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Recap / Person of Interest S01 E01

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Season 1, Episode 1:


"When you find that one person who connects you to the world, you become someone different. Someone better. When that person is taken from you, what do you become then?"
John Reese

John Reese is ex-special forces, ex-CIA, and currently, a depressed homeless drunk. An altercation on a subway brings him to the attention of Detective Carter of the NYPD and of Harold Finch, a reclusive billionaire software genius who's got a job offer. See, Finch knows about a woman who may need the help of a skilled operator. Reese isn't keen on the idea, until Finch gives him a crash-course on how it feels to sit by helplessly when someone needs help.


As it turns out, Finch knows a lot about people who need help. He designed and built the Machine, a secret government supercomputer that monitors and processes all the surveillance data in New York to spot terrorists before they have a chance to strike. As a side effect, the Machine can also spot ordinary citizens who will be the victim — or perpetrator — of a violent crime, but the government considered that data "irrelevant" and it gets junked each night at midnight. Conscience-racked, Finch arranged for the "irrelevant" data to be sent to him in secret, in the form of a single social security number, so that he could do something to intervene. And to intervene properly, he needs a partner with certain skills, someone like Reese.

The current number is Diane Hansen, an ADA prosecuting a drug killing case. At first glance she seems to have stumbled onto a massive conspiracy involving a fellow ADA, Wheeler, and corrupt cops, including Detective Lionel Fusco, but digging deeper reveals that Diane is one of the conspiracy ringleaders and that they've set their sights on Wheeler, who's threatening to expose everything. Reese is captured and driven out to the sticks by Fusco, but he escapes and returns to New York in time to save Wheeler and his son from the hit-team of corrupt cops. He and Finch expose Diane as the ringleader and use evidence of Fusco's misdeeds to recruit him as their inside man in the NYPD, while Detective Carter investigates the vigilante actions of a man "in a nice suit".


Tropes present in this episode:

  • Accidental Pervert: When Finch first tries to recruit Reese to protect the Victim of the Week, an attractive female attorney, Reese states flatly that either she's Finch's ex-wife or he's a Stalker with a Crush. He's wrong.
  • Answer Cut: To the page quote; we cut to Reese as a drunken bum. Subverted though in that the entire series is about what Reese becomes after losing everything.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Reese's suit is mentioned a couple of times by witnesses, though he hasn't yet earned his "Man in the Suit" moniker.
  • Bait-and-Switch: The POI appears to be the intended victim, whereas she's actually the ringleader of the gang!
  • Ballistic Discount: Reese needs firepower, so he robs the crooks he fought in the subway, remembering how Anton said he was getting more guns.
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  • Berserk Button: When Finch mentions Jessica, Reese lays hands on him and demands to know how he knew about her.
  • Big Damn Heroes: What Finch is offering Reese a chance to become.
    Finch: You couldn't have saved this woman... Or your friend. But you could have if you had have known in time. And that's the other thing I'm offering you, a chance to be there in time.
  • Black Site: Finch creates one by buying up an abandoned library using a bank that then declares bankruptcy. "So the property is in a kind of limbo — it doesn't exist."
  • Brains and Brawn: Finch recruits Reese specifically to do all the heavy lifting he couldn't.
  • Brutal Honesty: In the end, Finch tells Reese that if they keep working together, it'll probably eventually kill them both.
    Finch: I said I'd tell you the truth. Didn't say you'd like it.
  • Bulletproof Vest: Reese checks that Fusco is wearing a vest, then shoots him with his own gun to reinforce his cover with his fellow corrupt police.
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • The thugs Reese beats up in the subway. He shows up a second time, kneecaps them all with a gun held by one of their own people, then steals the guns they were intending to buy.
    • Fusco's Running Gag of this trope starts here — Reese escapes from his custody telling him that he's going to do so beforehand, crashes his car, shoots him In the Back, steals his gun and uses it to shoot his boss, then gives him the job of burying Stills body. Oh, and he's working for Reese now.
  • Catchphrase: Finch describes himself as "a concerned third party".
  • Chekhov's Gunman: No pun intended. Anton, one of the thugs who Reese beats up in the teaser, comes back later as Reese's source for firearms.
  • Come Alone: Subverted; Hansen going alone to a meeting in a deserted alley seems reckless, until we discover she's actually part of the conspiracy.
  • Cool Guns: The foundation of Reese's new arsenal include a M79 Grenade Launcher and a SIG P556 SWAT assault rifle among others.
  • Danger Takes a Backseat: Reese having his final meeting with Fusco. Of course, Fusco already knows how dangerous Reese can be in the backseat.
  • Dare to Be Badass: More like a Dare to Be Badass Again, from Finch to Reese.
    Finch: You couldn't have saved this woman. Or your friend. But you could have if you had known in time. And that's the other thing I'm offering you. A chance to be there in time. [hands Reese a picture of the first Number of the series] It's not too late for her. You could help me stop what's about to happen. The question is, will you?
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Finch thinks Reese is this.
  • Director's Cut: The first season DVD release includes the "full length" version of this episode, from which about a half hour needed to be cut to get it down to broadcast length.
  • Dirty Cop: Fusco is part of a gang of them.
  • Disposing of a Body: Oyster Bay
  • Dogged Nice Guy: Wheeler is this to Hansen.
  • Driven to Suicide: Finch implies Reese is close to this. Much more explicit in the original script, which opens with Reese about to jump off a bridge. He stops when he sees fireworks in the distance, and the next scene is of him on the subway.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Reese is attempting to do just that when Finch finds him.
  • The Dulcinea Effect: Likely invoked by Finch, given what's implied to have happened to Jessica. The first POI is a woman of Jessica's age, and he later plays a tape recording of a woman being murdered when Reese refuses to become involved. Defied in that the POI isn't the victim but the perpetrator, so Reese is so completely sandbagged when he tried to crash what he thought was her murder that he gets himself caught and nearly killed.
  • Early Installment Weirdness:
    • Finch has a limousine and bodyguards when meeting with Reese, as befits a reclusive billionaire. After the pilot however Finch is shown to prefer anonymity as protection so they don't show up again. It's possible he wants to present a certain image to Reese when recruiting him. See also Mooks.
    • The library used in this episode was a real vacant library building, not the set seen in every other episode (including flashbacks).
    • When appearing from the Machine's POV, Reese has a yellow box framing him, indicating knowledge of the Machine before Finch actually tells him about it.
  • Engineered Public Confession: Diane is exposed as the ringleader when Reese swaps evidence from one of her cases for a recording of her and Stills plotting Wheeler's murder and she plays it in court.
  • Evil All Along: Hansen.
  • Expository Hairstyle Change: Reese cuts his hair and shaves his stubble, greatly confusing Anton when he runs into him again. It's not quite an example of this trope as he doesn't decide to take Finch's offer until shortly after, apparently just doing it because his picture has appeared on television as a wanted man.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Lampshaded by Reese; because Fusco and his pals failed to search him, he still has a hand grenade.
  • Flashback: To Reese with his girlfriend, Jessica, well before the events of the series. He resigned from the military, but re-enlisted after 9/11.
  • Forever War: "The numbers never stop coming."
  • Frame-Up: Reese and Finch suspect that Diane is being targeted for digging into the frame-up of her client. Turns out, she's the one doing the framing.
  • Framing the Guilty Party: Reese shoots Stills with Fusco's gun, so he can blackmail him into being his Friend on the Force.
  • Gangsta Style: Deconstructed by Reese, who points out to a thug that holding his gun sideways will just cause the shell casing to eject into his face. Then demonstrates it. Then one-shots every thug in the roomin the thighs — and steals their arsenal.
    "Take you, for instance. You're holding that thing sideways. You can't aim it, and two, it'll eject a shell casing right into your face. See?" (BLAM!)
  • Grievous Harm with a Body: When one of Finch's bodyguards tries to stop him leaving, Reese expertly slams the man into the bodyguard behind him.
  • Happy Flashback: Reese and Jessica in Mexico. Until his 10-Minute Retirement is interrupted by 9/11.
  • Human Shield: Stills tries this out against Reese in the climax. Unfortunately for him, he was severely outclassed.
  • Ironic Echo:
    • "You're gonna be here for a long, long time."
    • Hansen's "I can take care of myself. You know that."
    • When Stills demands to know who Reese is, he repeats Finch's line about being a concerned third party.
    • "I said I'd give you a job/tell you the truth. I didn't say it would be easy/you'd like it."
  • Jerkass: Detective Stills.
  • Kobayashi Maru: Reese is tied to a bed and hears someone screaming for help in the next room. He breaks free, busts through the door... and finds Finch with recorded audio.
  • Knee Capping: The start of a Running Gag.
  • The Lost Lenore: By all accounts, the death of Jessica drove Reese into becoming a Crazy Homeless Guy, and the mention of her name gets him angrier than ever.
  • Missed Him by That Much: Having found out there's outstanding international murder warrants on Reese, Carter rushes out of the building to stop him, but Finch's men have already taken Reese away.
  • Meaningful Echo: In the director's cut, describing Finch as "good with computers": first by Reese when Finch provides him with a bluejack-equipped phone, and later quoted by Finch when he tells Reese that he built an artificial intelligence.
  • Mexican Standoff: With Human Shields!
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Reese decides to let Fusco live — pulling him out of the car wreck and only shooting him in the vest — because he's not particularly greedy or evil, just loyal to the wrong people.
    • Informed Ability: Although, given how matter of factly Fusco accepts his orders to kill a complete stranger and dispose of the body, and that he is absolutely committed to doing so - no wavering or reluctance displayed, in fact he seems utterly gleeful about the task - you do have to wonder if this is his first time acting as the gang's hit man.
  • Montage: Reese showing how he's going to gather information on the POI.
  • Mood Whiplash: The opening scene has Reese in bed with Jessica, which cuts directly to Reese as he is now, a homeless bum with Beard of Sorrow.
  • Mooks: Unlike in later episodes, Finch has two bodyguards with him, presumably because for all the information he's gathered, he doesn't know how stable Reese is. Reese takes them down easily when they try to stop him walking out of their meeting.
  • Mugging the Monster: Let this be a lesson to you, kiddies: don't try and mug a homeless man on the subway, because he might be an ex-CIA hitman.
  • Multiple Identity IDs: Finch supplies Reese with various fake passports and credit cards.
  • Mysterious Employer: Finch, who acknowledges that Reese will be aiming to remove the mystery as soon as possible.
  • Offhand Backhand: Reese and Stills are in the above-mentioned Mexican Standoff, and one of Stills' mooks comes out of the stairwell behind Reese to see what's going on. Reese kneecaps him without even looking.
  • Oh, Crap!: Stills gets this once he realises his threat to kill Reese's friends and family isn't going to work:
    Stills: I think I'll kill you and your friend here. Make it look like you killed each other. Then, just because you pissed me off, I'm going to kill your family. And all your friends.
    Reese: I don't have any friends. I don't have any family left either. I went around the world looking for bad guys. But there were plenty of you right here all along.
    Stills: [swallows, visibly shaken]
  • Phrase Catcher: Finch being "good with computers". It appears twice in the director's cut, turning the second instance into an Meaningful Echo.
  • Pre-emptive Declaration: Reese not only tells Fusco he's going to escape, but that Fusco will be working for him from now on. Fusco bursts out laughing...until Reese pulls out a grenade.
  • Prophecy Twist: The POI is the perp, not the victim.
  • Punk in the Trunk: Stills hauls an ex-con out of his trunk, intending he be the patsy for Wheeler's murder. In Laser-Guided Karma, he ends up dead in Fusco's trunk.
  • Smash to Black: Stills buttstroking Reese.
  • Sound-Only Death: Reese and Stills firing on each other. Reese wins.
  • Spooky Silent Library: Finch has set up his base in one.
  • Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Detective Carter. It doesn't stop her from running Reese's fingerprints.
  • Title Drop: In a news report, though it's not one of the numbers who is described as a "person of interest", but rather Reese himself.
  • Wake Up Fighting: Anton gets a shock when the sleeping wino grabs his hand as he's trying to lift his bottle of booze.
  • Walk and Talk:
  • Would Hurt a Child: Stills comments how they will have to kill the target's son so there are no witnesses.
  • You Have No Idea Who You're Dealing With: Until Reese looks at the wallet he stole from one of the criminals and finds a police badge. "I do now."
  • You Remind Me of X: Possibly an Invoked Trope by Finch, as Diane Hansen has a resemblance to The Lost Lenore Jessica, whom Reese was unable to save.


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