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Person Of Interest: “Point Of Origin”

Kevin Chapman, Sarah Shahi (CBS)
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A great guest actress and writing that alludes to many of this season’s underlying themes make “Point Of Origin” a particularly meaty episode. It’s appropriate that Reese impersonates a tactics instructor this week, as the episode’s emphasis on the key players’ strategy results in forward momentum on the overarching plot as well. At this stage in the game, the varying players are closing in on one another and doing their best to expose one another’s vulnerabilities before time runs out. To gain intel on Elias in an especially efficient and covert way, the Brotherhood has planted a mole inside the police academy; the number of the week, Silva, is an internal affairs agent who has gone undercover as a student to investigate. Meanwhile, Team Samaritan is on the brink of exposing Team Machine, as Martine understands that humans are social animals—even those who have gone undercover rely on human relationships, and relationships are breadcrumbs that can be tracked.


The Brotherhood is another player that empowers itself by exploiting human relationships. This gang recruits vulnerable pawns desperate enough to carry out its dirty work. In the case of Ortes, the mole at the police academy, this desperation stems from a relationship with his uncle, who will only escape the clutches of the law if a powerful entity like The Brotherhood intervenes. This dynamic of the gang’s operations can be traced back to the episode that introduced The Brotherhood, where Dominic promises to save a child’s family in exchange for his allegiance, thereby sucking him into a life of crime. When focusing on the topic of criminality, Person Of Interest has often placed importance on the intervening forces that can change a vulnerable individual’s fate. In her case, Silva escaped a criminal life thanks to several outside factors, an arrest led to a sentence, which was lightened due to her enrollment in community college. Her pursuit of a Masters in Criminal Justice, performance in the police academy, and familiarity with gang culture led to a job offer with Internal Affairs. Silva had been a runner for the Brotherhood, as every woman in her community would either get “knocked up or locked up,” but an Internal Affairs agent named Howard intervened. Person Of Interest’s preoccupation with second chances continues, as Silva is another character with a flawed past that enables her to help others. According to Dominic, cops are cops and criminals are criminals, but characters like Silva reveal his ignorance and denial. The leaders of criminal organizations can manipulate people into joining their forces, but that door is two-way.

Leaving a criminal life behind isn’t an easy road, however, especially for people like Silva who volunteer to put themselves back into harm’s way in order to help others like themselves. Silva’s operation is discovered; The Brotherhood tries to take her out by organizing a drive-by and framing her for murder, but only succeeds in breaking her heart when they murder her beloved associate Howard. In a wonderful scene, Silva and Reese bond over the difficulties of their undercover work and this loss. When Silva explains what her relationship with Howard meant, that he was a constant in her life tethering her to the real world when her very identity was wiped away in the process of going undercover, Reese reflects on his own partnership with Carter. The importance of these types of bonds for people like Silva and Team Machine is reflected in several parallel shots of team members sitting side by side in their vehicles. The car banter between Shaw and Fusco, Silva and Howard, and Silva and Reese reveals the strength and comfort that can be found in these types of relationships, and the void that is left when they end. By opening up to an internal affairs agent, Reese risks blowing his cover. That he values Silva’s life, their bond, and his own emotional health enough to take that risk is what makes him a superhero in this episode.

Dominic’s treatment of his associates, on the other hand, lies in direct contrast to the dynamics of the aforementioned partnerships. Dominic asserts his authority over his underlings through sheer force of personality, fear, and something about circles and numbers that was entirely too muddled to be worthy of the actor’s great delivery. A welcome glimpse into Dominic’s inner life reveals a quiet kid who sat in the back of the classroom. Dominic thinks that he was underestimated, and has overcompensated by leading through dominance and fear. Considering that people continue to question his authority and escape his grasp—when they’re lucky—this may not be the most effective approach long-term. Person Of Interest argues that partnerships based on mutual respect are more productive, transforming, and powerful.

An early scene where Martine convinces Catia to give up Romeo’s identity by threatening her daughter is very familiar. Writers often use these scenes as crutches, relying on threats to loved ones when a hero needs to be rattled and an emotional beat needs to be hit. The scene is more effective here because Martine lays bare her personal strategy of war. Robotic Martine understands that people’s reliance on relationships makes them vulnerable, and she is willing to take advantage of that fact. Person Of Interest is so compelling partly because of its interest in psychology and human behavior, but also because it takes the time to reveal characters’ specific thought processes. Sometimes telling can be just as effective as showing. At this juncture, the combination of both makes anticipation for the inevitable showdowns all the more thrilling.


Stray observations:

  • To sell Silva’s quickly established bond with Reese, the show’s casting director needed to find an exceptionally talented guest and Adria Arjona delivered. Silva’s quiet strength was very effective, and she elevated this episode.
  • This week in Shaw’s undercover shenanigans: She insults a makeup counter customer before giving her some five-finger discount purse “samples”
  • Of course you’d get involved with The Brotherhood if it meant saving a guy who runs a community center. In the next episode, Reese and company return to the center, resolving to save it from demolition through the power of dance. Samaritan decides to bow out of this one.
  • Martine is growing on me. She can sell both thematically-relevant dialogue and that thing she did with the shotgun at the bar when threatening Romeo. I demand an entire episode devoted to a Martine versus Shaw mall showdown. Between that and Elias being Team Machine’s new number, the rest of the season cannot get here quickly enough.
  • Bear is scuba-certified because there isn’t anything that that dog can’t do.

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