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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Person of Interest: That's Not a Peeping Tom, That's Jesus Stalking You

Person of Interest
Episode 101

"When you find that one person that connects you to the world, you become someone different, someone better. When that person's taken from you, what do you become then?" Good question Jim Caviezel; lets find out, shall we?

Unmistakable NYC subway.  A lone homeless guy is sleeping when a young turk gun dealer, named Anton, and his jacked up posse, enter the car and start messing with the seemingly comatose homeless guy. Real nice Anton; like Homeless Guy doesn't have enough problems.  Well, because he's an ass, Anton (who is tonight’s chosen example of Chekhov's gun) decides he wants to steal Homeless Guy's gin and juice. He'll regret that decision almost immediately. Homeless Guy wakes up in a hurry and lays some Homeless Guy-fu on Anton and his gang.  Its literally done in a blink of an eye. I am going to like this show. 

Cut to a police station where [Detective?] Carter (played by Taraji P. Henson), a sassy cop with a heart of gold (you know the television trope) recognizes special forces training in video footage of Homeless Guy's tae-bo seminar on Anton. The cut scenes in this show are very "in the Matrix" like and its clear in addition to studying up on modern weaponry and hand-to-hand combat techniques, I am going to need to bone up on modern surveillance methods and equipment.  Carter doesn't get very far in her interrogation of Homeless Guy and before she can ping his fingerprints to a bunch of crime scenes across the world, an expensive lawyer springs Homeless Guy from the jail.

More cut scenes showing us how Big Brother is watching. Ben Linus!!! In a park by a bridge! Ben Linus know who Homeless Guy (who's name is John Reese (probably not his real name so lets stick with Homeless Guy for a little bit longer)) is and has been following him for a while. Ok, creeper. This is what Mr. Finch (formerly referred to as Ben Linus but that will get annoying for people that didn't watch LOST) knows about Homeless Guy: (i) the  government thinks he is dead; (ii) he has a drinking problem; and (iii) he is generally suicidal.  Finch knows everything and is a motivational speaker on the weekends at the Learning Annex, "You need a purpose ... More specifically, you need a job". ALERT! ALERT! SHOW PREMISE IS ABOUT TO BE DESCRIBED!  What if you could stop premeditated crime before it happened?  Finch has got a list of people Social Security Numbers that are about to be in bad situations, either as the perp (its a CBS procedural-like show so I feel like I need to use perp at least once) or the victim.

[Social Security Number of the Week] Diane Hanson is at the top of Finch's list this week (my first impression is that there seems like a flaw in Finch’s system, namely, not knowing more details about these people). Homeless Guy is skeptical of Finch and his premise.  Finch adds a little leverage by reminding Homeless Guy that the cops are looking for Homeless Guy, as a Person of Interest (show title, everyone drink!!!) for a number of crimes. Homeless Guy fucks up two of Finch’s guards for shits and giggles, I guess (rage issues anyone?!?), and leaves. 

Drinking and shaving make a nasty combination but, here is not so Homeless Guy doing both.  So not-so Homeless Guy lives in what looks like a decent hotel room; I think we’re ready to start calling him Caviesus now that he is clean shaven and clearly not homeless.  Like any of us with ninja skills, Caviesus likes to kick back and watch samurai movies. Healthy. His samurai watching gives way to dreams about Jessie (a wife? Girlfriend? Dead?). Caviesus is awoken from his sexy time dreams by the worst kind of telemarketer call you can receive, the one where they chain you to a bed and make you listen to someone being murdered. Ok, ok, I'll buy the damn Time Life books; just quit it already. JUST KIDDING! Its Finch playing a nasty little joke on Caviesus; trying to see how fast he reacts.  Answer? Pretty damn fast, for someone that was chained to a bed.  Finch continues his creeper ways saying that he knows that Caviesus was away from his “friend, Jessica” when she was murdered (thanks for clearing up that query Finch). He also knows that the government lied to Caviesus about … something?!? Caviesus recognizes the recording as being derived from a FISA/NSA wiretap [Fun Sidebar: FISA stands for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act which was passed under the Carter administration but which rose to prominence after being revised post-9/11 as part of the USA PATRIOT Act.  The wiretaps are performed by the National Security Agency (NSA)]. This throwaway line was meant, I think, to hammer home the “all-surveillance, all the time” world we live in since September 11 (which will be made more explicitly clear in a moment by Finch, so hold your horses, k?)  Finch is a 'concerned third party,' not government, which begs the question of how he has access to to secret intelligence like wiretaps?  Appealing to Caviesus’s do-gooder instinct, Finch knows he’s in – now Caviesus knows it too

Title card.

Finch's (partial) backstory (this isn’t all of the backstory, not even the most important part of it, keep waiting)!  Finch, who is clearly very rich,  controls a bank, which controls a defunct library property. Ah, the “Lair” – every good sci-fi-like show needs a lair (this is where The Cape went wrong, the Lair wasn’t cool enough).  I think Finch is making pretty good use of foreclosed property, maybe the other banks will catch on and we’ll see a cropping up of secret millionaire lairs? This is clearly a nerd lair (it is in a library after all), covered with nerd equipment and a nerd board with strings and pictures, and of course Social Security Numbers (missed chances as Finch explains). Since Caviesus was CIA and is used to 6 cover identities, that’s what Finch provides here. Also? Unlimited funds. Nice! Just having Social Security Numbers and no names is going to be a pain in the ass; imagine dealing with the Social Security Administration to get names?!?! The red tape will be ponderous and everyone on the List will be dead. Oh, by the way Caviesus, don't try to find out about Finch, he's pretty private and he’ll be upset if you pry. Let's go to work.

Where does one start when you are going to become a creepy stalker?  Caviesus knows! We get a Michael Weston like voiceover (I really enjoy this storytelling device when used correctly. Its used very well here, just as its used well in Burn Notice) describing how to spy on people and how to find the most efficient way to find the most information fastest. Three easy steps to spying on people when cultivating a relationship isn’t possible due to time constraints. Step One.  Break in to the person's abode and go through all of the person’s stuff. Step Two.  Hack into the person’s cell phone and use the GPS feature to track their movements and the microphone to listen in on their conversation like a mobile bug (I’ve now seen two different television shows and one fiction spy book tell me they can access my cell phone microphone to use it as a listening device; I am going off the grid folks, see ‘ya). Step Three.  Get a good wireless camera so you can take pictures.  Diane Hanson is an Assistant District Attorney. A shitty job with minimal reward. Also? It’s the kind of job that generates a decent list of possible enemies, including your spurned lover colleague (Wheeler) and a drug dealing gang banger you are prosecuting (Pope). Hansen has just finished up questioning a detective on the stand and she seems annoyed. Out in the hallway, she confirms she’s annoyed when she corners the detective and hammers him about his crappy testimony and how Pope’s probably  innocent, based on what she heard. Hanson is doesn’t like to lose so she goes to see Pope, one on one. It doesn’t go well. 

Finch knows all about Pope and thinks that Pope's brother probably did the crime and that Pope is taking the fall. And, the dynamic duo theorize, whoever framed Pope is likely coming after Hanson and only Pope and his brother, Michael or lil' Pope (as I think of him) know their identity.

We take a minute out of the action to flashback to Caviesus and Jessie, who were clearly more than friends, at least friends with benefits. They are getting their tropical macking on just as 9/11 happens. Buzzkill!

Back in the present, Caviesus is still hunting down suspects and thinks that Wheeler (the spurned lover) might be involved since Caviesus spies him looking at the Michael Pope file. Caviesus must find Michael Pope.  And he does … at a nondescript urban playground. Hmm, white guy in a suit walks up to a young thug at a playground, "no white guy in a suit, you cannot talk to me."  Running through the urban jungle, running through the urban jungle, running through the urban jungle (TM – Therese Odell at the awesome Tubular blog).  He catches Michael but before he can convince him that some bad dudes are after him, Michael gets some constructions workers to come to his aid and distract Caviesus as he slips into the subways.  Caviesus takes it pretty well, but that’s really only because he was able to slip a tracking device into Michael’s (conveniently unzipped) backpack. 

Caviesus needs to get a hold of some weapons if he’s going to confront the people after Pope, lil’ Pope and Hanson (Finch doesn’t really approve but you can’t tell a former CIA guy he can’t have guns).  So we find ourselves back with Chekhov's gun (see what I did there) in the third act. Anton O’Mara, the snotty gun buyer/dealer from the opening scene of the episode has shown up at a convenience store which sells firearms in the backroom (I always just there was bathrooms back there? Hmm). While Anton is checking out some merchandise, Caviesus shows up and proceeds to give a very helpful seminar on proper gun safety (the NRA should hire this guy). His tips include not holding the gun sideways, the way all gangbangers do in TV, because (i) it makes it hard to aim and (ii) the shell casings will eject right into your face (instead of to the side like the manufacturer intended).  As to prove his point, he snatches a thug’s wrist and begins shooting the people standing around the guns table (the casings to in fact fly into the thug’s face – lesson learned sir). Caviesus takes possession of the weapons until the men in the room have taken a proper safety course. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think he plans to give those back. 

Caviesus and Finch resume the tracking of lil’ Pope. Luckily the dots on Caviesus’s GPS software are large font and color coded for our convenience.  Caviesus has an idea on how to retrieve lil’ Pope from whomever snatched him.  Hey? Where’d Caviesus get the balaclava? Anyway.  As all bad guys do at this point in the show, the thugs are revealing their plans with lil’ Pope. Caviesus takes up an interesting tactical position -- standing in the middle of street, directly in front of the oncoming bad guy car and firing flashbang grenades (those are the kind of grenades that that render you temporarily deaf, blind and stunned – but alive) in through the front windshield (not the most subtle tactic but it was ballsy).  Rescue of lil’ Pope. Check. Identity the kidnappers. Check. They’re dirty cops. TWIST!

Taking surveillance photos with a camera? How low tech Caviesus??? Stills is the head dirty narcotic cop.  They steal drugs, sell them and kill any and all witnesses.  Is the next target Hanson? Maybe?  Caviesus doesn’t know because he doesn’t know how Finch is getting his info.  Yep, that’s right, time for more backstory!

Hi Backstory!! While Caviesus was playing sexy time with Jessica in Mexico, Finch was busy making himself rich. On September 11, he was working so hard he didn’t find out about the attacks until that night.  After 9/11, Finch developed super-spying software for the government. Software which was kept secret, natch. It was designed to prevent the next 9/11 but it saw all sorts of crime. Finch taught the computer program (Do you want to play a game? War Games shout out? Anyone, anyone?) to recognize “relevant” and “irrelevant” crimes (well, arguably not so irrelevant to the people involved in the irrelevant crimes I guess). Continuing on.  The irrelevant information is erased at midnight each day. Finch developed a conscience about this information being out there and no one doing anything about it.  Caviesus interrupts to ask where the program is.  Finch ambiguously but I think also rightly describes it as “everywhere” (more big brother themes hitting us on the head in case you didn’t know what the feeling was)). Finch built a backdoor program to access the irrelevant information lists but only gave himself 9 numbers to work with. Ok. Sure. Why not.  Finch kind of snottily says, “That’s the job, no one sad it would be easy.” Yeah, but no one said you would have built this awesome super computer program and would then hamstring yourself at the 11th hour by not providing more information on the people involved, dumbass.

Lawrence Pope is killed in his cell. Next, we see Hanson gets an ominous phone call to meet in Canarsie, Brooklyn. People, listen to me.  Nothing good happens in Canarsie. Hanson is the head dirty government person! She’s the perp, not the victim! TWIST #2!!! Hanson is meeting with Stills and she says she wants Wheeler taken care of that night. Caviesus is so shocked that he is caught unawares by one of the dirty cop henchmen.  Smooth move dipshit. When Caviesus tried Finch’s whole “concerned third party” line, he gets whacked. Hanson wants Caviesus "taken care of."  Ooooh Hanson is nasty. She threatens that Stills better take care of Wheeler (and Caviesus) or she'll take care of Stills .. just like she did Pope! That is one crazy, nasty Honey Badger.

Lionel is taking Caviesus out to Oyster Bay … to take care of him per Hanson’s orders.  Oyster Bay is pretty. Caviesus, in his best Jesus voice, commences an ethics debate on when good cops go bad. Caviesus likes Lionel and doesn’t think his heart is really into being a dirty cop.  This leads Caviesus to say the best line of the night, "Its why I'm going to let you live." In context, with Caviesus in the backseat and things looking bleak for him, it’s a great line.  Not only is Caviesus going to let Lionel live, he’s going to use him down the road, as his guy inside.  You see, Caviesus plans on sticking around NY for a bit and wants Lionel to work for him. But, he does has have two rules of employment.  Rule one. Don’t hurt anyone; if you do Caviesus will kill you. Dead. He doesn’t like to but he is good at it. Rule Two. You have got to be more careful Lionel. You always need to thoroughly search the people you put into the backseat of a car because you never know when one of them might have another flashbang hanging around to blow your shit up and escape. Just then, Caviesus rolls the flashbang forward and the car kind of explodes.  Oh, Lionel. Then, without even being stunned, because he’s part deity, Caviesus steals Lionel’s gun and shoots him in the back ... after making sure he’s wearing a vest.  Very Jesus like.

I have to learn how to hot wire a car, it seems so easy. Spark, spark, spark. Vroom. Ok. The Wheeler assassination is going down. Right. Now. Stills has brought along an ex-con that Wheeler put away. Smart move framing the patsy. I guess you don’t get to be the head dirty cop by being stupid, right?   Caviesus gets the drop on dirty cop # 2. Now everyone has a hostage and we are watching the old fashion elevator (the one with the dial) tick down to the ground floor. Very Tense.  Ding! Awww, Wheeler is with his kid, talking about baseball.  Man, now I really hope he doesn't get killed cause the therapy for the kid will be very expensive.  In a funny moment, the kid drops his ball and it rolls around the corner to where Caviesus has a gun to the neck of dirty cop #2. He just smiles at the kid and the kid smiles back and walks back to his dad who is now at the door.  Cool kid to not at least question why the man is holding the other man at gunpoint – I guess that’s what you get for being the kid of a NY assistant district attorney.  Hostage tradeoff negotiations - epic fail. A dirty cop #3 tries to jump Caviesus but in the slickest move yet, Caviesus shoots him in the knee (the guy was kind of to the back side of him so, it was a very good shot). Caviesus lets his hostage go to take care of his “friend”.  Stills threatens to kill Caviesus’s friends and family. I see where Stills is going with that threat, it probably has a very high success rate in working. But, not with Caviesus.  He informs Stills that he doesn't have any family or friends, thank  you very much for bringing up a sore topic. We move to an exterior shot and all we see are flashes and the ex-con patsy running out. Pretty sure Stills is dead baby.

Stills is now in the trunk of a car. Dead.  Lionel’s trunk to be exact. Since Caviesus used Lionel’s gun to shoot Stills, he now kind of owns Lionel.  Not the best way to instill loyalty in the working relationship but I guess you do what you have to, to get results.  Now Lionel has to dump Stills body.  I hope he gets to bill Finch overtime for ditch digging.

Wrap up! The numbers never stop coming. So, here is Caviesus’ “come to Jesus” moment (sorry, it remotely fit so I went with it). Are you in Caviesus or are you out? Last little bit of Finch backstory … Finch lost someone so he’s pretty committed to the fight. Swallow the blue pill or the red pill (the Matrix overtones in the episode were too great to not have a reference somewhere). If you are worried about retirement and pension benefits, you’ll be happy to know that certain death is guaranteed.  Not your usual job perk but at least Finch is honest.  We end with Detective Carter arresting a dirty cop extra. Yeah, we'll be seeing her again cause she seems to have a boner for Caviesus and his ninja killing skills.  Caviesus has a stare off with a camera's red blinking light.  The camera is going to win so don’t even bother.  Just then, Neo comes out and flies into the heavens … wait sorry, wrong ending. 

So, we’re a little Matrix, with a little Minority Report, with a little CBS-cop procedural. Person of Interest, like many pilot shows, has some soul searching to do on what kind of show it wants to be exactly. I am willing to take the ride and see where it goes.  There is too much goodness here to walk away from. Besides, they’re probably watching me anyway so the least I can do is watch back. See you next week!

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