Last week’s Person of Interest double-bill started with something of a romp, and followed it with a masterpiece. This week, to a certain extent, it’s the other way round. In ‘Prophets’, the Number of the Week is Simon Lee (Jason Ritter), a high-flying political pollster whose reputation for infallibility is falling apart: he’s working for James Murray, the Governor of New York, and having used his statistical model to predict a narrow victory in the imminent gubernatorial election, he’s proved wrong.
This isn’t great, of course, but it’s hardly in itself a motive for him to be killed; it’s Jason Ritter wearing his idealistic face, so we can discard the possibility that he’s going to be the killer. Simon continues to insist, though, that his prediction was right; it’s just the result that was wrong, and not in the way that Dick Tuck meant (“The people have spoken, the bastards”) when missing out on nomination to the California state senate in 1966 – he means that the election was rigged, and as Finch’s investigation suggests that he’s right about that, we now do have a motive. And a killer, once it can be confirmed who did the fixing.
Meantime Detective Reese is still kneecapping suspects, and finds himself in therapy as a result. Could he not get himself a hobby, perhaps? “I have a hobby. Shooting people”. The therapist won’t let go, though, and ultimately Reese has to start to unpack his feelings about what he sees as his failure to protect Carter. While he’s busy with that, Finch and Root are working together to protect Simon. “This”, Root murmurs, “is really nice”, and for one gleeful moment I was 100% shipping Froot, although as she makes clear her interest lies elsewhere.
Not for the first time, the context of the episode is explicitly theological. Root has been grappling with the silence of The Machine in the face of the threat from Samaritan: “She was supposed to remake the world. Now God’s on the run”. In addition, there’s a series of flashbacks to 2001, when Finch and Ingram were first developing The Machine, and Finch’s repeated and failed attempts to teach morality to his creation, meaning that he has to keep destroying The Machine and starting again.
For the purposes of this episode, a strategy to protect Simon is arrived at, although it has its own ethical difficulties. On the macro level, there are a million things going on, including the likelihood that the election-rigging, which turns out to be nationwide, will come up again in future episodes. Once again, though, this is Person of Interest operating at something close to the maximum of what a network drama can offer; it’s never less than outstanding, and it’s frequently astonishing.
The next episode, ‘Pretenders’, has to content itself with being just the second-best hour of TV of the week. The Number is Walter Dang, a worker bee at Wetherton Insurance, who is trying to impress an attractive coworker by investigating, out of office hours, the apparent suicide of her brother. When doing so, though, Walter transforms himself from a schlemiel into an alter-ego: suave, confident Detective Jack Forge. Of course, “Jack Forge” is gonna get himself killed when he starts playing with the big boys, so Reese and Fusco save him. Walter, it turns out, was in thrall to the legend of The Man In The Suit, and when The Man disappeared, he decided that the city needed a new hero.
Meantime Finch is in Hong Kong to present a paper to a conference under his academic disguise, and starts a mild flirtation with businesswoman Elizabeth Bridges, also there for the conference, and owner of a tech company. And with Finch out of the country Shaw is taken out of the field and stuck behind the desk, providing quarterbacking services to Reese (a production decision no doubt influenced by Sarah Shahi’s pregnancy).
The suicide, of course, isn’t a suicide, and is connected to a developing war between Elias – and we’ve seen him being a little too cuddly recently, so it’s no bad thing to become reacquainted with his darker side – and The Brotherhood. Walter by now has put two and two together, and realises that The Man In The Suit isn’t dead: “How do you do that with your voice?” he asks of Reese. Good question. And Finch turns out to have been up to something all along. Not quite as good as ‘Prophets’, but I’m not sure what is.