Entertainment Magazine

Review #3146: Person of Interest 1.8: “Foe”

Posted on the 20 November 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Edmund B.

After paying off the Elias sub-plot, “Person of Interest” took a step back into business-as-usual with “Foe”. Reese is faced with someone who, on paper, anyway, should be a memorable adversary. Alan Dale, another “Lost” alum, guest stars as Kohl, a former East German Stasi agent who has come out of the cold. He led a kill squad that targeted East German defectors. The rest of his team traded him for their freedom, leading to his wife Anja’s death in a car crash as the Americans closed in. Kohl has now escaped his captors and returns to wreak revenge on his team.

Review #3146: Person of Interest 1.8: “Foe”

As a long-time devotee of spy fiction, from Deighton to Le Carre, Harry Palmer to George Smiley to Sir Harry Pearce, this episode should have been right up my alley. However, my familiarity with the genre also sets a high standard, and I found this one serviceable, but lacking in its execution. Kohl’s humanity has been leached away, he has been reduced to the “good soldier”, but this makes for a less than compelling central character. Alan Dale has made a career out of complex, charismatic villains. Here his talents were sadly under-used.

There was an attempt to equate Kohl with Reese, but that fell flat for me. Reese has displayed compassion for their targets repeatedly. If he was as jaded and cynical as Kohl, he never would have signed on with Finch in the first place. Kohl’s soul-less march though his colleagues was meticulous, methodical spy-craft, but it lacked gravitas. He resembled a Terminator, more than a man wronged.

The episode took a predictable twist when the third member of the team reveals Anja’s death was staged. Perhaps I’m paying more attention to casting after the Elias reveal, but I didn’t think they’d hired Laila Robins just to appear in a photograph. The bigger surprise was Kohl killing the third member, after Reese had saved the second. That was a nice twist on the trope of the killer being delayed just long enough for the hero to stop him.

Reese and Finch’s presumption that Kohl has added Anja to the kill list was unconvincing. I never believed his intent was to kill her, after all those years of carefully nurturing her memory. It also stretched credulity that Reese would be so careless disarming an opponent of this caliber. The needle interrogation was a nice touch, but again was soul-less. The intent was to keep up the façade of Kohl as driven killer. However, giving Alan Dale a chance to show the façade cracking and shards of his humanity poking though would have been far more satisfying.

The police once again play second fiddle, joined by German intelligence this time. I wish Detective Carter was a stronger foil. Especially if they go the route of bringing her into the team, it would work best if she showed some ability to actually get close enough to be a threat. At the very least, she could develop some suspicions about Fusco as a prelude to that step.

The background elements of the episode were nicely done. Austin Pendleton is introduced as Pilcher, an analog analog of Finch, who provides crucial pre-digital data on Kohl. He joins Judge Gates and Zoe Walker as possible, and much-anticipated, recurring characters.

Reese has his best flashbacks of the series. He (or The Machine, my jury’s still out on that element) recalls meeting Stanton, played by Annie Parisse, looking for all the world like the daughter of Madeline from “La Femme Nikita”, his new handler in 2006. He is introduced to his new role as no-questions-asked assassin (again, shades of “Nikita”), and we learn The Machine has been put to some nefarious uses, perhaps even beyond U.S. borders.

The return to a case-of-the-week was surprising after the Elias reveal in “Witness”. I wasn’t expecting a continuing, serialized story, but, after seeing the Elias gang purposefully striding along the boardwalk at the close, I thought some element would remain. Perhaps a mention by Carter or Fusco of their latest exploits, perhaps a background glimpse of Scarface, Elias’ police plant. Perhaps I’m just jonesing for more myth-arc material, and hope the episodes to come provide better distraction from that than this one did.

Writing: 1/2
Acting: 2/2
Directing: 2/2
Style: 2/4

Final Rating: 7/10

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