locate Reese and trap him.  HR breaches the FBI’s manhunt using a mole – likely Terney who in Season 2 is revealed as an HR operative – guiding HR to Reese.  Alicia Corwin breaches Finch’s firewall by locating the library and entering. 

Root also breaches the operation of Finch and Reese by figuring out what exactly they do:  investigate and stop whatever bad is about to happen, be they a victim or a perpetrator.  She sets herself up as victim, but in reality is the perpetrator.  In the end, all firewalls are breached, including the one set up by Reese to keep Carter and Fusco from discovering that they were both assets.  And the final firewall is the Machine itself.  Finch is gone leaving Reese to breach the firewall of the Machine itself:  “He’s in trouble now because he was working for you.  So you’re going to help me find him.”  The final scene is the Machine breaching the firewalls set up by Finch because the ‘contingency’ alluded to in “No Good Deed” is activated.

Season finales are expected to do a lot of things for the viewer.  We often hope they will bring to a close storylines that we’ve followed all season:  for example, Fusco and Carter not knowing about each other, HR being exposed to the FBI.  We hope that they will open up new stories for the next season:  Finch kidnapped by Root, Reese in contact with the Machine.  We want suspense and action:  fight sequence on the streets, chase through a hotel, possible helicopter theft for an escape, firefight in hotel garage and blowing up a car filled with bad guys trying to escape.  We want some redemption:  Fusco being found by Carter to be working with Finch and Reese, as well as trying to bring down HR.  We want questions that are not answered, so we can speculate for months on end:  a demand followed by a phone call.  We want some humor:  “We should all get together for a drink sometime; my treat.”  We want the return of old friends, enter Zoe.  Most of all, we want to have something to buzz about on forums and with friends until the new season begins. 

For me, Firewall delivered on all points.  Even better, PoI didn’t simply wrap it all up nice and neat come Season 2; rather they built upon it, expanded it, and made the events of Firewall resonate throughout Season 2 and from the looks of things – the addition of Amy Acker to the cast – Firewall continues to resonate into Season 3, which is right around the corner.
As always, thanks for reading.  Elle2

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