We start with yet another twist on the opening credits, as Finch’s “You are being watched…” monologue is interrupted by John Nolan as the voice of Samaritan. The battle for the future is under way.
In the present, though, the Machine is feeling sufficiently like its old self to supply a couple of Numbers. Reese first of all needs to finish off an old case, by beating someone up in the toilets of a restaurant where he’s meeting Iris and her parents for lunch. One suspects that for Reese, as for most of us, any sort of displacement activity is preferable to the first time you meet your girlfriend’s parents. Anyway, his allocated Number is Alex Duncan, who works for a private consultancy with access to sensitive military information, which he’s illegitimately using to try and find out about the death of his brother, killed in Afghanistan in 2010.
Flashback to 2010, then, in which Reese and his partner Kara (welcome back Annie Parisse) are sent to Afghanistan by Terrance Beale, Reese’s then CIA boss, to investigate the case of a soldier who might have been selling information about weapons shipments to the Taliban, with clear instructions to deal with the soldier as appropriate. The soldier denies everything, but Reese shoots him anyway. It turns out that Reese was correct about his guilt, although whether shooting him was the right thing to do is perhaps more nuanced. The soldier, of course, was Alex’s brother, and in the present day Alex is being pursued by Beale – something of a rough-stuff artist – and the CIA, keen to ensure that details of their off-the-books op remain secret. And Reese in turn is trying to protect Alex; a task which is complicated by the fact that, as far as Beale and the CIA are concerned, Reese is very dead. This storyline comes to an entirely satisfactory ending: Alex is given the thing that Reese realises he really wants, and Reese and Beale come to an arrangement.
The other Number is, at least, part fan service; the mutual love between the Machine and Root seems to extend to obliging Root to dress up every now and again, and this week she’s a courier who comes into possession of malware which the Machine seems to want Root to install on it, which she does over Finch’s objections, because it might help in the search for Shaw. Another episode which is so good that it’s essentially beyond criticism.