Thursday, May 2, 2013

Person of Interest

Person of Interest
Episode 20: In Extremis
By: Carlos Uribe

Person of Interest is a drama about preventing planned crimes before they happen.

Spoilers Ahoy!

This week's number belongs to a famous doctor who is on the top of his career. He does have a troubled family life because he wasn't always there for his daughter. He gets poisoned by special radiation which only leaves him with twenty-four hours to live. There is no way to save him as the writers quickly rule out an antidote. I think a great way to show how the machine has been acting strange is to have the number come too late for Reese to save him. It also presents an opportunity for Reese to help the doctor find the man who killed him to get some well-deserved revenge. It might not be the most original concept, but it is a change for this show. The formula for this show is to have Reese come in and save someone from dying. To not be able to do anything to save this character basically means that the formula has to be adjusted. Reese still has to find out who the bad guy is but there is a time limit because the weekly person of interest doesn't have long to live. They do manage to figure out who it is relatively quickly. It turns out that he had given some information to his friend, a stockbroker. Insider trading happened and the friend's boss had the doctor poisoned. Reese now has to take the doctor to meet this boss only it's a long drive. They have to head all the way to a resort upstate and the doctor actually almost died on the way there. It's a good thing Reese had some adrenaline to ensure he made it. They get their revenge. The evil investor boss is given the same kind of poison and the doctor soon passes away.

Does the change completely work? It sort-of does for me. The AV Club will notice how this plot isn't original as Phil Nugent will point out that he's seen this before. I haven't seen the movies he's seen so it was a more fresh experience for me. I think the problem is that I didn't have to have seen it to see what was going to happen. The premise was a little new to me but I started to catch on once the doctor started to show symptoms. He had been poisoned and they have to find the killer. A neat idea except the search for the killer is just a little bit too predictable. They basically went with the first guy they suspected at the beginning of the episode. The show tried to increase the stakes by having the drive last too long to the point where the doctor almost doesn't make it but he got to live to see his killer's face. There was nothing that really caught me off guard. The twists weren't really able to engage my attention. It all felt so trite. On the other hand, I really liked the emotional journey of the doctor as he had to repair his relationship with his daughter and find the man who killed him. The character beats all worked fine and the episode was just exciting enough for me to be interested. The weekly case might not have been the strongest, most action-packed one but it had strong enough character beats to save it. I just wish it wasn't so forgettable.

The real meat of the episode has to do with Fusco. Internal Affairs has gotten more evidence to suggest that Fusco was helping HR. They believe that he used his status as a homicide cop to allow the other cops to get away with murder. They're tightening the nose as they plan to dig up the body where Fusco had buried it. Fusco is worried but he's willing to accept his fate. He might not have killed the cop they're accusing him of but he feels like he deserves it. It's all promising material but the show really doesn't do much with Fusco. He feels like he's doomed but he doesn't really get to do much about his situation. That's where Carter comes in. She has to finally confront that her partner is not only dirty but that he's killed people before. She tries to process the person that she now knows to the person that he used to be. It really tests her claim that once a dirty cop, always a dirty cop as he's been on a path of redemption.

A decent part of the episode is the flashback where Fusco is shown how he joined the HR. It's because of his friendship with Stills. Stills helped provide Fusco a place to stay when he needed one. They were close so Stills used that to get Fusco to help them. They peer pressure Fusco into becoming a dirty cop. He's not exactly happy about it but he's basically dragged down with the rest of them. That's not entirely true as he could have backed out at any moment but it's understandable why he didn't. That doesn't justify his actions just like how peer pressure doesn't remove the responsibility of them. Fusco became a dirty cop until Reese saved him from that life. In the same way that Fusco got gradually deeper into HR, Carter is showing having to give up her principles in order to help her friends. She moves the body so that Internal Affairs wouldn't have any physical evidence to back up their theory. Even the confession that they got ends up getting recanted. Fusco is safe for now but Internal Affairs is going to continue to investigate him. I do wish they had been able to do more with Fusco's character since this episode's core revolved around him but the actual plot concentrated more on Carter's actions to save him.

In Extremis is a good episode of Person of Interest. The weekly mission is passable due to the character beats but it felt too formulaic to really pull it off. The sub-plot with Fusco could have been better served if the episode was actually about Fusco rather than the characters around him. Having Carter help him is one thing but she's the only character who really had an arc and whose actions influenced the plot. Overall, it doesn't stand out from other episodes but it's not really a bad one either.

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