Mark Watches ‘Person of Interest’: S01E02 – Ghosts

In the second episode of the first season of Person of Interest, Reese and Finch track down a dead person of interest who proves to be very much not dead and very much in danger. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Person of Interest.

I appreciate how quickly this show is willing to mess with its own format and to address the really frightening moral implications of The Machine. This is just the second episode and look what they’ve done already!!! LET’S TALK, FRIENDS.

Theresa Whitaker 

The main plot for “Ghosts” demonstrates a willingness to give us bizarre uses of The Machine’s numbers. In this specific instance, The Machine spits out a Social Security number of a someone who has been dead for two years. SO, YEAH, IT’S WEIRD RIGHT OFF THE BAT. Why would The Machine be so interested in someone who isn’t even alive? At this point, we still don’t even know how this technology arrives at its conclusions or why it gave Theresa’s number instead of someone else’s. Hell, I’m willing to bet that even Finch doesn’t understand the logic of The Machine’s behavior, you know?

So they go with what they get. “Ghosts” follows a treacherous and immensely fucked up path back to a plot of land and Theresa’s uncle, and along the way, corruption is the unifying theme. As I was watching this episode, I realized that it felt like a futuristic and hyperviolent version of Leverage, in the sense that its about two people who scheme to right wrongs in society. Only, of course, these are wrongs that haven’t happened yet, and like the first episode, Reese and Finch struggle to find out why The Machine even invoked this person in a possible crime, so it’s not like the Leverage team developing a con to get justice. It does have a lot of the same gratification, though. The men behind this horrific act are almost all rich, privileged members of society, and all of them would have gotten away with both crimes had Reese and Finch not gotten involved. So what does that make them? Are they inherently moral for what they’ve done?

I don’t know that Detective Carter would necessarily see them that way. There’s a vibe I get from her role in the show so far: she’s the member of law enforcement who must cope with the acts of vigilantes. Everyone that Reese takes out is an awful human being, and Carter doesn’t exactly seem torn up about that. At the same time, she gets a little more screentime here, as she struggles to catch up on the mess that Reese is leaving behind. As it stands, she is the only cop who believes wholeheartedly that ONE dude is responsible for all these crimes. While Reese has Fusco as his NYPD source, I’m curious what it would look like if Carter was brought in as a resource instead. Obviously, the show needs to do a lot of work to have that make sense, but I am going to hazard a guess here: season one is going to track Carter’s attempts to put this all together. AND SHE’S GONNA DO IT. I also want more of her on the show and like… any details about who she is outside of the job? THANKS.

Ghosts

I thought the case itself was well-done in terms of pacing and suspense, and I’m impressed that the writers were able to keep up the same sort of style as the pilot. A lot of shows have flashy beginnings and then slow down a bit before picking it up again at the end of a season. “Ghosts,” however, is just as jam-packed and suspenseful as “Pilot,” so bravo on that!

But what’s pushing this beyond a thrilling procedural is the hints of a greater story. First, I wanted to actually solicit some discourse on this. BRING IT TO ME, I EAT DISCOURSE FOR BREAKFAST. So, one of the ways that “Ghosts” ramps up the tension is by sticking Finch in that hotel room with Theresa. We are meant to deliberately feel more upset by this once the hitman heads for the hotel because 1) Finch is not a physical fighter, and 2) he’s disabled. He even says at one point to Theresa that he cannot keep up with her and she knows it. My question: how do you feel about this, disabled folks? I don’t have a physical disability. (Mine are all mental.) So in a general sense, which is the only way I feel fine addressing this, I think it is okay and not offensive to have a character openly talk about their limitations while showing that they are immensely talented in other ways. But I was reminded of a talk I attended a long time ago where someone pointed out that using disability as a element of horror might actually be a bit exploitative, depending on the context. Look, I also realize I have seen about 2% of this entire show, so it’s possible that Finch is given context for his disability, which might make this conversation useless right now. That’s okay. But it was a thought I had that I wanted to vocalize because I felt it was thematically relevant to the title of the episode.

What I mean is that that “Ghosts” references the things that haunt Finch, things that we are only now getting a glimpse of. There are a few flashbacks scattered about this episode, and the very first one, from 2002, shows us that Finch did not always have that limp, that he didn’t always have to turn his entire torso if he was looking from side-to-side or behind himself. It’s one small detail that I imagine will be addressed at some point, and how it is addressed matters in terms of representation.

Since I’m not physically disabled, I’ll leave that conversation up to others and just listen/read. “Ghosts” does refer to something else: the ethical haunting of Finch. We meet Finch’s partner, played by Brett Cullen, who becomes increasingly aware of just how creepy The Machine is. Initially, of course, he’s just excited that Finch is making progress on this software for the government. But it is quite clear to the founder of the company Finch works for (MORE ON THAT OH MY GOD) saw the horrible dilemma created by The Machine. It would make a list of people who needed help in New York City, yet only those related to terrorism were given attention. How could they live with that knowledge, that murders and kidnappings and assaults were going to happen, but nothing was done to stop them?

And that’s where the relevant/irrelevant list came from. Finch made it so that he could wipe his conscious clean every night at midnight. Given that we only see the end result years later, it’s safe to say that this didn’t work. Something happened, and I wonder if the person Finch lost that nearly destroyed him was his partner. BECAUSE SURPRISE, HE’S DEAD ACCORDING TO THAT BUST IN THE LOBBY. Oh, right, because Finch also worked a desk job as a software engineer at the very company that built The Machine FOR SEVENTEEN YEARS. He was hiding in plain sight!!!!

Oh my god, I need so much more information on Finch. I NEED HIS BACKSTORY NOW.

The video for “Ghosts” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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