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Review #3178: Person of Interest 1.9: “Get Carter”

Posted on the 11 December 2011 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Edmund B.

As “Person of Interest” has built up its world in its opening episodes, the weakest element has remained the police. So, this episode, “Get Carter”, where Det. Carter is tagged by the Machine, was a make-or-break opportunity. Unfortunately, this part of the show is still broken. After successfully introducing characters that challenge the protagonists, like Zoe Walker or Elias, the attempt to elevate Carter to those ranks falls short.

Review #3178: Person of Interest 1.9: “Get Carter”

While there are deficiencies on both sides of the camera, the primary problem is Taraji P. Henson’s performance. I have tried to give her the benefit of the doubt as the series found its footing. However, she continues to lack the forcefulness needed for a character of such drive and perseverance. I can see the writers’ intent to make her an officer analogous to Finch and Reese; someone who fights the status quo to defend the right way. Unfortunately, the figure she reminds me of most, both in the present and the past, is Don Quixote, tilting fruitlessly against his windmills.

For Carter, the Machine rewinds to Iraq in 2004, where we discover she was an interrogator. She’s presented as fearsome by her lead-in officer, but it hard to tell if that’s just ironic use of the standard threats. Her approach is far softer than we’ve seen on “Rubicon” or “Homeland” in recent years, playing on family ties in a not very convincing way. And given the lack of respect her assurances to the detainee receive in the field, her standing among her comrades is pretty shaky, too.

That status is mirrored by her place in the NYPD, as she gets closer to Elias and is targeted for removal “in the line of duty”. While the corruption in the force was established from the pilot, I am disappointed that they have opted for the trope of Carter as the one good cop. Stories like “Serpico” have shown that holding firm can be a lonely vigil, but, again, she’s not displaying the steel and fortitude Al Pacino brought to that character. As portrayed, she needs a few allies, or, at least, a mentor to make this fight believable.

Elias has apparently expanded from the small band of hand-picked cronies moving in on Brighton Beach to having tentacles that extend up to City Hall. This is a development that makes perfect sense, if it’s actually been developed. Instead it’s just sprung on us in a remarkably open conversation on the Brooklyn precinct’s rooftop. It’s always better to show, not tell, but Elias’ only appearance is delivering eulogy flowers to Carter’s desk. A cute touch, but a glimpse of him actually leaving City Hall, or a superior’s office, would have better served the plot. Even better, and more ominous, would have been stretching this rise out over a few more episodes.

Carter is continually shown as alone against the world, and, what is far more problematic, in need of help. She is openly defied in Iraq. Without Reese’s intervention, her informant guns her down on Elias’ orders. (Since she is apparently so trusting, Reese has to tell her to wear her vest!) Even with her son, she has to rely on grandma to help protect him. Although why her enemies wouldn’t be able to find her family is another mystery. It winds up making the episode title deeply ironic, since Michael Caine was a one-man wrecking crew in the film of the same name.

This series has been built on the idea that a few people, if they’re strong enough and properly connected, can correct some of the wrongs in the world. This episode was meant to show, as Reese says, “Carter’s been doing that her whole life”. When Reese waxed rhapsodic about Zoe Walker, it was believable. Here, it falls flat, because there’s no evidence Carter’s been doing it well.

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

Final Rating: 6/10

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