Entertainment Magazine

Review #3474: Person of Interest 1.20: “Matsya Nyaya”

Posted on the 01 May 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Edmund B.

“Matsya Nyaya”, the title of this episode, roughly translates to “The Law of the Fishes”. It’s a Hindu variation of survival of the fittest, assuming bigger fish will eat smaller fish in the natural order of things. However, it is used to justify why governments need to establish laws and standards to counteract those base instincts. It’s not the first time Jonathan Nolan has turned to Eastern philosophy to inform his narrative, and, as in “Batman Begins”, it provides an apt metaphor. In “Person of Interest”, the leaders have been shirking their responsibilities, and it’s time for the little fish, both past and present, to rise up and reimpose some order.

Review #3474: Person of Interest 1.20: “Matsya Nyaya”

After the all hands on deck effort to capture Elias, this was a very Reese-centric episode. The case, placing Reese in an armored-car crew with Person of Interest Tommy, returned the team to the dynamics from early in the season. Reese is out in the field, with Finch back behind his monitors. It was a surprising turn, after Finch’s recent forays against HR and the Ecstasy dealer. If Finch is feeling some discomfort at his exposure, it certainly hasn’t been voiced. I will admit that the pacing is again so propulsive, I didn’t notice this on first viewing. But this time, I have the benefit of writing the review after discussing the show on the podcast. (Yes, dear readers, it’s a timey-whimey thing. And my thanks to John and the rest of the crew for their insights.)

The case of the week follows many of the established tropes, from mistaken assumptions about the crime-to-come to a few well-placed feminine tears deflecting our not-so-worldly hero. From the bracelet on waitress, and accomplice, Ashley’s wrist to the robbery prank, the inside nature of the job was telegraphed. If I know many armored car jobs have inside help, I think they could have been more aware of that possibility. However, they did do a good job establishing the camaraderie and lack of professionalism of the crew, as partial justification for Reese’s guard being down just enough to let Tommy shoot him in the back, which becomes a trope of its own throughout the episode.

But what distinguishes these later episodes is how the different plot threads now wrap around each other, rather than existing in separate worlds. The robbery is one of HR’s new funding projects, now that the Elias spigot has been turned off. Ashley turns out to be the wild card, convincing Tommy to double-cross his partners and keep the platinum they stole. She doesn’t realize that puts them squarely in the sights of both Reese and HR, pincers that are impossible to shake.

After his epiphany last episode, choosing the side of good, Fusco’s character continues to grow by leaps and bounds. He has a very difficult path to navigate as the mole within HR, having to play bad cop without losing himself again. His struggle to reconcile his ill-gotten gains finds an altruistic outlet in his son’s hockey gear. But how long before his outer actions erode his inner resolve? Especially now that he has multiple killings under his belt, even if they were to protect the team. When he reminds Reese that he was picked because he was good, we believe him based on his recent actions. The irony is Reese seemed to pick him out of expediency and expendability, and is only realizing now Fusco’s true value.

The flashbacks chronicle Reese and Stanton’s last mission into China, the one where he’s supposed to have killed her. It is no surprise that the killing was ordered by Agent Snow (which allows him to say Reese did it without technically lying). What is a surprise is the intrusion of the Machine into their storyline. Alicia Corwin’s presence at the briefing tips us off that Stuxnet is just a cover story; it’s the Machine they’re protecting. Stanton dispatches the software engineer just for uttering its name, then matches Snow in her ability to tell Reese just enough of the truth to get by. That, plus her off-handed probing about where Reese thinks their intel comes from, knowing she also has orders to shoot him, indicates that she figured out far more than anyone suspected.

The more we’ve seen of Stanton, especially the brief glimpse of her interrogation style this time, the more I’m reminded of Madeline from the original “La Femme Nikita” TV series. Her looks, her attitude, her intelligence are all what I imagine Madeline to have been in the field before taking her desk job with Section One. Stanton is, in no way, derivative, and stands on her own as a strong, compelling character. But I will continue to ride this hobby horse that she’s also the writers’ nod to one of their forebears in clandestine ops.

I say all that just so you can imagine my joy at the final twist. The moment Snow mentions an injured operative getting out of China with gender conveniently omitted, I knew who they were going to find, or, rather, who was going to find them, in that hotel room. When Stanton stepped out of the shadows, a whole host of possibilities opened up. Given the probability she escaped with the laptop, I’ll be shocked if she’s not Root. Given her skills, combining the best of Reese and Finch, plus her ability to read Reese like an open book, a shadowy opponent just got even more formidable.

These final episodes of the season have been called a closing arc. Now, it seems the show is, once again, defying conventional expectations. This is not a linear narrative, which explains why the network could order an extra episode without worrying about disrupting the flow. I suspect they are setting up different pieces of the puzzle that will only click together at the end. It’s a bold strategy, one that risks providing sufficient clarity and closure. But the show runners have earned my trust in spades by now. With the setup so far, I have no doubt the follow-through will be just as satisfying.

Acting: 2/2
Writing: 2/2
Directing: 2/2
Style: 3/4

Total: 9/10

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