Mark Watches ‘Person of Interest’: S01E21 – Many Happy Returns

In the twenty-first episode of the first season of Person of Interest, you know exactly what I’m gonna say, but WHO CARES BECAUSE: this show needs to stop. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Person of Interest.

Trigger Warning: For talk of abuse, manipulation, and stalking. 

HOW DOES THIS SHOW KEEP DOING THIS. What am I supposed to do with myself.

Reese’s Sensitivities

This is such a huge and important piece of Reese’s characterization, y’all, and I have to repeat myself again: I did not expect this so soon. That makes me think that Person of Interest‘s timeline is not at all what I thought it was, so… what the hell comes next? Because now we’ve got to major parts of the puzzle that help us understand how Reese came to be. The previous episode revealed how Snow betrayed Reese and Stanton, which is why Reese disappeared for over a year before reappearing in New York. Now, we know what he did when he resurfaced in the world: got a really bad fake beard. OKAY, I HAD TO SAY IT, it was really distracting!

Anyway, the point I’m getting to is that revenge plays a significant part in Reese’s moral logic. It’s easy to see that in his murder of Peter Arndt, his ex-girlfriend’s abusive husband and her murderer. The other element? Guilt. Reese is guilt and vengeance combined, and he makes SO MUCH SENSE when you think of him that way. Look at how he talks about himself or how he treats cases that deal with children or abuse victims. Finch refers to this as Reese’s “sensitivities,” but what he really means is that Reese has a bias here that is practically impossible for him to put aside. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because I’ve got a very similar bias! As someone who’s been abused by a partner before, I know I can’t be “objective” about abusers myself. But I don’t see that as a negative, and even in this context, I don’t know that I can muster up even the slightest shred of sympathy for people like Peter or Jennings. Plus, there’s an element to “Many Happy Returns” that’s wish fulfillment for me. It’s a power fantasy. What if I could have stood up to my abusers? What if I could have escaped them? What if someone could have saved me?

So the question that’s central to this episode is: Was it right for Finch to try to hide Sarah’s case from Reese because he knew Reese couldn’t detach himself from what had happened? I understand Finch’s motivations, and from his perspective, it made sense that he was worried Reese would go too far. But there are already so many secrets between these two, especially when it comes to Finch. So how was this gonna look to Reese, especially after Reese realized that Finch had sent Carter into his past? From a perspective of trust, this was a bad idea, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Reese pursued Finch’s secret past more in response. Their relationship is already uneven, right? Even that gift of an apartment (WHAT THE FUCK, THAT APARTMENT IS HUGE) is a generous but one-sided thing. Can Reese ever provide Finch with something comparable?


I want to expand on something I started to say in the video for this episode because it’s such a fun lens to view Person of Interest through. It’s easy to see how this show fits within a greater vigilante genre, from Leverage to Batman, but there’s something that happens here that I don’t see almost at all in most other iterations of this story. It’s easy to slip into the power of fantasy in this type of narrative, and I certainly did it myself while watching “Many Happy Returns.” Once I realized why Sarah was being pursued by the US Marshalls, it was simple to believe the fantasy of revenge. Yet Person of Interest consistently asks us to consider the cost. Here, Reese could have easily killed Jennings, and I would not have felt bad about it. But what price does Reese pay? What about Jennings? What affect will this have on Carter? Can she let Reese execute someone, even if she despises what he did?

Hell, I believe you could consider all the subplots with the CIA and the FBI as means by which the “cost” of being a vigilante are explored. Reese is still leaving damage behind, and someone has to clean it up. While Fusco’s busy with HR, Carter has a delicate dance. She’s got to balance the unnerving nature of Snow and the CIA. (Well, not currently, given that Stanton has Snow, and I NEED AN UPDATE. SOON.) Donnelly means well, but he’s not exactly putting the pieces together very well. He still thinks Reese is nothing more than a soldier for hire.

I’d like to think that her discovery of Reese’s past helps her understand why he is the way he is. She destroys his file rather than keep it, but she holds on to that photo. Why? To give it as a gift later? Or because it reminds her that Reese is human?

Lord, this show gives me so many emotions. Ugh, how is it so consistently good???

The video for “Many Happy Returns” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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