Last Thursday I found myself, for the first time, part of a Twitter hate mob. Our friend at Show Start UK alerted me to Channel 5’s announcement that it was “unable to accommodate” episode 17 of Person of Interest, so it would just be skipping straight to episode 18, ta. Now, Channel 5’s attitude towards this show has been pretty deplorable for a long time. As I said on the episode 15/16 thread, though, “making us wait seventeen months to see an episode is one thing. Making us wait seventeen months to not see it… well, that’s a special kind of contempt for your viewers”.
I want to get to the reviews, so while there’s a lot more I’d like to say I’ll confine myself to three things: firstly, at least the episode was available on iTunes and Netflix – in fact, the whole season is on Netflix; secondly, Channel 5’s position has shifted, and the episode is now at least available on Demand 5; thirdly, the clear implication of what it did is that it really doesn’t matter if TV viewers miss an episode. And this, in turn, is based on an outdated view of TV as an inferior art form: if a book were released with missing chapters, or a cinema showed a film with scenes taken out, there would be apologies, refunds, promises to do better in future.
Anyway, any suspicion that Channel 5 might have actually watched these three episodes, and taken the view that episode 17 was the most expendable of them, was blown away within the first five minutes or so of ‘Root Path’, in which Root frees a Number from a prison van, uses him for a specific purpose, then hands him back, all with split-second choreography which wouldn’t look out of place in a movie. It’s thrilling and witty, and the sort of thing which would have filled an hour of TV a few years ago.
And it sets the tone for another breathtaking episode. The real Number of the Week is janitor Cyrus Wells, whose details are fired by the Machine separately to Finch and Root. There is of course more to Wells than meets the eye: as well as a line in amateur philosophy, he has access to a lab in which an advanced computer chip is being developed, making him of interest to Decima and Vigilance.
It’s yet another high point in a season brimming with them, notable also for further Root character development: the way in which her hitherto amoral nihilism now carries shades of regret, her confirmation of how she sees The Machine (she calls Finch “the man who built God”), or her ongoing one-sided flirtation with Shaw; which, you suspect, she undertakes because it unsettles Shaw, rather than because she has any actual romantic interest in her. Or does she?
Compared to that, in fact, episode 18, ‘Allegiance’, was somewhat anaemic: Reese, Finch, Shaw, and Fusco try to save the life of Number Maria Martinez, an engineer, while Root and Bear track Decima head Greer. Martinez is bound up in a murky take of corrupt UN officials and missing generators which manages, by Person of Interest standards, to be surprisingly unexciting. Still, Reese does get to demand “a smoke screen and a big-ass truck” as part of a plan.
Episode 19, ‘Most Likely To…’, is much more like it, though. Once again a Number, federal employee Lorna Wainwright, gets dealt with in the first couple of scenes, although – unexpectedly – by getting killed by Vigilance before either Shaw or Reese can save her. So they get given the next number is Matthew Reed (our old friend Nestor Carbonell, guyliner still intact), a Manhattan prosecutor, while Finch and Fusco work the Wainwright case, in particular trying to establish why Vigilance wanted her dead. This will lead to a significant development when Vigilance leak details of the Machine, and the Government will respond by simultaneously denying its existence and closing it down. Although presumably Finch’s Machine will remain live, at least for now?
Meantime, in order to get close to Reed, whose high school girlfriend died in mysterious circumstances, Shaw and Reese are obliged to attend Reed’s school reunion posing as former students, and there’s lots of entertainment to be had simply in watching the two of them having to play nice with civilians, although their unpacking was pretty good as well. If I had to venture a criticism it would be that, presumably in order to keep the lulz coming, Shaw and Reese aren’t given much briefing about the people they’re impersonating, leading to Quantum Leap-esque fumbling as they try to work it out on the hoof. Wouldn’t Finch normally cover that sort of thing in his research? It’s not quite up to the remarkably high standard of some of this season’s episodes, but it’s excellent nonetheless.