Michael Emerson (CBS)

In “Guilty,” Harold finds himself out of his element when a typical jury duty stint unexpectedly leads to the revelation of a new number. Throughout the course of the episode, Harold is tasked with convincing the jury to deliver a guilty verdict, and his preparation involves a reminder of the difference between his ordered world of science and the messy world of law. This episode itself would have been more successful had it had been injected with some messiness. “Guilty” is at once inspired by the trademarks of procedurals like Law and Order, and concerned with the complexity of human nature, with an emphasis on psychology—of a jury, an individual juror, and Reese, respectively. Thanks to the signature Person Of Interest wit and charm, this episode isn’t wholly derivative of the typical law procedural episode, but the story’s tidiness is at odds with the psychological undercurrents that the show wants to explore. Network series with large episode orders need cases of the week—especially when their budgetary demands are relatively low—but these stories need to be able to compete on some level with the quality of the serialized arcs. Granted, this is a tall order on a show where said arcs are this great and epic, but one can practically sense the “How To Write A Law Procedural Episode” boxes being ticked off as this episode proceeds, and that’s a problem.

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“Guilty” has its share of the typical mystery and plot twists in episodes like these, but it all feels too familiar for Person Of Interest. The leader of a telecommunications company has been killed; everyone thinks the husband is responsible due to jealousy and greed, so of course he’s innocent. A brief reference to the new CEO who inherits the position is all that’s necessary to reveal the real culprit to anyone remotely familiar with mysteries and procedurals. A plot to assassinate the jurors involved in the trial complicates matters, and the usual twists proceed at a steady pace throughout the rest of the episode. The seemingly innocent former school teacher is involved with the plot…or is she? The evil plot is to convince the jury to deem the defendant innocent…or is it? And finally, that one guy is just another member of the jury…or is he? Dun dun duuun…or more appropriately, chung chung!

The best procedural episodes are often elevated by rich character work and social commentary. The only character in this case who gets any development is the number of the week, and her insecurities concerning the reasoning behind being identified as an ideal pawn only resonate for so long before being diminished just as quickly. Her concerns are parroted back to her in the most forced way possible in the following scene, and the lack of subtlety slows any momentum that had been achieved by this plot so far. In the end, the bad guy is arrested, the victim thanks her savior, and all of the plot threads are tied up neatly. There’s elegance to storytelling where the jigsaw pieces all fit together coherently, but authenticity requires subtlety, depth, and a little messiness.

Thanks to the strength of the series’ regulars, tension is maintained throughout the A-plot and the serialized side plots are successful. There aren’t any particularly new revelations concerning Reese’s psychology or the team’s relationships, but these tangential scenes are both moving and well-executed. Specifically, the interaction between Harold and Reese in the restaurant at the beginning of the episode is impressive in that it’s both bitter and sweet; it reinforces the history and connection between the pair, as well as the melancholy they feel now that they find themselves a twosome once again. Later, a sniper rifle Morse code sequence demonstrates the chemistry the pair has as partners, but the look on Harold’s face after reflecting on the absence of Root and Shaw speaks to the loss that the men feel without the rest of the team.

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Meanwhile, the progress that Reese makes in therapy drives him to reassess the complicated role that Fusco plays on the team. The psychology of heroes isn’t new territory for fiction, but it’s worth exploring again if it means reasserting the importance of a potentially ancillary character like Fusco. Communicated via Reese’s patented micro expressions—even better. Overall, this episode may be guilty of its share of sins, but it also boasts some strong character moments, and there are far worse criticisms than an episode gelling too perfectly.

Stray observations:

· I wish that she had more to do than be sassy and sexy, but it’s great to see Zoe again.

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· Harold using the premise of the show to get out of jury duty is one of my favorite things that POI has ever done.

· You know you’re in for a fairly predictable episode when there’s some variation of the typical “speak English!” scene.

· Next…the return of Elias and The Brotherhood! So much whiplash.

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