The thing about Person of Interest is that it cloaks itself as procedural, so when an arc happens it can be a surprise. The first episode started off appearing to be standalone about a poor NSA guy who was losing his memories. Memories that someone wanted to kill him to acquire. Instead it ended up being a fast paced two-parter that incorporated almost every bad guy the show has introduced in the last two seasons. The most fascinating head fake ever.
The titles of the episodes actually give essential clues about the themes they will explore. “Lethe” and “Aletheia” are from Greek mythology. The former is the name of the Greek spirit of forgetfulness and oblivion. However, the latter means “the state of not being hidden” or “truth.” Let’s start with “Lethe” and the case of the missing memories of a guy named Arthur. Finch sends Shaw in to protect Arthur in the hospital and is really weird about not going anywhere near Arthur. Shaw is undercover as a doctor to stay close, but Mr. NSA has Secret Service protecting him and a distraught wife. The wife that for some reason Arthur keeps claiming is not his wife. It’s sad at first that his memory loss has taken that part of his life and sympathies are with the wife, but then Arthur recognizes Finch. What? In an episode of plot reveals, this was the first that was jaw dropping. Arthur and young Harold went to MIT together and even sang songs to prove it. That was kind of surreal but a real human moment for Finch.
Plot twist number two was the reason everyone wanted to either capture or kill Arthur was that he also built a machine to watch over everyone called Samaritan. Swiss cheese memory prevents Arthur from remembering all the details of the machine or what happened to it once the government shut it down. Finch seemed to be stuck between admiring the brilliance of his friend and being horrified that someone could get control of it.
Before arriving at plot twist number three, let’s take a moment to look at the one weakness of this episode. Namely the missing Reese, who was off in Colorado literally drowning his sorrows in whiskey. Reese has gone down this rabbit hole of grief before with Jessica and watching him repeat himself was not that interesting. Fusco was the voice of reason and tried several methods to snap Reese out of his funk.
The fisticuff method was a favorite since Fusco was wise enough to wait until Reese was well and truly drunk. Nicely done Lionel.
Remember how Arthur couldn’t recognize his wife, well that’s because she wasn’t his wife. The twisty, McTwisterson reveal of the episode was that the woman pretending to be his wife was actually “Control.” That’s right, the woman in charge of Northern Lights or Research or the Relevant list the Machine spits out. She was hanging with Team Machine long enough to overhear some really important information about Finch. Busted Harold. Cliffhanger ultimatum; give her the drives for Samaritan or the location of the Machine.
Before resolving this great shocker let’s take a look at the flashbacks for young Harold. At ten years old he was already taking apart his father’s truck engine quipping that “if they don’t want you to get inside, they oughta have built it better” which apparently was how he viewed the world. Plus, we learn his fascination with bird names comes from his father teaching him about birds. Jump to teen-age Harold (which is apparently his real first name) who was building a home-made computer and fooling pay phones. His motivation then was to make a computer that could take the place of his father’s fading memories. Harold stretched himself a little too far and had the government on his tail, so name change and enter MIT. The rest is sort of history. This was a great way to compare the idealism of a young Harold at the beginning of the computer age to current day Harold.
The cliffhanger quickly ends with Root shooting Control’s operatives through the walls. Wait, wasn’t Root locked in a cell in the library? She picked the lock and disabled her tracking anckelet you say? Seriously? OK, sure. Root and Shaw get to show off awesome girl power action.
Everyone escapes in a car that Finch has to hotwire. Well, almost everyone. Root takes a bullet and is captured by Control for fun torture time.
Now, torturing Root seems like a bad idea because she is already in Crazy Town and believes the machine is her God. Cool thing of note, this episode could also serve as a hearing test. The Machine was sending Root a Morse code message through the phone that was pitched high enough that people over forty could not hear. Root sacrificed her right ear to complete her mission and get Control to back off. The Machine considers its agents as his/hers, in a kind of possessive way that is sweet and creepy at the same time.
Meanwhile, Finch and company were hiding out in a bank with the backup of Samaritan between the full forces of Vigilance and Control. Finch was wishing for Reese since Shaw is a hammer instead of a scalpel. Shaw’s response was to make a pipe bomb to blow them out of the safe because it was “hammer time.” See what she did there? Finch and Arthur have a very poignant conversation about how machine A.I. is, or is not, just like having a kid. Finch is much more cynical about his machine and has no problem trying to convince Arthur to kill Samaritan before it’s born. They had interesting ideas that have merit on both sides of the A.I. question. Great TV.
Cut to more Reese angst in Colorado. Now this storyline has become annoying, since Reese should be with the team and he’s keeping Fusco away as well. Fusco finally gives up on talking Reese into coming around, but speculates that Finch may be in danger so he’s going home. Thank you, Fusco. However, the flying time from Colorado to New York is not ten minutes, so not sure how they both ended up saving the day at the bank. The Machine has discovered time travel? Whatever. They show up and save the day in the end and all is good until Reese opens his mouth. The Machine does not care about them and let Carter die so he quits. What? Reese really has not been paying attention and is looking for someone/something to blame. This pushed annoyance over to dislike, which is a first for Reese’s character. Stop whining and get back to the mission. Plus, the Machine does care as evidenced by the little montage it made for Arthur of his real wife. It was very sweet, not creepy sweet, just sweet.
Next Week: Reese tries out his first day of retirement and the Machine sends him a number. Apparently, the Machine does not accept your resignation, Reese. Creepy sweet?