Entertainment Magazine

Review #3111: Person of Interest 1.7: “Witness”

Posted on the 06 November 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Edmund B.

If you view this season of “Person of Interest” as a game of chess, it has just concluded the opening moves. We have seen Reese slashing across the board as a knight errant, while Finch held back like a powerful, studious bishop, angling into the fray, as needed. Detective Fusco has been pushed forward as a pawn, with Detective Carter as the stalwart rook, off on the side, working a conventional right-angled course.

Review #3111: Person of Interest 1.7: “Witness”

The setup may have had one or two bad moves, but, now, the preliminaries are over. In “Witness”, the opposing king has come into view, and he is very much in play. The mysterious Mr. Elias, slowly built up over the last few episodes, is finally revealed, with a twist that confounds some of the expectations built up previously.

The episode opens with a confluence of events. Carter and Fusco are investigating a shooting in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, an area run by the Russian mobs. Elias has been moving in on the Russians, and the victim is one of his men. A witness to the shooting just happens to be the person of interest Reese is already surveilling, Charlie Burton, a non-descript high-school history teacher. Reese and Burton end up trapped in the projects, hunted by the Russians and Elias’ men.

The loss of Reese’s cell phone also cuts them off from Finch, in a bad neighborhood devoid of the tech they usually rely on. Reese gets to show off his urban commando skills, raiding a drug den for medical supplies. Finch is, once again, forced into the field, tracking Elias and taking over as Fusco’s handler.

The cat-and-mouse game ramps up nicely. There is some tension-enhancing down-time as the players get into place, and Reese treats Burton’s gunshot wound. Having them protected by one of Burton’s students, showing the bond Burton’s developed was another nice touch, which becomes much more significant later. At this point, I remarked to myself they were doing a very credible, if conventional, manhunt show. In other words, the writers had lulled me into precisely the complacent place they wanted me.

Finch does an equally credible job on the outside, identifying a crooked cop who he thinks might be Elias. I knew it couldn’t be that obvious. However, the reveal of Burton as Elias, hiding in plain sight, so he could research his enemies through their children, I never suspected. Assigning his students “The Count of Monte Cristo”, Dumas’ tale of calculated revenge, was a great tell, but one I only realized in retrospect.

If I’d been more familiar with Enrico Colantoni’s work as a regular on “Veronica Mars” and “Flashpoint”, I might have suspected he had a larger role to play. Or I might have just thought he was a good get for a guest shot. Either way, he is here to stay, and seems poised to take on the Moriarty-like role I speculated on previously. He is certainly more adept at recruiting effective police helpers than our protagonists.

The police side of the equation does continue to be problematic. For the first time, I found Taraji P. Henson’s line deliveries as Detective Carter too arch and flippant. It didn’t help that she was paired with the much gruffer Mike McGlone as organized crime Detective Szymanski. He did so little to separate himself from his Geico ads that I kept expecting him to look into the camera and deliver one of their trademark aphorisms.

A much more welcome sight was Enver Gjokaj as one of the Russian mobsters. His ability to effortlessly take on multiple personalities was one of the highlights of “Dollhouse”. He played his supporting part well, as usual, and I breathed a sigh of relief when he was spared by Elias. I am sure he will have a role in the upcoming war, although he will have to add a limp to his repertoire.

The board is now set for a more pitched battle. The nemesis has been introduced, one who can bring together our heroes, the police, and even the Russians. There is the intrigue of how the Machine came to spit out Burton/Elias’ number, apparently before he “witnessed” the shooting intended for him. My hope of seeing an outright villain pop up has been rewarded, but with the added question of how it happened. And Reese and Finch now have to deal with the ramifications of having him, and losing him. To paraphrase Margo Channing, “Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a few bumpy nights.”

Writing: 2/2
Acting: 1/2
Direction: 2/2
Style: 3/4

Final Rating: 8/10

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