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Momentum is a tough thing to build for a procedural thriller like Person of Interest, even a backwards one, so while the week-to-week quality of Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams’ new show remains high, the over-arching story seems to have gotten a bit stagnant in this fifth episode, “Judgment.”
The name of Judge Samuel Gates (David Costabile) comes up in the machine this time, a clear-cut good guy who lost his wife suddenly to a tumor not long ago. Death threats are commonplace in Gates’ line of work, but after tailing him, Reese (James Caviezel) discovers that it’s Gates’ son, Sam Jr., that some Russian mobsters are after; not for ransom, but in hopes of blackmailing the judge.
Reese wastes no time injecting himself into the situation and working closely with Gates to avoid police involvement and keep Gates and his son safe. Finch (Michael Emerson) remains mostly on the periphery yet again. Two scenes with him and Reese in a diner bookend the episode and provide the only non-case-related material.
Last week’s case in “Cura Te Ipsum” kept the focus on just a couple characters and a more straightforward linear plot. This week’s involved more layers as Reese and Finch must figure out who kidnapped Gates’ son and why, tracing it all to the source of the conflict, which is anything but expected.
The schematics at play feel more convoluted yet the stakes not raised proportionately. We care enough about what happens to gates, but for Reese, it’s all business as usual. Despite the potential for a serious leap forward after last week provided the series a spark and saw an even greater level of emotional investment from Reese, “Judgment” runs in place a bit.
Even five episodes in, a show that starts to run in place will expose its formula. The fact that Reese always manages to be in the right place at the right time whether doing reconnaissance or trying to stop something before it happens starts to feel like the cheating it is. Caviezel’s top-notch leading man work becomes all the more critical when the writing’s underbelly gets exposed in this way. Fortunately he retains his usual quota of 2-3 moments of being awesome in this episode.
Elsewhere, the pairing of detectives Fusco (Kevin Chapman) and Carter (Taraji P. Henson) begins to make good on its promise as the two begin to get acquainted while working the case of Gates’ babysitter’s murder (she was killed during the kidnapping). Fusco does a solid job not screwing Carter up, but keeping her out of Reese’s path and forging some trust. If the stakes ever do get raised as we hope they will in this show, their relationship will make for some good television.
Still empty are other promises of continuity, specifically the continuation of the unresolved case from Episode 1.3, “Creep.” Perhaps it’s greedy to want to see more continuity in a procedural, but new shows get short leashes and you would normally expect something more interconnected from Abrams.
At the least some more connection to Reese and Finch’s characters or their pasts would’ve been nice. Reese thanks Finch for giving him this job, so we know he’s fully committed to the cause, but that’s about it. We do get a bit more of Finch keeping Reese at a distance. Reese continues to figure out where he can find Finch, but Finch remains secretive — nothing we don’t know already.
Person of Interest continues to be a consummately written show for and provides a different viewing experience for its genre; this episode simply doesn’t push the show in an ideal direction, though a letdown doesn’t seem all that surprising after the strength of last week’s episode.