Person of Interest Review by Edmund B.

Person of Interest 3.20: Death Benefit

Person of Interest 3.20: Death Benefit

Written By:
Erik Mountain and Lucas O'Conner
Directed By:
Richard J. Lewis

(Note: This review also covers the episode "Most Likely To...".)

I held off on reviewing the previous episode of Person of Interest after it ended with the game-changing reveal of the Machine. What had been a well-done fish-out-of-water tale with Reese and Shaw forced to act against type at a high-school reunion became a whole other animal after Finch and Fusco's foray into Washington. Root having to tip off Vigilance for intel was a bit of a stretch, but the group's forcible entry into both storylines leads to them becoming this universe's version of Edward Snowden. I did not expect that, and that development hooks directly into the next episode, turning this into a two-parter that really can't be evaluated separately.


"Most Likely To..." plays with expectations built up over the series' run, even in the unrelated main action. Reese has long been eye candy for the ladies. So the triplicate slaps take him, and the audience, by surprise, however appropriate they may be for the Mattress King of Kenosha he replaced on the guest list. And while Shaw's physical charms are apparent to all, she is not used to catching the eye of their Number.

Nestor Carbonell loses the guy-liner, but not the silky charm, of his Lost days as prosectutor Matthew Reed. More important, he is set up as the classic Person of Interest victim, falsely accused of his girlfriend's death. Instead, he emerges as the perpetrator of a callous, vindictive revenge plot against the class nerd who was actually responsible. Nobody comes off well here, as the show slides back into moral shades of gray.


Morality, and the proper course of action, is also the crux of Collier's confrontation with Harold. After the temptations of Shaw and Root in recent episodes, it's Harold's turn to field an offer from the other side. Like the others, he isn't swayed from his antipathy towards their methods. However, he isn't unsympathetic to Vigilance's goals, which, given what's to come, may lead to an unlikely alliance. But, for now, events conspire to shift Finch's base of operations to Washington, D.C.


Vigilance's leaks lead the government to shut down the Machine. However, its now-decentralized nature leaves it far from official control, and it immediately reroutes the relevant numbers to its 'analog interface,' Root. After mentioning Reese's status as man-candy, I'd be remiss in not noting that Root and Shaw roaring off on a motorcycle gives the distaff side more than equal time. The tiny glimpse we get of their adventures in Anchorage and Miami feel like a backdoor pilot for the greatest mash-up of Charlie's Angels and The A-team ever.


But to which side of the ledger are they assigned? The events of "Death Benefit" could be better explained if the salt-of-the-earth, but ultimately corrupt, Congressman McCourt assigned to Reese and Finch is the relevant one. Sure, gun nuts and drug dealers pose a threat to those around them, but not the global one represented by the ability to green-light Samaritan. Casting John Heard in the role certainly adds to the presumption of villainy. Reese's read of the Machine's intent to kill McCourt appears to stretch the team's morality past the breaking point, but is, perhaps, the right call. Just as it did with Root, the Machine tries to reshape the team's horizons, only to be hamstrung by the humanity its father instills in all his creations.


While the closing montage set to a popular song can descend into cliched trope, here it is very effective. We see the team fractured as never before. They barely escape Washington, with Shaw hobbled along the way. And then, having made it back to New York, Harold walks away. His plaintive appeal to the security camera leaves no clue of his intent. Can he not stomach what the Machine now demands, or does he recognize he will be Samaritan's first target, separating himself to protect the others?


Greer makes his deals to activate Samaritan in front of Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights. (And, no, the painting was not on loan from the Prado. That was a very fine forgery by Production Designer Rick Butler.) With Samaritan online, the long-anticipated battle of AIs is joined. A cyber man-hunt is initiated at the end of the episode that makes running the HR gauntlet look like a garden party. We'll find out over these last two episodes if the world descends into Bosch's infernal vision. But, while the odds are daunting, the Machine has been stashing players south of the border. Our heroes may not be quite as out-matched as it appears.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • The Road Adventures of Root and Shaw
  • The war of AIs has finally begun
  • Nice showdown between Finch and Reese
The Bad:
  • Only two eps left this season!

Edmund B. is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @EMSBoys.

Person of Interest by - 4/21/2014 11:31 AM412 views

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