Person of Interest – Search and Destroy Review
How is it that, when a prominent individual is targeted by an inhumanly well-coordinated cyber-attack, our protagonists don’t immediately turn towards their friendly neighborhood dictatorial AI overlord? It wasn’t until nearly the halfway point of Search and Destroy that someone actually suggested this possibility, and it was this week’s number that suggested it, though of course he didn’t mention Samaritan by name. Search and Destroy is another episode that establishes some interesting ideas, but feels like it is without clear focus. Our number this week belongs to Sulaiman Khan, a security software tycoon played by Aasif Mandvi, who finds himself the target of a strangely coordinated and effective cyber-attack. All of Khan’s private emails and financial information are suddenly made public by a hacker and, to make matters worse, he is revealed to have embezzled millions from his company though he maintains his innocence.
Mandvi does a decent job of presenting a man whose life has abruptly started to fall apart around him, but, towards the end of the episode, the character we have been presented with starts to fall apart. Much of the first twenty minutes of the episode are used to present the numerous ways that Khan’s life has been impacted by the hacking, from the documents that suggest that he was guilty of embezzling to nude photos of his wife being released online. After being fired by his company, Castellum’s, board, Khan tries to reach out to one of the board members for aid. He claims that the hacker who released/falsified the information was an AI, something that just about any experienced viewer of Person of Interest could have predicted well in advance, and yet, as I stated before, it isn’t until roughly that point that Finch and Reese start turning their eyes towards their HAL 9000-esque nemesis. Khan is ultimately unable to convince his friend, but uses the opportunity to pocket the board member’s security badge, so that he can get into Castellum’s facilities to get a look at the energy usage. However, Samaritan alerts the police to Khan’s trespassing, and gets him moved to Ryker’s, before he can even think to ask for his phone call.
Up until this point in the story, Reese and Finch are largely relegated to color commentary as Khan stumbles around trying to uncover information. Once Khan is in custody, Reese is effectively forced to make a move in order to get him into a safer environment, as the holding cell is essentially a killing field. Sure enough, the various criminals whom Khan has been placed in holding with soon receive a message on their cells,… as in the type of phone, not the type of holding facility, offering them money to kill Khan. It seems odd that these individuals were allowed to keep their cellular phones even though they were in holding, but I suppose we can write it off as Samaritan pulling digital magic to make sure all its pieces were in place. John arrives in time to save Khan, but, when fleeing Ryker’s, their car collides with a street bollard. Fortunately for them, Root shows up to save the day. From there it becomes a race to try and learn what Samaritan’s goals are and why it is intent on killing Khan. While the episode has some curious ideas and implications, it also feels unfocused. Khan’s presence initially serves to drive the plot, but once he comes in contact with Finch and Reese, he rapidly becomes irrelevant, no irrelevant number pun intended. Furthermore, while he initially may come off as a bit manic, towards the end of the episode he seems outright unhinged. His disposition in his final scene seemed slightly bizarre and it didn’t quite fit with the character that had been established, though that might have been the pacing of the scene.
Before I wrap up, a few Notes and Nitpicks:
- Root spends much of the episode acquiring and armored and GPS-tracked case, though for much of the episode she has no idea what it contains, and, for the time being, the reason that the Machine wanted her to collect it remains a mystery, though I’m sure it will be put to use soon enough.
- Aasif Mandvi is, of course, best known for his role as a Daily Show correspondent, but unfortunately Person of Interest never goes for a joke where he addresses Jon… I mean, John. Still, it’s nice to see him stretching his dramatic legs a bit. He hasn’t had much luck with his film roles in The Last Airbender and Movie 43, so it was fun seeing him here.
- Root and Martine have one of those we-both-ran-out-of-bullets-so-let’s-just-have-a-fistfight scenes towards the end. It felt a bit artificial, but the show almost pulls it off… even if John inexplicably chooses not to eliminate Martine despite having a hell of an opportunity. If it was a matter of not wanting to take a life the show should have brought that up an defended the argument, rather than sweeping the whole thing under the rug.
Search and Destroy is an episode that I would have liked to have given a higher grade, but I don’t think it succeeds in effectively shifting its focus from the cyber-attacks on Khan to Finch and Reese trying to uncover Samaritan’s plans. The result of this awkward transition is an episode that feels unfocused and slightly jumbled. It’s not a bad episode by any stretch of the imagination, but the shootout towards the end feels unnecessary outside of it providing an excuse for them to lose track of Khan, and the answers that we receive don’t really provide much additional insight.
Search and Destroy is a somewhat uneven episode that has some interesting ideas and a strong start, but ultimately shoots itself in the kneecaps with a lack of clear focus or development.