Person of Interest: Wingman: Multi-Thread Plotting

Person of Interest Binge LogoOne of the major problems of this season is that it’s so damn complex. Finch has to be a professor and deal with students, Shaw is still selling perfume and driving the getaway car for thieves, Reese is buried under paperwork while trying to save people, and only the Machine knows what Root is doing. And then there are the numbers . . .

“Nautilus:” Samaritan is recruiting, luring a brilliant young mathematician into danger to dismantle a Blackwater analog that’s in competition with Samaritan. Finch tries to save her, but in the end, it’s Samaritan who rescues Claire and enlists her on its side. This is not good.


Which brings us to “Wingman.”

The gang is still in disarray, all of them going in different directions, and that fragmentation is nicely captured in the fractured storylines:

• Finch has rejoined the Gang but refuses to follow the Machine’s orders because she ordered the hit on the senator, which in retrospect would have saved the world, but hey, that’s the past.
• Reese is having trouble being a color-in-the-lines cop, and Fusco is getting fed up with him, not to mention the new captain is on their case to solve some cases.
• Shaw just wants them all to get over themselves and get back to work.
• Finch is running out of money.
• The number of the week is a pick-up artist and Fusco gets to be his client while trying to figure out what his problem is. It’s very symmetrical: the number figures out Fusco’s problems with women, and Fusco figures out the number’s problems with the people trying to kill him.
• The Machine sends Root to take Finch on a scavenger hunt, neither one of them having any idea of what’s going on.
• Reese starts cracking cases to get back in the captain’s good graces and to cover for Fusco who’s off with the number.
• Finch has to pretend to be a badass to buy arms he has no idea what to do with.

Chaotic, right? That’s the point. Structure in fiction is meaning. The way a story unspools tells part of the story. In this case, the Machine Gang is fractured, so the story is fractured. And as the Gang begins to come together again, so does the story.

Yeah, that’s great in theory, but chaos as a symbolic representation of the state of the Gang only works for so long before viewers start getting restless due to the WTF? syndrome. So why do we stick around for “Wingman?”

1. We really like these people, and they’re all under pressure, but this time, it’s comic. Person of Interest is fun tonight!
2. There’s enough repetition and therefore pattern in the chaos to keep us from getting confused. Fusco and Shaw stick with the number, as Fusco strikes out with three women. Reese hunts down three murderers. Finch and Shaw meet with three crooks. The rhythm underneath the seemingly unconnected scenes creates that feeling of authority in the text: somebody’s in control of this story.
3. The individual scenes are terrific, each one just interesting/fun/exciting enough to hold our attention even though we’re not sure how it all goes together.
4. And then it all goes together, Reese and Shaw converging on Fusco and the number, while Finch and Root follow the breadcrumbs put down by the Machine to foil many bad guys and take control of a large cache of weapons and several duffel bags full of cash.
5. And just to hammer the point that the center is beginning to hold again: A great new center of operations in an abandoned Art Deco subway platform. They are off the grid, under the radar, and back together again.

Weakest Parts
• They pretty much nailed this one, too. SO helpful staying in the now of the story.

Smart Story Moves
• The Pick-Up Artist is a good guy, giving Fusco good advice.
• Finch refusing to sell a rocket-launcher, which seems like a crisis but turns out to be part of the Machine’s plan, too.
• The use of the rule of threes to organize the different plots and subplots.
• Using the structure to tell the story, the fragments all coming together to make a whole in the end.


Favorite Moments
• Finch being a badass, channeling Reese: “She’s none of your concern.” So wonderful.
• Fusco trying to be smooth. And then getting better, slowly. Also, looking good, Fusco.
• Reese’s third homicide dovetailing with Fusco’s number.
• The captain wondering about all the shots to the knees (Finch has done good work there in training his sociopaths to aim for the knee.)

Ominous Moment
• “What’ll we do with the missile?” “I’m sure we’ll think of something.”

New PoI Post
May 4: 4- 11 If/Then/Else (Denise The): Point of View as Meaning (And one of the best TV episodes of all time.)

Table of Contents with Links to all PoI Posts


7 thoughts on “Person of Interest: Wingman: Multi-Thread Plotting

  1. Wonderful! One of my favorite episodes. The writers for POI always do well with the characters and actors and this is one of the best for that.
    Something about the humor in POI- just great- not blatant or silly or stupid or condescending – always surprised it’s so good.

  2. They mix up the usual pairings this episode. No Mayhem Twins (until the end), no Shoot, John and Fusco separated, John and Harold separated. John building a rapport with the new captain. The Shaw-Fusco dynamic is in contrast to before. Instead of being annoyed with each other, Shaw’s infinitely amused by Fusco’s predicament, showing new sides to the both of them.
    This is the first episode where we see Harold and Root work together out of more than necessity, building on the opportunity for friendship first extended by Harold in Root Path. Root doing her best to live up to her promise in Bad Code to be the most fun partner.

    Pairing (hah) those new combinations with comedy, and having ALL of the main characters on the same theme of odd couples and comedy, keeps this episode on the fun train.

    And there are actual stakes to the plot, unlike with Lady Killer!

    1. That’s a very good point. Not only are the characters rebooted, so are their relationships.
      I think it goes back to the old “you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone” factor. They almost lost each other and the team, they’re regrouping now with new outlooks and a new appreciation for each other, so Shaw’s going to still tease Fusco, but Fusco knows she’s got his back (and his kid’s back). Finch is the boss and he says the team is dead, but Reese knows they all need the Gang, Finch as much as anybody. It gives them all a sense of purpose, and that sense of purpose bonds them.

      I really do think this episode is brilliant in the way it brings them back together and still makes them new.

  3. I ended up watching “The Night Watchman” last night, instead of PoI. I don’t have any mechanism for recording shows, so I’m hoping PoI will be in the OnDemand area of the cable box ether machine tonight.


  4. You know, this is something we’ve talked about at home watching PoI: it really has a great sense of humour. It always comes out of the characters, their relationships and especially in putting particular characters in situations that don’t suit them (Fusco and Finch in this episode for example.)

    Character humour is the best humour…

    1. I think that’s what balances the darkness.
      There’s a lot of talk about how bad Batman vs. Superman was in contrast to the Marvel movies, and I think that’s the key. The characters in the Marvel movies all have senses of humor (and a great sense of community), so that even when things go dark, there’s still humanity in that sense of balance

  5. Incidentally, this is also the episodes that’s a great reminder that Michael Emerson can do coldly threatening extremely well (see many episodes of ‘Lost’)

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