Entertainment Magazine

Review #3513: Person of Interest 1.22: “No Good Deed”

Posted on the 17 May 2012 by Entil2001 @criticalmyth

Contributor: Edmund B.

Written by David Slack
Directed by Stephen Williams

When a show starts hitting its stride, you surrender yourself to the narrative, confident that wherever the writers choose to take you will be entertaining, compelling, and satisfying. At one time in television history, it was rare for a show to achieve this in its freshman season. But, in recent years, as producers have been given more freedom, especially on cable, the phenomenon of the show fully-formed at birth has sprung onto our screens. While I’ve always felt the auteur theory is an insult to the collaborative nature of filming stories, there is no doubt that the singular visions of Matthew Weiner or Vince Gilligan shape “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”

Review #3513: Person of Interest 1.22: “No Good Deed”

Now, Jonathan Nolan is hitting those same heights with “Person of Interest”, but with a twist. His show presents complex plots, characters, and motivations in a stealthily popular package that not only made it onto CBS, but pulls ratings that should keep it around for a while. It’s heady stuff for genre fans who have contended with one or two seasons and done recently (“Fringe” and “Chuck” thankfully excepted). And, unlike that other successful forebear starring Michael Emerson, it’s parsing out its mysteries without generating many complaints.

After exploring Reese’s background and character for a couple of episodes, the show returns to Finch and the origins of the Machine. Once again, the back-story meshes with current Person of Interest, Henry Peck, a financial analyst whose cover they swiftly deconstruct to reveal he’s working for the NSA. Apparently, it’s easier to avoid those initial missteps when the target is someone so close to home.

Being an exceedingly meticulous analyst, as evidenced by his 78-page speeding ticket brief, Henry has noticed names unknown to him being inserted into his reports. These names invariably lead to major terrorists. Unfortunately, he has unwittingly stumbled on the way the Machine communicates its ‘relevant’ findings to the government. Having gotten so used to the illicit use of the Machine, it is a bit of a jolt to be reminded of its day job. Even more of a jolt is how far the government goes to protect it.

Mr. Peck is abandoned by the NSA and targeted by an assassination squad, just like the ones Reese used to be on. This makes the playing field a bit more level, and some of Reese’s favorite methods are used against him, notably the monster rifle to stop a car. While he still proves to be the best, he has to work a little harder this time. It is a stark reminder of dangerous it is to know about the Machine.

Once he’s in protective custody, Peck shows his analyst chops by deducing the existence and nature of the Machine. The viewer waits with bated breath to see who else he’s just put in danger. Is it Carter? In a hilarious twist, it’s all flying right over the head of Fusco, who dismisses it as a crazy, paranoid rant.

The running dynamic of Reese ferreting out Finch’s secrets, with its dark undertone since the Machine started ‘monitoring’ their actions, bears some more poignant fruit. Reese’s discovery of the fiance Finch had to abandon, presumably after Nathan’s death slammed home the danger of associating with the Machine, said as much about the relationship between the two men as it did about Finch. Casting Carrie Preston, Michael Emerson’s real-life wife, ensured the proper emotional resonance and heartbreak to that tragic story. But, between these men who have lost so much and seen too much, there is now a level of trust and respect that I doubt they previously thought wise, or even possible.

Finch and Nathan’s story resumes in 2009, as they prepare to turn the Machine over to the government. Despite what he told Reese when they first met, Finch is adamantly opposed to installing a back-door. His reasoning is sound, that any crack in the Machine’s defenses provides an inroad to hack it. Nathan’s push for it appears stymied. His self-deprecating “corporate beard” remark confirms Finch as the brains behind Nathan’s public facade. When Nathan sneaks back and over-rides his restricted access to install the ‘contingency’ protocol, it is a complete surprise.

Nathan acts after meeting with Alicia Corwin, where the small pool of people who know about the machine is emphasized. He obviously realizes he’s expendable once they deliver. The episode title, “No Good Deed,” practically screams the consequences of this. We still don’t know the details of his demise and Finch’s limp, but it’s almost immaterial now that we’ve seen the setup. (Note to producers: that doesn’t mean I don’t still want to see that part of the story!) Nathan’s slip about how many know is Alicia’s first inkling of Finch’s existence, an awareness heightened when Nathan’s son invaded her off-the-web exile.

The China mess, and the security breach it implied, proves Finch had a point. Someone got in, poked around, maybe did some reverse-engineering. Someone who may have wound up hooded in Reese and Stanton’s bathroom in New York. However, Finch’s vision of a self-contained, self-patching, self-upgrading entity is equally chilling. The Machine is becoming more and more a proto-Skynet. When the action returned to Finch and Peck’s final conversation, the one where Finch openly declares, “I built it,” I expected the Machine to turn Finch’s box from yellow to red. Instead, Alicia Corwin finally finds the eighth man. While the reasonable assumption is one of the others is still in Washington, I would not be surprised if the Machine has taken care of all six, in the name of self-defense. But I don’t need to know that right away. They need to hold some mysteries over for season two… and beyond.

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

Total: 10/10

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog