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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Person Of Interest: “Wingman”

Jim Caviezel, Sarah Shahi, Michael Emerson (CBS)
Jim Caviezel, Sarah Shahi, Michael Emerson (CBS)
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With “Wingman,” Person Of Interest backs off on the war with Samaritan in order to focus on a case of the week, and the results are mixed. The episode isn’t awful by any means, but its message is delivered in a manner that’s simultaneously too muddled and straightforward. The depth and spark of the show’s best episodes are missing in “Wingman.” Still, the episode does explore some themes important to the series, however lightly.

Long-running show have fun forcing established characters to adopt different personas, as these transitions can be played for humor or show the characters in a different light. Person Of Interest has been playing with these new dynamics since the premiere, when its team members had to take on different covers so that Samaritan couldn’t track them down. Fusco has been able to continue working as a cop ever since the team went into hiding, but he’s forced to go undercover in order to investigate this week’s number, Andre Cooper. Cooper is a longshoreman turned professional wingman, or dating consultant, and Fusco is his new client. Fusco isn’t exactly a ladies’ man, and the generic situation is played for some weak laughs. As much as he tries to embody his new role, Fusco can’t entirely suppress his true identity; he ends up blowing his cover when he takes down a bar patron trying to start a fight Similarly, Finch has to pretend to be a notorious arms dealer when Root takes him on the usual wild goose chase in service of the Machine. It’s fun to watch the typically restrained Finch channel his inner ruthlessness to intimidate the thugs. In the end, though, Finch remains true to himself, deciding to abandon their mission to prevent mobsters from getting their hands on some pretty powerful weaponry. In his subplot, Reese has trouble following the police precinct’s rules after so many years of working outside the law. The episode explores the challenges that people face when they try to change or suppress their true selves, even if they’re doing so for a good cause.

Sometimes people do change, however, and not always for the better. When people change to see what they can get away with, there’s always collateral damage. Cooper’s number came up because he’s being targeted by a supposed friend. When Cooper was a longshoreman, a container of guns went missing and he knows that his friend, Micky, was involved. Cooper has been subpoenaed and Micky doesn’t trust his former colleague to hold his tongue. Cooper may have introduced Micky to the woman who would become his wife, but that doesn’t stop Micky from leaving Cooper and Fusco to die in a metal box for fear of his own incarceration. When forced save his own skin, Micky changes into someone who Cooper doesn’t know—or adversity has revealed the person who Micky was all along. Back at the precinct, Reese uses the fact that people can change on a dime when their happiness is at stake to his advantage; he and his captain are able to trick two murder suspects into squealing on one another thanks to their familiarity with human nature. While Reese is doing good work as a cop, he’s also on the brink of his abandoning his original team. Reese isn’t about to abandon his group, but his loyalty is now divided, meaning that he can’t help Shaw rescue Fusco. Thankfully, Bear makes a good substitute in a pinch.

Of course, the people doing the changing are most affected when they shift personas. This episode takes a look at what’s been going on with Fusco internally since his loyalties changed. Fusco knows all about betrayal; in the past, he betrayed his city, his precinct, and his co-conspirators. Fusco is atoning for the damage he caused, and is rededicating his life to helping people, but he’s still jaded. Cooper tells Fusco that the only way to date successfully is to stop living in the past, and Fusco responds by saying that it’s fruitless to try to run away from the past. Cooper’s past does catch up with him, but that doesn’t mean that what he said is entirely untrue. Part of the reason that Fusco is having trouble moving on, despite the changes he’s made, is because he still feels like he betrayed himself when he became a criminal. His cynicism is a defense mechanism.
Hopefully, Fusco’s mission will continue to heal him and act as his saving grace. Fusco bonds with the number he rescued; Cooper is a dating consultant, but he isn’t a horrible person after all! The two men are very different, but they respect one another’s skill sets. Reese demonstrates his loyalty to Fusco and Fusco’s newfound loyalty to the precinct by doubling down on his efforts to play by the rules. The camaraderie between Reese and the Captain—as well as the city’s increasing crime rate—reiterate that the police need and deserve allies too. In the end, Shaw, Bear, and Reese prove who they are by rescuing Fusco and Cooper as a team.

Meanwhile, the Machine is attempting to demonstrate its loyalty to Finch and his colleagues by providing them with money stolen by Latvian mobsters since their funds are inaccessible. This is a team of misfits that relies on loyalty. Shaw teases Reese about this, but none of the members are really good with people, despite their purpose of helping others. The best people person among them is more of a Machine person. But their group dynamic is strong due to their common purpose and the process of growing, learning, and resolving their demons together.

The episode clearly has points to make; the problem is that many of them are too self-evident and surface-level. Despite the team’s separation after last season’s finale, their teamwork remains as effective as ever. “Wingman” spends quality time with Fusco and some plot developments occur throughout, but the episode doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t already know. For an episode chock full of betrayal, near-death experiences, and a missile, this episode is fun and fairly heartwarming. It’s nice to watch an episode that reinforces the team’s positive group dynamics, but the show’s knack for profundity is missed.


Stray observations:
• The only twist in this episode is the fact that the dating consultant they kept referring to as a pickup artist actually seems to be a good guy.
• Fusco getting his groove on is accompanied by cheeky music cues, thankfully. Salt-N-Pepa and Frank Sinatra bring all the women to the yard.
• Shaw preparing to kick ass by kicking off her heels is everything.
• Someone give Reese that rocket launcher! Checkhov’s missile is the new shotgun in Pete’s office.