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When Person of Interest began promoting its first season, the names Jonathan Nolan and JJ Abrams suggested we’d get a more science-fiction based thriller with more of a long-term narrative. Instead, the show has turned out to be a “case of the week” mystery with only bits and pieces of continuity. It might not completely be time to come to terms with that violation of expectations, but regardless, the show does the formula pretty darn well.
In “Mission Creep,” this week’s mystery gets even more attention and Reese (James Caviezel) gets himself in deep. A former marine named Joey Durbin (James Carpinello) comes up in the machine. He seems to be an upstanding kid with a nice girlfriend, but when Reese shadows him one day he finds himself on the floor of a bank as Joey and some others rob it clean. Turns out that Joey and some fellow vets all do jobs together, and in order for Reese to figure out where murderous intent comes into play, he must work this case from the inside.
The mysteries continue to get more potent with each episode though I recognize it's only the third hour. Reese’s ability to get in with these skilled vets requires him to show off a bit of what he does best and it’s fun to watch. He also develops a little bit of a relationship and consequently trust with Joey, which raises the stakes in a way most week-by-week shows don’t. The show pushes toward a tense climax, at least within this particular story.
But the real clincher for this particular case is that it will continue. Someone hired the guy coordinating the bank jobs to rob the evidence locker in the climactic scene and whoever he his gets away. As the novelty of Person of Interest wears off and the patterns in the writing become more obvious, a multi-episode case will help keep things fresh.
The cat-and-mouse subplot between NYPD Detective Carter (Taraji P. Henson) and Reese will also help heat up the events. After floating about on the outside of the action for the first two episodes, Carter comes close to catching her mystery man to the point where we now must take her seriously. Henson gets to show off some more personality in the process and their battle of wits over the phone or in this episode through military-grade radios should continue in classic fashion.
In terms of learning more about our main characters, while we got to see a bit of Finch’s (Michael Emerson) past last week, this time we catch a glimpse at a moment in Reese’s recent history. He runs into Jessica (Susan Misner), the woman he was in love with in the pilot flashback scenes that occurred in 2001, at an airport five years later. She’s engaged to another man and he tells her (paraphrased) that in the end everyone ends up alone anyway. She tells him if he told her to stay right then and be with him that she’d do it, but he can’t muster up the words — at least not to her face. Without knowing much about Jessica it’s hard to care at this point, but Joey’s relationship with his girlfriend — who waited for him for six years while he was in Afghanistan — evokes the regret that plays into Reese’s entire motivation. Caviezel gets that this also infuses Reese with humanity and his performance, once again, hits in all the right spots.
With all the attention on Reese and the case at hand, Finch takes a back seat in “Mission Creep,” which happens plenty in television, but that’s usually in shows with more than two main character. It should not be too tall an order to develop both Reese and Finch at least a little in each episode. At the least, their relationship should continue to grow more complex as it did in "Ghosts," but the implicit trust prevails yet again.
Considering the most praised television shows these days force you to tune in every week so you don’t miss a single detail, bringing in a case that will extend into parts or maybe even all of the rest of the season could make a huge difference in the long run. As unique of a twist as Person of Interest puts on the mystery genre, it’s only been three weeks and you can start to feel the repetitiveness. In a market crowded with CSI and Law & Order types, if the show wants to have legs for a few strong seasons it will need to reach that “can’t miss” echelon. With only a few details here and there about a character that may or may not factor into the long term, the show hasn’t left us with any burning questions. “Mission Creep” took the amount of audience engagement to another level , but with Abrams and Nolan, the bar should rightfully remain higher for this series.