Person of Interest - S04E02 - Nautilus
The season premier promised us that we were going to be on a bit of a rollercoaster this series, and the second episode has shown us the first hill to climb before the drop in to uncertain high veolcity hijinks, except that the hill is covered in private military contractors, crazy mathematical problems and a chase to acquire a prize that only the winner will truly appreciate.
We open in the dark, Finch carefully welding away when his phone alerts him to a text message. Perplexed, Finch goes to his 'late night snack' only to find out that Reese has just pulled a number and has put him in to the same diner as the mark. Finch, somewhat disgruntled at the fact that Reese has thrown him in to field work by duplicitous means (something of a hoist for his own petard), is unconvinced that he should be getting involved with the Machine's machinations and more trying to stay in role and obfuscated from Samaritan's panopticonic gaze, argues that there would be no point getting involved.
Reese, however, has considered this conversation and has an answer for everything Harold can throw at him, even down to dirty plays like having something in common with the girl. The girl, Claire Mahoney, 'isn't just another number...', she is, in fact, a mathematics Major holding a grade-point average of 4.0 (that's a essentially an average overall educational grade of A to us limeys), not to mention becoming a Chess grand master at the age of 16 and capable of beating three computerised game systems simultaenously.
Remind you of anyone we already know?
Finch tries to get out of it, his excuses getting lamer by the scentence, only to find out that John can't do it because Fusco has had the privilege of dropping a stack of case files on his desk stating that the Captain wan't Reese / Detective Riley up to speed with the current work load by morning. Completeing the role reversal, Fusco walks away from the desk with a smile of sheer, malicious joy. Reese, on the other hand, has a gaze that has killed lesser men. As for Shaw, she's busy...
In a secluded spot, in a black van that screams 'rolling probable cause' Shaw sits awaiting the crew to exit their heist, only to draw her weapon on Root who plonks herself lovingly in the seat beside her.
Seriosuly, these two actresses are evidently having the time of their lives playing their little devious duo. There's a chemistry between them that is something else, neither friendship yet trusting, not companionship yet loyal. And the out of character shots tell you everything you need to know:
Need I say more?
But I digress...
Root is there to let her know that there's actually two ways to get caught in her new line of work as a thief / getaway driver: 1> get caught and 2> get caught being too good at not being caught.
'Aim for a B...'offers Root as the alarms go off.
Reese is following Claire Mahoney, observes her approaching an inoccuous lamp post with a Lost Dog poster on it. She pulls away one of the numbers, grinning, and flees in to the darkness. Finch examines the poster and takes one of the numbers, noticing the faded Nautilus shell underlying the 'phone number'. Let the games begin!
Of course, Finch has to try phoning it. While in front of a student that's trying to acquire assistance from him. When quizzed on why he'd do such a thing, he replies that he's assisting a math major, to which the student immediately rebukes the subject of mathematics and points out that if she wanted to manipulate numbers she'd get her phone to do it for her, immediately getting Finch to start thinking outside of his usual box. Which for me is an oddity; in previous seasons, Finch is all about the brains of the outfit and has seen the puzzles before the audience is even aware they're there, but considering the previous episode, Harold has been anything but on his top form - he's so distracted and unbalanced with both maintaining the cover role and yet inexorably drwan to his service to the Machine he's not even aware of his inability to say no to 'Her' every whim. For me, Finch is actually being a bit of a dunce and deserves the pointy hat of 'Duuuuuuuuuhhhhh' until he finally gets his brain in gear.
But again, I digress... He immediately sees the cypher, cracks the code and determines that the 'phone number' is actually a set of co-ordinates and fobs off his student with a blah, blah, blah...
What a guy...
And this leads him to the next part of the puzzle and Claire who is also looking at the puzzle before them, apart from she's noticed him and pulls a gun on him and makes him aware that there is in fact a game involved.
Are those Attack Eyebrows? Seriously, I dare you to watch the episode (again) and not see Attack Eyebrows. In the best possible way, of course...
She unflinchingly shoots out the window of some passing hoods and runs for it. As the two large men approach, Reese intercedes and 'arrests' Finch, forcing him to give the men money to pay for the damages. Professor Harold Whistler is now noted by Samaritan as being a Vandal. Reese / Riley even puts cuffs on him in order to keep his cover, much to Finch's chagrin.
The two of them exchange notes and theories and then part ways, but only after Reese has to uncuff Finch and remind him that he is actually keep to his cover profile: a subject that is straining all of them - between Shaw's despise for her make-up counter job being off-set by being a thief, Reese having to be a cop and Finch having to be a professor at a university, none of them are comfortable with their alter egos and over time they are starting to wear a little thin, especially as they stretch the bounds by which they are allowed to act.
Reese checks out Claire's apartment with Bear and uncovers an external hard drive. As he continues to check the room a man identifying himself as Douglas Mahoney, Claire's father, interferes with the search only to have his fears assauged by Reese's honesty and Mr. Mahoney gives Reese a number to call on the moment he finds her.
Reese takes the hard drive to Finch who has also been working on the street art that Claire was staring at right before pulling the gun on him. He has discovered the code in there and shows off his brilliance once again as he discovers the missing pattern. Reese also finds himself having to remind Finch that he was, in fact, an international spy and happens to know something about cryptography, but instead uses a Google search to ascertain the next location. Efficiency of effort is his thing, right?
So Reese is standing in a ravine by the three-pronged bridge, still yakking with Finch over comms when he spots Claire on the bridge, standing in the middle of the road and not even attemtping to dodge traffic. One quick save later, and Reese is trying to assure the girl that things are going to be alright and that he's here to help and all that stuff when Claire's father turns up, only to hear from Finch that Claire's parents are both dead and that man is most certainly an imposter. Claire confirms this and Reese tells her to run. He engages the goon and makes short, harrowing work of him, but the man escapes and Reese goes looking for Claire. FInch turns up at the scene to try and find the next clue. Despite that Reese has told him that Claire was standing in the middle of the road looking up it, and it's not as if there are many features down the road, Finch has resigned himself to a bench and his laptop - surely a sign that Finch is getting a little lazy? In fact, it is only when another 'contestant' turns up and stares down the road with a pair of spectacles that also take photographs, Warren Ellis / Darrick Robertson's 'Transmetropolitan' style, threatens Finch with a taser and then runs off does Finch get the urge to find out what the next clue is - a rather impressive prop including the rather ellaborate Nautilus shell alignment and the traffic lights / braille analog.
After splitting up, Claire intercepts Finch and acquires the hard drive off him, but only after Finch assures her that he's not after whatever she's interested in winning, nor does he wish to impede her chances, but does humanise her. And for a moment, this character takes on a new level, something longer term, perhaps?
Finch acquires Shaw's assistance. He goes back to square one - find out who put the poster up in the street and discover who the mastermind is.
A kid from the local coffee shop has put it up and Shaw asks the question, 'How many fingers does it take to make an espresso?' and offers to staple scraps of paper to the lad's eyeball. The coerscion is overkill, the kid cracks the moment he discovers what it is they're on about and then explains that was sent it in an e-mail and is given $1,000 just to put it up in that exact spot at a specific time. Why wouldn't he put it up? The e-mail was sent by an anonymous address. Finch needs to see the e-mail while Shaw insists that the boy makes himself useful and to make her a '...tall latte, and it better not be decaf!'.
Reese has gone to the next location, a biker bar with Claire already inside. She's looking at the wall with the various patches and is studying one in particular. Finch is tracing the e-mail but cannot find its source. Alarm bells are ringing for anyone paying attention. Enter the other contestant, who really has turned up in the one place a guy like him probably should never go. But hey, you have to admire his cojones! Claire, on the other hand, evades being interupted by one of the bikers by palming him off on to the other contestant who loses his glasses and is about to take the beating of a life time when John asks him a technical support question with regards to the phone.
One biker down in their own bar, John swiftly convinces the kid not to continue this chase and to go home. He doesn't even need to use scare tactics. He promptly discovers the next clue and passes it on to Finch whose laptop is about to have an amazingly bad day, but as Reese gets outside he spots Claire checking her data and being observed by a pair of PMC plain clothes preparing for their own intercept. Finch, however, is having a bad time of it and is being hacked with unprescendented force and is left with no alternative other than to ditch the laptop and get Shaw to make like a getaway driver! Reese is still watching as the PMCs make their move and thus follows the most humourous triple silent take down in TV history. Finch has (FINALLY!!!) realised that the creator of the game is actually Samaritan and is prepared to let Claire come to whatever fate the PMCs have in store for her but Reese is Reese and goes to work on the three of them with aplomb, culminating with 'Douglas Mahoney' stating, with his face planted uncomfortably, but firmly, in to the asphalt,
'You're no cop.'
'I am. Just not a very good one.'
Extra twist of the arm lock to ensure compliance. It just looks super painful.
In a car, the following day, Root and FInch are having one of their usual parleys, with Root insinuating that Finch that and the 'big lug' make a lovely couple. Once again, it's up to Root to point out the heroically obvious to Finch. If Samaritan has put this game in to motion, with a hitherto unknown prize, and the contestants are all observably super intelligent and prepared to do whatever the 'gamesmaster' is telling them to do, who does that remind Finch of? He thinks its Root, but she rebukes him by reminding Finch of what the real difference between The Machine and Samaritan really is: Finch programmed the Machine to let Humans make their own decisions. And finally, Finch gets with the programme, but is it too little, too late?
And then Root reminds us all that she's still nuts and Finch remembers why she terrifies him so much...
Mr. Mahoney wakes up in a dark room. The other two goons are still asleep. John's in there and he's staring at him. It doesn't take long to get the guy singing. Local PMC has some secrets it needs to keep hidden, little girl stole them, they need to get the drive off her, kill her once their done. Same old, same old... John remebers to turn off the light as he leaves.
He then frets ove rthe last puzzle back at the precinct until Fusco turns up and owns him. His morning puzzle pages are paying off when he solves the last clue in little under 15 seconds and is, again, disgruntled as John storms off to save the day without him.
And here comes their Endgame. Claire approaches the next location, a sniper keeping watch with a kill order. Reese interupts him with his ninja skillz and then joins Shaw for a switch and swap action that left me giggling like a crazy person as 'Claire' enters the lift, two big PMC goons follow her in, only to have her hold the lift hfor her friend. To be perfectly honest, I almost felt sorry for them as the lift doors shut and you realise who they're stuck in the elevator with.
Finch is already on the roof and needs to make his last attempt with Claire Mahoney. She knows the PMC are dodgy, she knows the public are utterly unaware and powerless to do anything about it. She figures that the game is going to be the answer to a riddle she hasn't even seen yet. So Finch tells her the truth. As much of it as he dare. He could have told her more, but he doesn't - like his Machine, he realises that she has to be able to make her own decision.. He offers her a way out, he offers her the alternative. All of which she considers with sincerity and then, the moment he looks away, she vanishes.
She discovers the last clue and where the prize can be found and is gone.
Reese and Shaw exit the elevator to find Finch brooding, but as far as they are concerned, this chase is over.
Night time rolls round and Claire has gained access to the roof of the Octagon building, seen the spiral and is fully inspired with the thought of being on a new path. She throws the switch to the grand acoomplishment of... an ambush.
The three-strong PMC hit team are all brandishing automatic weapons and insist that she hand over the drive. She drops the bag and awaits her inevitable execution, and as a member of the audience, I'm desperately hoping that Finch, Shaw and Reese have one last trick up their sleeve, or perhaps even Root is going to have a solution from her plane trip, but no... they are no where to be seen.
Nor is the sniper(s?) that kills all three of the hit team in even fewer seconds.
The box below buzzes and she is introduced to Samaritan.
And finally, Finch has made his mind up. As per instructions, he has equipped an old service tunnel and train with power, tech and digital invisibility. The gang are all together in their new Bat Cave and Finch promises that there will be a resistence. And it's about, bloody time...