Film and TV

Person Of Interest: Man On A "Mission Creep"

After last week's episode, I feared we might be peeling back the layers a little too quickly. Quite a bit of Finch's post-9/11 history was divulged, though whatever caused his ultimate split with the government wasn't divulged.

Reese's back story remains a little better shrouded. To date, we know he was prepared to resign as an Army Ranger for a woman named Jessie, then 9/11 happened and he at some point ended up doing black bag work for the CIA. Last night's episode, "Mission Creep," gave us the barest glimpse of Reese and Jessie's current status but still left plenty to the imagination.

It's a better approach. Less is more, as van der Rohe (or was it Van Halen?) once said, and if Person of Interest is going to avoid bogging down in the familiar patterns of CBS' other procedurals, it needs to maintain some of the mystery surrounding its principals.

This week's new number hits a little close to home for Reese. It's Joey Durbin, formerly 107th Infantry, just returned from Afghanistan. Now working as a doorman at a Midtown apartment building.

Hey, at least he's a vet with a job.

Unfortunately, he moonlights as a bank robber, along with several of his former Army buddies. But before we get into that, things jump back to 2006, where "John" (Reese has a first name! And I was so hoping it'd be "Kyle") and "Jessica" (AKA Jessie) have an awkward meet-up, presumably after Reese has taken his new CIA gig. Jessie is engaged, even though she "waited for him." So she didn't die, but Reese couldn't (or wouldn't?) come back to her. The end result is the same, just more awkward.

Back in the present, Durbin gives an envelope full of fat cash to a woman not his girlfriend (he's also later seen observing her and a little girl at a playground). Reese tracks down Sam Latimer, who appears to be the ringleader of the Army veteran robbery ring and offers his services. Latimer demurs, until Finch gets one of the other guys on the team busted for weapons possession.

And lest we forget, Detective Carter is still on the hunt. I guess New York City has solved all its other crime problems if they can detail two cops almost full time to tracking down one guy. As Tuddy said in Goodfellas, "Why don't you boys go down to Wall Street and find some real crooks?" She catches a break when they pull Reese's prints from the bank job, figuring him for an inside man. She also recognizes the radio the robbers are using, thanks to her own military experience.

But Carter ends up guessing correctly, as Latimer and company grab Reese to, uh, verify his references. Let's just say their background check isn't very thorough. He's in.

In trying to get closer to Durbin, Reese buys him a beer and the two run afoul of a couple bankers. In what has to be the least believable confrontation I've seen on TV in years, the two jackholes attempt to defend their corrupt, poorly regulated industry against a couple of war veterans. Which ends about how you'd expect when Reese and Durbin kick their asses. I never knew TV could be so cathartic.

Still, something doesn't add up. Durbin says they're all in the gang to pay off debts, but denies having a kid. And Latimer is obviously shady, balking on paying the guys their fair cut. Reese joins the gang on a raid of an illegal gambling joint, but have to cut it short when Carter tracks them down.

Reese finally learns the truth: Durbin is paying off a debt to a fellow soldier in his unit who got killed, and the others have similar sob stories, which is how Latimer is manipulating them to do dirty jobs for someone named "Elias." The team is sent to do one last job, which involves pulling "Elias'" file from an evidence lockup. The job's a setup, and Finch makes it there in time to warn Reese. When things go tits up, as we knew they would, Reese sends Durbin packing and "Elias" kills Latimore.

Will this new nemesis be the Moriarty to Finch's Holmes? The Jerry to his Tom? The...well, you get the idea.

In the final flashback, Jessica tells Reese that if he asks her to wait for him, she will. Then the zinger: "But that would take courage, wouldn't it?" After she walks away, Reese does in fact ask her to wait for him. How can you be so selfish, Jessica? CAN'T YOU SEE HE'S HURTING?

Next week: Reese tracks a sexual predator. I predict at least one gratuitous rapist beat-down.

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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar