Person of Interest – Guilty Review
Guilty is by no means an exceptional episode of Person of Interest. But, after all the intrigue surrounding the midseason finale and the standoff with Samaritan, I can’t help but find a standard case-of-the-week to be a bit refreshing. This week, Finch finds himself forced into jury duty, and, as he and Reese quickly determine, the Machine has apparently arranged his service in order to keep track of this week’s number, Emma Blake, a retired teacher played by Blair Brown. She and Finch are both jurors for a high profile trial of a husband accused of murdering his wife, the CEO of a major telecommunications company.
I mentioned in my review of M.I.A. that Person of Interest’s procedural elements have gotten a bit too predictable, and Guilty serves as an almost perfect example of that. The key to predicting the plot is to simply apply the George Costanza theory to everything Reese and Finch do. Every early impulse and theory that they have is wrong, and thus the inverse must be correct. The first of these laughable theories is the idea that Blake might be trying to kill someone involved in the trial. The reason this theory comes off as amusing is because, while Brown can be intimidating and menacing, that is not the case here. She comes off as warm and friendly, though perhaps slightly intrusive in the doting aunt sort of way. I’m not saying the her being the perpetrator is unthinkable, but the fact that John and Harold jumped to that conclusion served as a rather notable red flag. Sure enough, it is quickly determined, after another juror suffers a suspicious allergic reaction, that Emma is being coerced into forcing a verdict by an unknown individual who is using her fellow jurors as leverage. As our dynamic duo investigate, they run into Zoe Morgan, everyone’s favorite crisis manager (aside from Michael Clayton… or Eli Gold) whom we last saw back in season 3. Naturally, our trio assume that Emma is being forced to bring home a verdict of ‘Not Guilty.’ In preparation, Zoe and John begin coaching Harold in order to ensure that he can direct the verdict towards ‘Guilty.’ Of course, due to Costanza’s Law of Wrongness, the viewer can probably predict that Emma is actually being coerced into bringing back a verdict of ‘Guilty,’ so it’s up to the dynamic duo turned terrific trio to figure out why someone would want to kill the CEO and would have the resources to make sure the husband was found guilty of the crime.
There isn’t really a b-plot in this episode. Lionel investigates a few numbers that were overlooked during Reese and Root’s vacation upstate, and eventually confronts Reese on his attempts to keep Lionel at arms length in order to protect him. Reese also returns to see his psychiatrist, Dr. Iris Campbell. Despite her decision to sign off on his mental status, Reese has decided to continue seeing her for the time being. She talks a bit about how she grew up in a family of police officers, and how she had even considered following that same path. Aside from that, Campbell doesn’t really impact this episode much. John seems to open up to her a bit more, but I’m not sure where Person of Interest plans to go with her character. Still, it’s nice to see the show provide a bit more definition to her character beyond perceptive and persistent.
On paper, Guilty looks like a rather underwhelming episode. The only thing of note that it does from a strictly narrative standpoint is remind the viewer that both Zoe and Dr. Campbell exist. However, its true purpose appears not to be progressing the plot, but rather to allow the viewers the opportunity to step back and take a breath. As a result, I actually found myself enjoying it slightly more than either of its two predecessors, Control-Alt-Delete and M.I.A. It takes no narrative risks, serves as little more than a mash-up of tropes from Twelve Angry Men and Runaway Jury, and is one of the most predictable episodes in recent memory, but for its sheer simplicity Guilty serves as a rewarding break from the intrigue and machinations of the Samaritan plotline.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Like a lot of viewers I know Blair Brown best from her role as Nina Sharp on Fringe, though she has appeared in a myriad of other roles in her lengthy career as an actress. One of the things that I feel Fringe did particularly well was provide her a chance to display both warm and frigid sides to her character.
- Normally I have more to note about casting, plotting side notes, and trivia, but… honestly this might be the most straightforward episode that I’ve reviewed for the site. I guess I’ll just point out that, aside from having a myriad of notable television roles, Paige Turco, who plays Zoe Morgan, also portrayed April O’Neil in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sequels… so I guess that her helping out crimefighters who live in underground tunnels is a recurring thing.
When viewed as a nice midseason breather, Guilty is pretty much a success. However, if you view it as anything else, there is a decent chance that it will fall short. It’s an enjoyable distraction, but I doubt that many people will remember this episode with particular fondness or, for that matter, remember it at all.
Guilty succeeds primarily through its placement within the season as it essentially provides an opportunity for the show to unwind. It's a very basic episode, but surprisingly the show benefits rather than suffers from this fact.