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It looked like Person of Interest would be content to roll itself out as a case-of-the-week thriller with a twist, but “Cura Te Ipsum” was an absolute game-changer that rewarded those who have stuck with Jonathan Nolan’s new show through month number one.
The depth of said “case of the week” has steadily improved with each episode and it takes a leap forward with former Freaks and Geeks and ER star Linda Cardellini as Dr. Megan Tillman, a seemingly consummate doctor with a big secret.
More than anything, I expected that if the show were to improve it would be by upping the teases about Reese (James Caviezel) and Finch’s (Michael Emerson) pasts, but in this episode we only get a few mentions to the cause of Finch’s limp. Instead, the episode tied together two loosely constructed side character subplots into one intriguing bit of television that should carry through all of Season 1.
Previously we’d been left to wonder what someone of Taraji P. Henson’s ability was doing in the seemingly generic role of Det. Carter. She’s been after Reese since the pilot, but she got knocking right up on the door this time, actually probing Finch for answers. Yet rather than just continue a cat-and-mouse game of wits full of “phew, that was close” moments, the story has paired her with Det. Fusco (Kevin Chapman), Reese’s corrupt-cop-turned-informant that floated around in the stratosphere for the last couple episodes. Now he’s been transferred, and it will be his job to work with Carter while also leading her astray and protecting Reese, yet he does so reluctantly. If done right, this subplot could help make the series a bit more nail-biting.
Yet the strength of the guest characters in “Cura Te Ipsum” makes it the series’ best so far. In previous weeks we’ve seen an inordinate number of meaningless characters written in as cogs to make the episode plot work. “Cura Te Ipsum” focused on Dr. Tillman and Andrew Benton (Adam Rothenberg) — that’s it. The judgment of which character’s the “bad guy,” a bit of a moral dilemma and also the emotional stakes were all factors that made it more intense. Reese and Finch also get particularly close to the case, and despite the lack of knowledge we have about their pasts, Caviezel and Emerson make us believe this job is personal for their characters.
I wouldn’t mind seeing Cardellini as a recurring character — she was that outstanding considering the nature of her appearance. She perfectly plays the good-hearted and likable character with bottled-up fear and anger whom you hope will see the light. Now that she and Reese have shared this sort of bond, she could be an interesting contact at the hospital or a potential love interest, though I would admit it too early for that sort of business.
In Reese’s handling of the situation between Tillman and Benton, the show kind of took a turn into Dexter territory with morally driven conflict. It would be great to see more of this, as Reese could — at any moment — slip into the Jason Bourne spy-with-a-shrouded-past-that-could-kick-your-ass archetype. Caviezel has been brilliant to this point in making that caricature his own, but the more he flirts with a deep, moral personal involvement, the more interesting each episode gets and the more we like him.
Finch could use something similar. We saw a bit of his wily and clever side, the “Benjamin Linus” side to be frank, but because he’s not the man with the gun, he remains on the periphery of most of these cases, at least with the mild exception of Episode 1.2. It would be great to see Emerson show us a new side of himself.
The only thing missing from this episode was any continuation of last week’s case. Carter uses it to track down Finch and ultimately get close enough to make Reese sweat a bit, but nothing more than a mere mention of the “Elias” file came up, which we have been led to believe will lead us to the more dangerous criminal we know to be lurking out there.
In retrospect, striking a chord this strong four episodes in should be considered a blessing. If Person of Interest can build on this momentum it may pick up a following eventually.