Person of Interest
Episode 17: Proteus
Episode 18: All In
By: Carlos Uribe
Person of Interest is a drama about preventing planned crimes before they happen.
Proteus is an episode that doesn't really quite work. The machine spits out six numbers after being silent for three days. These numbers belong to six people who have gone missing. They manage to figure out that their serial killer likes to take over their identities before moving on. Why? That's never really explained in the episode but it's slightly implied that he was looking for the perfect identity. He's never been satisfied so he keeps on killing. It's also implied that he's simply sick and he does this because he enjoys it. Our characters have to try and catch him but the problem is that he could be anybody. They team up with an FBI agent whose looking into the case. The show also strands them in an island right in the middle of a major tropical storm. This allows the series to limit the potential number of suspects to about eight. The idea behind Proteus is nice but the execution is a little bit off. This is for three reasons. The first is that it became too much like every other CBS procedural out there where the goal is to find and catch the bad guy rather than to prevent crime. That seems to be against the very nature of Person of Interest. There might have been a way to do this right but it also means having to stray far from it's own format in order for it to properly fit within the show's universe. While the formula was tweaked a little, it basically remained the same. The murder mystery therefore felt a bit forced.
The second issue with the episode is that it's entirely too predictable. It didn't make us guess who was really the impersonate because it was obvious from the get-go that it was the FBI agent. This removed a lot of the tension from the scenes. This is because the tension depended on the audience wondering who they could trust and who was really the killer. This didn't happen because the show went with a twist that is pretty much a cliché by now. Of course the FBI agent we've never met before and was working on the case alone was going to turn out to be the killer. In order for this plot to really have worked is to have done something that hasn't done before. This basically means having one of the people on the island actually be the real killer while working to throw off all suspicion from the FBI agent. The only thing worse than being a typical CBS procedural is to be a predictable typical CBS procedural.
The third issue is that it's frankly not very exciting. I like Person of Interest because it gets my heart rate up and my blood pumping. That's largely because of the action scenes and the music. This episode didn't really employ the music in a memorable fashion and the action was rather limited until the very end. There were points in the episode where I was actually pretty bored with what was happening. It doesn't help that the ending was predictable but the journey to the twist wasn't a very good ride to begin with. Proteus is a sub-par effort by the Person of Interest team to create a murder mystery but it fails because it's dull, predictable, and doesn't separate itself from the formula to really work as an actual premise. The flat villain also hurt the episode. It is so far one of the weakest hours of the show and definably the worst one of the season.
The person of interest for All In is Lou Mitchell. He's a senior citizen who is losing a lot of money at the casino. The first suspicion is that his life is in danger because he owes a huge debt or due to his previous connections to the mob. These are red herrings to the real problem that slowly reveals itself. He's been losing money on purpose. He's actually a pretty good cheat when it comes to cards but he's been throwing the game against him. Why? He's been blackmailed by the casino owner to do so. The casino owner has been dealing drugs and is using these losses to launder his money through. He gives these seniors his drug money and has them put it into his legal business. It boosts the profits of his casino and allows him to ensure that the IRS doesn't catch him. He's cooking the books in a pretty original way. The episode seems to split in half when Lou is sent to Chicago at the half-way point as Finch and Reese decide to do their best to turn this casino owner is. They just need to find a way to get his real accounting book so that they could prove that he's been laundering money. They enlist the help of Leon. I'm just going to add that Leon is quickly becoming one of my favorite recurring characters on this show. He adds some great comic relief that can really help to make the typical episodes be more fun. All In would largely have been a drab if the writers hadn't included Leon into the plot. He's a character that's best used sparingly but he's been pretty effective every single time that he's made an appearance so far.
It really shouldn't come as a surprise when Lou shows back to the casino. When they realize that he isn't just going to run away, they help him cheat his way into huge winnings while Finch takes the necessary information. They manage to succeed but then the casino owner catches them. Reese is able to take them out when the show pretends it's going to kill one of them in a game of Russian Roulette. The one fault I have with this climax is that Lou basically gets a superpower that he can do anything with his hand. He's able to take out all the bullets in the gun while his hands are tied and the casino owner never really lets go off. There's a difference between making a character skilled at an act and having them be able to do anything, anytime. The casino owner goes to jail, Lou (or Finch) gets to buy the diner where he met his wife, and Leon basically leaves the episode the same. It's a decent weekly case but nothing to write home about. At the very least, it was never boring as the mystery of what constituted the threat was an easy hook into the plot.
The sub-plot throughout the episode had to do with HR. It's trying to get back into business and this means framing a good cop to try and get a mobster to walk. They run into a major obstacle with Carter. She's able to prove that he was being framed by following where the money comes from. She's also starting to suspect that the reason Beecher is under investigation is because he's a member of HR. Her meddling might cost her life as the head of HR personally kills the good cop and the Assistant District Attorney in a pretty good cliff-hanger ending. That ending helped give this episode the narrative momentum it needed to survive the short break between the next episode-which is sadly too far away at April 4th. Overall, All In was a pretty good episode when it came to HR but it was a decent outing when it came to the weekly case. This created a pretty standard episode for the show-but at least it wasn't boring.