Flashbacks! Box Cutters! Orphans! “Person of Interest” has something for the whole family!
Episode 1-02 / Originally Aired 9/29/11
There were plenty of long-term mysteries opened up in this week’s episode of Person of Interest. What exactly happened to Michael Emerson’s better looking business partner leading to his unfortunate demise in 2010? Who exactly was Mr. Finch referring to when he longingly stared into the camera and spoke of losing someone he cared about? Most importantly, where can I find a punky skateboard dude to hook me up with one of those nifty ATM account code skimmers?
Thankfully, one mystery was resolved this week, and it’s a pretty major one. Turns out that Jim Caviezel’s John Reese is the kind of guy who doesn’t think twice about dropping fifty bucks on a cheeseburger from Room Service. THIS, right here folks, is the kind of guy you want to plan a two-week vacation to Disney World with! Just think about all the over-priced churros and corn dogs you’ll get to feast on throughout the day! And that’s even before you make that long “Trek of Temptation” down Main Street, U.S.A on your way to the exit. All the gift shops! All the emporiums! With big spender and former CIA operative John Reese on your arm, there’s absolutely no way you’re coming out of that place without at least five hundred bucks worth of Mickey Mouse pizza plates, Nightmare Before Christmas ankle socks, and Tinkerbell coin purses. And that’s all after he pops the overweight dad at the base of his skull with a Glock C-20 for trying to push his little brat in front of you during the “Goofy’s Jammin’ Jungle” Parade.
This week, Michael Emerson’s “Magical Mystery Machine of Irrelevant People in Need” spewed out the Social Security Number for one Theresa Whitaker, teen girl presumably murdered two years ago at the hands of her own father during a weekend boat ride-slash-multiple murder-slash-suicide (because some families don’t find “Movie Night” to be enough).
According to the cops, Theresa’s father was the owner of a real estate business that had gone belly up, so he took the whole clan out on the ocean and wasted them before turning the gun on himself. Theresa’s body was the only one never recovered. Reese insists that if Finch’s Machine has turned up her number, she must still be alive. Sure enough, only minutes later, Reese tracks down the very much alive Theresa living on the streets of New York, and we are not even out of the first act yet!
I had a couple of problems with Theresa’s early arrival on the scene. First of all, her character provided no information to move the plot forward until well into the second half of the show. She seems to have been introduced merely to fill the “helpless female victim” role designed to bring out Reese’s tender, protective side. We already know he’s hurting from the mysterious loss of his girlfriend in the pilot (more on her to come), but I hope that we’re not going to be met with a new “girlfriend surrogate” each and every week. There have to be other plot devices out there that can melt Jim Caviezel’s gooey marshmallow center. A three-legged puppy? The soundtrack to Beaches? Come on, Person of Interest writers… we’re all counting on you!
And here’s another problem. I know we’re supposed to feel for this poor, nose-pierced runaway, but couldn’t the producers have given her a weapon a little more menacing than a box cutter? Yeah, I know.. box cutters have taken on a slightly more menacing reputation since 9/11, but they’re still the things my dad freely let me fiddle around with as a kid when he was trying to get out of having to play “Connect Four” with me. In any event, if I was a teenage girl planning to live the rest of my life on the streets of New York, I’d at least get my hands on a bike chain and a few pieces of lead pipe. I don’t know who’s gonna be intimidated by that wimpy little blade, unless Theresa threatens to slice them some cheese or mess up their Halloween pumpkin.
And how about that flashback to 2002? Ah…. remember how simple things were in 2002? We had it so good and we didn’t even know it… rocking out to Puddle of Mud, watching Whammy: The All New Press Your Luck, running to our favorite discount merchandise store to pick up all the “Ernest” movies in that handy 4-disc gift pack! Turns out Mr. Finch (Michael Emerson) had it better back then as well. He didn’t have his trademark stiff neck yet, and he was chasing away cardiovascular disease on his treadmill with Brett Cullen along for the ride as the front for Finch’s corporation. Very little beyond that was revealed about the personal relationship between these two men. In fact, if Cullen’s character was even actually referred to by name, I missed it. One thing was made clear however: the two were at major odds over Finch’s “Relevant Terrorist Threat Machine,” specifically, the fact that Finch’s programming had the unfortunate side effect of also spitting out information about people whose lives were in danger, though of no threat to national security: the “Irrelevants.” You know, people like you and me.
In a tune very different than “2011 Mr. Finch,” “2002 Mr. Finch” insisted that he couldn’t be bothered with the Irrelevants and had therefore added additional coding to delete their names each and every night (“We didn’t build this to save somebody… we built it to save everybody!”) And as Finch delivers this information to Cullen, he reaches over to turn off the screen currently displaying one of these “Irrelevants,” and look who it is!
That’s right… it’s Reese’s girlfriend, the one whose loss sometime after the 9/11 attacks sent him into his alcoholic tailspin last week. You know the type: the poor beautiful sacrificial lamb who never makes it past the pilot and is saddled with lines that ensure her own impending doom… things like “I wish this weekend could go on forever!” or “I’ve never been happier in all my life!” or “Don’t be silly, it’s not loaded!” Ah, poor stupid sacrifical girlfriend… will you never learn? Her death is often used as the incident that incites the hero to bravely overcome off his own personal demons and re-enlist in the fight against tyranny and injustice wherever they may be found, just as it’s done in Person of Interest. The big questions before us now are whether or not Finch’s actions actually caused Reese’s girlfriend’s death, and what will Reese do when he finds out about it.
But for now, let’s get back to 2011. There is a runaway orphan crazily wielding around a box cutter and possibly a super-sharp pair of nail cutters, and something needs to done about her! Reese is convinced that the murder of Theresa’s family was in fact a “hit for hire,” so he heads to a local bar, knocks some heads against the wall and comes up with the name of a contract killer currently behind bars. Upon a visit, said contract killer admits to offing Theresa’s family but letting Theresa live because he doesn’t “kill kids.” I’m pretty sure that early on, Finch mentioned that Theresa had an 18 year old brother who was also killed on the boat. I guess 18 legally makes you an adult. Bummer for you, dude. And you were so close to being able to taste beer for the first time.
Theresa confides in Reese that she believes her father’s brother, Derek is responsible for ordering the killings. Reese tracks him down and gets the story: Theresa’s father left no will, and since everyone assumes there are no surviving members in his family, all of daddy’s real estate holdings will revert to good old Uncle Derek, who is ready to sell back a single valuable property to a greedy land investment firm. PROBLEM: As Theresa actually escaped death, she’s the rightful heir to the valuable land instead of Uncle Derek. That’s right! Little Theresa’s in the money! And you know what that means… “New Parent” shopping!
Reese stashes Theresa away in a hotel “where she’ll be safe.” Ah, the good old “You’ll Be Safe Here” hotel chain… proudly boasting a higher body count than The Hindenburg! Sure enough, a hit man with male pattern hair loss and unfortunate skin shows up and a chase ensues! And just as our hit man corners our whimpering little orphan behind the hotel towels and takes aim, Reese busts in to save the day, blasting our third-string supporting actor right into his next gig as “Guy Walking Dog” on this Friday’s CSI: New York.
And I’m not sure if this actually happened next or if I just dreamt it, but I seem to recall Jim Caviezel dragging little Theresa by her ears down the hotel hallway and back into her room because he paid fifty bucks for that cheeseburger, and goddamit she’s gonna eat it!
And if I were Theresa, I’d do exactly what Jim Caviezel says, even if he insists on a third go-round at The Hall of Presidents. In the end, the swag will be more than worth it.