Harold of Interest

Wow! The penultimate episode of season two was AWESOME! The only other episode that comes to mind as being near it is when the FBI shot Reese on the parking garage in season one, but still I would put this one ahead of that (the episodes share a director). I saw a tweet on Saturday, I forget from whom, saying how the episode felt four hours long because of all the plot development. Watching it on DVR I kept thinking, “I must be to the final break now” and only finding I wasn’t close yet. Outstanding television episodes fly to their final commercial break. Only the very, very best seem to take forever to get there.

It occurred to me later Thursday night that this was the kind of episode Lost fans begged for during its later seasons – heavy mythology and rapid plot development. Lost’s creative team was reluctant to deliver it because they felt fully explaining the show’s meaning would take away too much of the audience’s imagination. Darlton even noted their reluctance in The End’s script: And here it is. The closest we’re ever gonna come to actually describing it.  That was their very last chance, and they stuck to their core belief in their storytelling. Person of Interest ran this risk with all it crammed into last week’s episode. If the writers weren’t up to the task they would have undercut the finale, but they pulled it off in spades.

I won’t begin to attempt recapping the episode, you can get that here. Instead I want to look forward and see if there is anything that might give leads to what we’ll see this week.

Harold and The Laptop

Harold sold the the virus that Decima used to take down The Machine. The CIA sent Reese and Kara Stanton deep into China to steal it, leading to both of them being nearly killed before the virus fell into Decima’s hands. We’ve known it for a long time, Decima knows it and now, maybe most importantly, John knows it. We don’t know why Harold sold it.

Some possible answers?

He wanted to destroy The Machine. He was not happy about Nathan leaving the back door for non-relevant numbers, isn’t it possible that Harold so feared what he’d built and what Nathan had done with it that he created a way to destroy it and made sure it found its way into the hands of those who would want to?

He wanted to smoke out John. Harold knew he couldn’t protect the non-relevant numbers on his own, couldn’t he have manipulated the entire situation so the CIA would want to retire John, forcing him to escape and go the one place Harold knows he can find him: Off the grid? This one is a stretch, Harold would have to have his hands on an awful lot of moving parts to make it work. But remember when he and Agent Donnelly squared off while Reese was in prison? If anyone could pull it off, Harold could. There’s more here…

Remember Jessica? Jessica was John’s love before September 11 pulled him back into the military. He was about to leave the CIA to reunite with her when he and Kara got sent to China. How would Harold have known about her? Her number kept coming up because of her abusive husband, who eventually does kill her. When Reese learns this at the hospital, he fails to notice a man in a wheelchair who would soon become very familiar: Harold Finch.

That is some deep mythology and nothing in the lead up to the finale suggests it will come up again. But as Harold’s character is peeled back we are starting to see that he may not be the virtuous do-gooder we first saw him as. I’m also hoping for it because Jessica was played by the incomparably gorgeous Susan Misner, who delighted us all on ABC’s Nashville and FX’s The Americans this spring.

Harold and Nathan Ingram

I would be very surprised if the finale doesn’t show us how Nathan died. His number came up a split second before Harold’s script shut Ingram’s makeshift system down. Will it have something to do with Harold’s limp? It could. Although if I had to bet I’d put money on it having to do with him being in the wheelchair as mentioned above. It could also be what changed Harold’s mind about the backdoor. Recall their argument in the library when he told Nathan he would tell the non-relevant people that everyone dies and he can’t play god. Having one hit so close to home could change his mind.

Harold and John

They have been partners until now, Reese even credits Harold with rescuing his life after escaping China. Will John turn against him now that he knows Harold was responsible for the laptop? He didn’t express as much in their short interactions waiting for the phone call in the library, but John will put his personal feelings aside to finish his mission. I think he will have his word with Finch at the right time. Going into season three the show will need to change its dynamic. Finch and Reese at odds could be that change.

Harold

Like I said, Harold’s character is being peeled back as we get closer to the end of the season. Way back at the start of the series I observed they were featuring the more well-known Jim Caviezel’s character more than Michael Emerson’s, figuring he would draw viewers while Emerson’s Lost fans would be comfortable waiting for Ben to be studied. It really feels like we are at that point now. The writers ran Harold’s story up to the key moments in his life thus far: Separating himself from Grace, taking on The Machine’s non-relevant numbers, Nathan’s death, the laptop. All of this will come together, somehow.

Other potential changes could be evident after the finale. It is only one hour, which is disappointing, and maybe nothing can live up to the excitement of last week’s lead-in. But The Machine is off, Root has the Northern Lights director tied up and Decima is closing in. This should be great.

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Catching up with Person of Interest

CBS landed as many Lost graduates as any network in the post-island era. Daniel Dae Kim and Terry O’Quinn stayed in Hawaii for the seemingly dull remake of Hawaii 5-0, and now Michael Emerson is limping (literally – the character has a limp) his way thru Person of Interest (Thursday, 8pm) with Jim Caviezel. Emerson’s character is a billionaire technology wizard who developed a vast electronic surveillance network designed to catch terrorists. Now living off the grid, Emerson exploits a back door to the system that alerts him to people who are in the path of a possible crime. The kicker here is that the machine isn’t too smart for the show’s own good, it can’t tell whether a name it identifies is going to be a perpetrator or a victim.

Enter Caviezel, the reclusive former Jason Bourne-type military fighter who Emerson hires to be his brawn and creeper. He is, of course, a phenomenal combat fighter and a marksman. His job is to follow the names the machine spits out and determine their role in the crime the machine sees them committing or being the victim of. And the machine is never wrong.

Person of Interest is a variation of the crime-tech shows that CBS has perfected with CSI and NCIS. Lost snobs like me scoffed at those shows over the years for being too simplistic and lacking compelling serial stories, and thus far P of I doesn’t appear too concerned with satisfying us. But that’s not a bad thing here. It uses an inquisitive New York Police Department detective trying to piece together clues about this mysterious man who appears at seemingly random crime scenes to build a story that you can see lasting for the duration of the first season. The man is, of course, Caviezel.

Addition:

Got this one kind of wrong. I think Person of Interest is very much trying to not be a week-to-week who-dunnit cop show. I think it is succeeding at being deeper. /addition

Early episodes have also left enough open storyline possibilities that you can count on future episodes being more important to the larger story than the person of the week plot. At some point the machine will get a name wrong and either Caviezel or Emerson will have their sheltered world punctured by the inquisitive detective or the uber-character that is smarter than the usual villains.

Addition:

Bingo! /addition

If strong stories aren’t enough to keep Person of Interest on the air, Caviezel’s magnetic portrayal of his character will. He portrays his reserved but quietly tortured character with ease, giving him a mix of confidence and mystery that can’t be ignored. He’s simply someone you want to see on the screen as much as possible. Emerson’s character isn’t as strong – yet, which could be the show’s effort to lure fans with the more well-known Caviezel. Lost fans watching for Emerson will give the show enough time just to see him, so they can afford to neglect his character at the outset.

Addition:

They got more into Emerson’s character as the season went on. Ending the season with his apparent kidnapping shows they are ready to have him be the show’s most powerful storytelling character. /addition

With a curious premise, strong stories and impeccable acting, Person of Interest has a chance to curate the kind of loyal following that will keep it on the air for years to come.

Addition:

Person of Interest is the best new show of the season that I watched. It is more mature than Revenge but gives something back for straight drama. Now that both main characters are established I wouldn’t be surprised to see next season move toward more explanations of the machine and how it came about. The season finale and mystery women who made herself visible to the machine in order to find and kidnap Finch would seem to indicate that. I wasn’t wild about how they handled that character in the finale, but I’ll get over it. I hope she doesn’t displace the two cops – both of which are now in on the game – because I view them as very much part of the show’s core. 

Prediction: Finch will stay off screen for a notable number of episodes to start season two. We know they aren’t going to kill him off, but I think they will leave us wondering for a good long while so Mr. Reese can take a more aggressive lead. 

Carrie Preston had a spot role in season one, amusing of course because she and Michael Emerson are married. She had one scene in Lost playing Ben’s mom before she died shortly after giving birth. Here, she played Finch’s ex-fiance who thinks he is dead.